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Horton Helps Us Hear Jesus?

March 23, 2008

I know it sounds preposterous. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! can help us hear Jesus?! It sounds like another one of those articles that tries to stretch pop culture over a Christian frame. But bear with me. I simply want to reflect on the main idea of the movie, as it relates to belief in Jesus. HHAW gets right to the modernist worldview up front by setting out the notion that that things and people only exist if we can see them, hear them, and touch them. This, of course, poses a problem for faith of any kind, as well as for cultivating imagination (most likely the main point of the movie).

HHAW is a story about Horton, the elephant, who discovers that there is an entire world of mites that live on a spec, a spec which is on a flower that he carries. On occasion, when the mites are very loud and Horton is very quiet, he can hear the mayor of the mites, also known as “whos”. Horton is opposed by the Kangaroo, the king of the jungle, who says that it is impossible for there to be a world of mites on the spec because she can’t hear them, see them, or touch them. Kangaroo assumes that her senses provide her with all the information she needs in order to make sense of her world.

But she has a problem. Her individual experience and knowledge can not account for everything in the entire jungle. She is one animal among tons of creatures and plants. How much more problematic is it for a human to refuse the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead in a world as complex and inexplicable as ours? The reality is you can’t see, hear, and touch everything. Black holes, photons, strings of string theory, multiple universes. One person can not refute all possibilities nor can the rule of see, hear, touch account for everything. On person can not account for everything by relying simply on their senses.

Kangaroo has a second problem. She can’t hear the whos, but Horton can hear them. Her solution is to get rid of Horton and the spec. Is this how you approach Jesus? If you can’t see him, hear him or touch him, then he can’t be real. The problem is that there millions of other people in this world throughout history that have claimed to have physically and/or spiritually seen, heard and touched Jesus. But in order to sustain your belief that Jesus is not real, do you try to discredit those who can hear him. Trying to discredit what you can not see, hear, and touch is impossible. In the end, you choose to believe—that’s right it’s a belief not provable fact—that Jesus doesn’t exist or that he didn’t rise from the dead. As Anne Rice, former atheist and author of the Vampire Chronicles stated in yesterday’s Washington Post: “I believe in what we celebrate this week: the scandal of the cross and the miracle of the Resurrection. My belief is total. And I know that I cannot convince anyone of it by reason, anymore than an atheist can convince me, by reason, that there is no God.[1]

One of the main reasons that we don’t hear Jesus or recognize him, as god or as risen, is that our worldview won’t let us see or hear him. We have ruled out belief in things that we can’t see, hear or touch—like Jesus. This is precisely the belief of the Kangaroo and of many people today. Christians believe that Jesus did exist and that he did rise from the dead. It is a belief, a belief based on reason, but a belief nonetheless. Both the skeptic and Christian believe, but it is the skeptic that needs to be reckon with his/her own belief, namely that Jesus did not rise from the dead or that he is/was god. It is the modernist worldview—see, hear, touch only—that prevents us from hearing and recognizing Jesus. We do well to be a little more open-minded. After all the burden of proof is on the modernist, not the Christian.


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