Thursday, April 13, 2006

the elephant and the dj

Did you pick the right religion?
Hardly anyone asks that question anymore. Mostly it seems that people pretty much don’t care what religion you claim to follow – they’ll put up with anything. Then along comes this nasty little religion called Christianity and it thinks it has the other ones beat. In fact it claims to be the only way. Oh no who invited the elephant to the party. Quick put away the china something’s gonna get broke!
The party is going along swell as long everyone can keep their religious convictions to themselves. Nobody minds too much. But if you’ve got some guy making claims about his being the only way well “Houston we have a problem…”
And it’s not the kind of problem that just goes away after a few lagers. If you are gonna set yourself up as the only right way. Not only will you be telling somebody else they are wrong – shoot you gotta tell everybody else they are wrong.
And even if Christianity is the big white elephant in the room – the odds are stacked against it with everybody in the room being made out to be wrong. I feel a rumble coming on…
But let’s stop and figure out how we got into this mess.
Christianity – the elephant – used to be the dude with all the power. Everybody thought just like the elephant. The elephant ran the government – it ran the schools – it ran the community Kinettes meeting on Tuesday night. If you didn’t think and act like the elephant – you couldn’t possibly be right. Easy!
Too Easy!
Christianity made two fatal errors – it got complacent and it got personal. Since it ran everything – it saw no reason to change the way it thought about life. (Now a funny thing about that is if you met a 35 year old guy and he still behaved and thought the same way he was when he was 10 you’d call him dysfunctional). In fact not changing became one of the most important things Christianity could possibly aspire to doing. After all it had control over everything and God must have given it control over everything so it stood to reason that if Christianity would change the way it thought and acted it would lose all the power. And that would be bad. So when other people started showing up and talking about other ways to find truth they were dismissed completely – even if what they believed was actually the same thing or even closer to reality (example: flat earth round earth). So when the elephant finally woke up and realized that it had all these things in common with other religions (things like peace, and love) or worse yet that somebody might be closer to the truth than the official Christian position – it realized it was in danger. Not of being wrong but of losing power. Something had to be done. All of a sudden the elephant was ready to change. It could change almost anything in order to make it different enough from the other religious/secular voices. But with so many competing voices the elephant realized it would just keep whittling itself down to nothing so along came strategy number two.
Make it personal. First of all you make Christianity completely provable and you build a solid wall with well seasoned arguments. Then what you with it is convince people to accept your propositions. And then whammo they were labelled. They were Christians and apparently that was happening mostly in the heart of the individual person. Jesus was/is your personal saviour. And if a person could put all the right pieces of the spiritual code together in the right sequence they got to be in. That seemed to work for a long time.
But back at our party things are getting ugly.
The guy in the corner says, “if your Jesus is your personal saviour why don’t you leave him there and stop bothering the rest of us with your view points?”
Another girl says, “yeah and by the sounds of it we really think the same thing anyway so why are you making such a big deal about it?”
The DJ stops his music and shouts, “yeah I thought you were supposed to be about love and peace and stuff so why are you yelling at me for being a homosexual?”
Seems to me the elephant has lost control. And worse yet nobody even wants him at the party. So here you go write a happy ending to this tail of an elephant…
Will he wonder off into the sunset tail between his legs and moan and groan about how terrible things are?
Will he step on the DJ and then round hose kick the other party animals back into place?
Will he have a sex change, lose weight, marry the donkey in the corner and forget he/she ever believed anything at all?
Will he stamp his feet and pout and cry till he falls into the basement?
Go ahead you can do it…
Tell me how this story ends

17 comments:

Jerry said...

Now, this is good writing! I have no suggested ending for your tale as of yet, because I'd like to put a little thought into it. But I love the story, truly love it!

mark said...

hmmm....I think i may have an ending, but I'm gonna wait til I get back for this one.

Clinton said...

So it's a happy ending you want ... I got to the end of your post, which was very insightful, and what was in my mind wasn't a happy ending. All I could think was, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." I don't know how this ties to an ending for your story, but I think one ofthe reasons Christianity rose to the level of social/political influence it once 'enjoyed' was because of the love Christians had for each other and for the world around it.

Teach said...

I'm not sure if this is a good ending for your story, but for some reason I picture the Lion (the king of the beasts) stepping in and revealing the truth to the other party animals and rescuing the elephant, but I dunno...

aside - what made you choose an elephant?

Jerry said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jerry said...

I think he's already been stamping his feet and pouting and crying, but he has yet to fall into "the basement".

But I hope he does fall into the basement. And there happens to be a big mirror leaning against the wall in front of him. And I hope he takes a long look at himself in the mirror. And I hope his reflection in the mirror says to him, "You are such a Dumbo!"

"You are such a Dumbo, thinkin' you're the only one that matters, and using your size to prove it. Why are you so afraid of others? What can they do to you? Have they hurt you? Or have you been hurting yourself? I think your fall should help you answer that question.

"Why don't you try inspiring people instead of inflicting fear on them! You can hold onto that bible-writing feather next to you if it makes you feel optimistic. That's it. Now start flapping your ears, show others that they actually work. That's it! Work 'em hard! Work 'em hard!

"You're flying! I knew you could do it! Fly! Fly! Lift yourself up to the level of others and inspire them, confess your insecurities, tell the DJ he isn't hurting anybody, and that you love him, and want him to feel good about the music he plays!

"Fly, Dumbo, fly!"

Freezer said...

The metaphor of an elephant has often been used to portray an obvious action or truth that nobody can deny, yet none want to acknowlege exists. So we "dance around the elephant in the room." So the party goers are finally starting to say something. This could be encouragement for the elephant, finally he is able to get somebody to start talking to him. For years all they have done is sit and stare, hoping that he would go away. What the elephant needs to do is to stop opening his big mouth and use the assets that are most beneficial, that is he needs to use his sensitive hearing and large ears to listen to the others in the room, and then to use his great memory to be able to remember the teaching of a man who came from God to proclaim the truth. And then and only then should he act knowing what he has heard and remembering the teachings of Jesus.

The ending of the story is for us to write. Everyone who claims to know Christ has a responsibility in the writing of the ending. Perhaps we need to do less whining about how nobody respects us anymore and actually start living out the life of Christ.

The elephant has been talking far too long - it's time to shut up and do some living.

Incoming... said...

hey teach
elephant is large and fairly dominant
There are probably other big animals in the room.

Incoming... said...

clinton
great take...
Char and I were talking about how our sense of entitlement in north america is fairly unique. And especially as Christians the idea that there are things we are somehow deserving of in a world that is wandering in spiritual darkness pretty misplaced. although christianity in other parts of the globe are struggling. I'm not sure that the persecuted church entertains many discussions about the things they deserve from thier governments. Certainly not in the same way we do. We probably have forgotten how subversive love really is.

Incoming... said...

jerry
i like your focus on inspiring people versus inflicting fear. christians far too long have used fear to control. I'm also left with a question...
Do all the animals at the party have to become elephants? Do they all get to fly regardless? Is the elephant really and elephant if he/she flies? In other words can we still call if Christianity if it changes as dramatically as the elephant would in order to fly?

Jerry said...

Been away for a bit. I'd like to respond to the good questions though:

"Do all the animals at the party have to become elephants?" If you mean, do people of other beliefs have to become Christian, my short answer is 'No.' If they don't want to, what's the point?

"Do they all get to fly regardless?" I used flying to symbolize an act of bettering oneself by truly, actively listening, not just hearing another's plight. It's about the power of imagination put to good use in an effort to put ourselves in the other's shoes.

"In other words can we still call if Christianity if it changes as dramatically as the elephant would in order to fly?" If the elephant represents Christianity, what is it about the elephant that makes it represent Christianity? Is it as general a principle as "whatever is an animal"? Can other people with different beliefs/religions follow the same God we follow?

I think God is one (and only one) Supreme Being who created the universe, saves us from an eternity of evil in the afterlife, and has inspired people on earth to write about who God is, revealing attributes or characteristics of God in many different ways (including through animal and mythological characters).

I also think we ought to be who God created us to be (a life-time pursuit of being an authentically good person). It is, however, difficult to know how much a person needs to be conscious of who God is, and what God expects, in order to receive God's salvation. For instance, isn't it possible that people who have never heard about Jesus may know more about his salvific Divinity than those who have read the Christian bible?

Incoming... said...

Jerry, I'm curious to know what you (or anyone else) do with Christianity's claims of an exclusive lock on both spiritual destination and even the boundaries of absolute truth.

Jerry said...

I may not have made it clear (my wife says I'm often way too subtle) but I think my last comment provided what you're asking for.

I think it's possible for people who have grown up in a religious household that wasn't Christian, to say they believe the same things I said in the last two paragraphs in my last comment. (I suppose they could say the stuff before as well.)

Does this mean Christianity and other religions are the same? No. The cultural practices reveal how they are different. But can the fundamental principles be the same in these religions? For some people, I think it can. If not all the fundamentals, at least the greater fundamentals.

mark said...

Ok dale....here's what i'm thinking. I like how your brother talked about the elephant and its physical characteristics and how they apply. Being a bit of a guy into all the nature and familiar with how the animal kingdom works I thought this might make sense. The elephant is of course the largest land mammal and considered the big guy out in the jungle. Everyone notices him, even the rhinos and hippos. So I think we can learn from the elephant and learn to live by being noticed. And I wonder if we should make some noise along the way? The elephant crahes through the jungle, why can't we? Or should we be complacent and be quiet? We also have some good assests like the elephant, we can use those big ears to hear out someone in need, we have a trunk to honk when we see or hear something that isn't quite right, and we also have a real majestic look about ourselves that gets noticed and earns respect along the way.

As for the ending...I thought "what about the after party?" Sure at the regular party everyone's there and can do what they want, its up to them what they want to do, who they hangout with. But at the after party, only certain people get to come. And its kinda like inviting a friend out to your place to hang out or watch a hockey game. There's certain expectations you have...they should watch the game with you instead of talking on the cell phone with someone else that they'd rather be with. I dunno, maybe some animals just don't understand the jungle the way the elephant does. After all what does he have to be afraid of when he walks into the jungle as apposed to a gazelle? Its way easier to hang out in the open savanna. I think the elephant can at least say "Hey, lets go check out the after party in the jungle, I'll lead."

Incoming... said...

i hope you can imagine how i am just giggling with delight on this one. i absolutely love how the ambiguity of metaphor allows us to explore truth. Mark you made some good points. I especially like how you describe this beast. Probably far more positive than i left in my original post. Am i seeing someone who believes there is a legitimate place for Christianity as a national identity? Very interesting seeds for discussion...
As for the after party...
Mark so who do you invite?
who gets to come along...

mark said...

Now I'm stumped...I think its almost a special after party where at this one you leave it as an open invitation to everyone. Otherwise you start to look like a giraffe with your head held too high and forget to see who's around you.

Incoming... said...

good point