Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Gospel according to Disney

I remember sitting in Greek Discourse Analysis with Dr. Poythress, and studying narrative patterns, where we discussed that any basic narrative has the same elements within it. There is just something about our stories all needing to have these elements, and when they do not, we feel a sense of distortion and that something is just not right. He then made the comment that he thought that all of the world's stories that contain these elements, that we view as complete, have the gospel underlying them, as though God has written even the sense of the gospel on our consciences. I find this to be profound statement.

The problem is that we have divorced the narrative from the gospel to which it alludes. We have applied it to false religion. I was reminded of this again in watching an all day Disney fest with my daughter, who is currently sick. What got me thinking about it was the fact that so many villains, when they meet their end, fall. They fall from some peak, a high roof, a cliff, a tower, etc. My younger ones downstairs were watching "The Lion King," where the villain falls from a cliff into flames and is devoured together with his minions. My daughter upstairs was watching "Tangled," where the villain falls from a high tower and comes to dust. And we just watched "Beauty and the Beast" the other night, where the villain falls from an extremely high castle to his death. The idea here seems to be one where the villain descends, and descending has the idea of going down to hell. This is displayed even more vividly in "Sleeping Beauty," where the Satan character, after turning into a dragon as a display of "all the powers of hell" is then slain by the sword of truth and descends from the cliff to her destruction. We could also cite Snow White, where the witch falls from the cliff again. Of course, this idea is not exclusive of Disney. It's in a lot of our narratives ("The Fellowship of the Rings," where the demon falls into the abyss, and the "Two Towers," where Gandalf slays the demon as it falls from the mountain peak, "The Return of the King," where the Eye falls with its crumbling tower, "The Good Son," where probably the most wicked kid who ever lived falls to his death, etc.).

What is interesting, however, is not just the idea of hell in our stories, conveying the idea that an evil life lived descends rather than ascends; but also the means through which redemption is accomplished, and that means is always love. The presence of love is displayed either in the form of a kiss, or of a tear, or of an act of sacrifice; but it is through one loving another that redemption takes place. Hence, we do not see self-redemption in our deepest stories as the most endearing and true, but the redemption that comes from one outside of self, the love offered by one person to another who has fallen into trouble.

Now, here is where our narratives do not help us any further. They, like general revelation, can only get us to a point that does not bring us all the way, and because of our sin nature, we tend to distort and want to steal away the concept of love to fit our own self serving (non)religious ideas.

You see, the problem with our stories is not in the basic elements of the narrative. It's in their details. It's in their identification of what love is, its source, and the way in which it redeems. Our narratives allow us to see love in symbolic form, but if we do not apply those symbols to the truth, we miss its redemptive power altogether, because love is not merely a feeling, a display of affection, or a noble act. Love is a Person. Love is Christ. And Christ does not kiss us, for kisses can be gifted by friend and traitor alike. He does not merely show us love through tears, for tears are cheap sacrifices. Instead, He stretched out His arms in death and humiliation to take upon Himself the death we had acquired for ourselves. It took more than small gestures. It took everything He had. Hence, redemptive love is sacrificial. It does unite us in covenant as the fairytale kiss unites the Prince and the sleeping Bride-to-be, and when we were lost, His tears were bled for us; but it is through the giving of Himself, the giving up of His entire life, that redemptive love accomplished its goal.

The sleeping spell we were under, the fight we are in, the oppression we experience because of sin's desire to be master over us cannot be alleviated by us. We need our Prince to lift it, and He has, through love, real love, the kind of love that bleeds and loses itself for the sake of another. So none of these stories are wrong in their narratives, and that's why they ring true to our inner senses; but there is only one Story that we must hear in detail in order to correct the truth-suppressing details within our stories, be awoken from our slumber, and be redeemed.

Hence, we know down deep that the wicked are deserving of hell and that the love of another must redeem us, as we who sleep, are trapped, are killed, cannot redeem ourselves. And it is to us the gospel message of redemption from sin and hell comes, But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

And that is no fairytale.

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to mention "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," whose villain falls from the heights of the famous church into a fiery death below (of course, throughout the movie, hell is foreshadowed with this character). Redemption, again, is through love displayed in sacrifice.