Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot is the story of how vampires destroy a small town. In the midst of this, some characters figure out what is going on and try to rouse the town to fight back. They run into many obstacles, such as skepticism. At one point a priest, Father Callahan, is trying to convince a family their son is targeted by the vampires:
“Let’s talk a little more first. I’m sure your witnesses are reliable, as I’ve indicated. Dr. Cody is our family physician, and we all like him very much. I’ve also been given to understand that Matthew Burke is above reproach…as a teacher at least.”
“But in spite of that?” Callahan asked.
“Father Callahan let me put it to you. If a dozen reliable witnesses told you that a giant ladybug had lumbered through the town park at high noon singing ‘Sweet Adeline’ and waving a Confederate flag, would you believe it?”
“If I was sure the witnesses were reliable, and if I was sure they weren’t joking, I would be far down the road to belief, yes.
Still with a faint smile, Petrie said, ‘That is where we differ.”
“Your mind is closed,” Callahan said.
“No – simply made up.”
When I read this I could not help but think of CS Lewis’ children’s story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In this story a young girl named Lucy discovers a secret door into the land of Narnia. Her brothers and sister do not believe her. Then one of her brothers, Edmund, goes through the door too. Lucy is ecstatic. Finally her story will be believed! Yet Edmund, in a moment of sheer meanness, says he saw nothing and that he and Lucy were just pretending. She’s just a dumb kid, after all.
The older siblings go to a wise old Professor.
“How do you know?” he asked, “that your sister’s story is not true?”
“Oh, but – ” began Susan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man’s face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, “But Edmund said they had only been pretending.
“That is a point,” said the Professor, “which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance – if you will excuse me for asking the question – does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful
“That’s just the funny thing about it, Sir,” said Peter. “Up until now, I’d have said Lucy every time.
The Professor encourages them, in light of her past trustworthiness, to trust Lucy now.
The idea is the same as that in Salem’s Lot: it is possible to believe impossible things if trustworthy people share them. If we do not rule out certain possibilities at the outset we may come to see that fantastic things could be true.
Lewis would draw a real world conclusion from this. Certainly humans do not usually rise from the dead, everyone knows that. But if people we can trust report to us that once someone did rise from the dead and if we can think of no ulterior motives or other possibilities for what happened, then it makes sense to believe them. This is what happened with Jesus.
Do you buy it?
I do. Of course, I can see how others wouldn’t. Its fantastic. Heck, believing in vampires and magical worlds through doors may make more sense. But what if the reports that have been passed down through the ages are true?
It changes everything! It changes how we look at the world.
Is the world hopeless or hopeful? Well, what if the story of the world is not one that ends in death but one that ends in the hope of new life? What if, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, the arc of the universe truly is curved towards justice? Not because humans are so great and can work really hard and build something (I think history shows us that’s too optimistic) but because there is a Being we call God working behind the scenes to ensure that in the midst of all the hopelessness and death, there is hope and life.
I’ll take the fantastic and hopeful explanation. Its all that can get me out of bed in the morning.