Jesus, Doctor Who, and My Preschooler

“What is that?”

Sally had a Bible story book in her hand, and was pointing to the empty tomb. The picture showed the tomb with the stone rolled away, a radiant Jesus standing outside talking to Mary Magdalene, and two sleeping Roman guards off to the side.

“That’s the empty tomb,” I told her. “After Jesus died they buried him there, and then he rose again. That means he came alive again.”

Sally looked from the picture to me, confused. I wrote last month that ever since I overheard Sally call the angel at the annunciation “Mary’s fairy godmother” while reading the nativity story to her baby brother, I’ve stopped worrying about the Bible story books her grandparents have gifted her over the years. To her, they’re just stories like the rest of her books. She exalted in finding “baby Jesus” in nativity scenes over Christmas, and since then she’s realized that there are stories about “Jesus all growed up” (as she puts it). Zacchaeus is a favorite. This was the first time, though, that Sally had come upon a story of the resurrection. She appeared to be flummoxed. I paused, grasping for some way to help her make sense of the story. Finally, I found one.

“Remember how the Doctor regenerated? He was hurt and dying, and then he came alive again with a new body.”

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh.” Understanding spread across Sally’s face. “Jesus is like the Doctor!”

That’s right. My daughter now thinks Jesus was a Time Lord. Honestly, given that Jesus’ disciples didn’t recognize him after he rose again, the inference actually works pretty well.

Anyway, having put the story in a context in which it made sense to her, Sally pointed at the sleeping Roman guards. “Those are Cybermen!”

She might have a point there.

I try to read Sally stories of Jesus alongside mythology from other religions, such as stories of Vishnu or Zeus, but I suppose I hadn’t thought of the ways that science fiction can play the same function. Darth Vader, the Doctor, even Severus Snape – all of these are fictional characters Sally is growing up with, and at this point, to her, there’s no real difference between what we call “fiction” and what we call “myth.” Jesus, Leia, Vishnu, the Doctor, Artemis, Hermione Granger … Sally is surrounded by stories of fascinating characters, fantastical worlds, and engrossing events.

One thing I love about this fast array of stories is the way they both feature scads of overlapping themes and provide starting points for all sorts of ethical questions. There is such a richness and depth and meaning to be pulled from fiction and myth, and there are so very many comparisons to be drawn. I could just as well have pointed Sally to Harry Potter, after all, who also died and came alive again.

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