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How Disney Played Christians like Gaston Played the Villagers

Gay LeFou

This past weekend Disney debuted their live-action version of the timeless classic, Beauty and the Beast, in theaters across the globe. The movie was so highly anticipated that it smashed the record for a March opening night with a staggering $170 million coming out… er, uh I mean, debut. And that’s to say nothing of the $350 million the movie earned worldwide (and, to be fair, I’m writing this on a Sunday afternoon, so that amount doesn’t even account for the whole weekend). And all that in the midst of a call by Evangelical Christian leaders, well one in particular, for Christians to kill the Beast.

Kill the Beast

The call to boycott the film came after Disney’s announcement of the inclusion of an “exclusively gay moment” involving Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, played by Josh Gad. And what was this “gay” moment? Well, I haven’t seen the movie, yet, but my wife has. So, I know what it is and don’t want to spoil the surprise. I will say that the big gay moment was so subtle and quick, that if you leaned over to grab some of your neighbor’s popcorn, you would have missed it. But, that didn’t stop Christians from taking up pitchforks against the “happiest place on earth.” For me, the call to boycott, though I think it silly, isn’t the issue. My issue has to do with when the boycott was called for.

The announcement about LeFou’s moment was made on March 1st and the boycott was called for on March 3rd, more than two weeks before the movie opened. That is my issue. Christian leaders called for us to boycott a movie they had not seen and based on a, likely deliberately, vague announcement. When the movie premiered, this “moment” was literally a moment and so subtle that most of our kids wouldn’t have picked up on it. And, even though I have a huge problem with this latest “fall on our sword worthy” fight against Disney obviously trying to “corrupt” our children; the hypocrisy of that isn’t even the point of this post. If you want to read a great article in that vein, check out the one Jonathan Merritt wrote for USA Today.

We Got Played

Instead, I’d like to go another way and suggest that Disney played Christians, for their benefit, and we took the bait. What I mean is, Disney already had a ton of hype surrounding the release of this movie. A whole generation of adults could not wait to see their beloved cartoon brought to real life. They also couldn’t wait to share it with their children in a way that they never dreamed possible. People were going to see it no matter what. There was no reason Disney had to reveal any information about the “special moment.” They could have let it be surprise. Likely most people wouldn’t have noticed it. Those who did, without a Disney confirmation, would have just been stretching. So Disney didn’t need to release that, but they did. Why? Obviously I don’t know for sure, but based on Christians history, it is easy to speculate.

I think an obvious part of it is likely that they want the LBGTQ community to know they support them. I also think, based on how Christians have historically reacted to this type of news, Disney knew this would cause a firestorm and ignite a huge public debate. My news feed was certainly consumed with the movie tagged in statuses, news articles and blogs. To me it seemed as if Disney put out this vague announcement about some sort of “gay” moment and then sat back and watched the internet lose it. And the discussion spanned the whole spectrum, with people both praising and demonizing Disney for “normalizing” the lifestyle. But, while there were a lot of people happy to hear about the scene, the loudest voices came from Christians who were angry about it.

Boy, Oh Boy…cott

And that’s the point I want to make. We, as Christians, have become so predictable about how and what we will respond to negatively that we were played. And whether Disney did it on purpose or not doesn’t matter. In today’s social media driven culture everyone knows that any publicity is good publicity. Companies know that if you can get people talking about their product, most times it is a good thing. So Disney put out some vague statement and sat back and watched everyone talk about it. Ultimately the boycott did nothing. In fact, I actually heard people say that one of the reasons they wanted to see it more than they did before was to “see how far” Disney went with the scene. Then, when the movie premiered, the scene was so subtle it made Christians look ridiculous and the boycott even more so.

The truth is, the world will continue to move toward worldly things and we are not called to stop it. Jesus will when He returns. Our job, while we are here, is to be His witness to people, not governments or corporations. We are called to make individual disciples, not reorient constitutions and business strategy. Introducing people to Him changes heart and that will be what ushers in the Kingdom of God. I’m not saying not to boycott or protest, do it if you want to. I am saying it is a waste of time and energy if you want to follow Jesus the way He called us to. He called us to love and serve others in hopes that they may know and come to Him.

Boycotts won’t stop people from seeing the things we disagree with, but they may just stop them from seeing Jesus.

 

 

 

photo: Flickr/(LeFou)Jeff Kern and (Flag)torbakhopper (changes made to original images)

Walking Together Toward Community: Cultivation

Cultivation

Cultivate disciples who make disciples.

Gospel Centered Community (GCC): a body of committed believers, connected by a shared purpose and vision to see Jesus glorified and who challenge each other into deeper relationships with Jesus and one another.

Gospel Centered Missional Community (GCMC): the practical outworking of GCC and is focused on cultivating disciples who make connected disciples.

I call the process for growing into community The Walk and it looks like this:

The Walk

This is the third and final post in which we will examine the committed actions, and their associated elements, for developing community. In this post, we will examine Cultivation:

The committed action of Cultivation is:

 We will cultivate disciples who make connected disciples by sacrificing our time, resources, and self.

Cultivate Disciples who Make Connected Disciples

I changed the word for this final, committed action at least five times. The intent in action never changed, but I struggled to find a word to fit the message. I chose cultivation and not just because it alliterates. Cultivate is defined as:

1. To develop or improve by education or training, 2. to promote the growth or development of, and 3. to devote oneself to developing or growing.

When a community commits to cultivation, they devote themselves to developing and promoting the growth of disciples who make disciples. In committing to developing others, we honor Jesus’ call to be His witness to a lost and dying world.

When we honor His call, we take part in His commission to make disciples. Making disciples:

  • Moves you from GCC into GCMC
  • Moves you from the experience of growing found in GCC, into the experience of living with a mind and heart set on Jesus’s mission found in GCMC.
  • In GCC we enjoy receiving the love of God, and in GCMC we learn to reveal it to others. If we do not cultivate a mission-minded heart, we cannot fully experience the abundant life Christ promised.

The heart of living in GCMC is a commitment to a life of sacrifice, so others have an avenue to connect to Jesus and community.

By Sacrificing our Time, Resources and Self

Time

When I mention sacrificing your time for your community, if your first thought is “I have no time,” then you need to reevaluate how you spend your time. Or, you may need to realize you are not ready to commit to GCMC. Living in authentic, gospel-centered community, and making disciples requires much of you, including your time. As our example for growing disciples, Jesus dedicated three years of his life and was always with them. This should clue us into the time investment required for making and growing people for the sake of the kingdom.

Resources

Few Christians would argue with the truth that God calls us to be generous with our finances. Whether or not you agree with tithing is irrelevant. Sacrificing your resources in the context of GCMC goes far beyond giving 10% of your income to a local church. Sharing your resources is the practice of maintaining an open hand with ALL God has blessed you with. We can look at Acts 2:45 and see Christians selling everything and doling out the proceeds to people according to their need. This was a generosity in which the Christians divorced themselves from ownership of property that would appear to be theirs, and viewed it as God’s. Because of this view, they were able to honor Jesus by decreasing others’ burdens.

Self

We can use any number of scriptural references to talk about sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our Christian community. However, we must recognize the most important aspect of self-sacrifice is love. Jesus, and later the Apostles, continuously exhort Christians to love one another. Self-sacrifice will always spring out of love for Jesus, and by proxy, our love for each other. When we sacrifice ourselves, for the sake of our brothers/sisters, we identify ourselves with Christ and His sacrifice. One of the best descriptions of love like this is in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

How is this Biblical

A heart of sacrifice is easy to see, in the early church, when we read Acts 2:42-47. Verse 45 is the clearest evidence of the early Christian’s willingness to sacrifice. In that verse, we read they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This verse makes clear that they viewed their resources as a means to diminish the needs of those around them, both believer and unbeliever. We find their commitment to growing as a community in the time they invested into being with each other. Verses 42, 44, and 46 tell us that all the believers were together every day, attending the temple and sharing meals.

The time they invested was a sacrifice. They gave themselves up to grow others in Christ, and advance the Gospel. And to what end? For the sake of making disciples as Christ commissioned them to do. And that was their purpose. All of their charity, generosity, invested time, and willingness to give themselves for the sake of Christ drew people to God. Their commitment to cultivating disciples had a noticeable impact as “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

photo: Don Caywood

Walking Together Toward Community: Challenge

Challenge

Challenge One Another to Walk as Christ.

Gospel-Centered Community (GCC): a body of committed believers, connected by a shared purpose and vision to see Jesus glorified, and who challenge each other into deeper relationships with Jesus and one another.

Gospel-Centered Missional Community (GCMC): the practical outworking of GCC. Focuses on cultivating disciples who make connected disciples.

I have named the process for growing into community The Walk, and it looks like this:

The Walk

This second of three posts will discuss the committed actions, and their associated elements, for developing community. So what does challenge mean in this context? It is foremost, a committed action

The committed action of Challenge may be read as:

We challenge each other to seek God, unity, and good-will; and to submit to the Word, one another, and the body so that we may walk as Jesus walked.

Challenging Each Other to walk as Jesus Walked

People say they appreciate when someone challenges them, but if we are honest, we prefer for others not to challenge us. At our very core, we refuse challenge and view it as either rejection or a sign of contempt. In fact, if you read quotes about challenge, many of them speak to “overcoming challenge” and “victory in spite of challenge.” Challenge is often interpreted as a hurdle we need to overcome.

That is not the role of challenge within GCC. In fact, it is out of love for other members of our community that we challenge them. Challenge is practiced within the context of community, to “invite each other to take part in” growing more deeply into Jesus. Specifically, it is the call of Hebrews 10:24-25 to “stir up one another to love and good works” and “encourage one another” so that we may walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). By challenging each other through “teaching and admonishing in all wisdom” (Col 3:16) we spur one another on toward Christ. And what is it the practice we hope to inspire? The practice of seeking and submitting to our Savior.

To seek God, unity, and good-will

God

Finding God ought to be simple for most Christians to understand, even if they do not do it consistently. When we seek to know God, we are better able to see Christ clearly. When we see Christ clearly, we allow His light to shine on the areas of our life where we fall short of His glory. In knowing those areas, we can present them to God, in repentance, for righteousness sake. A community of people who love you, will challenge you to seek God, both individually and corporately continually. As a community, we must commit to challenging each other to seek God with our whole heart.

Unity

Unity is grander than agreement on all issues. Instead it leads to a community joined in heart and mind for the sake of Truth, Christ, and love for one another. Ultimately, unity manifests the agreement to participate as citizens of the same Kingdom, under the Lordship of Christ. As a community, we must commit to encouraging each other to seek unity among ourselves.

Good-will

Seeking good-will has to do with those outside of your Christian community. This includes not only your brothers and sisters in Christ but everyone you interact with on a daily basis. We are good stewards of the God-given grace we experience when we extend it to those outside our gathering. We must seek to build and maintain a reputation that causes others to “recognize that [we] have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). As a community, we commit to challenging each other to seek the good-will of those around us.

Submit to the Word, One Another, and the Body

The Word

When we speak of submission in the biblical sense, we are not talking about forced subservience. Instead, biblical submission is the willingness to yield to another’s will or authority, especially Jesus’. In the opening sentences of his gospel account, The Apostle John identifies Jesus as The Word (John 1:1-5.) In this context, Christian community carries forward that revelation by submission to Jesus as the spoken Word of God. Therefore, a community seeking to walk like Christ challenges one another to submit to the entire counsel of God found in the Bible.

One Another

Christians commonly refer to this type of submission as “accountability.” Unfortunately, accountability is only as useful as you are honest with each other. Too often, shame, guilt, or pride, coupled with the lack of authentic Christian community, prevents real accountability. In GCC, members commit to challenging each other to be in individual submission to one another. This does not mean that you submit individually to all 30 members of the community. What it does mean is you commit yourself in mutual submission to a few chosen people. Once you intentionally invest in relationships with the purpose of all members giving and yielding to the wisdom of Christ, submission will mature.

The Body

Submission to the body is yielding to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the context of community. It centers on mutual trust that your fellow Saints are seeking God and His wisdom. It has to do with taking issues and concerns to God in a corporate and communal setting and then trusting the collective wisdom. And why do we practice submitting to one another? “Out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).

How is this Biblical?

Acts 2:42-47 provides us with a clear picture of the early church challenging each other through seeking and submission. This passage tells us how the members “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship.” In this single verse, we see a community making a commitment to seek both God and unity among themselves. They did this by submission to teaching, attending temple together, and eating in each others’ homes (verse 46).

Verse 44 shows additional evidence of their commitment to unity and submission. It tells us the believers were together and had all things in common, indicating their willingness to maintain one heart and mind in one Spirit. Submission was a key ingredient in their community. But not necessarily submission to the apostle’s authority, but rather to the word of God spoken over them.

Lastly, in verse 47, we see their willingness to seek the good-will of those around them. Many biblical commenters agree that “having favor with all the people” means the believers garnered the respect of all individuals, even the unbeliever. This respect was gained through their piety as followers of Christ and their unrestrained generosity and charity. In fact, charity was not confined solely to their community; but was all-embracing and extensive. Verse 45 says, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” We understand this generosity not being restricted to only believers, as the verse indicated “as any had need.”

Challenging each other, as a community, to seek and submit will always result in walking as Jesus walked. The Word of God has provided us with a clear understanding and attitude on how to engage, love, and submit to our brothers and sisters. Day by day, what may first feel like an exercise, will grow into a habit, and ultimately reward us with a practice of embracing challenge for the sake of the Kingdom and relationship with our Savior.

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