Admonitions to love the misfits from Dan Pearce and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


Yesterday a couple of people I know reposted the same article on facebook entitled I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay . Despite the title, the author, Dan Pearce, is not issuing an indictment against the prejudices of the Christian Church but rather a call to love others. Even if we disagree with another’s beliefs or lifestyle, even if we don’t like something about another’s cultural or religious practices, Pearce contends that hatred is not an appropriate response and does not reflect the nature of Jesus. In fact he lists admonitions to love from every major religion.

Pearce also lists groups of people who are frequent victims of rejection and disgust: “gay people, people who dress differently, people who act differently, fat people, people with drug additions, people who smoke, people with addictions to alcohol, people with eating disorders, people who fall away from their faiths, people who aren’t members of the dominant local religion, people with non-traditional piercings, people who just look at you or me the wrong way.” Maybe it’s because it’s Christmastime but as I read through Dan’s list I had this vision of the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. As a sometime inhabitant of the Island I appreciated Dan’s passion and kindness.

In Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer a flying lion called King Moonracer flies over the earth and collects all the unloved toys, and brings them to the Island of Misfit Toys. He says that a toy “will never be truly happy until he is loved by a child.” Some of the toys on the Island are obviously “flawed.” The train has square wheels on his caboose, and the elephant has spots (is it bad acne or a tatoo?)  Charlie-in-the-Box seems to have a pretty simple conformity fix (name change.) Maybe “Charlie” has an ethnic ring to it in the “in-the-box” community. There’s the Boat that can’t stay afloat no matter how many times he goes to rehab. The cowboy is ostrasized for riding an ostrich instead of a horse (I’m not going there). I’m not sure why the Bird Fish who swims instead of flies is a problem. Some birds fly… but maybe he’s from the wrong side of the track to fly. The story doesn’t tell us what’s wrong with Dolly, we just know she’s not loved or wanted. Apparently it was revealed on NPR ‘s news quiz show Wait, wait…don’t tell me that Dolly suffers from depression brought on by abandonment issues.

Rudolph, who has a nose problem, and the elf Hermey, who would rather be a dentist than a toymaker, are misfits from Christmas Town who find their way to the Island. I like that Rudolph and Hermey form their own alliance and call themselves “independent.” It’s interesting that they were only welcome on the Island of Misfit Toys on a temporary basis since they aren’t technically toys. While King Moonracer seems to regret having to tell them they can’t stay, apparently even misfits have selection criteria.

Communities, even church communities, can create Islands of Misfits and maroon people on them. Sometimes this is the unconscious result of the way we form communities around what we have in common. What would cause someone who is trying to reflect the nature and attitude of Christ to bully another person, to reject and exclude and malign people, instead of loving them? I suppose sometimes it’s insecurity or fear or a misplaced sense of loyalty. Sometimes it’s pride. Sometimes it’s just plain meanness. Being loved and forgiven by God doesn’t make us automatically love others the way Christ does. But thinking about how Jesus would look at another person helps. If Jesus visited the Island of Misfit Toys I’m pretty sure a meal would be involved.

Not only is the stop-action cartoon a heartwarming Christmas classic, Rudolph’s musical playlist is phenomenal. So remember Dan Pearce’s admonition to love, watch Rudolph one more time, and play King Moonracer instead of Santa this year when you fill the chairs around the Christmas table.

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