05 June 2008

Jesus and the Oompa-Loompas

This post is a tangent. It is, technically, a post in its own right, but it's also a tangent and one significantly hefty enough that I felt it unfair to leave it as a comment attached to the original post to which it is a reply. Also, I wanted everyone to read it because at the end of the day— actually at all parts of the day— this blog's really about me.

So, some lost tribe— which is only called lost because we happened to accidently find them— is in the Amazon, and half of them are all done up like Oompa-Loompas and the other half like one half of an Amos 'n' Andy routine. To be fair, they wouldn't get those references. Which is probably not the thing which brings some people to wondering about whether or not we ought to send in the missionaries.

Which brings me to a tangent in a tangent: has anyone ever given serious thought to religion and spiritual practices among Oompa-Loompas?

But that's not the point. Except, in a way, it is the point. On one hand, someone says, yeah, go evangelize this tribe, or these Oompa-Loompas. It'll be good, character-building stuff for them. On the other hand, someone else thinks they should be left alone, preserved, because maybe contact with another culture so different from their own will end very badly. Like, for example, with their making candy for Willy Wonka.

Which doesn't sound bad, except that what is true of sausage is true of candy: you might want to eat it, but seeing it getting made will lead you to write a novel exposing its horrors to the public and fast-tracking government regulations on food preparation. If you're Upton Sinclair.

As is the trend so far (I'm being explicit for those of you who are a bit slow), I mean the Oompa-loompas and I also mean that Amazonian tribe who may or may not need to hear about Jesus and the Gospel. It may not be a good analogy, but I'm going with it anyway. I hear it's good exercise. And by hear, I mean, made up just now.

I always wondered how well the Oompa-Loompas liked working for Willy Wonka. Were they on the level of slaves? Better? Had they unionized? Did Wonka ever have problems with the EEOC? You can't deny that the Oompa-Loompas were drastically different than the people in that film. They had a whole singing, dancing psychedelic culture all of their own. Wonka was weird but he was no Oompa-Loompa.

So at some point, those two cultures had to meet, Wonka the candyman and the Oompa-loompas the weird green-haired dwarves, and at some point after that, one of those cultures got the other one to make some crazy-ass treats in order to thereby make a crazy-ass-load of cash.

And who knows about this Amazonian tribe? Would they, so to speak, make candy for us? We, like Wonka, would be the ones gaining, unless you count the knowledge they'd gain of the candy-making process.

Then again, apart from Charlie, the only ones really immune to the hypnosis of the candy are the Oompa-loompas. All the other kids can't hack it, they abuse the power. The candy is powerful and I think the gospel is powerful, whether you believe in God or not, it does something to people.

So we're like all the kids, and pretty much all of us can't handle the power of the candy. We want more of it than we should, or we sink ourselves into the chocolate-y river of religious experience, or we get so bloated on it we blow up like a blueberry and they have to roll us away. I mean, some churches roll people away down the aisles anyway, but that's another whole weird thing.

I just don't feel comfortable giving an answer. Since this tribe is so unknown, I can't know how'd they respond. Would they really be like the Oompa-loompas, able to handle the power? I doubt it.

I get the feeling they'd be a lot like us. Most of them would fuck up pretty bad, and maybe a couple would catch on. It's not a great percentage, and that's why I'm not sure I think missionaries ought to go meet these people. I'm not sure they could handle the candy, or that we're handling it particularly well enough to know how to share it.

There's probably also a metaphor somewhere in the Amos 'n' Andy bit, about how we all tend to oversimplify those who are different than ourselves so that by making them one-dimensional we can easily predict what they'll do and how they'll respond to us. But that might be a bit of a stretch.


SJ Austin said...

Ironically (by which I mean coincidentally—in other words, not at all ironically), Roald Dahl's original Wonka servants were pygmies. They changed it in modern version of the book to tame the offensiveness.

Joel Morehouse said...

Is it not true, that sunlight is generally beneficial for animals, plants, and for us humans who need light in order to see? Isn't true religion like sunlight? It shines on the good and bad alike, and makes clear their difference? Columbus brought religion to the natives, but also brought syphilis back to Europe. Neither Columbus nor the natives were perfect, but the Christian religion was an improvement over the human-sacrifices which had been the practice among the natives until then. Nevertheless, all will come to light in the end.