But until that time comes, here is my take on the current evangelical reaction. I am truly perplexed at the evangelical response to these two recent (or about to be recent) theatrical film releases. The current response to these films actually seems almost topsy-turvy.
Beauty and the Beast
On the one hand, we have a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast that, according to the director, has a “delicious,” “exclusively gay” moment. And so naturally, very prominent evangelical leaders are calling for a boycott of the film. When I first head about this “moment” I was initially wondering if it was similar to the “moment” in Finding Dory when there’s a split-second scene of two women with a stroller - which obviously means they are “clearly” a homosexual couple (while two mothers at the aquarium while the fathers are at work is not just as plausible is still beyond me).
Based on accounts of some who have pre-screened the film (at least one here, and here), it seems this moment truly is a “clear” moment of questioning/flirting with sexual identity. However, it also seems based on these accounts that the “moment” is so insignificant that you won’t even notice it unless you’re really trying to see it. It’s a quick moment during a dance scene.
Having not seen the film myself I can’t really speak to it with any authority; but from what I've read - it’s barely anything to even care about….
Or is it?
The fact that the director was bragging about it (which seems to me was an obvious - and brilliant - marketing ploy), is what bothers me more than the moment itself (given that I otherwise probably wouldn’t even have noticed it).
And we live in a time where cultural sensitivity among American evangelicals is actually starting to make some sort of a comeback. So I don’t want to discourage evangelicals from actually engaging the culture by boycotting a movie that is bragging about its glorification and celebration of homosexuality (even if that glorification and celebration is the slightest conceivable event in movie history).
On the other hand…is the movie really even glorifying and celebrating homosexuality at all - given the narrative of typical story telling (especially with children’s stories). I mean, even in the animated version the bad guys are bad. And the characteristics they possess are ones that the viewers (adults and children alike) will typically pick up on as being characteristics to avoid.
For instance, in the animated film, is there any aspect of Gaston that, in the narrative of the film, is depicted as something admirable or to be emulated? No! And it’s the same with LeFou. Even in the animated version, he’s a bumbling idiot who is idolatrous in his worship of Gaston.
When about a month ago I watched the animated version of this film with my daughter, I pointed out these sinful behaviors that are clearly portrayed in the “bad guys.” And it was easy for me to point out the evil nature of man and how, without God saving him, it manifests itself in said “bad guys.”
So my question here is, how will LeFou being a homosexual change any of that conversation and analysis of the live-action film if I were to watch it with my daughter? I don’t think it would (although at this point in her life I’m not showing her any live-action films).
So really, even though the director is trying to make a “delicious” “exclusively gay moment,” it turns out to be portraying that moment as just what it is - an undesirable trait (or, for us Christians, “sin”) that we ought to avoid.
In the end, having a bad guy character be a homosexual only adds more bad to his bad guy character. And I don’t see how that hinders us from watching the movie and using it as a mechanism to teach our children.
So I personally wouldn’t boycott the movie on those grounds alone.
However, regarding boycotting the movie at all, again, I certainly wouldn’t discourage Christians from doing that either. After all, as long as our conscience is being informed by the Word of God, I think we need not go against our conscience (Rom. 14:23). If you have a Biblically informed reason for boycotting the film, do it.
But one more question on that, and I’ll be done regarding Beauty and the Beast. At what point did we ever think unbelievers would stop creating, producing, and acting like unbelievers?
Paul said that if we were to completely disassociate ourselves from such people: “the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters…(we) would need to go out of this world” (1 Cor. 5:10). It shouldn’t come to a surprise to us that until the entire culture is overcome with the gospel of Christ, Disney is going to continue down a streak of pandering to the sinful lifestyle of homosexuality (and other sins as well).
And certainly we have a right not to support them with our money or attention as they continue to do that; but it shouldn’t be surprising to us when they do. And I don’t know that it’s an explicit command in Scripture to keep our money from them. For if we treated every unbeliever or unbelieving-minded organization that way, we would have to go out of this world.
But that brings me to the next movie, and correspondingly to the very next thing Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians…
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler - not even to eat with such a one. -1 Corinthians 5:11
On the one hand we’re not told in Scripture to disassociate with unbelievers who act like unbelievers, yet we hear this loud cry to boycott Beauty and the Beast over what is probably the most insignificant “deliciously gay moment” in movie history.
On the other hand, we’re explicitly told in Scripture to disassociate ourselves from someone who is claiming to be a believer but is not acting like one, yet we see evangelicals flocking to spend their money on The Shack.
Here are just a few of the blatant heretical views from The Shack (taken from Reformed Nazarene):
And for your benefit, here are some great critical reviews of the book, by very gracious and learned men in the Christian faith:
Now of course, none of these are new because the book was released almost ten years ago (July 2007).
And yet we still see multitudes of the evangelical Christian community pouring into the theaters to watch a movie that is purporting to be espousing Christian teaching and practice; but when compared to Scripture is clearly not.
I'm thinking if we had to choose one movie to boycott, we've found our winner (well, actually loser; but you know what I mean).
So my question is, why, if we're not to have any fellowship whatsoever with someone who is saying they're a believer yet is clearly not acting like one, should we be supporting one so heavily with our money for the very thing that is casting doubt on him actually being a believer?
This is so perplexing to me, and I think it's worth some time of Biblical reflection.
And just in case you have any doubt in your mind on where the author of The Shack actually stands regarding historic, orthodox Christian beliefs, Tim Challies has also reviewed the author's new book: Lies We Believe About God.
Spoiler Alert: The lies we believe are the historic orthodox beliefs of the church we've proclaimed to one degree or another throughout the 2000+ years of history we've been around.
Given Paul's admonition to not associate with someone who professes to be a believer yet is an idolater, I truly wonder if there is any wisdom at all in seeing this film and/or encouraging others to do the same.
As Christians, we're to be in the world but not of the world (Jn. 17:15, 16, 17).
The Scripture tells us that we can't avoid interaction with all unbelievers in the world or we would have to go out of the world (1 Cor. 5:10). Yet the very next thing we're told is to shun and disassociate from those who claim to be believers and yet clearly are not acting like believers (1 Cor. 5:11).
And so I truly wonder if our reaction to these two films are completely reversed from how Scripture tells us to interact with both unbeliever and believers.
Now again, I'll say I wouldn't discourage anyone from boycotting Beauty and the Beast. If you have Biblically informed conscience reasons for doing so, by all means. But I truly can't see how a Biblically informed conscience would allow us to support such a heretical film as The Shack when we, as believers, are supposed to be disassociating with the very person who created it.
In the end...
At the end of the day, the only way to truly overcome the evil in both of these films, and in any place that evil is found, is for the body of Christ to evangelize and disciple the nations of the world (Mt. 28:18-20) - including the nations of the U.S. When the day comes when the earth "will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14), then we won't even be having these conversations. But until then, let us shine forth the light of Christ in every area of life, movies or otherwise (2 Cor. 4:5, 6; Eph. 5:11, 13).