McAllister couldn't restrain himself. "Disney?" he protested, the cascades of laughter sending spasms of pain rippling through his chest. "Are you seriously implying that Mickey Mouse is America's secret weapon for world domination?"
In lieu of a response, Herr Runge's frown merely deepened. He closed his Bible and set it to one side: "I think our business here is concluded."
"Please, humour me. I'm curious why you think Goofy and Pluto herald the demise of western civilisation. Maybe you'll convert me to your point of view?"
"I rather doubt that you understand the true meaning of conversion."
"Please, Herr Pastor. Give me something to take back to my superiors."
"Very well," replied the older man. "You are familiar with the works of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm?"
"Yeah, sure. The Grimm brothers: Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, all of that stuff. My kids love the animated movies."
"The Grimms were philologists who researched many of our nation's folk-tales, ancient stories that had been retained only in oral tradition, often in the more obscure dialects. In compiling these stories, they did European culture a tremendous service."
McAllister looked none too discreetly at his watch. If this bumbling old fool wasn't going to sign on the dotted line, he would need to make tracks. "Pardon my obvious ignorance," he sneered, "but what exactly is your point?"
"My point is that your Mr Disney has edited and corrupted these our national treasures, simply to make them commercially palatable to a weak-stomached generation."
McAllister still wasn't sure what the man was ranting on about, but he sensed that he had just been insulted.
"Take Cinderella for example. Did you know that in the original story, the step-sister actually chops off her big toe so that it fits in the glass slipper. Or that in Little Red-Cap, the wolf eats not only the grandmother but the foolish girl as well. Or that in Sleeping Beauty, a great many unsuccessful princes die an agonising death trying to hack through the briar hedge."
"That's disgusting! I don't want my children exposed to that sort of barbarity."
"Exactly, Mr McAllister. And that is precisely what makes these stories so appealing. They are earthy morality tales. They deal with the pain and sorrow of real life, not some sanitised version that leaves no one feeling uncomfortable. Did you know that Rapunzel's brave prince gets her pregnant with twins after she lets him climb up into her high tower?"
Exasperated, the younger man cried out, "Now just one minute, buster. What does any of this garbage have to do with the work of God? All we're asking is that your council of churches give its stamp of approval to our new Bible translation. Our presses are ready to roll. Within six months we can have ten million copies in the hands of men and women up and down Germany. What do you say? Are you with us or not?"
"Tell me, have you read this new translation?"
"Of course I have. Our ministry's used the same model in a dozen European nations."
"Then can you explain to me why David's adultery with Bathsheba is missing?"
"As you've noticed," McAllister conceded, "our version is more of a paraphrase. We've deliberately excluded duplicate passages. In David's case we followed the simpler account in Chronicles."
"And Peter's denial of Christ? Or Solomon's murder of Adonijah? Or Gideon's idol? Or Jephthah's parentage? Or Noah's drunkenness? And you've made Hagar and Ishmael disappear altogether!"
"You have to appreciate our marketing needs, pastor." McAllister hated it when traditionalists pontificated on these minutiae. "Our priority is to make it as easy as possible for the man in the street to understand the Scriptures. These particular passages cast some of God's mighty men in a negative light. So we've culled a few details here and there."
"You've done what Walt Disney did with the Grimm stories. You've sanitised them to make them more palatable."
"Exactly!" McAllister suddenly realised what he had agreed to. "No, I don't mean... Uh, you've gone and confused me..."
"Good day, my foolish friend." Pastor Runge climbed slowly to his feet. "Perhaps you are starting to see the error of your ways or perhaps not. But here in Germany we will not endorse your mistranslation. We will hold fast to our earthy, uncomfortable Bible."
Gregory Kane is a missionary from the UK who ministers in Mozambique, Africa. He can be contacted through his web site at http://kane.elim-moz.org/
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