by John Ellis
I have learned that if you express your opinion/belief in writing, some will take it as if you’re dictating it as law for everyone else. Which is to be expected, I guess. Unfortunately expected, I should say.
Writers have to learn to say what they’re going to say and then be willing to let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes, writers do a poor job of communicating their ideas, and, hence, much of the blame for whatever poor responses ensue can be placed on their pen. Other times, readers will enter a piece with an agenda; the writer’s arguments are almost irrelevant to the readers’ thought processes and responses. Most of the time, though, writers need to be aware of the limitations of their chosen medium. It’s not possible to say everything, especially in online writing, and writers need to pick a thesis and pursue that thesis. That means, of course, that certain nuances may very well be left behind. Hopefully, the reader, especially if the reader has been following the writer, can fill in some of the gaps left by the lack of a specific nuance.
I write all that to acknowledge that I understand how this works, on some level, at least. Furthermore, what’s to follow is not a product of me attempting to correct any misconceptions about my Beauty and the Beast article for PJ Media (frankly, I haven’t really heard any). I’m writing this addendum, of sorts, because I believe that this topic is important for Christians and that what I write may aid some in thinking through this issue. And I also want to make sure, on the front end, that no one mistakenly assumes that I want to see a personal decision on my part become codified for everyone else. That decision, of course, is that my family and I will not be watching the new live-action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
In case you missed the news, Beauty and the Beast includes a “gay moment.” Bill Condon has taken the opportunity in recent interviews to promote the “gay moment.” Gaston’s sidekick LeFou is gay, a completely unnecessary alteration to the story. LGBT activists have widely praised the first “gay moment” in a Disney film marketed towards children, and the editor of a prominent gay publication in England said, “by representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural.”
Condon has since walked some of his exuberance back, presumably at the behest of Disney who is counting on the film to make boatloads of money. Having seen advanced screenings, several film critics have pooh-poohed the consternation from conservative Christians. One Christian blogger detailed the “gay moment(s)” and concluded that she and her husband will need to watch the movie again before decided whether or not to allow their children to watch Beauty and the Beast.
To be sure, the “gay moment(s)” are subdued and not even close to the level of explicitness displayed across our TV screens on an increasing level. I knew that before reading the reports from those who’ve already seen the movie. Beauty and the Beast is rated PG, after all. But my decision isn’t based on the level of explicitness, nor is it based on me and my wife’s ability to help our children appropriately interact with it. I have very little doubt that my wife and I could quite capably “parent” our eleven-year old daughter through it. My decision is based on the intent, the motive of Disney and the filmmakers.
Interacting with pop culture and entertainment does not have a one-off, one-size fits all answer. I wrote an article about that, which you can read by clicking here. For this article, however, I want to explain what has led to my determination that Beauty and the Beast is not for my family.
As already stated, I’m not worried that the content will be such as to be problematic for our eleven-year old daughter. She knows what homosexuality is. Wanting to set the tone and provide the rhetorical framework, we’ve already had conversations with her about homosexuality. In other words, it’s not the content nor is it that we believe we’ll be stymied by the film as we continue to talk about this issue with our daughter. The filmmaker’s intent is the problem.
Apart from the grace of God found through faith in Jesus, all humans are living in open rebellion against their Maker. All humans sin. And all human efforts are tainted by sin; some more so than others. Because of God’s common grace, unbelievers (presumably) like Mozart and Shakespeare have given the world beautiful creations that reflect who God is. Those creations are still marred by sin and are not perfect, but in the whole are glorious reminders of our Creator God.
Some expressions of art are marred by sin in ways that are manifest through the expression of art being, well, bad art. Other times, the content so openly glorifies sin (or, is just simply sinful – nudity in movies, for example) as to render it highly questionable for followers of King Jesus to engage. Other times, the stated intent of the creator(s) is the articulation of open and blatant rebellion. The expression of art is designed, in part or the whole, to rebuild the Tower of Babel and topple God’s throne. This is where Beauty and the Beast resides.
The filmmakers have stated that their objective is to normalize homosexuality and show people that it is natural. As a follower of King Jesus who believes that God’s Word is true and that His moral law is binding, I believe that homosexuality is outside of the parameters that God established for sexuality and, as such, is a sin before a Holy God. Intentionally using their platform to promote sin, the creators of Beauty and the Beast are overtly and willfully rebelling against the Creator. My family will not be partaking in such an overt act of rebellion against our King.
Once again, this is a decision for my family. If you and your family come to a different conclusion in full faith before God, that’s fine. In fact, not only do you not need my permission, you also don’t need my approval. It shouldn’t really matter to you whether or not I think it’s fine. Whomever I dialogue face-to-face with this about, my concern, if you will, will be that they are prayerfully thinking through the issue.
As the ideological bifurcation of our society worsens, and barring a work of the Holy Spirit or the return of King Jesus, it’s going to worsen, cultural expressions are going to become increasingly didactic. And the truth is that those who pull the creative puppet strings of Hollywood and the pop culture industry, in general, are people committed to contra-Biblical ideologies. As is already becoming evident, the pop culture content creators are increasingly sermonic.
Engaging with pop culture is going to require more and more discernment. Sadly, many Christians have turned entertainment and pop culture into an idol, and are not willing to broach any potential strictures, even for the sake of their personal holiness or as an expression of allegiance to their King.
Soli Deo Gloria