Sometimes the problem isn’t whether to read the Bible literally or metaphorically. It’s the asking us to pick which distorts the point.

Jesus gets gross with the bread of life.
Proper 15B  | John 6:51-58

Does Jesus Jump the Shark?

To be honest, I don’t actually remember the episode. It was so long ago, but I’m sure I’ve seen it. The one where Arthur Fonzerelli jumps his motorcycle over the shark.

That phrase, jumping the shark, has outlived the episode, as these things usually do. The kind of pop reference that takes on its own life. A strange life, actually.

Because when we say that something has jumped the shark, we are saying something very specific. Something that has nothing to do with jumping or sharks or even the show Happy Days.

We’re saying we’ve stopped believing.
We believed before this moment and now we don’t.

We’ve stopped believing. But somehow we don’t take any responsibility for our belief. We admit that we’ve stopped believing, but because of something someone else did. So we usually blame the filmmaker for our new disbelief. We say they jumped the shark. They created something so preposterous we can no longer follow.

In art, however, we say it the other way. We start with the willing suspension of disbelief. We suspend our disbelief and give belief a chance to prove us wrong. But when disbelief comes back, it must be the bad special effects or the illogical outcomes.

We all know this feeling, of course. When something just stops being fun. Or the magic disappears and we finally look around and see that the heroes are just people. The effects just don’t look real enough.

Yet none of us is willing to truly own that moment of disillusionment. They messed up the perfect show. But it’s our disbelief we were suspending. It’s our belief we stop offering.

Even that our default is disbelief should bother us. We, the people who claim to believe.


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