Monday, March 20, 2017

Beauties, Beasts, and Art

Should I see it? Should I not? AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!
I wasn't really planning on writing about this. It wasn't particularly on my radar, and I was pretty much prepared to ignore the Beauty & The Beast release and not worry too much about it. I don't get to go to the movies much, but if I could make it, great!

Then director Condon came out with his big "gay moment" line and the news, Facebook, and everyone blew up and everyone had a meltdown. Many Christians said they wouldn't go, many LGBT activists were overjoyed, and many others kind of shrugged and said "whatevs".

Now this has never been a blog about saying "whatevs", nor has it ever focused on LGBT things (though we have talked about it). What we have done on this blog is try to deal with real issues and the real things behind them, without compromise or backing down. I realize I am not perfect at that, but hey, I'm trying. :-)

So to get back on topic, after the B&B Meltdown, it came to light that in fact the whole "exclusively gay moment" (director Condon's phrase), was very short and not easily noticeable. In fact it was so small that if you didn't know it was there, you would probably miss it.

And so...many Christians who had bemoaned what the director said about the movie...went and saw the movie.

Then...went on social media and gushed over how amazing the movie was.

Then...chided other Christians who were choosing not to see the movie as making something small into a big deal.

Then...started linking to every blog and Facebook post by other Christians who thought the same thing they did so that the people who chose to stand their ground and not see the movie would...just go see the movie already because its great and the story is awesome and the gay thing is no big deal and if the director hadn't said anything you wouldn't even know and besides why are you making such a big deal out of something that is so small and insignificant so just go see the movie already.

I kid you not, this has been my Facebook non-stop. I am not exaggerating. The movie has been out for 3 days, and I cannot log on without someone trying to convince me to go see it.

This. Has. To. Stop.

We're going to take this in 2 parts, because there are 2 different issues here. 

The first is this: why are some Christians trying to convince others to break their conscience to go see a movie?

The second is this: can we so easily rationalize away something which the director of the movie himself says was his goal? How do we square that circle?

I will try not to make this incredibly long. Hopefully I will succeed.

The first issue should be a no-brainer. Remember what Paul wrote in Romans:
14:15 - Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with you food the one for whom Christ died.
14:21 - It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. 
15:1-2 - We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.
This is really very clear. If you know other Christians are of tender conscience about this movie, don't be telling them to go see it. In fact, do not be bragging about going to see it. To do so is to do harm to your brother and sister in Christ and treat them in an unloving way. This is unacceptable behavior for the Christian to engage in, and we should take no part in it. If conscience allows someone to go see it, great! I cannot personally judge that, as my conscience is not theirs. However, I can say without any hesitation that to go bragging about it and telling everyone it is fine, or even worse that they should just go see it already (when they have doubts & reservations) is, in fact, a big deal, and should be avoided at all cost.

We can walk in love and encouragement toward our fellow travelers in Christ, or we can put stumbling blocks in the way.

The second issue is a little more murky and difficult to deal with. Has anyone really stopped to ask why some people are holding out on seeing the movie? All I have heard are people who do see it saying about those who refuse, "they're making a big deal out of nothing," when they weren't the ones who made the controversy in the first place.

Remember, it was not some random blogger or even an actor who said,
"He's confused about what he wants. It's somebody who's just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh [Gad, who plays LeFou] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that's what has its pay-off at the end, which I don't want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie."
That was the director, Bill Condon. He's the guy who calls the shots and gets to decide what the movie is about. So the controversy does not fall on the shoulders of people who, for reason of conscience, choose not to see the movie. They did not ask for nor bring up the issue. The man who made the movie did. He, not those who see it, gets to decide what the movie and its moments are about. If he had said that when the Beast tosses Gaston off the roof that is represented the feral nature of man overcoming his self-righteous, deified self, that's what it would have been about. If he had said Belle's imprisonment and escape was about women rising up to overtake the patriarchy and bend it to her will, that's what it would have been about.

I still have a visceral reaction against this,
but at least I know what it is about.
Basically, whoever is the creator of something gets to decide what it is for and what it represents. So if the director is hyping up his "exclusively gay moment", then that is what it is. I can determine if I believe it is good or beautiful, but for me to say "that's not really what it is", is ludicrous. It would be like me viewing the art piece titled "Piss Christ" and claiming it is a strictly anti-Christian piece of propaganda. That's not what it is about, and it is ridiculous for me to say so when the artist himself states that it alludes to a perceived commercializing or cheapening of Christian icons in contemporary culture. It is the creator, not the viewer or even the participant, who determines meaning.

This is why Christians must be so careful in what they support and what they are involved in. It must be remembered that those with the microphones and those who create are the ones who get to decide what something represents. We don't get to be involved in something and say in our hearts "well, I'm really here for this other reason." It simply doesn't work that way. It is only the organizer, creator, or one with the megaphone, who gets to decide what something is for. Everyone else is simply along for the ride.

As a side-note, this is one reason why worship is so beautiful. Because even though I may mess up or have the wrong mind-set or struggle during that time, Christ, as the Author and Creator of faith, decides what worship is really about and brings me along for the ride. In doing so He makes sure that through Himself, my worship is made perfect despite my imperfections.

I get the feeling that this is the real reason why conscientious objectors to the movie are holding back. It is not whether the moment or scene is big or small, open or covert. Rather, it comes down to what the publicly stated goal of the director. In saying what he said he turned it into a referendum on if it would fly in a Disney movie. Considering it made $170 million in its opening weekend (the largest March opening of all time), I think it is safe to assume that the answer was "yes".

The bottom line is there is a real reason why some people continue to object to the movie. If someone does not agree, that is fine. But please, please remember to always walk in love and to never put a stumbling block in front of our brothers and sisters. It is never OK to try and force someone in Christ to accept what is against their conscience toward God. It is also never OK to mock or treat as ridiculous the reason (any reason) someone chooses not to do something because they are trying to honor God. That is something that should always, without fail, be praised and admired in a person.

So always walk in love, always give in so others may be build up, and always, always choose the path that you believe will honor and glorify God in your life, whatever that choice may be.