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By Wandile Mhlongo

In my first article, I made a comment about how children are often fascinated by stories filled with colourful imagery. Some, if not most, of such stories can easily be recognised as fairytales to adult minds.

Fairytales, as I have come to understand them, play a significant role in building a child’s imaginative faculty. For instance, it may be through hearing about good Peter Pan and bad Captain Hook that we come to first understand the relationship between good and evil. Or what about Pinocchio and the terrible consequences of telling lies? It is true that not every fairytale has a good story to tell—some are just bad and very misleading. What is true of all fairytales, though, is the fact children grow up and realise that they never actually took place.

I believe we all come to understand that fairytales are not true simply because they are fairytales. I have never encountered grown men arguing about the possible existence of Santa Clause. They may have as children believed that he does actually exist and then later (without any academically credible explanation) believed that he does not exist. In other words, fairytales are fairytales and sensible people do not waste time thinking about whether they could possibly be true. I unfortunately do not have the privilege to unpack why we believe in anything, but it’s worth asking what makes fairytales inevitably unbelievable to reasonable men and women.

The Christian narrative has been labeled a fairytale by some of the most prominent atheists of our time. I think they are greatly mistaken, partly because they know nothing about fairytales, but mostly because they are ignorant to the credibility of the Christian stories. Within such stories you will find the makings of a fairytale, but not in the way some may think. We are told that in the beginning there was peace and perfection; then a crisis (the fall of man); then the playing out of that crisis with the story moving towards something of hope and peril; then suspense until the appearance of a peculiar Figure who seems to have been part of the whole story since its very inception. Then finally His death and resurrection which leaves the reader to either believe His claims (and have eternal life) or one day face the eternal punishment that comes to all who defy His Lordship.

The reason why humans enjoy stories is because our Maker is a storyteller. To take it even further, the reason why the Christian story can be regarded as the only true fairytale is because God, the primary source of all substance and reality, has left bits of Himself in all of humanity since the beginning of time. All other stories which speculated about His existence are mere shadows, imitations, and possibly dreams about this true fairytale. What seems like a copy of past stories may in fact be the original, but we have been so immersed in imitations we can no longer tell the true story, just like a court case can easily lose credibility in the midst of false or mistaken witnesses.

The reason why humans enjoy stories is because our Maker is a storyteller.

There is no story to date like the Christian narrative which has captivated the minds of both babes and adults alike, confusing some of the most intellectual people, and commanding reverence to all who make this narrative their own. If you haven’t done this, could it be because you are perhaps afraid of what you may find should it be true, in the same way a child may be afraid to look under his bed should he truly find the Boogeyman? But, unlike the Boogeyman, the Christian narrative is not about scaring you into good behaviour. Rather, it is the love of the Father sending His Son who never sinned to die for the sin of the world and free His people from its curse by rising again. Therefore, the saying: “They all lived happily ever after” finds its truest place in God’s story for every person who accepts the invitation of a life beyond imagination.

 

Wandile Mason Mhlongo is a UCT 5th year medical student, chairperson of the UCT Students for Life (pro-life) society, and has interests in Christian history and philosophy.