Tanuki-san woke up to find himself in a classroom. The very distinguished professor was teaching a course in world religions, and today’s lecture was on the subject of Christianity. “Do you realize” the professor began, “that Jesus was not the son of a carpenter, as the scriptures would have us believe, “but actually the rebel son of famous rabbi, who in his teenage fury tried to dismantle everything his father stood for?”
Tanuki raised his hand timidly. The professor looked down from his high podium, and said “Yes?” “So . . .” was the only word Tanuki could manage to get out.
“So . . .” responded the professor sarcastically, “don’t you see that this changes everything? That this fact alone exposes Christianity as a gigantic fraud?”
“It does?” asked Tanuki.
“Listen, young man” the prof said in a very patronizing tone, “if Christ isn’t actually who he says he is, don’t you see that all his teachings are equally suspect?”
“But . . .” said Tanuki, again at a loss for words, “but what about the story? What about a God who loves us more than Rhett Butler loved Scarlett O’Hara? What about a God who is willing to pursue us the way Dustin Hoffman pursued Katherine Ross in The Graduate, chasing us all the way to the altar to pull us away from an unhappy marriage to an unworthy lover?”
The prof stared at him in stony silence, but Tanuki thought he could detect a tear starting to form at the corner of the professor’s eye, which gave him the courage to continue “What about the story?” he continued. Doesn’t this story really raise the bar for any god we might choose to worship, real or imagined?”
“Doesn’t this story speak to a hope so deep in us that we can barely express it? If the idea of a God who cares this much is even possible, isn’t any other god really a lesser god? Who cares about ‘the truth’ as you put it? How can you give your heart to any other god, no matter how powerful, how scary, no matter what the consequences? How can you give your heart to any other ideology, no matter how logical? Doesn’t your heart really tell you all you need to know?”
What about a God who is willing to pursue us the way Dustin Hoffman pursued Katherine Ross in The Graduate, chasing us all the way to the altar to pull us away from an unhappy marriage to an unworthy lover?
This time, it was the professor’s turn to be speechless. He stared at Tanuki, as if undecided what to say. He seemed to be at war within himself. Finally, he nearly exploded in rage. “Out – out of my classroom! And don’t come back until you have learned to distinguish the truth from your own projections.” Tanuki got up to leave, but he could not resist one parting shot. “My projections? Is my heart nothing more than just another projection, professor?”