16 Feb “Approaching the Unfamiliar” by Chris Lussier
Last year, PIXAR released a movie called Soul about a man who dies and tries to get his life back while discovering the joys of living. When trying to convince someone (who shall remain nameless for privacy) to watch, they were told the premise and immediately dismissed it as “anti-Christian.” This puzzled me, especially after watching the movie. The main theme of Soul is that we shouldn’t wait for life to happen and that living life is a daily commitment. That’s a very important message, especially for Christ followers, as we can’t just wait for Jesus to send us a dream of where to go or who to save, we have to be active in His teachings daily.
Soul was dismissed as being anti-Christian solely based on its premise. However, the movie is fictitious. Soul doesn’t try to make any kind of case that their vision of the afterlife is the undeniable fact. It’s not trying to establish some kind of new Scientology or Disney-approved religion (that already exists in the form of the Disney Park Pass), it’s just a (great) movie with a great message.
This got me thinking about all the other things that Christians might dismiss that are little more than entertainment. For example, fantasy roleplaying games are really no different from anything in Lord of the Rings, or any fantasy movie. It’s all fiction and everyone at the table knows it, and the story can be whatever people want it to be. Yet, there was a huge moral panic about these games in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and any insight I could give as to why would be conjecture without more research. I can definitely say, however, that pretending to fight a dragon with friends will not result in a trip to Hell.
As I can already feel many readers rolling their eyes and clicking off, I’m going to provide another example that’s not strictly about entertainment: day-cares. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, American day-cares suffered from a widely-spread conspiracy theory that they were abusing children and performing satanic rituals. This turned out to be, of course, hogwash spread by paranoia toward something different that bad faith actors easily stoked. Hopefully, we can all understand how that is not a Christian way to approach something we aren’t familiar with.
I’m not saying that one should never be cautious around something they don’t know about, but rather that we shouldn’t outright reject it. After all, Jesus found the eleven best people to spread the word of God by looking in unlikely places. Remember that Matthew was a tax-collector, someone whom no one would have chosen to be a religious leader. Jesus trusted His disciples to be with Him when he spent time with and ate with tax collectors and others seen as unsavory to the general public. I hope we can all trust each other’s judgement when it comes to the unfamiliar. If we build a wall for nothing to get in, then nothing will get out either, least of all God’s word and our God-given duty to be kind and loving.