Author: Bailey-Dick, Matthew
Date published: May 2, 2011
Enough with trying to save the world. That's an impossible and thankless job. Our real task is to save Baby Jaguar. With my youngest child nestled on my lap and a Dora the Explorer 'bo Ok in my hand, I've concluded that we can accomplish this task with God's help.
Welcome to the animated world of Dora, Boots, Diego, Baby Jaguar, and Swiper the Fox - just a few of the characters who inhabit the popular books, television shows and video games churned out by the makers of Dora the Explorer.
Dora, a seven-year-old Latina girl, is the cartoon hero, and her intrepid sidekicks include her cousin Diego, a monkey named Boots, a talking map and a magical backpack. As each story gets underway, the charismatic Dora says, "Let's go!" and then leads her posse of adventurers in finding lost treasure or rescuing an animal in distress. Along the way, she overcomes obstacles, solves problems and perseveres against the dastardly Swiper the Fox. When Dora succeeds, she invites her friends to join in a group dance, singing, "We did it!"
The signature feature of every Dora episode is that it requires participation. At every turn, Dora looks out at the readers, expecting help. In the video series, there are several seconds of silence as Dora waits expectantly for viewers to repeat words or do actions.
This is the first lesson: The story requires our participation. However, without fail, Dora's adventures include an encounter with the cunning Swiper, who pops out from a hiding spot. In response to Swiper's attempted burglary, Dora says, "Swiper, no swiping!" Three repetitions of this command appear to thwart Swiper every time. As friendly and as winsome as Dora is, she holds tremendous power over Swiper.
Jesus also engaged the principalities and powers of violence, hatred, greed and sin when he was on earth, demonstrating that love is stronger than all of these "Swipers," and telling his followers that this type of exorcism is part of their work (Mark 3:13-15).
The second lesson is that the story brings together peacemaking and praise. As Christians try to make sense of an apparent contradiction between Jesus' Easter victory over the powers of violence and the reality that these powers still wreck the planet, perhaps we can take counsel from Dora. She never asks why Swiper keeps coming back. She maintains an indomitable spirit and confronts him over and over again.
The biblical story shows that discipleship involves following Jesus' teachings as well as fostering the very "mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5). With an increasing possession of this mind, Christians find a refreshing blend of faithfulness and effectiveness as we bear witness to Christ's nonviolent love that reigns over fear, injustice and all manner of brutality.
The final lesson is that the story forms a nonviolent community of character. Just as Jesus' nonviolent disposition reveals the character of God, so Christians equip ourselves by fostering the "mind of Christ" in preparation for responding to conflict. We plug away, make choices for peace (sometimes unpopular ones), and try to remain true to our calling.
From time to time, we begin to hear the distant anthem of the new heaven and earth, where the Prince of Peace will be fully at home among us (Revelation 21:1-5).
BY MATTHEW BAILEY-DICK
SPECIAL TO CANADIAN MENNONITE
Matthew Bailey -Dick is a peace educator with Mennonite Central Committee Ontario. See a longer version online at canadianmennonite. org.