Snow White, Our Latest Messiah

Snow WhiteI saw the new movie Snow White and the Huntsman the other day. As I watched I was struck by how many parallels there were to the story of Jesus. There are “Messiah” stories everywhere (messiah meaning, someone to save/deliver us) And that is what Snow White is to the people of that land.

Here are some of the parallels I noted:

The child who plays snow white is born in some extra-ordinary way, with a blessing, like every messiah story, including the story of the birth of Jesus. That child is perceived as a threat to the authority (In this case, the queen; In Jesus’ case, Herod, and religious authorities). Snow White disappears (captive in a tower) for years, until she escapes, which is not so dissimilar to the “missing years” of the gospels with Jesus’ childhood. When Snow White escapes, she rides through this town where the villagers look at her suspiciously. This happened to Jesus too.

But others see her and feel moved by her in some way, saying that “she is the one who will save us. I see an end to the darkness.” They see creatures respond to her, not unlike the people in the gospels who tell stories about demons knowing who Jesus is, and calming the winds.

Snow White collects a group of people who protect her and vow to follow her and do whatever she says. But of course the group (you know, the seven dwarves) are varying degrees of not-so-smart—just like the disciples.

The huntsman teaches her how to kill someone who gets close to her, and she says “I don’t think I could ever do that” playing the nonviolence card. And of course, one day she gets fed this poisoned apple, and is pronounced dead. Several days later, (following the Jesus story) she comes back to life.

Now, here is where the story diverges from the story of Jesus the Christ. Snow White gets up, goes outside, and gives a rousing speech to the village people gathered about how it is the right time to rise up, and the question, “who will ride with me?” Of course they all respond, and she becomes a military leader, leading an assault on the castle that ends with her killing the queen.

This is the messiah I think we always want—even the one that people hoped Jesus was. They thought Jesus would gather the troops, ride into Jerusalem, abandon all his previous ideals and start a military revolution that would end the occupation and win freedom for the Jewish people. Well, the story we get of Jesus has him riding into Jerusalem, on a donkey or a colt. Not exactly starting violent revolution.

This is the messiah story that happens over and over and over again. Which is to say, when freedom and being “saved” have to do with storming castles and defeating enemies with violence, the peace that follows is always temporary, and always a ‘relative peace’ no matter what they say about living happily ever after.

Jesus’ resurrection tells a different kind of story (though some atonement models would say differently). For that reason alone I have some kind of faith in it. Because if this was simply a story made up by the hands of people, Jesus would have stormed the castle and ended the occupation, become the actual king of the Jews and then we all would have lived happily ever after, just like in a Disney story.

Instead the stories of his appearances talk about people’s eyes being opened, and understanding scripture, and learning that they must now be the people who will carry on his work of proclaiming good news. Instead he tells his disciples that if you love me you will feed people. Instead he tells people, “peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”

One could question whether this works, or will work, or is working any better than being saved through violence (the myth of redemptive violence, Walter Wink would call it). I don’t have any good answers to that question, but I am intrigued by this idea of God acting in ways very foreign to our ideas of what a “messiah” should be like. Because  after all these years we should know that storming the castle and beginning your happily-ever-after with victory, bloodshed, winners and losers, death and destruction—it just doesn’t work. There is no good news—no gospel–in that kind of messiah story.

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