This may be old news to many of you but I just learned that Cheetah, simian costar of the original Tarzan movies featuring Johnny Weissmeuller, died at his home in Palm Beach Florida. He was 80 years old. While there is a bit of controversy over the true identity of the chimp ( some aren’t sure he was the real Cheetah; his actors guild ID card looked forged) his caretakers are convinced. They maintain he came to them from Weissmeuller’s estate in 1960. Rumour has it he arrived with nothing but really big sunglasses and an autographed Ed Asner tie.
The part of the story that caught my eye was that this chimpanzee was very sensitive to human emotions and enjoyed tuning the radio station in his compound so he could listen to Christian music. While this news is less astounding than learning that some christian musicians flip through their iPods to listen to The Monkeys, I am still having trouble processing.
The real story here is not whether an ordinary chimp scammed Floridians into treating him like a celebrity. The real story is a twist on the age-old question of whether animals go to heaven. If indeed they do (as most of us secretly wish) than what on earth would have possessed this creature to listen to contemporary christian music by choice? You’re already in man. Don’t beat yourself up!
Now let’s assume for argument’s sake that animals do not go to heaven. Or should I say ALL animals. Does this open a narrow door for a chimp who can’t stomach country music down the dial to find MercyMe artistically compelling and theologically intriguing? Oh stop!
Can a monkey really be saved? And if so, does this prove that their chimp DNA (which is a 97% match with human DNA) makes them eligible to cast ballots for the Reader’s Choice Dove awards?
In light of this new data should christian songwriters rework their lyrics to make hymns and worship songs more inclusive of other species? Forget feminist language – lets start pandering to homo-sapians of every denomination. Examples that come to mind include George Beverly Shae’s crusade showstopper “Just As I Am Without One Flea” and Third Days’s “God of Wonders beyond Banana Tree”. You can likely think of a few others.
However, while the behaviour of this chimpanzee may explain the inexplicable rise of Hillsongs United (given that many wild animals now have universal access to satellite bundled with their mobile data plans) there is more at stake here than a shift in worship music. This startling news lends credence to the idea that, for the sake of evangelism, we should paint-over classic christian works of art depicting the fall of Adam and Eve with something a little more tempting than an apple? This will cost money. I wonder if Dole or Chiquita would pony up for the naming rights? So many things to consider. The fields are ripe and the labourers are only human.
Does this story do anything to convince you that evolution is true or just confirm that Christian music has wider audience APPEAL than we’ve been led to believe?
I need some clarity here people.