The hit Disney movie, Frozen, has taken the US by storm and it’s hit song, “Let It Go!” can be heard on every elementary school playground around the country. Even my 2 yr old could sing some of the song before she ever saw the movie!
As I heard bits of the lyrics float past my ears, something didn’t sit right with me. But, I decided to hold judgment until I heard the song in the context of the entire movie. This weekend, my girls and I watched Frozen together and “Let It Go!” struck me as a song that espoused a lot of popular philosophies about a life contrary to the Bible’s teaching. I decided to look at 3 main themes and dissect them in light of the Bible.
First, Elsa laments the fact that she’s always had to be the “good girl.” “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be” and “Let it go! That perfect girl is gone!”
I do believe that this is a cry of a lot of children in the church today. As Christian parents, we have done our children a great disservice if we have only emphasized outward behavior without a heart turned to Christ. Our children need to know that they can’t be the “good girl” or the “good boy” because we are all infested with sin. We need to be constantly pointing our children to Jesus as their Savior and Redeemer who alone is good and perfect. We all need to be humble enough to confess our sins to God and to one another (James 5:16, I John 1:8-10), not pretending to be without sin like the Pharisees (Mt. 23:23-28).
I feel badly for Elsa and her situation and can only pray that my girls will not feel this need to put on “perfect airs”, but instead will put on Christ.
Then, we get to the heart of the song, the rousing “let it go” chorus. The music crescendos as Elsa sings “Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door. I don’t care what they’re going to say…” I’m assuming that Elsa is letting go of her gift/curse of freezing things. Are we supposed to just let go of whatever is “trapped” inside of us? Is that being true to ourselves?
The Bible encourages self-control (Gal. 5:16, 5:22-25) which seems the antithesis of letting it go. In my own observations of myself and other people, letting go of inhibitions only leads to sorrow. Elsa also says she doesn’t care what people are going to say, which is a very prevalent thought pattern today. “Be true to yourself and don’t worry about anyone else” is what we often hear.
Should we as Christians care what people think of us? My study of Scripture and an article by John Piper leads me to say “Yes” and “No”. If people are saying things against us because of our walk for Christ and stands we take for His Kingdom, then no, we don’t care what the world says (Gal. 1:10, I Thess. 2:4, I Tim 3:2). However, the Bible does put some importance on what others perceive about us (Prov. 22:1, Rom 15:1-2, I Peter 2:12). As John Piper stated, the most important question we can ask of ourselves is, “Is Christ honored in our lives?” (Phil. 1:19-20). So, Elsa lets it go, but she is still miserable, trapped in her ice castle. Doesn’t sound so exhilarating does it?
Finally, Elsa claims “it’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through, No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!” I would hope this would make any Christian squirm. This statement is what feminists, homosexual activists, atheists, and many other groups want us (and our children) to believe. Their theory is that rules constrain you and keep you from happiness. Is this what God tell us in His Word?
No, in John 8:31-36, Jesus talks about by abiding in His Word, we will know the truth and that is what sets us free. He goes on to talk about being a slave to sin and that Christ comes to set us free from this bondage. Romans 6:16-23 also talks about being slaves to sin until Christ changes us and we become slaves to righteousness. Our all-knowing, all-powerful sovereign God has given us rules to live by, not to makes our lives miserable but to give us a full life.
I’m sure all of us can personally attest to the misery we feel when we live how we want, whether it’s letting our anger take control or eating too much or worrying about the future. We can also tell sobering stories of friends and family who threw off all inhibitions and are now realizing that their choices weren’t as freeing as they first thought. I believe this is shown in the movie – Elsa ends up needing Anna and the others and she experiences great joy when they are reunited. I don’t think “Let It Go” would make a good finale song in the movie, because Elsa found the emptiness of her life following the philosophy she promoted.
So now what? Am I banning all things Frozen from my house? No! I plan on using these observations as lessons to go over with my girls. I want to hear their opinions and see if they can discern what the Bible says. I want to hear if they feel trapped trying to be the “good pastors kids.” Then, I'll encourage them that the things they need to be letting go of are things like our selfishness, greed, envy, unkind words, etc.
And as they try to do this, they need to continue to flee to Christ, the only One who will never let them go.
[This is a special guest post by Elizabeth, my beloved wife. It is her first post in the blogosphere, and, I hope, not her last.]
From time to time I'm asked about books that are "must read's". Just today I was asked what I would recommend for a high school home education reading list. There may even be an interest in doing a homeschool class on one/some of them. So, if you are a homeschooler, give it a think.
And now, without any further adieu...the list that I fully endorse:
The energy of the movie drives the flick while the plot makes you thirsty for answers. The storyline’s overarching narrative juices your curiosity throughout because it never becomes altogether clear. Most shows would fail for this complete ambiguity. However, the directors score because the otherwise frustrating obscurity develops with Einsteinian genius, thus providing a refreshing new take on the crusty old hero tale.
This stimulatingly murky plot compliments the flick’s postmodern overtones. Questions regarding morality and reality leave you wondering what is true and seeking resolution…a perfect cliffhanger for a sequel, but you can’t shake the feeling that these ultimate answers will never come.
The drama nevertheless is intense as battle scenes emit suspense and awe. Emotional allure is just as penetrating as the adrenaline hyping cinematography. No doubt the story writers score high by evoking emotive tragedy of Shakespearian levels. They should remember though that it is never good to kill off all your main characters when you are planning on making a sequel that must explain the first installment. Shakespeare could do it, but he never planned for a series.
Pantheism is the idea that god is in everything and everything is god. It holds that the ultimate goal of life is to recognize your oneness with the universe.
While it is typically associated with the Eastern world, it has become rather popular in America since the 1960's and 70's.
Another Hollywood example is the Disney movie The Lion King and its soundtrack hit The Circle of Life, by Elton John. These both seek to emphasize the unity of all things. The focus is overtly centered on nature and its deeper spiritual composition.
One summed up the the pantheistic overtone of Elton John's song by saying it is about “Being born, living from the bounty of the earth, working and looking after the earth - and upon your demise, returning to the earth to enrich the soil for the next generation that have to learn, live, and give.”
One can also see an overt pantheistic theme in the recent box office hit Avatar.
The pantheistic worldview is not limited to the realm of Hollywood though. In recent years there has been an increase in the practice of yoga. Even Christian organizations advertise Christian yoga seminars. What many do not know is that yoga is a pantheistic practice.
Yoga rose out of Eastern religions and was originally designed to assist with the process of uniting with the One. The gestures and emphasis on clearing of the mind were all means of advancing towards Nirvana.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with stretching or twisting yourself up like a pretzel. What is important to understand is that yoga has a distinct spirituality at its base that is opposed to Christian thought.
I had a similar experience when my wife was pregnant with our first child. We decided to take a few Lamaze classes prior to the birth. What we found was that our instructor sought to have us escape reality through relaxation techniques. This was essentially the same thing found in yoga.
Another realm in which pantheistic thought is found is the environmentalism movement of the last 40-50 years. Much of what goes on in the name of environmental activism is the result of people thinking nature is too holy to touch or mess with. Nature is essentially deified (we even talk about Mother Nature). Some extremists may even go so far as to say that any tampering with nature is perceived as an attack on the life-force that is in nature.
Of course, not all environmental activists would go so far. Yet, though they tout a much more mild tone, their premise is the same. Nature becomes an idol, and it “leads to a…withdrawal from any meaningful tasks in subduing the created world for God and the material benefit of man.”
Take, for instance, the global warming issue of recent years. The basic premise of global warming activism is that we must cease our cultivation of the world’s resources and do away with technological advancements in the name of saving the earth. This is profoundly earth worship.
The influence of this movement has been profound. Environmental issues are typically routine topics for debate in public policy. As well, it is not uncommon for elementary school children to sing songs in the praise of nature. It may seem harmless to parents, but it is a form of earth worship.
All of these serve as just a few examples of how prevalent pantheism is in our culture. God willing, we will have eyes to discern the many other places this false religion expresses itself.
 Kevin Clausen, Environmentalism, a Modern Idolotry
A friend once said of her son who was advancing through his teenage years, “It was a lot easier when all you had to worry about was whether or not Barney had an agenda.” Another friend of mine once said “Leave it to Beaver is perhaps the most Satanic show that ever aired.” Such may at first seem like funny comments, but they emphasize well the point of worldviews.
Does Barney have an agenda? Maybe he doesn’t intend to be a radical purple crusader, but he does send messages about life and morality to kids.
I'm not saying that parents need to ban Barney from the home. I'm simply saying, we need to be aware of worldview issues that are prevalent wherever we go or in whatever we watch.
All of this, of course, gets much more involved as you get older. Consider the following review one mother gave of the movie Gladiator:
You are probably thinking, "It's just a movie!" But remember that the powerful images in which these messages are wrapped can meet with impressionable minds. Whether or not they are conscious of it, some may walk out of the theater having absorbed the sermon in picture.
All in all, worldviews are everywhere and they shape lives! For instance, the first 150 years of America’s history children were taught from the New England Primer, which started out “A -- In Adam’s fall, sinned we all.” It continued to go through each of the letters of the alphabet in a similar manner.
B -- Heaven to find? The Bible mind!
C -- Christ crucified, For sinners died.
D -- The deluge drown'd the Earth around.
The whole of the workbook contained prayers and other items of Christian significance, such as the Westminster Shorter Catechism. When it came to the education of children the early American people were consciously centered on Christian principles.
In the 20th century the New England Primer was replaced with the McGuffey Readers. The content of which went like so:
Lesson 1: The dog ran.
Lesson 2. The cat is on the mat
The consciously Christian perspective was replaced by a more humanistic worldview. God had been erased from the picture and life was now simply about cats and dogs.
Today another seismic shift is taking place. Early elementary children are starting to read things like “Heather Has Two Mommies.”
How did we come to this? It was the evolution of ideas. Once the Christian worldview was eradicated, education could go in a new direction. It was now free to cross boundaries of morality and develop its own pedagogy.
In 1954 William Golding published the classic “The Lord of the Flies.” The story is about a handful of British boys who get stranded on an island, without any parents or authorities. The story then develops how these boys, though highly intelligent and surrounded by a paradisiacal, setting, descend into savage barbarity.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of listening to the audio book version of this work. What was interesting about this though, was that the company who put out the audio version included an interview that the author gave regarding the book. In that interview Golding revealed his main motivation for writing the book. He said, “I wanted to tell what would really happen if you left a bunch of boys to themselves without any form of authority.” From what I could tell, Golding was perturbed by the endless stories like Peter-Pan, where there are good little kids doing good little things.
I will not give away the ending of the book if you have not read (or listened!) to it. I will say though that the depiction is definitely not Peter-Pan-ish. The story is tragic and rather dark. That ought to be evident enough from the fact that the title of the book is “The Lord of the Flies.” This epitaph is one of the names that is applied to Satan in the Bible; Beelzebub.
Why this title, when never once is this reference mentioned in the script? It is hinting real identity of man, even from his youth. Paradise has been lost and it cannot ever be regained if man is left to himself.
One of the most profitable studies I've conducted during my ministry is the course on "How to Watch a Movie Like a Christian." Our study took approximately 5 weeks and the text that we used was Brian Godwa's fabulous book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment.
Godwa does an excellent job of helping the reader understand that movies are not just entertainment. They are preachers who are out to proselytize. In other words, movies contain messages that can shape your life if you are not wise to them.
The conclusion of our study sought to apply what we learned by watching the late 80's classic Dead Poet's Society. I remember watching this movie when I was in Jr. High or High School, and I thought it was a superb movie. I still do. But, in watching it again with a better trained eye, what we found was that this movie promotes a strong existential (i.e. anti-Christian) worldview.
The following is a breif synopsis of the things that we should be aware of as we watch the film.
Theme 1. Salvation is breaking free from authorities and influences. Rules restrict creativity and suppress all potential and “the real you.”
Sofia Coppola is brilliant, and her 2003 movie Lost in Translation (LiT) is virtually epic, both from a cinematic and philosophical point of view.
For the last 24 hours I have not been able to do anything except laud what Coppola did in the film. In one fell swoop Coppola spoofs your typical romantic comedy and slaps the existential philosopher Jean Paul Sarte in the face.
I love it mainly because the movie preaches and is theologically pregnant. To be sure, it is not for the faint of heart. It is a movie that the entertainment seeker may quickly turn off. Though it stars Bill Murray, who is normally associated with levity and fun, the overarching tone is rather depressing.
That's mainly because of the message it communicates. Coppola essentially makes a movie out of the book of Ecclesiastes. LiT, from begining to end, decries, "Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless."
LiT presents us with two characters who attempt everything within their vain power to bring meaning to a meaningless life. Beautifully, their attempts fail.
The first half of the flick depicts the existential malaise. The two main characters (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) are set in the vast sea of metropolitan Tokyo with no means of communication with the foreign culture. The screen shots of tall buildings and large crowds underscore the "I'm just a clog in the wheel" feel.
It quickly becomes apparent that the two are not only lost in a foreign culture, but are much estranged from their families and careers. This enhanced sense of loneliness creates a contemplative feeling of "Why am I here?"
As you delve into Bob's life you find that he has the prospective of reflection. He is a washed up actor whose fame and fortune have brought him nothing of real significance in life.
Charlotte, by contrast, stands on the front end of life. Her perspective though, is not much different. Despite having just earned a degree in philosophy she is obviously floundering as to her purpose. In desperation she picks up a book entitled, "Soul Search" to help her discover what she is to do in life. (The irony is thick here as the main study of a philosophy student is supposedly 'the meaning of life.')
The two eventually decide to go out on the town and attempt to bring meaning to the meaninglessness of their lives. In keeping with the romantic comedy plot, one expects a bond to form here. Yet, one strains to call it that. Their relationship remains very much platonic--almost a meaningless distance.
The night on the town is a good time, but barely so. One cannot escape the feeling of meaninglessness. Despite the opportunity to indulge in the pleasures of life, they continue to have expressionless faces which cry out "This too is vanity." Even their stop in a stripper club affirms this. The scene, though sensual, is far from erotic. One feels the emptiness of it.
The final stop of their night on the town finds them in a room doing karaoke. Charlotte sings the words "I'm special," but being that it is karaoke (a form of music that is typically not taken seriously) you conclude "Special? Who's to say that we're special?"
In the final scene Bob is driving to the airport to go back to America. He see Charlotte in the midst of the crowd and stops the car to run after her. Here we feel ourselves following the romantic comedy plot line. We expect them to consummate their relationship with a kiss never to part again.
However, such is only a ploy. The story jumps from the romantic comedy tracks and virtually makes fun of it. Bob embraces Charlotte and whispers in her ear (yet it is "empty" because the audience is not permitted to hear it). They kiss, and do so passionately. Yet it essentially means nothing for they part. That which was supposed to symbolize their union is itself meaningless for the two "lovers" (if you can call them that) part ways. They proceed back to their meaningless existences, as if to tell us that the relationship itself was void of anything significant.
So what makes the movie so epic? It is this: John Paul Sarte was an existentialist philosopher. He believed that man, having no spiritual significance, was born into a meaningless existence. Yet he said that in view of the meaninglessness, one must choose to create meaning. He must set his destiny and do his best to overcome the meaninglessness.
In this film Coppola says, "Bunk!" She understands that choosing to make meaning out of a meaningless life is still meaningless. If it is meaningless, it is meaningless and nothing can change that.
Why did I like it, you ask? Because Coppola exposes the despair that existentialism naturally ought to produce: Without God, all is meaningless. In the end, you simply fade into oblivion (as Coppola depicts in having the main character drive off into the lost sea of the metropolis).
While it most likely was not her objective, Coppola implicitly affirms the need for a Christian worldview. Meaning and significance can only be obtained through a Creator God, who endows a person with basic dignity and establishes meaning for life.
H. H. Munro (Saki), courtesy of Wikipedia
We finished up my creative writing class by focusing on short stories. Yesterday we read and analyzed Saki's short story entitled The Storyteller. I found it so intriguing, that I thought I'd post my thoughts and analysis.
The Storyteller is about some rambunctious children riding in a carriage with their aunt and a greatly annoyed bachelor. The aunt attempts to charm the children (and relieve the bachelor's annoyance) by telling the children a story about a good little girl who is rescued from a mad bull because of her goodness. The children despise the story. The bachelor then tells a story about a good little girl (so good she's "horribly good") that gets devoured by wolf. The children love it while the aunt is aghast. (read the whole story here)
Saki’s Storyteller ought to make you feel a bit uncomfortable. He is in a very real way making fun of your average, everyday children’s story. Your standard children’s story usually teaches a moral that is supposed to persuade you to be a good little boy or girl. But Saki, in essence, says such stories are dumb. His point is that, in the end, good kids die—sometimes even violently. That would be the first theme. The second (and perhaps main) theme is that there’s no such thing as a “good little boy or girl.” Kids are evil and like stories that have violence and evil in them. The stranger walks away at the end quite satisfied because he knows the kids will be pestering their aunt for an "improper" story for a long time to come.
In sum, Saki says, all are damned.
The story is rather depressing because it looks at man’s real nature as a sinner and the consequences of trying to live a good, moral life: “You are evil and even the best of us still die.” What's more is that its grim tone is intensified because it offers no salvation.
This is where the gospel brings good news. Man, in and of himself can do nothing to change his nature or escape death. Yet Christ died to take the curse of death away and he now sends the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who turn to him in faith and repentance to change their wicked nature.
Saki's story is wonderful in that it gets at the real essence of the unbelieving life, and does not leave any fairy tail wish-fullness bouncing around in our heads. Unfortunately, due to his worldview, Saki's story depresses. It is sure to entertain, but without the understanding of Biblical salvation, you are left glorying in the grave and the evil that leads to it.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.