Adjusting and Accommodating

I saw the new “live action” movie version of Disney’s Aladdin recently. This is probably about the twenty-fifth (at least) time that I have seen this story portrayed either on stage or screen. My children were the right age for the original animated version. I imagine we saw it in a movie theater, but mostly I remember watching it on our TV at home through the auspices of our trusty VCR and the VHS tape. As it happens, we still have that VHS tape and we still have a VCR connected to our TV. (The DVD part of the device no longer works, but I don’t want to get rid of it because I don’t think we could find another VCR!) That means that our grandchildren have also enjoyed the movie that their mothers loved. And when I say “enjoyed” I mean that they kind of watched it on a loop when they were younger. Three of our grandchildren and my husband and I have also seen the stage musical here in Chicago. All of that is to say that I know the lyrics to the songs; boy, do I know the lyrics to the songs!

So when I was sitting in the theater, I immediately spotted one of the changes made in the 2019 version. Perhaps you know the Disney version of this story, too. If so, then you know there is a big production number when Aladdin, who has been turned into Prince Ali by the genie, makes his “royal” entrance into the city where the princess whom he seeks lives. The genie sings the number, introducing this new arrival into the succession of marriageable men seeking the princess’s hand. (This is a very common theme in Disney movies, along with the required dead parent.) I was kind of singing along in my head in the theater and we got to the part of the song that used to be “Brush up your Sunday salaam.”

The whole song is about preparing to meet the princess. As a part of that, one is admonished to get ready to give your best greeting. In the 2019 version, the words have been changed to “Brush up your Friday salaam.” Nice. Someone realized that putting on your “Sunday best” is a Christian concept. They changed it to make it more culturally sensitive. Or at least to make it more cognizant of the fact that in this fictional Eastern realm, Sunday might have been replaced by Friday as the time to put on your best and do your best.

I imagine that there are some people who think that is silly. It is a made up song about a made up place. Some might dismiss it as being merely politically correct. But what is wrong with noticing the differences among us and making an effort to be more inclusive and sensitive to those differences?

As our congregations continue to adjust to the way the world is in 2019, we need to be as observant as the people who reviewed those 1990’s lyrics of Aladdin and realized they should make some changes. What have you noticed about your neighbors that would lead you to change something in the way your congregation carries out its ministry? What small adjustments could you make to be more accommodating? How might you change so that the way you share the gospel is not a hindrance to that gospel? After all, the heart of our call is to share hope in the name of Jesus, not to do so in exactly the same way we have always done.

Susan D. Krummel (Sue)
Executive Presbyter
Presbytery of Chicago