Let’s analyze both the beauty and the beast of Christian parenting. The most recent adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is set for release this weekend and includes Disney’s first openly gay character. The imagery is bold enough to have prompted some Asian nations entirely disband from screening the movie.
In reference to the gay character, LeFou (played by Josh Gad), Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon said, “LeFou is somebody who one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.” In a more recent interview the director doubled down on his position citing, “(it) has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
Ultimately, Disney’s new public promotion of gay romance should come as no surprise due to the fact Disney has long been an ardent supporter of gay rights. Furthermore, Christians (although disappointed) should not be surprised that an institution of global trade and influence, such as Disney, would position itself as anything other than a culture reflector.
Still, the questions abound regarding this overt attempt by an entertainment entity to shape the worldview of children and youth: Should an entertainment agency guide the development of human sexuality? If so, by what credo or standard will said agency be held accountable? Should children be forced to reckon the complex issues of human sexuality at such a young age? As Christian parents, how should we respond to any entity which attempts overreach of our biblical mandate to “raise up a child” in the Lord?
In large part, the final question above is the most vital one for Christian parents. But, in order to make this question the focal point of the article, let’s briefly disband the lesser priorities.
First, Christian parents should not be surprised by homoerotic content nor spend an abundance of energy protesting against it. At the end of the day, the Disney now promoting gay romance is the same Disney which has long promoted varied forms of heterosexual intimacy, witchcraft, and politicized agendas, outside of a Christian worldview, exposing millions of children to subject matter long before their typical hormones or natural experiences would have led them there. Isn’t it fair to ask, “How many young girls have ‘awakened love before its time’ while daydreaming over the magical kiss of prince charming? [Song of Solomon 8:4]. Yes, this new iteration of human sexuality is easily the pinnacle of Disney’s transgression but clearly it is not the first. In fact, some debates between evangelicalism and Disney date back twenty years.
Further, Disney is a secular entity and like any secular corporation (economically driven) it will work to engage the largest segment of the postmodern culture it serves. Ultimately, the seemingly new version of western tolerance touted as “advancement” is merely an expansion of subjective truth concepts dating back 2,000 years to the Socrates and Protagoras “man is the measure of all things” debates. As Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote, “…there is no objective reality anymore… [for any of us to say] we know the objective truth is to set up a ‘metanarrative’ that will be considered intrinsically oppressive and exploitative.”1 Lyotard’s point is that we now live in a culture-current flowing aggressively downstream to the ocean of subjectivity and therefore shouldn’t be surprised when company’s like Disney splash their paddles to swim right along.
More so, from a Christian standpoint we should have expected Disney (and any secular agency) to grow more earthy over time! The apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world (Grk. kosmos) nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world [1 John 2:15-16]
The Greek kosmos stands for everything “hostile to God…” literally the world-system, originated by Satan, and containing values that are constantly influencing humanity to be at odds with God, and living in opposition to His Word. This age-old system has been well described as autonomous (autos = self + nomos = law) meaning self-governed. This self-system permeates the human race, influences every aspect of word and deed, crafts the essence of man’s will, nurtures his art of reasoning, establishes his worldview, and consequently shapes his conduct from birth forward! The worldly person makes no room for God and often opposes those who do. Ultimately, the world-system (and those who live in it by rejecting Christ) go from bad to worse until the day Christ returns to abolish evil and restore order. In this sad sense, Disney is doing exactly what the Bible said it would be doing. [2 Cor 4:4, John 15:18-20, John 16:33, 2 Tim 3:1-12, 1 John 3:13]
All of which leads us back to one question we must answer…
How should Christian parents respond to any entity which attempts overreach of their biblical mandate to “raise up a child” in the Lord?
Whether it be the school system, politics, or the arts, any attempt to subvert your children from God’s word, requires at least two fundamental responses in your home…
1. Give Kids the Entire News
The best offense is a good defense. When it comes to Bible teaching, the tendency for many parents is to share the “fun” stories of Scripture while avoiding the seemingly complex or graphic portions of Scripture. Due to this form of leapfrog teaching along with the multitude of kid bibles, teen bibles, picture bibles, and Christian media, many children can grow up on fairy-tale like narratives and never hear the full counsel of God’s word. Suddenly in fifth or sixth grade kids are bombarded with visual stimuli via phones or friends and they collapse, surprised and ensnared by the world’s allure.
One common reason Christian parents stick to easy stories, and innocent material, is to “shelter” kids from the bad news of sin. Another reason is to avoid the tough questions altogether. Still another reason is the avoidance of seemingly “adult” topics. However, while prudent word choice is appropriate, you must declare the full counsel of God’s word to your child, knowing that the world system is making haste to their ear, and you cannot protect their head and heart for long. This includes all of the ten commandments and tough topics such as homosexuality.
A grave warning about all of this crosses the centuries from Richard Baxter, “The listener will not want the good news until they’ve addressed their terms with the bad news.” A more modern spin is that we must offer up the mirror of sin to create longing for the light of grace! The reality stands that to offer up a savior without need offers little more than a figment of the imagination, another in a child’s long line of superheroes, bunnies, and Santa Clauses. Who needs a fireman if there is no fire? A doctor if there is no disease? God has placed His entire law in our hands to expose sin, prompt fear, cultivate desperation, and rejoice in solution.
One of the most well known verses on Scripture-parenting is Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” However, many people don’t realize how passionately each Hebrew family lived out these instructions from God.
Each Hebrew family took these verses and stenciled them horizontally on a folded piece of parchment. Then they placed them inside a small shiny box called the Mesusah. The Mesusah was next mounted on the doorpost, so that when mom or dad, son or daughter, entered or exited, they could reach out and touch it as a reminder of what the home stood for. Due to the height of the box, even the little toddler on mom’s arm would naturally begin to reach out his tiny hand to grab the shiny trinket everyone seemed to love!
Hebrew scholar Alfred Edersheim quotes ancient Rabbi Jehudah, “At five years of age, children were reading the Bible; at ten years, learning the Mishnah, at thirteen years bound to its commands…”2 Remarkably, many Jewish boys had the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) memorized by age twelve and had been memorizing brief Scriptures since the age of three! The apostle Paul, who had been raised in this type of Hebrew home, urged every father to, “Bring up their children in the instruction of the Lord” which is simply another way of telling dad’s to help their children run every life experience through the grid of Scripture. [Ephesians 6:4] Take proactive steps to immerse your children in God’s word:
- Establish a biblical family motto by which family decisions are made
- Finish each family dinner with reading and prayer over God’s word
- Spend time singing Christ honoring songs together
- Pray with your children each night before bed
- Set aside time to have donuts and “bible life talk” with your kids
- Read daily news together asking kids respond biblically to each story
- Listen to Christian radio in the car
- Wisely use Pureflix to view morally themed movies in your home
- Offer in-depth “Bible Challenges” rewarded by Krispy Kreme outings
- Give your kids CD’s like Adventures in Odyssey from Focus on the Family
- Use family vacations as a time to observe and document God’s creation
This list could go on and on… As parents we are wired with a mechanism to shelter our children but we must remember that we shouldn’t shelter them from God! God’s word is the blessed tool to stir both our child’s awareness of sin and their subsequent passion for Christ’s atoning sacrifice on Calvary. Give them the entire news!
2. Set Your Fence Far From the Cliff
A famed old adage says, “The shepherd stopped short of the cliff but his sheep toppled right over.” The point of this proverb is that parents may often enjoy a particular experience with blatantly clean conscience but not realize that those who follow them aren’t quite as ready.
In Matthew 18:6 Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” In this passage Jesus isn’t talking about a small skipping stone or birth stone around the neck he’s describing an ancient millstone that could have weighed upwards of one ton! He’s hypothetically saying, “It’s better to go drown yourself than cause an innocent to sin or stumble!” Drowning was such a cruel punishment Jews wouldn’t do it. Only Romans would. So, when Jesus said this, the entire room must have caught their breath and swallowed hard.
His point is clear. You can expect the world to taunt baby Christians, you can expect unbelieving friends will tempt baby Christians, and you might even expect the school system or college professors will try to thwart baby Christians, but don’t you ever cause an innocent to stumble! And, as parents we must apply this to ourselves. What are we doing that opens a door for our child’s fall? What do we watch? What do we say? What do we drink? The reality is that something may not seem like sin to us, but we must remember the tender root of our child’s heart is still being formed, and our openness to external frivolities can allow devilish nightmares to assault their innocence.
Chuck Swindoll writes, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Likewise, Billy Graham once said of his home, “The family should be a closely knit group. The home should be a self-contained shelter of security; a kind of school where life’s basic lessons are taught; and a kind of church where God is honored.”
Christ’s words guide what we allow into our home and certainly urge us to think deeply about the type of movies we enjoy, including Beauty and the Beast. Most of what our children learn is caught not taught meaning we cannot expect that our children will respect our “no” to them if they observe a “yes” by us – integrity counts!
These two foundations; God’s word as authority and wise fence setting are values that force every Christian parent to examine their Disney choice. Has Disney secularized past the point of no return? Is it merely Beauty and the Beast or will there be subsequent windows of fresh filth heading toward the heart of our youngsters? Further, if the Disney door remains wide open at home now, will our child fall in love with something that can eventually destroy? Finally, when our children stand before God answering for their life, will they point back to us as portals of righteousness or portals of material which led to their destruction?
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” – 2 Cor 5:10
1 For a more significant treatise on the advance of postmodernism see Ronald Nash, Life’s Ultimate Question (Zondervan, 1999) pp 232-250. Millard Erickson, Reclaiming the Center (Crossway, 2004) p 70
2 Alfred Edershiem, Sketches of Jewish Life, Hendrickson, 1994 pp 100-101