Fairy tales serve many purposes, recording social values and concerns, while passing judgment on them and even offering solutions to common problems. Consider Oscar Wilde’s tale of the Selfish Giant. A giant owns a lovely garden of trees and flowers where children like to play. On returning from a long vacation, the giant is enraged to find children there and puts up a wall with warning signs to keep them out. His garden loses its respectability and falls into lifeless, perpetual winter. One day, however, he wakes from his slumbers to a bird singing, and finds Spring has returned to his garden and children are playing there once again. All the children save one run away on seeing the giant, who now realizes his errors, and takes down the walls to give his garden to this one remaining along with the other children. Over time, the aging giant approaches death, only to find the same solitary boy beneath a lovely white tree. The boy is marked with the stigmata and the giant is enraged that someone would hurt his friend. But the boy assures the giant such are the marks of love and promises the giant that as he allowed the child to play in the garden, he himself would be taken to the child’s garden, which of course is paradise. The giant’s body is found under a tree that same day, covered in flowers.
Thanks to the insights a story can provide, we instead have the contrasting tales of:
We have become a people oppressed with chronic stress. Finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, we escape with movies, games, sex, and drugs. The beautiful places we’ve built are falling into ruin and disrepute—who can afford to keep up appearances? We are critical and suspicious of one another, quick to judge and harsh with retaliation. Turning from and even on one another, we have become bound by fear and mistrust. The children who could bring us back to renewed hope and good cheer are no longer free to re-enter the garden. Instead, they are contracepted, aborted and used as means to further our own ill-gotten ends.
Those who rule over us have become oppressive giants, limiting access to public goods which are instead suppressed, corrupted or stolen. Lockdowns, vaccines, mandates and wild allegations of racism rage as hypocrisy rules the day. What was once a lovely country garden is parceled off to oligarchies of foreign governments, big business and special tech interests. Neighbor children are allowed to creep inside and about only if they don’t challenge the establishment. Otherwise, they are imprisoned or held in contempt of court.
The body of Christ is falling into disrepute. Religious truths that once flowered now wilt from lack of care and are severely pruned back by the caretakers themselves. Those who most faithfully identified with the lovely growth before the great wall of progressivism are ignored or ridiculed. The innocent who would restore life and love are rebuked for trespassing. The child marked with the stigmata has gone into hiding. That which would restore life is held in contempt and parceled out for revision.
Perhaps I have over-exaggerated the dark sides when applying the fable's moral and under-emphasized the restoration that is slowly taking place. Like children sneaking back in where they have been told not to transgress, many are waking to see the directions we have taken mislead and corrupt more than they benignly affirm and guide. Undoubtedly, the giant is stirring within. That strength which has been denied or corrupted and could restore order and peace is on the rise. If so, however, it is only because of the little Christ child who works miracle within every one of us. When we do wake as a Church from slumber to tear down the chilling differences that keep us apart, we know all too well that the story, despite its many retellings, won’t have a perfect ending in this lifetime, or any for that matter. What we await are a new heaven and earth ushered in by God, not a recycled version of the present or some re-imagined utopian future.
And yet, the fairy tale ending we all await will come true sure as truth is innocent and selfless charity warming like the Spring; if only we would hasten the process by learning to listen for and respond to that sweet singing call from the heavens!