What Disney Shows Us

disney-princess-merida-disney-princessI grew up on Disney. The moving drawings, the damsel in distress, the out of the blue songs that make me cringe and yet I know all the words. A world of dragons,  talking animals, carpet rides, evil step mums, ugly sisters, useless fathers, pretty stick thin women in chains and heroic men on a white shiny white horse with a sword which may or may not be able to sing…

I really like Disney. I think they make good (predictable) stories. It is true that they pump out the stereotype of a princess who is useless but has perfect hair and can sing to birds which may or may not blow up, who are deeply unhappy and alone without a man to complete her. She then unfortunately gets into a tangle and gets captured and the only way to be saved is through a man who can probably sing and who goes on countless adventures and ends up being her true love and then they live happily ever after. 

On the surface the classic Disney cliché of prince and princess gives out a few bad vibes like:

  • Women are only truly happy and complete when they meet their man (who may or may not be able to sing). 
  • Women are always the damsels in distress… men almost never get captured and need saving.
  • Men do the saving, they have the adventures. The women are stuck inside four walls.
  • Women can sing to animals and while the men are away the animals do all the work while the woman reads Hello magazine..
  • The woman is the princess and wears pretty dresses, eats only celery or dust to maintain her hour-glass figure. 
  • The men are handsome, unless you are a beast… in which case you are very hairy. 
  • There is nearly always a useless father… 
  • There is nearly always an evil woman or witch
  • There is nearly always a dim woman in a pretty dress that thinks animals can talk to her
  • There is nearly always a man on a horse who over time will turn into a useless father or a frog.
  • A Kiss will solve everyone’s problem.
  • Never eat fruit in a Disney movie…

Here is the thing, although some of this lurks in our Disney movies and it doesn’t always give out the best image or vibes of what it is to be a man or a woman (Although I think it is slowly changing like in Brave), it does however get something right.

The need for salvation.

It is easy to get frustrated at the “fruit-eating, singing to a flower” woman being all perfect and in distress and for the man to carry her away into the sunset after a great adventure. However it is kinda true.

The need for a saviour is imprinted in our narratives. Our stories burst at the seams with the need for salvation, a rescuer and a hero. Our Superman’s, Ironmans, Harry Potters and Lord of the Rings cry out for a hero to save us.

superman

In the film Superman Returns, Superman says:

“You wrote that the world doesn’t need a saviour, but every day I hear people crying for one.”

The world is crying out for one. Our culture reflects that. Our Disney movies reflect that. And it’s not just women who need a saviour, but its the men as well. And the true saviour doesn’t just have a great adventure and jumps on his horse. He actually dies and gives up everything for his bride.

He is a hero that sacrifices.

Disney may get some things wrong. But it gets one huge thing right. It echoes a story of a bride who is trapped and in trouble and the man who is the King dies for her, is risen to life, carries her, speaks tenderly to her and saves her. 

When we have kids and they watch Disney movies, I hope I can discuss this with them. I hope I can dispel some of the myths that Disney leaks out about men and women. But I hope I can draw them into the true story that Disney echoes. We are all, male and female in need of a saviour. And this saviour Jesus Christ, is far better than what Disney portrays their hero as. And we are in way more trouble then what the princess is in. And its going to take more than a kiss to save us. It’s going to need blood.

And yes there will be a Happy Ever After.

A Story Repeated

Reading a book at the beachHuman beings are story tellers. We all love stories. Its seems that christians have been telling the same story for over 2000 years. Over and over again, every Sunday, every midweek meeting and every evangelistic event.

It is the story of salvation, of bloodshed and sacrifice. The story of love, light and darkness. The story of a loving Father and his Son through the Spirit saving  the people who is the bride and the adopted son.

It is a story we repeat over and over again. Which means sometimes we think we know it. We mutter that we have heard it all before. We think we know this story and so we want talk about something else. We ask, do we have to listen to the Gospel AGAIN at church?

I firmly believe the answer to that is: Yes. Even if you don’t realise it, your heart and my heart needs to hear this story again. We need this story repeated again and again.

The funny thing is, this story is older than 2000 years. This is a story that is embedded in the Old testament. The story of liberation and salvation. The story of darkness and light, of sacrifice and blood. The story of Exodus. That story where God freed his people from slavery and led them into the promise land.

As I read through my bible I have noticed something. We are told the same story over and over again in the OT. God is constantly telling his people the same story of the Exodus…

“For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God.” Lev 11v45…

Here are some other examples although there are lots more:

Deuteronomy 20:1, Leviticus 25:38 , Amos 2:10 ,Psalm 81:10 ,Jeremiah 2:6 ,2 Kings 17:7

This story is repeated over and over again. At first I thought – they know this! I know this! Stop repeating it. But then it struck me. They are a forgetful people. They forget who God is, they forget what God has done and they go after idols and think those idols saved them.

So the Lord in his patience and grace repeats the story again. This is who I am, this is what I did, this is the story – I saved you, I freed you, you are my people, I love you, blood was shed for you. No other god or thing can do that.

The story of the Exodus in the OT was pointing to the Cross and its this story we share now. And it struck me that I am the same. I forget this story.

I am like the Israelites who need to be told again and again and again who God is, where salvation comes from and what God has done and will do.

When I forget this story I go after idols and say to them, “these are my salvation and they will help me in time of need“, which is rubbish. I need to hear the Gospel again. When I tempted to rely on anything other than Jesus, I need to hear the Gospel again. When I tempted to worry or complain, I need to hear the Gospel again. And so forth.

The story being repeated is one of the most gracious things the Lord does for us, because if He didn’t we would be lost and going after cheap substitutes that lead to death.

Let’s never be someone who says “I have heard it all before”, but rather be someone who says “I need to hear this again!”.

So then, lets keep sharing that story over and over again to each other, to the world and in the pulpit. Let’s never get tired of this story because it is a beautiful story and our hearts need to hear of the wonderful salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ every day.

**Photo: By Simon Cocks (Flickr: Creative Commons licence)

Be strong and very courageous

Joshua chapter one is surely an inspiring chapter. Its one of those chapters that I hear quoted a lot, there are some great verses in there that seem to be in the top 10 quotes that christians use. I did a quick sermon search on this chapter and came up with some interesting titles:

  • It’s time to make your move
  • Perusing your plan
  • Being strong and courageous
  • God’s rules for success (that’s my favourite!)
  • Facing the future
  • Be strong for God is with you

I am sure we have all heard sermons of this flavour and countless times I have heard (from my own mouth as well) saying to people “be strong and courageous, just as Joshua was”. This especially happens just when someone is about to go on overseas mission or to something really important, we mantra – “Be strong and very courageous”!

After looking at this chapter again I have come to a different conclusion and think in many ways we and have missed something huge here. Part of the problem is who are we in this story? Who’s shoes do we put ourselves in? No doubt we place ourselves in the boots of Joshua and therefore take the words that the Lord said to Joshua to our own hearts. I must be strong and courageous. I must be like Joshua. The second part of the problem is that if we think of it like that then Jesus isn’t at the center of this story, but I have placed myself there.

Who does Joshua represent in this story? He is the saviour figure, the one that leads the people, he meditates on the word, he is revered above them all, he is the mediator between the people and the Lord. It’s funny because that doesn’t sound like you or me really. It defiantly sounds like Jesus and Jesus is the true Joshua, just as he is the true Moses and David etc.

Most often when we read the OT we come out with application on how to be a good Christian, like with Joshua we see we need to be strong and with David we need to overcome our Goliaths and with Boaz we need to redeem people. When we do that I fear we remove Christ from the picture and exalt ourselves. But lets place Christ back in the picture and if Joshua is pointing to Christ then that is where we need to look.

And if Christ is back in the picture then here is the good news – you don’t have to be strong and courageous, you just need to look at the one who is strong and courageous. You need to look at the one who is the saviour, the one who redeems, the one who is the true Joshua, the one who leads people from death to life. You need to look at Christ. Look at Him! Trust in Him! Doesn’t that sound more like the Gospel? Its beautiful and heart warming.

 

There and back again

When I was a child my favourite story was about a wizard called Timbertwig and he had a pointy hat where a spider use to live. They would have many wonderful adventures together in this magical world. As soon as I left the wonder and innocence of childhood and sped towards the agony of teenage years, I found myself enjoying Lord of the Rings. These huge books would be devoured in a matter of days as I immersed myself in a hobbits tale. I loved the beauty of it, the story, the landscape and this other world that just paints delights in my mind! Then I was flung into my twenties like a rabbit hitting a headlight and I have remained loving Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter and Discworld. That’s right, I am the kind of person that reads Sci-fi and fantasy books and enjoys every second of it!

Many people have asked me why I enjoy such books and whether I should be more rooted in reality? My answer is probably not well thought out, but I think in a way these types of books represent a form of reality that can’t be ignored because they are a mirror, holding up an image of what they see within our dreams and lives. Think of all the books you have read, there is always some sort of Hero – a dream of having a saviour, having someone who takes away our pain, whisks us off our feet and makes the evil go away. We are safe in their arms and we clutch hold of the pages that are written about them. We love heroes. We also have villians, the evil guy who plots distruction and yet we know they wont win. Evil doesn’t win. We see this in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Our Hero fights (Gandalf, Frodo, Harry) against the evil one (Salron, Voldermort) and there is a battle, clashing of swords or wands, there is a sacrifice, we hold our breath… the hero rises.

We had an interesting conversation at one of the CU’s about whether we can use Harry Potter as part of a film and discussion night. Can we use a film that has magic in it to tell the Gospel? Well, I somehow don’t see that the magic is the point of the story – its all about the battle, the hero and villian and the sacrifice with various themes of love and friendship… I think we can draw upon them to show how tehy reflect something of the Gospel, but of course the boy who lives will not live forever but Jesus will and so we can point to the Gospel and say – “Here is the true hero.”