By Dr. Charlie W. Starr
Last June, Americans watched with fascination as the United Kingdom celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee—the 60th anniversary of her coronation. I didn’t watch the festivities, but I had a reason to be interested.
As a boy of 13 in 1977, I visited England for the first time during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (celebrating 25 years on the throne). I found another reason to be interested last June when the royal celebration allowed me to share gospel truth.
It’s Disney’s Fault
I was in physical therapy—recovering from surgery on a shoulder that dislocated at the most random times. The ladies at the clinic are as nice as anyone you’ll meet. They leave a TV on to break up the monotony of repeated exercises, but they’re just as likely to talk over it as listen.
One day they were joined by a student intern—a college woman who was there as part of her degree program. We were quieter than usual because most of our eyes drifted toward the televised broadcast of the Queen’s Jubilee celebration. Then one of the ladies asked, “Why are we so fascinated with the Queen and all of this?” That’s when the conversation started.
The college intern replied, “Disney movies,” or something like that. She continued, “Snow White, Sleeping Beauty. We’re taught to want this from when we’re little kids.”
Everyone looked at her with some astonishment—her insight was interesting. Then she said, “I’ve thought a lot about this.”
“Well you know,” I said as I lay on a therapy table, “it may be the reason we love stories about princes and princesses is because that’s what we are. If you’re a child of God, and he’s a king, that makes you a princess.”
My reply also gave everyone pause. Somebody said, “That’s a good point.”
The intern said, “I was thinking about the desire for a Prince Charming who’ll come rescue us and sweep us off our feet.”
I understood what she meant. Disney romanticizes marriage, makes women think everything will be fine if they just find the perfect man, and makes us all think life here on earth can go on happily ever after.
“Yeah, I understand,” I said. “But if you think about it, there’s one Prince who has rescued you—he’s rescued us all. The Bible describes Jesus as a bridegroom.”
And one of the ladies added, “And the church is his bride.”
“And he has saved us to Heaven,” I continued.
The intern looked at me as if to say, “I’d never thought of it like that before.”
I added, “There is one lover who never disappoints.” And then I smiled and said, “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, too.”
Fairy Tale Truth
I have claimed before that myth and fairy tales can show us truth. That’s why we like them so much. You and I live in a world where evil forces work supernaturally (magically) to defeat us at every turn. It’s a world where one great hero, a Prince sent by his Father the King, came to save a damsel in distress—us. He journeyed to the underworld and defeated the power of the great dragon. Then he rose from the dead so we might all live happily ever after.
Our fascination with the British monarchy is born of the same impulses as our fascination with Narnia, Middle Earth, the old Hollywood West, or Disney’s pirate-filled Caribbean. The great stories appeal to our imaginations because our imaginations connect to our hearts. And God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
One day in the autumn of 1931,
C. S. Lewis spent hours talking to J. R. R. Tolkien and another friend about the nature of myth. Tolkien pointed out to Lewis that he loved myth—it filled him with wonder.
Tolkien asked why Lewis couldn’t experience Christianity with that same kind of wonder. Lewis replied that it was because myths are lies, “though breathed through silver.” Tolkien replied, “No, they are not.”
Lewis eventually learned that the heart of Christianity is a myth but also a fact, coming from the “heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history.”
Christianity has all the qualities of myth but is also historically true. Once Lewis understood this, he became a Christian. Once I learned it, I found a way to share the gospel with people through stories, myths, fairy tales, and even the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Dr. Charlie W. Starr teaches English, humanities, and film at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Kentucky.