On Our True Fairytale
In my previous article, I stated there are only two stories (or two worldviews) that are internally consistent enough to be lived. The first is nihilism. The second is Christianity. In today’s article, I describe the second story in the form of a fairytale.
Once upon a time, in the very place we now sit, was nothing. There was no ground to stand on, no air to breathe. There was neither light to see nor sound to hear. There were no planets, and there were no stars. There was only silent nothingness.
Yet over and beyond the nothing was a Something. Rather we should say that it was a Someone, not a mere something, for our Someone thought and felt and knew. Before there were stars and planets and even a thing called time, was our Someone, whose very nature was and is to exist. You and I cannot simply be. We had to be made, whether by the hand of nature or the hand of spirits, by something before us, and that something too was made, and so on and so forth back to the beginning of time. Our Someone from before time, however, does simply exist. It is part of who he and they are.
Yes, “he and they”: for our Someone is three in one, and they are in relationship, and this relationship is love.
It was this Trinity, this community of relationship and love and existence, who spun the universe into being. Where there was nothing, there was suddenly atoms and energy and a realm for them to fill. Our Someone made the stars and planets and the rules that govern them: gravity and magnetism and everything else. This did not tire him, and neither did it take away from him; for our nothing can be taken from the Creator who is the cause of all things.
On one planet he made mountains and oceans and the atmosphere, and he made creatures that dwelt throughout. He then made another creature to watch over them all, and he made this creature in the image of himself, intending this creature to love and relate and know as the Trinity does. To this creature, called man, he gave a companion, and he placed them both in a Garden.
Now there are two sorts of magic in our universe: white magic, which emanates from our Someone and sustains our very being. It is truth, beauty, and goodness. It is lovely, and it is love. The other sort of magic, though vile, can only be understood as “nothing.” It is mere shadow. It can neither overpower white magic nor undo it. It can only mimic and mock the light. Yet one can partake of the shadow magic by refusing goodness and holiness, by turning away from white magic. This is what man did: he chose to rebel against the Creator and embraced the shadow. A pall fell over creation, and mankind was cursed and cast from the Garden.
Yet our Someone was not finished with mankind; in the ancient days, he chose a man to be the father of a people, and this people to be a priestly kingdom. Through this kingdom the world would both know its Creator and be blessed. Still, the world was under the curse, and all its people were enslaved by the evil of shadow magic. The chosen kingdom fell time and time again to foreign invaders, for they turned their back to the Creator time and time again. There came an era of great despair, and the people of the kingdom waited in great longing for the One from before time to send them a deliverer, a warrior king to rescue them from oppression.
In time, a deliverer came, but he was not as the people expected. He was not merely a man, but man and divine; he was a part of the loving community, the Trinity, come into the world, born of a human woman. As a man, he reminded us of white magic, and he showed us the perfect example of obedience. As our Someone, he condescended to our level and felt our sorrows, showing the great depths of the Creator’s love for us—and the love he expected us to show one another! The people of the priestly kingdom rejected and reviled him and they sent him to a traitor’s death, for he challenged the shadow magic that poisoned their own teachings.
And die he did, most cruelly and painfully. For a moment it seemed there was no hope left, that shadow had at last overcome light. Then something unexpected happened: the one who was both man and divine returned from death. He rose from the grave, and in doing so broke the curse kept man enslaved to shadow magic and claimed the title of King over all creation. He then appointed his followers as his successors, empowering them to work white magic and spread the news around the world: a King has come who claims authority over the world, and when we kneel before him we are delivered from the clutches of evil.
It is now two thousand years past these events, which we now know through tradition and the Book. Millions upon millions of men and women across the centuries have joined the King’s ranks, swearing fealty to him and sowing truth, beauty, and goodness throughout the world. Today his army covers the entire planet, and though his legions are divided in many ways by arguments over this and that, we are all united by the meal of bread and wine we share in his name. We may appear divided in philosophy, but by the death and resurrection of the King we are one body.
No church is a mere building. It is an outpost of the King’s army. You may look into a Sunday School classroom and see a circle of rumpled old men leafing through an old book, but this is to miss the reality of it. Look again, this time remembering the one true fairytale, and you will see what I see: a room of knights sworn to service, sharpening their swords and polishing their armor. A choir or worship team isn’t simply a ragtag crew of church members who had the misfortune of telling their pastor they had some background in music. Not at all. They are the drummers and pipe-players of our army, stirring us onward as we march for the King. The library, too, is not as mundane as it seems at first. These are not only the musings or histories of men and women who have come and gone. Listen closely and you shall hear (as I do) the sound of ten thousand pairs of feet, marching and singing and chanting alongside us. White magic is at work in the world, if only we have the eyes to see it.
Shadow magic is not gone from our world, and it will remain until the King returns to banish it once and for all. The shadow takes many forms: greed, selfishness, pride, violence, poverty, abuse, and innumerable others. It pervades the world as much as it clings to us. Those of us who serve the King are not immune from its effects. Neither are we incapable of falling under its sway and committing evil ourselves. By the power and promise of the King, however, we are sure in our hope that we will someday see the death of evil.
This is the story of the world that I believe. I make no claim here that it is persuasive, or even reasonable. This is simply the one story that makes sense of the world as is and gives me hope for a better one in the future.
Photo by alh1 at Flickr.