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Fairytale determinism

imageRoughly a year and a half ago, I posted a blog regarding a new television show that my wife and I had begun watching. The show was called Once Upon A Time; my article was a look at the show’s depiction of Emma Swan, the ‘saviour’ of the program. Since then we have continued watching. So consider this a follow up blog.

As the show has progressed the lives of those in StoryBrooke are seen to be more and more complex. The ‘villains’ of the show, most notably the evil queen, are seen to be people not of inherent evil, but those with deep brokenness, whose treachery stems from the misguided attempt to force their own redemption. Conversely, the ‘heroes’ are not actually the uber innocent. Their lives are not untouched by hardness or sin. Rather, they are those who act from a spirit of faith, hope, and love. This current season dives a little deeper into the question of what makes someone a ‘villain’ or a ‘hero’. I am excited to see how this will progress.

imageYet what is more fascinating for this season is the quest for ‘The Author.’ See, those in Storybook find their lives governed by a book of fairytales. We saw back this in season 1. Yet it now seems that the book is more than a simple recording of past events. The current understanding of the book is that it dictates the lives of everyone in Storybrooke. In some way, the book seems to be a living text. Lives are bound to the outcomes printed in the book. Thus, heroes receive their happy endings and villains continually get their comeuppance.

Questions abound. Who is the Author? What role does he/she/it play for those living in Storybrooke. Can one’s ‘fate’ be changed? Is redemption possible? What is the nature of happy endings? Underneath all this seems to be the looming problem of predestination. Is the outcome of life written down? Personally thinking, I suspect that all such striving to find the Author, and the results of such search, will end up being exactly what the Author willed it to be.

While this solution may work in television land, it is a little uncomfortable for every day life isn’t it? After all, don’t we approach our holy texts with the same understanding as the people in StoryBrooke approach theirs? Don’t we also claim a living text? “The word of God is living and active, shaper than any two edged sword.’ (Hebrews 4.12); ‘All scriptures are God-breathed.’ (2nd Tim. 3:16) Just as the fairytale texts seem to contain the breath and will of the Author, whose words do not return until it has accomplished all for which it is sent, so too we hold the same truths for our scriptures. Furthermore, there are several places in scripture where Jesus is referred to as the ‘author’ I am thinking most notably in Acts 3:15 where Jesus is referred to as the “author of life”and Hebrews 12:2 where he is titled the “author and perfecter of our faith.”

Does this mean that our lives, like those of fairy-tale characters, are pre-determined? Do we take Paul’s statement about predestination in Ephesians chapter 1 as amounting to nothing more than a fait accompli?

This doesn’t sit very well does it? Yet neither does the alternative. If the text of scripture has no claim on us, is unable to speak, direct, govern, and influence our lives in any realized or functional capacity, then are we left with nothing more than a book of sentimental literature? Can scripture be the breathed out word of our divine author if the words have no authority for our lives? In his book The Path of Prayer, Samuel Chadwick remarks that it is disastrous when the Bible stops being a book of devotion.

These are obviously questions beyond Once Upon a Time. Yet for the fairytale characters, and for us, perhaps the danger is in the either/or mentality. Perhaps the liveliness of the text is not designed to stop our interactions, but rather to usher us deeper into it. Through the text we wrestle with issues of identity, sin, hope, promise, and most of all, redemption. While we are not forced into a ‘character’, neither are we left to our own devices. The text is able to change us. Through the devotional act of bringing the text into our lives and allowing it to become formational for us, we find the voice of God who breathes and speaks into our lives in the here and now. Redemption is possible only because God has spoken and is still speaking.

It is this middle ground which is most exciting, for we fully realize our identity; yet paradoxically that identity is only fully understood in reference to the actions of the author of life and faith. We hear the voice which clearly separates sin and righteousness, salvation and condemnation, yet we also hear the word ‘choose you this day.’

We don’t look to Scripture as a book that needs to be changed in order to fit into our lives. That seems to be what those on StoryBrooke are attempting to do. Rather, we are asked by God to open ourselves to the divine word, allowing God’s voice to shape and change us in a never-completed process of transformation. It is only when we have this openness, this trust of God and his word, that we are able to echo the response of Mary: “Let it be with me according to your word.’

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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