The Goddess’ Hat

Once a beautiful goddess was walking upon the earth when she happened on the Southern gate of a small village. She walked down the street that went straight through the middle of town, smiling and waving as she went. Everyone, on both sides of the road, stopped what they were doing and stared at the heavenly creature that was passing so gracefully before them, radiating light as she went. The entire village was filled with awe and devotion toward her. Then, as suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone. 

The people of the village all got together to talk about this wonderful thing that had happened. They all agreed that since she was the only deity anyone could remember visiting their small village, they should build her some kind of shrine and make her the official goddess of their people. But once they started discussing what the shrine should look like, they began to run into trouble. Her appearance had been so brief that they didn’t even know the goddess’ name.  They agreed that they would simply worship her likeness. The only problem was that they weren’t in agreement about what she looked like. 

The people who lived on the Eastern side of the street had seen a goddess with a fiery red hat and were prepared to depict her, red hatted, in a scarlet shrine with burning candles. The people on the Western side of the street had seen a goddess in a deep blue hat. They wanted to depict her that way in a pale blue shrine with flowing fountains. After much argument and charges of heresy, it became apparent that this difference could not be reconciled.  So each group erected their own shrine on their own side of the road according to their own preferences and each group declared that they would not worship with the other. 

At first, this division was only apparent on feast days, but as the years passed, the relationship between the two groups soured until they hardly spoke to each other at all. After a generation, they instructed their children to not even associate with the heretics on the other side of the road. A generation after that, walls went up on each side of the road to keep the enemies who worshipped the wrong color goddess out.

One day, the goddess returned, this time from the North. As she walked through the middle of town, the villagers peeked over the tops of their walls to catch a glimpse of the goddess and perhaps see which shrine she preferred.

When the villagers on the side of town with the blue shrine peeked over, they were shocked to see the goddess was wearing a red hat. But when the villagers on the side with the red shrine looked, they were horrified to see their goddess wearing a blue hat.

Finally, a little girl hopped over the top of the wall and came face to face with the goddess in the middle of the road. Her eyes grew wide then she smiled a big smile and started to giggle. The giggle turned into a polite laugh, and then a deep belly laugh. Soon, she was on the ground, pointing up at the goddess and laughing hysterically. The other kids wanted to see what was so funny so, faster than their parents could stop them, they too hopped over the wall and when they saw the goddess, began laughing hysterically. When the adults went out to get their children they saw and they began laughing as well. Soon, the entire village was in the middle of the road laughing uncontrollably– laughing as hard and as joyously as any had laughed in a long time. And, as they laughed, the sound of it caused the walls to shake, then crumble, then disappear into dust.

Smiling, the beautiful goddess continued walking through the street, radiating light as she went. And the people were filled with awe and devotion for the deity whose hat was half blue and half red.

This beautiful African Folktale has something to teach even disciples who don’t worship goddesses. There are so many wonderful themes: the gulf between religious experience and religious dogma, the innocence of children, the power of laughter to bring down walls… but, in a divided America where just about every facet of life has become polarized into a red vs blue dichotomy, the most vital message in this parable may be the simple truth that each person’ perspective does not tell the whole story and that our sincere convictions are best tempered with humility. To quote the Apostle Paul, “we see only in part.” Someday we shall know fully even as we are fully known, but not today. Today the way of the world calls us to drop our cross and take up the totem of a tribe. To wave the banner of liberalism or conservatism while the cause of Christ is cast by the wayside. The walls are higher than ever and the people on both sides teach their children to fear and hate. Perhaps now is the time for Disciples walking in the way of Jesus to meet each other in the middle with humility and try, with the eyes of compassion, to see how things look from the other side of the street. Maybe then with laughter anchored in the spiritual fruit of joy, we can begin shaking the walls we’ve let stand between us too long.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Problem of the Dead Lion

There was a village that contained three exceptional men known for their great learning. They excelled in many of the sciences and were renown for their intellect. One day, the three learned men got together and decided they were tired on living in the village.

“The people of this village are superstitious simpletons and cannot possibly understand our learning,” said one.

“There is nothing here for us to apply our superior skills to. We have so much to offer the world and we cannot do it in this simple place,” said another.

“And there is so much to see that we have not yet seen. We should go explore and find new challenges to apply our great minds to,” said the third.

They resolved that their voyage of exploration should begin in the forest. So they set about exploring. After several hours, they happened upon the bones of a lion in the middle of the forest.

One of the learned men exclaimed, “Look! We have finally found a problem which we can apply our great learning to… Among my many studies, I have studied all the skeletal structures of all the earth’s creatures… I could easily reconstruct this lion’s skeleton!”

Another of the learned men added, “In my studies, I have studied the muscles and sinews of the earth’s creatures and have learned the art of sewing skin… If you can repair this lion’s skeleton, I can make it new muscles and skin.”

“Oh we make a great team indeed,” chimed the third, “for I have learned in my studies the art of life. If you two can repair this lion’s body, I can concoct a potion that will give it blood and breath!”

So the three learned men set to work applying their great knowledge to the problem of the dead lion. One carefully reconstructing the skeleton, another adding the muscles and skin, and the third restoring the blood and breath, until at last they had brought the lion back to life. The three learned men marveled at their accomplishment.

“Look!,” said one, “A fully restored, living breathing lion! Surely such a thing has never been done before!”

“I know!”, said another, “It is a true scientific breakthrough! Imagine the implications!”

Before the third could speak, the lion lunged at the three learned men, mauled them, and ate them for dinner.

This elegant African folktale is a great parable about the responsibility that comes with knowledge. Just because we have the power to do something does not mean it should be done. We can build machines that can destroy the earth a hundred times over… Should we? Biological engineering, singularity, and advancements in warfare, raise important ethical questions that disciples have an obligation to speak into. We are not called to be neophytes. Rather we are called to engage the great questions with integrity and conscience. It has been said religion without science has no brain and that science without religion has no heart. God requires us to love Him with both.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…