There’s a whole lot of negative “buzz” around the new Lightyear movie. In fact, one theater in Oklahoma even posted a warning sign that they would be fast-forwarding through the same-sex kissing scene. After considerable backlash from the world of social media, the theater removed the sign and put out a statement that they will not fast-forward through any part of the movie after all.
It’s safe to say another Disney-Pixar movie has left many people choosing sides as they determine what is appropriate for children. The same sort of reaction came about from other films like Finding Dory and Beauty and the Beast.
As the mother of an almost 3-year-old who is absolutely obsessed with Buzz Lightyear, we’ve been anticipating the release of this movie.
Most of my evenings consist of crawling around on my hands and knees trying to find where my son, Silas, put his toy Buzz, because it will be a full meltdown if he goes to sleep without him. His most prized possession is a small Buzz Lightyear gifted by his Uncle Jim and Aunt Kat, who is now missing one hand and one foot. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has super glued poor Buzz’s hands and feet back on. Silas loves to fly Buzz around the house and shoot his little brother with Buzz’s laser. So, of course, as soon as we heard that a Buzz movie was in the works we thought of taking Silas to see it.
I have yet to see the film due to an unfortunate outbreak of COVID-19 in our household but have read many outraged articles regarding the one scene. Out of many of the articles I’ve read, the overall tone has been one of fear. Parents are afraid of how Lightyear will influence their children.
I understand the importance of thinking critically about the types of influences you willingly allow into the lives of your children. Certainly, every parent should be mindful of the content that is shaping and molding the minds of their children. But as people who follow Jesus, I don’t think the change in our culture and whatever that may look like should lead us to a place of fear.
Too often, we allow fear of our culture to ignite anger and strife in needless ways. Culture will never mirror the ways of Jesus, because it’s not led by Jesus. We can’t continue to be shocked and appalled when a world that doesn’t follow Jesus doesn’t look like Jesus. If we are honest with ourselves, oftentimes the church has a hard time looking like Jesus itself, even though we’re the ones who should look most like him.
The bible allows for discernment and wisdom as each generation lives out their faith against the backdrop of a shifting culture, but it also has some parameters we are to operate within. When it comes to conversations related to the movement of our culture in media, politics, and entertainment, it’s helpful to be reminded of the parameters.
We Should Not Be Afraid of Culture
We are afraid of the public school systems indoctrinating our children in ways counter to our faith. We are afraid of losing our right to protect our families from physical threats. We are afraid of our children and grandchildren being influenced by the wave of sexual identity that is celebrated more with each passing year. We are afraid of terrorists attacking our nation, again. We are afraid of the moral direction our country is headed.
There are plenty of things to fear. Our fears are often valid. Some more than others, but valid nonetheless. There are real issues in our country that will affect our children and our daily lives.
This is why we need Jesus. As cliché as that sounds, it’s true. Apart from Jesus, we have every reason to fear any number of things.
Living in a state of ongoing fear is natural and even logical for those who have not put their faith in Jesus. Too often, we live as unbelievers. When a movie like Lightyear hits the theaters, we are outraged, shocked, and even offended, because we are afraid of what this means for our society and those we care about. This turns our culture into the enemy and one that fills us with great fear. When we are filled with fear, we simply can not carry out the commands of Jesus to love our neighbor.
The power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. We are not left to live in this world alone and without hope. The changes in our society should lead us deeper into our dependence on Jesus rather than overwhelming us with fear.
Jesus told his disciples that he wasn’t going to leave them to navigate the world on their own.
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:15-19)
The words of Jesus are fitting for us as well. As the ebb and flow of culture continues to change throughout history, we can be at peace knowing we have not been abandoned. Our role has never been to control the movement of our culture but to rely on Jesus as he guides and leads.
The unfolding of Jesus’ plan has never been for Christians to fight for or maintain control over society. Do not fret over losing control over something we’ve never been asked to control in the first place.
We Should Not Mirror Culture
Though the redemption plan of Jesus does not include Christians totally and completely dominating over the culture, this doesn’t mean we are meant to just sit on our hands, either. Society should make us uncomfortable, because this is not the world God designed for us to live in. We will never be comfortable in this world until Jesus returns and makes all things right.
Though we are not meant to fear what is happening around us, we should equally not be comfortable with the decisions being made by those who operate apart from Jesus. We must still exercise wisdom and discernment as we choose to let our faith drive our decisions and opinions.
When it comes to movies like Lightyear that run counter to our biblical faith, we should discern our response. For some, that might look like holding off on seeing the movie. For others, it might look like intentionally engaging in a conversation with your children about the messages incorporated into the story.
The response we should not have is one of full blown outrage that only reinforces the world’s stereotypes of Christians being full of hate and anger.
Whether it’s a movie, a history lesson at school, or even just a conversation with a friend, our children will encounter any number of messages and narratives that run counter to our faith in Jesus. So let’s pray for the Spirit to guide us in our parenting as we humbly take up the task of pointing the next generation to Jesus. Having a conversation about a movie or school lesson will go much further in the life of your child than for them to see your faith constantly bring forth rage or fear.
We Should Have Hope For Our Culture
We all have an intrinsic desire for life to be better. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what language you speak, or where you call home. We look around and we know, this can’t be as good as it gets.
The trouble is not everyone agrees on what “better” actually looks like or how to go about achieving it together.
For those in favor of a same-sex kiss in Lightyear, it’s a great accomplishment to normalize this experience. For those against this particular scene, it’s a shift away from the understanding of the way God created man and women and the way they ought to relate with one another. For the former, Lightyear has moved in a direction of making life better for those who have felt unaccepted and marginalized for their sexual orientation. For the latter, it has moved life in the opposite direction, because it deviates from the intentions of our Creator.
We could enter into a long conversation about the effects of post modernism and the sexual revolution, which have played a key role in the societal shifts we are experiencing today. But an even greater survey of history will show you that society is constantly shifting as each generation seeks to build a life better than existed in the generation before it.
History equally shows that regardless of good intentions, humanity gets it wrong far more often than we get it right. This is why it’s so important that we continue to look to Scripture to be our true north and not the cultural context we are swimming in.
I have no idea what major cultural changes will come from the generation of my children. I just know they will. When I am faced with them, I pray my response is not filled with a sense of superiority that my generation “got it right.” Ever since the Fall, the world has never looked the way God has intended for it to be. And it won’t, until Jesus returns. We might take a few steps in the right direction, but then even more steps in the wrong direction.
Christians must always hold in tension the great conviction to never compromise on truth with the need to never lose hope in the work that Jesus is doing in the world.
Even when our society is 50 steps in the wrong direction, Jesus is still at work, redeeming and transforming. May our eyes not be so consumed with seeing the way nonbelievers are living that we lose sight of the work Jesus is doing.
Our culture is not an enemy that must be conquered. Our world is filled with people who need to see Jesus. The way they see him is through us, people who call themselves followers of Christ.