A Fairy-Tale Gospel

By Julie Roys
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I love fairy tales. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rapunzel. Though some may dismiss them as cheesy children’s stories, I believe they express deep spiritual truths. They commonly feature a damsel in distress – someone under a witch’s spell, or imprisoned in a tower, or in need of a radical makeover to attend a ball. Coming to the damsel’s rescue is her true love – a noble and handsome prince, the son of a good king. Trying to stand in his way is the villain – the dragon or witch, who inevitably fails. And in the end, the prince whisks the damsel off to his glorious kingdom where they live happily ever after.

Truly, this is the language and message of the gospel. Frederick Buechner reminds us of this in his book, “Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale.” In an interview with the Wittenburg Door, Buechner said:

“Just as in fairy tales, there is the impossible happy ending when Cinderella does marry the prince, and the ugly duckling is transformed into a swan, so Jesus is not, in the end, defeated. He rises again. In all these ways there is a kind of fairy tale quality to the gospel, with the extraordinary difference, of course, that this is the fairy tale that claims to be true. The difference is that this time it’s not just a story being told- it’s an event. It did happen! Here’s a fairy tale come true.”

We Christians need to remember our fairy tale gospel more often. We need to commemorate that Christ has won — to get our eyes off the sub-plots and onto the glorious ending of The Grand Story of all of history.

To me, Easter is the grand celebration of this fairy-tale gospel. As we have several times in the past, our family attended an Anglican Easter Vigil the night before Easter. This is the only service I’ve ever attended that tells the whole fairy tale of God’s redemption — from creation and the fall to Christ’s Passion and resurrection. It lasts four to five hours and climaxes with the announcement that Jesus has risen. The congregation erupts in what’s known as the holy noise. People ring bells, shout, jump and clap. And joyful worship bursts from the hearts of the redeemed — damsels, so-to-speak — who’ve been rescued and revel in the victory of their hero prince.

We Christians need to remember our fairy tale gospel more often. We need to commemorate that Christ has won — to get our eyes off the sub-plots and onto the glorious ending of The Grand Story of all of history. Of course, this presents a challenge because the world consistently counters this story.

The fairy tale — once an accepted cultural narrative— recently has come under attack. The assault began with Shrek. This anti-fairy tale turned everything on its head: the king became the villain; the ogre the hero; and ugliness — not something to be transformed, but something to be embraced. The play, Wicked, continued along these same lines, revealing the Wicked Witch of the West to be good and Glinda the Good to be wickedly self-centered.

It’s as though the enemy realized that if he can pervert our imagination, he can destroy our ability to apprehend the truth. These anti-fairy tales are not just harmless satires. They’re stories that deconstruct our categories of good and evil and undermine the story of Scripture. Rather than create a receptivity to truth, these parodies make young minds receptive to lies.

So tonight, read your children a fairy tale that feeds their true imagination. And remember to regularly recount the greatest fairy tale of all time — a true story that reminds us that our once upon a time truly can become a happily ever after.

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