International Box Office Sensation . . . Another Disney Masterpiece . . . Academy Award Winner . . . Most Christian Movie of the Year
Reading those statements, I almost feel I am playing one of those classic Sesame Street games of "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other."
I don't know if you have noticed, but Hollywood has gotten religion. From churches placing movies on screens to major movies on Noah, Moses, and Jesus, Hollywood is once again tapping the Bible for content. But what if the most Christian movie of the year was a movie that never intended to be Christian at all?
Disney's Frozen might be the most Christian movie that I have seen this year.
- Collin Garbarino
That quote comes from an Associate Professor of History at Houston Baptist University. In fact, in his article, he even says that it may be "better allegory for the Christian gospel than C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," but wonders if he says that, "my colleagues at HBU might run me out of the university on a rail." Now, I am not willing to quite go there, but I do think that Frozen is a powerful example of the underlying truths of the Gospel.
Six Themes That Echo The Gospel in Frozen :
Original Sin. Most of the dramatic tension in the story centers on Elsa's ability to freeze everything around her. We find out very early in the movie that Elsa is born with this ability. That fact is revealed in a discussion between the King and the leader of the trolls. When asked if Elsa was "born with the powers or cursed?" The king simply replies "Born." As we see throughout the movie, Elsa is affected in every part of her being by this condition. The movie may not deem her powers as sin, but from the rest of the movie, we see the devastation that is brought on by her magic. Scripture tells us that we are all born with a inherited guilt and corruption. Because of the sin of Adam in the garden, all human beings are born with a corrupt nature and an inclination towards sin. In Romans 5, we are reminded that sin entered into the world through one man and that everyone was infected with it because of that sin.
Everything Will Be Revealed. A theme in the first part of the movie is that Elsa will isolate herself and not let others know about the magic inside of her. We see her parents telling her to conceal her powers and hold in her emotions. On the day of her coronation, Elsa sings, "Don't let them in . . . don't let them see . . . be the good girl you always have to be . . . conceal . . . don't feel . . put on a show." All of us know that deep down we are flawed human beings. In fact, people spend a lot of time covering up their failings to appear better than they are to the people around them. Elsa reveals the heart of many when she confesses that if she makes "one wrong move . . . everyone will know." Elsa makes that wrong move near the end of Coronation Day and her magic is revealed. Scripture reminds us that trying to cover our sins and keep everything inside makes us wither. In Psalm 32, David says that trying to hold his sin inside caused his bones to waste away and his strength to evaporate.
Sin's Devastating Impact. Once the magic in Elsa is revealed, she runs into the wilderness where she decides to completely give in to her powers. This decision is displayed in the Academy Award winning song, "Let It Go," sung powerfully by Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem to John Travolta). I agree with Trevin Wax that many are missing the point of this powerful song. As Elsa sings about letting go and giving in fully to who she is, she is echoing the prevailing thought of our culture that each person should look inside himself. We are told to embrace who we feel we are deep inside. What is different in this movie is that the self-discovery and "letting go" leads to terrible destruction and isolation. In fact, letting go leads to an ongoing winter, complete isolation from everyone, and fatally wounding the person she cares about most. Watching the destruction that comes to Elsa when she lets it go, I am reminded of the quote from Adrian Rogers who said, "sin will take you farther than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you were willing to pay."
The Importance of the Heart. The first glimpse that we get of damage that can be done by Elsa's magic is when she hits her little sister in the head with a beam of ice. As the king is talking to the trolls about how to make her better, the lead troll says, "you are lucky it wasn't her heart - the heart is not so easily changed." Later in the movie, we see that Elsa does hit Anna in the heart and the effects are devastating. Scripture repeatedly describes the "heart" as the center of who we are. People who are set against God are said to have hardened hearts or hearts of stone (very similar to a frozen heart). We are instructed to watch our hearts with all vigilance (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus spoke about the importance of a pure heart. In fact, in teaching the crowds, Jesus talks about the heart being the place from which our true identity flows (Luke 6:43-45).
Everyone is a Fixer-Upper. When Kristoff takes Anna back to the trolls to see if she can be fixed again, the trolls mistakenly think that the two are there to get married. In the confusion, the audience is treated to a Gospel choir sounding number about the fact that Kristoff is a "bit of a fixer-upper." As the song continues, we are reminded that all of us are a little bit of a fixer-upper. The implication for the two of them is that true love looks past the faults and loves unconditionally. While the faults described in the song may seem trivial (clumpy way he walks, grumpy way he talks, sorta smelly, etc.), the essence of the song is that we love people in spite of their faults. This song actually continues the theme throughout the movie that dispels the classic Disney true love princess scenario. Anna is ridiculed for thinking she fell in love with someone she just met. All of which leads to the biggest reveal of the movie . . .
True Love Involves Sacrifice. The most surprising and exciting part of Frozen for me is the way it handles true love. The trolls tell Anna that she can only be saved by a true act of love. Following the script of almost every Disney movie, she sets off to get "true love's kiss." When the quest fails with the man to whom she is engaged, the audience cannot help but believe that Kristoff (the other guy) is the one who must deliver the true act of love. In truth, almost every other movie would go that direction. Frozen, however, has something grander in mind. As the movie reaches the climax, Elsa's life is threatened and Anna sacrificially steps in front of the sword to prevent the villain from striking down her sister. In sacrificing herself for her sister, she demonstrates true love. Jesus said, "greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," (John 15:13). Amazingly, Jesus said these words to a group of men just hours before He would die for us. It is the essence of the Gospel that one without guilt died for those of us who are guilty. It is the essence of the Gospel that Jesus demonstrated His own love for us by dying for us while we were still sinners. True love requires sacrifice.
So, what about you - what did you think of Frozen? Were there any echoes of the Gospel that you noticed?