The three monkeys, or the Lion King?

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil? Ask the Lion King.

On our farm in rural Queensland, my Dad had three brass monkeys on his desk. Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. It was an apt image for the kind of Christian faith we adhered to, a kind of pietism, focused on avoiding sin.

One day, some visitors questioned my Dad, “Why do you have a Buddhist image in your house?” They told him the three monkeys came from a Japanese story derived from Buddhism. It turns out that avoiding sin is not a uniquely Christian idea. Other faiths encourage us to meditate on the good and avoid ruminating on the evil. It’s one of the goals of religion: to encourage ethical behaviour.

So now I’m wondering, how important is the message of the three monkeys for the Christian faith?

You can certainly find Jesus disputing with the Pharisees about keeping our thoughts pure. This was part of Judaism and Christianity, just as it is part of other faiths. But what did Jesus do? Did he close his eyes and ears to the evil in the world?

One of the catchiest songs in The Lion King is Hakuna Matata. Banished to the wilderness, Simba takes on a carefree lifestyle. “Hakuna Matata” he sings: “no worries, for the rest of your life.” But eventually the lion king realizes he cannot close his eyes and ears to the evil oppressing his people. Like Moses returning to confront Pharaoh, Simba returns to confront Scar.

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