Once again controversy rages over a film. This time, a beloved children’s classic, Beauty and the Beast. Disney Studios' live-action film “updates” the tale with some, what they consider, socially-conscious editing by including a nod to a same-sex attraction for one of the characters. And many parents are now second-guessing taking their kids to see it.
The call for protests and boycotts has been renewed.
Before we fall into step with James and John asking Jesus if He wanted them to call down fire, let’s take a breath and think this through:
Of course Disney is going to make movie expressing a secular worldview. What else are we to expect from them? It’s not governed by a Biblical worldview. Why then do we show shock and outrage when they fail to produce films reflecting their, rather than our, moral philosophy? What’s true of Disney, is true of most other media outlets, companies and industries.
Why do modern American Christians show such outrage when the lost world acts like it? I think the answer to that is because until about 30 years ago, American culture was still largely influenced by a Christian worldview. Its moral inertia carried on in the “traditional values” of a majority of older Americans. But the social revolutions of the 60s broke the Christian worldview’s grip on the culture and sent mammoth fault lines rippling across the landscape. As secularism grew, massive shifts took place in morality, mainly in the sexual realm. Traditional morality gave way to a quiet acceptance of things once forbidden.
Then, what was quiet became tolerated. Toleration turned into acceptance, which turned into promotion, which became celebration. We’re moving now to the last phase, where the holdouts of traditional morality and a Christian worldview are marginalized and castigated, made into social pariahs, outcasts. The Social Revolution launched in the 60s has turned the culture upside down. Christians in the US now find themselves where, in fact, most believers have been for the bulk of Church history: outsiders in a hostile world.
It’s time we stopped being surprised when the world acts like the spiritually bankrupt realm it is.
When we respond with outrage that a new movie reflects a secular agenda, we’re evincing an entitlement we often decry in others. We have no right to expect Disney to produce films that fit our theology, philosophy or worldview. On the contrary, we ought to expect them to produce material that fits with the current social agenda. That agenda is decidedly secular and humanist, not Biblical.
I’m not saying we ought not be grieved by the direction our culture is going. Grief is precisely the right response. How about protests? I’d suggest that’s not a wise course. Here’s why:
The Roman world of the first century practiced several moral abominations. Yet, no where do we find in the pages of the New Testament, a call for a protest as something Christians were to do to change the culture. There’s no evidence of such activity in the first centuries. What we catch a hint of is a possible suggestion of a boycott in Romans 14 when Paul speaks of eating meat. Some Christians would not eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. We may safely infer if they were zealous to sort out where meat was from, there were butchers whose meat didn’t originate at a pagan temple. So, these Christians of careful conscience exercised a kind of selective boycott; they refused to do business with butchers who’s meat came from a disapproved source.
There are businesses I simply choose not to frequent because of their stated goals of promoting a social and moral agenda I regard as contrary to the Gospel’s priority of human flourishing. I’m boycotting them. But I’m not demanding others join me. And I’m not standing out front with a sign declaring God’s Wrath. In other words, I’m not trying to affect some kind of policy change on their behalf. If enough people also stop frequenting them, and it effects their bottom line; and they decided it’s in their best interest to alter their agenda—Great. But that’s not really my goal. Because they can adopt policies that align with my values—and still go to hell.
Right policies aren’t the issue. Jesus is. Policies don’t open heaven. The Gospel does. And Jesus didn’t die for companies; He died for people.
So I need to be careful about how I treat them. Angry vitriol is NOT an effective conversation-starter or door-opener.
This has gotten longer than intended, so let me wrap it up. Paul wrote, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16) This world is a moral minefield. We need to walk wisely through it. The best way to accomplish that is not by closing our eyes or pretending the peril isn’t there. It’s to know what the mines look like and how to de-fuse them. Because the truth is, at some point, we’re going to step on one.
Some movies we won’t go to. Some television shows we won’t watch. Others we may. When we see or hear something contrary to God’s desire for people to flourish, rather throwing a hissy-fit like an entitled brat, or worse yet, passively allowing ourselves to be entertained by it, let’s mentally engage and spiritually push back by subjecting error to the light of truth.
Parents ought especially to employ this when viewing something with their children.
Mom and Dad, God has placed your children in your home by design. His Word and Spirit will guide you in how best to raise them. I pray you’ll walk wisely and prayerfully consider what to protect your child FROM and what to protect him/her THROUGH. If you attempt to shield your youngster from any exposure to the world, they will eventually find themselves as a young adult unprepared in knowing how to cope with it. If you instead teach them how to handle the challenges and lies the world throws at them, they can build on the foundation you lay and take it even further. Let’s live so the best days of our generations lie ahead, rather than behind.