Frozen: True Love

frozen When I was a kid watching Disney films was a real treat. I grew up with the magic of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book. Singing along and enjoying the classic boy meets girl story. I have written before about how Disney gets the heart of the universal story that we all ache for.

A prince rescuing a princess.

*Spoilers Alert

But the other day I watched the film Frozen, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike most other Disney films, Frozen captured more of the Gospel story then ever before.

Salvation plays a big part in the stories we tell. Go to the movies and you will find the story is telling you that salvation is necessary – to be rescued, to be taken from poverty, ugliness, captivity into riches, beauty and freedom. And there is always a saviour, whether that is prince charming or some inner person/ courage in your heart that you just have to find. With salvation, true love is not far behind.

For Disney, salvation is true love. And that true love must be shown as a kiss.

  • trueloveskissAriel’s salvation from being captured in the prison of silence was broken by a true love’s kiss.
  • Snow white is awoken and saved from eternal sleep by true love’s kiss.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the beast is free from eternal hairiness by true love’s kiss.

Disney is right, only true love can save. Love does indeed win.

However it is not through a kiss that true love is shown:

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8,10)

True love is sacrifice. It is through death and giving up ones life for another. The bible tells us that in order for us to be rescued, Christ stooped down and died for us (while we hated him), saving us and reconciling us to His Father.

Death is far more powerful than a kiss and it brings a better salvation. 

In the film Frozen, Disney shows this reality. Salvation doesn’t come through a True Love’s kiss but through a True Love’s sacrifice.

Elsa has magical powers (she can freeze people) and it causes relationships to break, she feels guilty and she runs away ashamed. She wraps herself in her own castle of ice and tries to hide, pushing everyone away.

Her sister Anna pursues her. She doesn’t give up.

This is a Hosea moment.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

Anna pursues and woos her.

Later on there comes a moment where Elsa has to die, but Anna steps out and takes her place. Anna sacrifices herself for Elsa and Elsa is saved because of the death of another has taken her place.

Then Anna is resurrected, showing the strength and power of her love.

As with anything, of course it isn’t a perfect representation of the Gospel – but it is a glimpse and a better glimpse then a kiss.

This film would be a good one to explain what true love really is, the cost of true freedom and the love that Christ has for us.

Dexter and the Problem of Evil

dexterIn the TV show Dexter, the main character is a unique man, by day he works for the police as a blood spatter analyst and by night he is a serial killer.

You can’t help but like Dexter. He is quirky and odd, but strangely loveable too. It sounds odd saying that – can a serial killer like this be loveable?

Dexter isn’t like other serial killers, he only kills those who are criminals of the most terrible crimes and who have slipped through the net of the justice system. He takes justice upon himself and channels his killer tendencies towards a good purpose.

Now I have only seen a couple of episode of the first season, so I don’t know the unfolding story completely or where Dexter will end up on this journey. But those first few episodes opened up for me a whole host of questions. Questions, I hope, people are asking when they watch this show. Questions like:

1. What is good and evil?
2. How do we decide who is good and evil?
3. Is Dexter doing the right thing? Is he any different to the people he is killing?
4. What is justice?

When you watch this show, you can’t help but feel that Dexter is doing the right thing. He is ridding the world of murderers, rapists and pedophiles etc and that surely is a good thing?

But is it right that one man should carry out this justice? What about accountability?

What happens if he goes too far?

What happens if those lines of who is good and evil become blurred? As we look into the depths of our hearts, none of us are perfect. Jesus says that even when we are angry with our brother or sister then we are liable for judgement as if we had committed murder. (Matthew 5:21-22)…

THLSTSPPR-SPTI-EPS-1This is shown more clearly in the film The Last Supper directed by Stacy Title, the scene is set around a dinner table where a group of friends enjoy company, food and good wine. This group of university graduates begin to invite controversial people round for dinner, knowing that their ideas and thoughts are quite radical and perhaps very wrong.

Over the course of the film the wine begins to taste strange and the company doesn’t seem fun anymore.

They pose the question: If you went back in time and met Hitler when he was an artist, before he did all those terrible things – would you kill him?

On this basis, these students took the liberty to kill off those guests who have radical and harmful ideas in order to save man kind. They felt like they were killing off the next generation of Hitlers.

But then it gets out of hand. Suddenly they were killing people that they simply disagreed with. From religious ideas to political ones, they were finding they were burying people in the backyard before they even got to the dinner table!

Soon their conscience played against them and they couldn’t shake off the feeling that perhaps, what they were doing, was wrong…

Dexter-Morgan

Like Dexter, it raises a load of questions about what Justice truly is and what evil is? What is right and wrong? Is it just the act that is wrong which Dexter deals with, or is it the thoughts that are wrong which the University students deal with?

 

Jesus has an answer and he says that the problem is even deeper than actions and thoughts:

 

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
(Mark 7:20-23 ESV)

 

The problem is our hearts. This list from Jesus doesn’t excuse anyone. Everyone has a human heart like this.

Suddenly I sit at that table and I know I am not pure and cannot judge other people – for my heart is evil. And I think that’s what these students suddenly come to realise in the film, they saw that they themselves have an evil heart with wrong thoughts – they were no better than those they were killing. And in the end they turn upon each other.

But there is hope. The Gospel offers hope. On the one hand Jesus says the problem is our hearts, but on the other hand he offers us a renewed heart and salvation.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [Ezekiel 36:26]

Jesus is the only one that can deal with evil and deal with it in a way that gets to the root of the problem. It still brings up loads of questions, but as we watch Dexter I perhaps want to ask myself this question; what about the evil in my heart?

The Man Upstairs in the Lego Movie

the_lego_movieLast week my husband and I went to the cinema and watched the Lego movie. And everything was awesome…

To be honest it ticked all of my inner geek boxes. With references from star trek, wars, gate and lord of the rings to super heroes and super nobodies. On the whole, I enjoyed it very much.

*Some spoiler alerts ahead*

But I was equally interested about the portrayal of the “man upstairs”. The one who gives the rules and enters into the Lego world as President Business. There are two types of people in the Lego world, the ones who follow President Business and live under his rules. They are boring, uncreative, unimaginative and stuck.Then there are other Lego people who don’t follow the rules and they are creative, wonderful and superheroes trying to escape and be free from the rules of president Business.

We meet Emmett. He is a rule keeper, who follows the instructions very closely and lives life in the system. It isn’t until he meets some super creative people, that at some point in the movie he realises that he needs to stop following the instructions and start believing in himself.

As Mariah Carey belts out:

“Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe”

Emmett just needs to believe in himself. And the man upstairs needs to recognise that people need creative freedom and not rules. And he doesn’t have to be such a control freak!

PresidentBusinessThe temptation at this point, for the Christian, is to try to defend this rule giving God. Saying, even though this rule giving God gives out instructions – they are for our good and they don’t trample on our creativity but they free us…

Except we know that being a Christian isn’t about keeping rules or even following instructions. If we do, we enslave ourselves and become a curse. (Galatians 3:10).The rules don’t free us or enable us to have creativity. Instead they bind us and stick us to the floor so we can’t move for fear of displeasing this rule giving god. The rules (law) given to the Israelites were good instructions but they were never going to free or save them. Furthermore those laws were for a specific time, people and purpose.

We are right to reject President Business and the man upstairs with his rule book. And the Lego movie is right – following rules and instructions to find purpose and meaning in life will just destroy us. And so Emmett needs to be free from the rule-giving man upstairs. But how?

Well the problem is, Emmett believes the lie that he needs to look inside himself to find the truth. That somewhere in his inner being, he just needs to believe in himself. (Queue Mariah Carey).

The mantra in our society is to believe in yourself. To look within and find meaning, truth and hope.That if you are a boring nobody, you just need more belief so you can be a somebody.

coffeeandlegomovieBut the reality is, there is nothing in you that can help you. You can’t help yourself. Our hearts are corrupt and following after desires that aren’t good for us.

Instead the answer is outside of ourselves. To someone who gives life, who bore the curse of the law so you don’t have to, who accepts you even if you are an ordinary person or a superhero.

True Freedom and life is only ever found in Jesus.

This is true for Emmett and for us. It cannot be found in following the instructions nor can it be found inside of ourselves.

The man upstairs, our Father, is not standing there with a glue gun ready to paralyse us under his instructions. Instead he is a Father who sends his Son into the world, to give us life and freedom because he knows that we can’t keep the rules and we can’t find freedom within ourselves and we can’t solve this mess we are in, only he can. The man upstairs, is nothing like the one in Lego Movie, he is far better.

Second Chances and Time Travel

AboutTime_SocialImagine if you could have a second chance at life? A chance to go back and change the mistakes you made or the path you chose. Would you do it? Would there be things you would want to change which may change the outcome of your life now?

*A couple of spoilers in this post

In the movie “About Time“, 21-year-old Tim finds out that he could do exactly that. He could choose any part of his own history and travel back to that very moment and have a second chance of what was to follow. He is a time traveller.

It sounds quite appealing to me. As I am sure we have all had moments that we would have liked to of changed, awkward situations, decisions we have made that we wished we hadn’t. We all like the idea of second chances. An opportunity to do things again, to have another go at life.

Tim travels back to moments which would allow him to eventually get a girlfriend. With some bumps on the way, we find ourselves in humourous moments where he makes lots of mistakes but then goes back and changes them. He also finds out that there are some things he can’t change.

TardisBut do you have to be a time traveller to experience second chances?
Are second chances only a reality for Tim in About Time or Dr Who?

In the film Another Earth, Rhoda does something that changes the course of her life forever. She makes a huge mistake which destroys her life and the life of a young family. Just before that point, another planet is seen in the sky, which is the exact replica of earth – with the same people and same events that have happened before. It’s a mirror image. Except on that planet the course of history changes when it comes into view on the current earth, which means Rhoda on this new planet has made a different choice that day and therefore there was a different outcome.

Lives not destroyed. A second chance.

As the news commentator says:

“But maybe the most mysterious of all is neither the small nor the large: it’s us, up close. Could we even recognize ourselves, and if we did, would we know ourselves? What would we say to ourselves? What would we learn from ourselves? What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves and look at us?”

Rhoda longs for a second chance. Could she really find it by looking at herself another_earth_09and find peace in knowing that her other self-made a better decision? I think Rhoda realises that her second chance doesn’t come from looking at her alternative self, but instead she needs forgiveness for what she has done. It is only when the Janitor writes on her hand “Forgiven” that she finds true peace.

I think Another Earth illustrates the overwhelming need of grace that humanity craves. Second chances are about forgiveness not about time travel.

We may wish for time travel, to have a second chance to change our lives and we may long to see what that life would look like if everything had been different. But that never solves the heart problem. It may cover up the mistakes we made and we may appear glossy or it spirals us unto a depression of “what if’s”.

The level of our problem plunges deeper into our hearts that go beyond the choices we make.

Another_Earth_07And time travel isn’t real, but grace is. Second chances are a reality we all can have.

Outside of ourselves is a God who became human to give all of us a second chance. He beckons us all to start afresh and to receive true forgiveness that dives into the inner most depths of our hearts and cleans out all the mess. Time Travel cannot do that, neither can anything else in this world.

And what does that look like?

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26

New heart and a new spirit. That heart riddled with guilt and yearning for a second chance, gets replaced with a new heart, a new life, a new spirit and a second chance. And this gospel spills out over every mistake we make or will make. This is the beauty of the cross, the mountain of second chances.

It doesn’t mean we forget what we have done, but we are forgiven and we can learn from our mistakes instead of covering them up. The good news is that our second chance doesn’t come through wishful thinking about time travel, but it comes through Jesus Christ.

Come to him and find a new heart and forgiveness that will quench your thirst. Then you can truly enjoy your day, without any worries.

“The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” – About Time

Black Mirror: Life, Death and Resurrection

blackmirrorI have come to an end of my mini series of engaging with the Black Mirror series. I only looked at 3 episodes but there are another 3 you can watch and they are worth watching, I just felt these 3 really resonated with me. I enjoyed observing and thinking about the ideas that black mirror presents to us. It challenges us on how we use social networking, technology, how we view ourselves and our desires and society. There are many other themes within these episodes that I did not talk about. But the ones I picked out were:

15 Million Merits: The fullness of life: Looking at Incarnation – the real, the dirt and the humanity of people. The tendency to hide in a virtual world where we become numb and lifeless and we find ourselves craving for something real and something true. So we must come and look at Christ who offers us fullness of life which is found in the reality of how fully human He is. Flesh not virtual.

The Entire History of You: Imagine you could remember everything. Nothing is forgotten. The only way to forgive someone is by erasing them from your memory. But is that enough? Does that really produce genuine forgiveness in your heart? Jesus offers us something better. He offers himself on the cross for true forgiveness and healing.

Be Right Back: We desire our loved ones back. We desire resurrection. But not a lifeless, hollow resurrection. Not a life that can only be found on facebook or in any virtual world. We want full, life filled resurrection. We want life after death. We want real hope. Jesus offers us real and true resurrection. When he said “Be right Back” He came back as a new creation, eating, drinking and fully beautiful. Only Jesus offers that.

So those are the three:

Incarnation, The Cross and Resurrection.

Life to the Full, Truly Forgiven, Life after death.

The world craves and yearns for it but it can only and ever come through and in Jesus Christ.

15 Million Merits: Reality of Escapism

1doppelBM5 Million Merits is based in a world where exercise bikes power the world and those who are on those bikes earn merits (money) so that they can buy food and accessories for their “doppel” (which is a virtual version of you and you can dress them up etc), their bedroom are made up of screens where they have to watch adverts including adverts of porn and a game show called Hot Shots (a take from X Factor). It’s a world where reality is based on a screen, your life has adverts streaming to you where ever you are and there is a charge for not watching them. Those who don’t contribute to society due to being overweight, ill or old get ridiculed and some become cleaners where the bike riders hail abuse at them.

The only way out, the only salvation is by auditioning for Hot Shots so that you can win freedom. But all is not as it seems, the protagonist Bing meets a lady who actually has talent and a shot of getting out of this mundane bike riding life. But it’s all a fake, the judges don’t care for her or her talent and instead persuade her to go on the porn channel and be a porn star where she can become famous and never have to ride a bike again. This infuriates Bing and so he fights back and comes out with heart wrenching speech in front of the judges where he hits the nail on the head of how the world of the Doppel, the world of technology has numbed our minds:

“What, I have a dream? The peak of our dreams is a new app for our Dopple, it doesn’t exist! It’s not even there! We buy sh*t that’s not even there. Show us something real and free and beautiful. You couldn’t. Yeah? It’ll break us. We’re too numb for it. I might as well choke. It’s only so much wonder we can bear. That’s why when you find any wonder whatsoever; you dole it out in meager portions.”

“The peak of our dream is a new app” It’s disturbing isn’t it? Bing goes on to say:

“And only then until it’s augmented, packaged, and plumped through 10,000 pre-assigned filters till it’s nothing more than a meaningless series of lights, while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what? All tiny cells and tiny screens and bigger cells and bigger screens”15-million-merits-black-mirror

“It doesn’t exist”… “while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what?” A mundane existence that drives towards getting bigger cells (living spaces) and bigger screens (ipads, flat screen TV’s). We power on and on and we become numb and anything real or beautiful will just break us. Some of this is Ecclesiastes language, the idea of meaningless and striving and toiling and not getting anywhere. It makes you take a step back. Am I numb to life? Do I just want comfort? Is the constant viewing of screens and online life sapping something of beauty and wonder away?

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

brave-new-world

In Huxley’s Brave New World he also explores the place of technology and pleasure. Technology appears to be the saviour of mankind where they can find all their comforts and needs met while reducing danger and pain – but at the cost of mind-numbing dependence. Huxley gives us a grim view of the future on the same vein as 15 Million Merits.

Technology isn’t evil. But it makes you think about what you value and where the world is heading. Sometimes I find myself in a group of people and all I am doing is checking my phone looking at twitter and Facebook. In these moments I am missing the interaction and community around me.

In 15 Million Merits there is an escape from the mundane way of life through the Doppel and through the Reality TV show “Hot Shots”. Both which prove to be fake, they trap you in a world that drugs you and deprives you of real beauty and emotion.

This show makes you yearn for real life. The gritty real life of flesh, dirt and sweat. The place of real conversations and emotions. There is a moment when Bing and this lady hold hands. It’s the one thing thats real.

It makes me think about how Jesus takes on real flesh and becomes truly human. Truly human means he laughs and cries and hugs people and eats with people and gets tired. Truly human means having a perfect relationship with His Father in Heaven. He says he has come to bring life and life to its fullness. Fullness of touch, taste and sounds. Broken relationships restored.

We not only have the physical and spiritual but we now have the virtual.

Imagination is good. It’s needed for creativity. Escapism on some level that transforms us into a world of imagination and stretches our mind with stories is good. They draw us out of ourselves. But when our world is seen through a screen, eyes fixed on a black mirror, distracted by the beeping and adverts then life becomes very small, we are drawn into ourselves.

Is Facebook real life? In some sense yes, there is a reality to it, there is a community on some level. There is a function to it and its a good function. But also in some sense it’s not real life, it’s not where I should live my life or spend my money, it’s not where I solely cultivate community. Flesh is better. Face to face is better. A life less in front of a screen is fuller. Jesus offers us more. He offers us the gritty life of new creation and new family where we are invited to live in community like in Acts 2:42-47. He offers us true humanity in Him. If we want to escape the mundane and meaningless parts of our lives then we should turn to Him. Not a computer screen.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

At the end of 15 Million Merits, Bing is offered an escape where he can have his own 30 min show twice a week where he says soul-stirring speeches like the one above. But as the camera pans out we see that Bing has been sucked into the lie. In his room, which is much bigger then before, he stares out the window overlooking a beautiful forest. But its fake. It’s another computer screen. It’s not reality. He doesn’t have fullness of life. There is only one way to get that.

Be-Engaging: Black Mirror

blackmirror I have recently been watching Black Mirror and some of the shows within the series. It’s written by Charlie Brooker and recently the second series has been on our TV’s. Charlie Brooker in each episode gives us a glimpse of the dark reality of technology and how we use it today, he comments that:

“If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a Charlie Brookerdrug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The “black mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”[1]

It is a very clever series of short films about different areas of technology and the side effects of them. It makes you feel uncomfortable as you watch in horror at the things that shadow reality. Some of the themes that are picked up through the episodes are really interesting and I want to explore those themes within the three episodes that I have watched so far: 15 Million Merits, The Entire History of You and Be right Back. There are more episodes but I have yet to watch them. I will be writing these posts over this week, hope you enjoy them.