Never one to underestimate the potential of Hollywood to influence how we think, I’d like to have a word with you about a movie that’s just come out called “A Dog’s Purpose”. It’s about a dog that teaches people how to laugh and love, and is reincarnated multiple times, making a special connection with one individual over the course of 50 years (or thereabouts).
Having pets can be a great way to help parents teach responsibility to kids (though I’m not sure it worked with me, despite my parents’ best efforts!). Having pets can be a great way to learn any number of things, though I think it’s iffy that the pet actually teaches any of these things, even though it can be taught to model things like loyalty and obedience.
My greater concern with the movie is the promotion of the idea of reincarnation. This is a philosophical and religious belief held today by many eastern religions. It is not and has never been espoused by the Christian faith; rather than reincarnation, Christ followers believe in eternal life – a life spent in God’s eternal presence when we die. In fact, while some of the eastern traditions base reincarnation on works (the more good you do, the better kind of creature you come back as), the Christian faith bases eternal life on grace.
Rather than having to look over your shoulder to ensure you’re “doing it right”, those who follow Jesus simply have to trust in his grace and love. There’s no fear in following Jesus, no need to be concerned that, for whatever reason, you might “come back” as a mule or a Brahman. No; in the Christian understanding of the world, the only “coming back” will be done by Jesus!
So if you want to enjoy a schmaltzy movie, just go and enjoy it – but don’t let it affect how you think or what you believe.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14.3-4, NRSV).