Last night my wife, Morgan, and I watched the movie Frozen. It’s become one of the biggest films of all time, winning 2 academy awards and earning more than $1 billion dollars globally. It’s a remarkable film, and even as a 28 year old male I still enjoyed this cartoon movie about 2 princesses.
The True Myth
Frozen reminded me of a rather famous conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. Two of the greatest authors of the 20th century were excellent friends, and Tolkien actually led Lewis to Christ. Both were professors at Oxford, and both were obsessed with myths. Humphrey Carter recounts their conversation in his biography of Tolkien:
“But, said Lewis, myths are lies, even though lies breathed through silver.
No, said Tolkien, they are not.
…just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.
We have come from God (continued Tolkien), and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.
You mean, asked Lewis, that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened? In that case, he said, I begin to understand.”
Our most common form of myth (or story telling) today is film. Here are a few popular examples that steer us “shakily towards the true harbour” of Christ. (Spoilers ahead).
When Anna’s heart is frozen by Elsa, she can only be saved by an act of true love. Instead of receiving the expected true love’s kiss, however, she sacrifices herself to save her sister. Olaf recognizes this sacrifice as an act of true love, and Anna’s heart thaws and she is saved. Elsa’s fear had caused her to lose control of her powers, but then she realized that love is the solution to her fear.
In the same way, Jesus demonstrated the greatest act of true love by sacrificing himself to save us. Not only that, but 1 John 4:18 says this, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Sound familiar?
2) Harry Potter
Harry has received some negative press from the Christian community, but I think they’re missing a brilliant demonstration of God’s love. Harry’s mom sacrifices herself to save Harry, and her blood protects him throughout most of the series. Then, in the final chapters, Harry willingly goes to Lord Voldemort to die. He knows his death will make Voldemort vulnerable, and his act actually protects the people he dies for. After willingly dying, Harry is able to return from the dead and finish off the evil Voldemort forever.
John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” In the same way, Jesus willingly died to save us and to defeat Satan. His death was not the end, however, as he rose from the dead. His blood has covered us, and now we too can have eternal life.
The world’s most popular superhero has significant parallels to Jesus. A man, not born of Earth, comes and lives amongst us. He has unusual powers and rescues people, inspiring them to greater things. The “S” symbol on his chest means “hope,” and this is what Superman brings to the world. In the scene below, immediately after his father says, “you can save all of them,” notice the posture Superman takes (50 seconds):
This particular film is filled with parallels, and so are the comics. Likewise, Jesus is frequently referred to as our hope, he is our salvation, and (believe it or not) he is even more powerful than Superman.
4) Star Wars
The dark side of the force illustrates the effects of sin in our lives. When Anakin joins the dark side, they say he dies and Vader takes his place. We know this too well about our sin nature, as Ephesians 2:1 says, “You were dead in the trespasses and sins.” Perhaps the most moving scene in the original trilogy, however, occurs when Vader repents, turning from the Dark side of the force to save his son.
In this final scene we witness one of the greatest villains of all time find redemption. It is a clear reminder to us; no matter what our past, we can still be saved by the work of Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-5 continues, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.“
5) Beauty and the Beast
Since I started with a Disney princess movie, I might as well finish with one. The last time I cried in a movie was when I saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters. The year was 1991, I was 5 years old, and this is the scene that did me in:
If this doesn’t remind you of the work that Jesus does in us, then I don’t know what will. 1 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” In this scene, the beast is transformed before our eyes, new life is breathed into his broken body, and he is made new.
It’s all true
This list could go on and on. Films like ET, Braveheart, The Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Signs, The Lion King, the Shawshank Redemption, many are filled with truths that resonate with us on a deep level.
Do you ever watch these stories unfold and wish they were true? This is the brilliant thing – they are! So many of the great stories, the ones that really matter, are all made true in Jesus. He is the real “Superman,” he casts out fear with his perfect love, and he redeems us and makes us a new creation.
He is the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams, he is the embodiment of that which we hold most dear.
I hope you’ll watch stories from now on and look for the “splintered fragments of the true light” that point us home. They are a reminder that we are called to something greater than the mundane. We are called to abundant life, and we find it in Jesus.
Your Turn: What is your favorite story?
I believe that while we can find hope in stories we can also find warnings. The Assignation Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford,Copte,Scarface and many other have subtle warnings in them. I’m not saying that the warnings are don’t kill people and don’t be a drug lord. It’s more of a warning of be careful of what you chase after. The reason Robert killed Jesse was for fame and fortune he was too young to know how hypercritical people can be. In Copte he cared more about telling a good story than telling the truth and later on he regretted it because he refused a dying mans last wish to be heard. In Scarface Tony always wanted more but he could never get enough and once he reached the top he realized it was all for nothing and fell into depression. It’s easier to fall into these traps than people realize.
As always I appreciate your thoughts! Totally right – sometimes stories give us clear warnings of the dangers of sin. Good examples!