We’ve been studying Twelfth Night with Year 8, and today we produced a character web as a class… I feel the quote that I put at the top was quite an apt description!
Posted by Nick Coller on November 13, 2012
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here are a couple more thoughts about the newest Spider-Man movie – all of which have much less spiritual significance…
- Gwen Stacy has always been much cooler than Mary-Jane Watson. This movie was no exception.
- One of the difficult things to get around with any comic book movie is the “coincidental” relationships between hero and villain. This is something that the previous movies fell prey to – The Green Goblin is Peter’s best friend’s dad; Doc Oc is his mentor; Venom is his rival; and in the most ridiculous ret-con ever, Sandman winds up being Uncle Ben’s killer. At least with this movie, they set up a sub-plot revolving around Peter’s dad being involved in science experiments that at least lends a little bit of credibility to the villain’s relationship to him.
- Even so, to work in a whole secret organisation revolving around Oscorp seems to be a cheat’s way of building towards sequels. What’s wrong with having one-off movies these days? Or does everyone feel the need to build towards a trilogy?
- By far the most outlandish Stan Lee cameo yet filmed… It makes for a nice distraction and gets a laugh. I do wonder how many people laughing in the audience actually understood the meta-joke though.
- If Peter Parker can just buy his webbing off the Internet now, then surely within a day of seeing Spider-Man’s exploits on video, there would be a thousand other Youtube clips of people doing the same thing. Granted, most would fail miserably… But that would still be fun to see.
- With that being said, I did like that they gave Spidey some limitations as to just how far he could or couldn’t swing. It added a nice layer of fallibility to the superhero.
- Finally, I loved Martin Sheen’s performance as Uncle Ben… but Sally Field as Aunt May just made me think, “Wasn’t she in Mrs Doubtfire?”
Posted by Nick Coller on July 7, 2012
Nat and I saw The Amazing Spider-Man today, and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised! I was one of the many skeptics who thought it was way too soon to reboot the franchise, and thought this would be a simple re-hashing of the first movie. And in some respects, it was – but I thought it dealt with some of the source material a lot better than the original film.
But it was probably because of that original film that some of the scenes had the most impact. I’m thinking specifically here of the role of Uncle Ben. Spider-Man is now 50 years old, and his origin story has been told a million times. Thanks to the last movie, it’s embedded in recent memory. As a result, the pivotal role of Uncle Ben has become well known. So much so, in fact, that you can’t separate Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-Man from Ben’s advice and martyrdom.
Because of this, seeing him in the film again left me with a genuine sense of loss when Nat turned to me and asked, “Does he die in this one, too?” Somehow or another I’d managed to block that realisation from my mind. Yet, the reality is, if you have a Spider-Man origin story, Uncle Ben will always be dead at the end of act one. It’s inevitable, and it’s necessary.
Those are two words I want to reflect on. Because Uncle Ben’s death is inevitable, we know it’s coming – and as a result, we treasure the scenes that he’s in, and the words that he speaks. And because it’s necessary, Uncle Ben has to die in order for Spider-Man to begin.
This is probably the nerdiest Christian metaphor in the world… But it reminded me of Christ’s words in John 12:24:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Just as Uncle Ben’s death is inevitable and necessary in any Spider-Man movie, Christ’s death is inevitable and necessary in our lives. Because of the inevitability of Christ’s death, we treasure his earthly ministry. And Christ’s death is absolutely necessary, because without it, we cannot become Christians. But, of course, the difference between Uncle Ben and Jesus is that Christ rose again, and we will live with Him for all eternity!
It’s that reality – that if we follow Christ and believe in Him to save us from all of our wrongdoings – that makes our own inevitable deaths necessary. Because it means that our death isn’t the end – rather, it’s the glorious beginning.
Sure, that probably wasn’t what Stan Lee was going for when he first wrote Uncle Ben into Peter Parker’s origin story. But I think it’s a helpful reminder nonetheless!
Posted by Nick Coller on July 6, 2012
So as a follow-up from yesterday’s post, I decided to go through all of Disney/Pixar’s animated movies and work out how the family make-ups work. A couple notes before I show the list:
- I stuck with just the official Disney/Pixar canon, which meant no direct-to-video sequels.
- Within the canon, I stuck with the full length movies, which excluded movies made up of shorts such as Fantasia and Winnie the Pooh, as well as the much less widely known compilations made around the war years (such as Saludos Amigos or Make Mine Music). This left us with 41 Disney movies, and 13 Pixar movies.
- With the few sequels there are, I only counted instances of different families. So Andy’s family in Toy Story counts as one rather than three, while the two kids in the Rescuers movies count separately.
- Likewise, there are a couple movies that present a couple of major characters with different backgrounds (such as Aladdin and Peter Pan). In those cases I’ve included both, but only if they’re major characters.
- The “Orphans” category could probably use a different name, but I couldn’t come up with one. In some cases, their parents are still alive but do not raise them (such as Sleeping Beauty or The Lion King). Basically, my reasoning is this: If the character refers to their parents as mum and dad, then they go in the adopted category. If they don’t acknowledge them as such, then they go in the orphans category.
Here’s what I discovered:
- Peter Pan (Wendy, John, Michael)
- 101 Dalmations
- The Incredibles
- The Aristocats
- The Princess and the Frog
- Toy Story (x3)
- A Bug’s Life
- Treasure Planet
- The Great Mouse Detective (Olivia)
- The Little Mermaid
- Beauty and the Beast (Belle)
- Aladdin (Jasmine)
- Chicken Little
- Finding Nemo
- Snow White
- Lady and the Tramp (Lady)
- The Fox and the Hound
- Peter Pan
- Lady and the Tramp (Tramp)
- Sleeping Beauty
- The Jungle Book**
- The Sword in the Stone
- The Jungle Book
- The Rescuers
- The Black Cauldron
- Oliver and Company
- The Lion King***
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- The Emperor’s New Groove
- Lilo and Stitch
- Brother Bear
- Meet the Robinsons
- Alice in Wonderland
- The Rescuers Down Under
- Robin Hood
- Home on the Range
- Monsters Inc
- Cars (x2)
- Both parents = 5
- Just mum = 7
- Just dad = 9
- Stepmum = 3
- Adopted parents = 6
- Orphans = 17
- Unknown = 2
- I must admit, I was surprised by the amount of orphans present. I would have thought that single dads would be the number one category… but I realised the reason I thought this:
- The “renaissance era” for Disney (Little Mermaid through to Tarzan) featured a disproportionate amount of single dads – especially in the early 90s. (Between Mermaid and Pocahontas, 4 of the 6 movies had single dads) These were the movies I grew up with, which is probably why they’re the first that come up in my memory.
- I wonder why there are so many orphans? Perhaps because the theme of so many Disney movies involves finding one’s own identity?
*Yes, at the beginning of the movie, Bambi has his mum – but a key point of the film is his losing her. And technically his dad’s alive too, but he’s absent for most of the film.
**I know that technically, Mowgli is adopted by the wolves at the beginning of the film. But for the majority of his youth that we see, he’s an orphan who hangs around Baloo and Bagheera, so I’m keeping him here.
***See the note for Bambi, replacing “mum” for “dad”. The bulk of Simba’s youth sees him being raised by Timon and Pumbaa.
Posted by Nick Coller on June 25, 2012
Nat and I just got home from seeing Pixar’s newest movie, Brave. I’ll try to keep my thoughts as spoiler-free as possible!
I must admit, I only saw this movie because it was made by Pixar. Judging by the trailers and previews, it didn’t look like something that would intrigue me too much, but I knew that the Pixar logo would make all the difference. And, true to form, it was great. I think the thing that made this one different to all the others that they’ve made in the past though is the seemingly formulaic nature of the story. This is a typical fairy-tale. It sits much more comfortably in the Disney canon than in the Pixar one. On first blush, it doesn’t attempt anything new or exciting, or change the classic Disney formula in any way.
But then as I was watching, I got to thinking about the nature of the family in the story – and that was where Brave differed from any other Disney fairy-tales. This is one of the rare movies in the Disney/Pixar canon that has both father and mother present. It seems like all of the classic Disney princesses are missing either father or mother – there’s a shortage of films where the family unit is ‘typical’ (although the definition of ‘typical’ has basically gone out the window in past decades). But with Brave, the whole family’s there. There’s no evil step-mother to play the villain, and Merida isn’t raised by fairies or dwarves or talking willow-trees.
As I was watching though, I began to realise a point that the movie never intentionally made itself. It presents itself as a battle of wills between mother and daughter, but I saw a deeper undercurrent. It presents itself as having a normal family unit, but what I realised whilst watching was that it’s not as simple as all that.
In Brave, Merida deals with having an absentee father, which is the source of most of the film’s conflict. Her father is there (played by the inimitable Billy Connelly – because ever since Sean Connery retired, you can’t have a Scottish movie without him), but he shirks his responsibilities many times throughout the film. He’s “king” in name only, because ultimately all authority in the kingdom goes back to his wife. In the same way, he’s “father” in name only, too. This family is strictly matriarchal, where all decisions and discipline within the family unit are relegated to his wife. To put it simply, he’s under the thumb.
So with that in mind, it’s interesting that the movie never actually addresses this as the issue. It addresses the problem of pride in the mother-daughter relationship, which may well have an ongoing effect into the husband-wife relationship… but I would hazard a guess that if it’s not the queen ruling the kingdom, it will be Merida. The king isn’t going to step up any time soon; nor is he asked or required to.
I don’t say any of that to say that it’s a bad movie, or has bad morals, or anything like that. I just found it an interesting case study, is all. Thoughts?
Posted by Nick Coller on June 24, 2012
So I preached that sermon from 1 Peter 5:5-7 that I mentioned earlier. The beginning bit got cut off in the audio – I started by asking who it was that we most respect and admire and want to be like, before transitioning into a second set of questions where I asked who should want to respect, admire and be like us. It also cut off the Scripture reading, which was:
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.
I found the study of this passage to be really powerful and (unsurprisingly) humbling. I hope you find the same!
Posted by Nick Coller on June 19, 2012
Here’s something interesting I discovered just now.
I’m preparing a sermon based on 1 Peter 5:5:
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
That quote originated in Proverbs 3:34, which reads:
He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble. (NIV 1984)
Now, before looking up that verse specifically, I did a quick overview of all the ways that “Humble” and “Humility” are used in the Old Testament. In almost every case, it speaks of being humble before God – the only exception being Jeremiah 37:20 and 38:36 which describes Jeremiah’s humble plea before the king. In any case, humility clearly speaks to not thinking higher of oneself than you ought, but instead submitting to God’s higher power.
Yet, when I read this same proverb in the updated NIV, it makes a subtle addition:
He mocks proud mockers, but shows favour to the humble and oppressed.
Did you catch that little addition? “He shows favour to the humble and oppressed.” All of a sudden, the complete meaning of the proverb has shifted – no longer is it talking about one’s pride, but it’s talking about one’s circumstance. It’s like a complete reversal of that oft-quoted verse: “Man looks at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.”
Instead, it’s twisted into “Man looks at outward appearances, but God looks at the circumstances.”
Amazing how a simple addition of two words can change meaning so radically! Especially when you consider that both Peter and James translate the verse in such a way that looks to having a humble heart, you have to wonder why the new NIV has opted to go in that direction, when literally every other English translation has kept it as just “humble”. Is it a politically correct, social justice spin?
I’m worried about this new translation.
Posted by Nick Coller on June 6, 2012
I stumbled across this Mars Hill band today, that has some of the coolest hymn remixes that I’ve heard in a while. I especially like their rendition of In Christ Alone. Have a listen!
Posted by Nick Coller on May 31, 2012
My final follow-up on Thabiti Anyabwile’s book Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons gives a great overview of the role that elders/pastors play in the church.
What elders do:
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)
- He must know who and what his people listen to and the extent to which they devote themselves to it.
- He must not shy away from identifying falsehood and calling people to avoid it.
- He must not weaken the seriousness of the apostles’ teaching by downplaying the plainly identified demonic source of false teachers and teaching.
- He must help his people train their consciences by the Word of God.
- He must pray that the Lord would sanctify him and his people in the truth.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. (1 Tim 4:7)
- He must make sure he has truthful conversation partners.
- He must excuse himself from myth and fable.
- He must not break the confidences of his people.
- He traces error back to its roots.
Train for godliness:
Rather train yourself for godliness. (1 Tim 4:7)
- He must pray for civil authorities and leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2).
- He must combine true piety with contentment (1 Tim 6:6).
- He must anticipate persecution (2 Tim 3:12).
Hope in God:
We have our hope set on the living God. (1 Tim 4:10)
- He must open the Word in faith, believing that God exists and rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11:6)
- He must nurture his relationship with God.
- He must continually point out where true hope rests – in Jesus.
Command the congregation:
Command and teach these things. (1 Tim 4:11)
- He must teach with authority.
- He must command only that which the Word of God teaches.
- He must know that in commanding things, he himself is not the commander – God is.
- He must emphasise godliness, sound doctrine, and a firm trust in the living God.
Let no one despise their youth:
Let no one despise you for your youth. (1 Tim 4:12)
- Older pastors should be willing to give opportunity and to take risk when it comes to younger pastors.
- Young pastors should not be brash and unteachable.
- Young pastors should not adopt an attitude of defeat in the face of people who despise their youth.
Set an example:
But set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Tim 4:12)
- His example is set for all believers.
- His example makes him accessible.
- He must set an example in what he says, what he does, how he acts, how he loves and in his faith.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Tim 4:13)
- He must devote himself to making sure the Word of God remains central in the public gathering of the people.
- He must challenge his people not only to hear the Word, but to put it into effect in their lives.
- He must build doctrine by amassing the truths of Scripture into a whole for his people.
Practise these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. (1 Tim 4:15)
- He must ensure that his own study and devotion is focused and prepared.
- He should seek accountability with older pastors who can train and equip him.
- He must cultivate humility.
Watch their life:
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:16)
- He should surround himself with quality men who help him watch his life.
- He must maintain a healthy interest in, participation in, and love for his family.
- He must keep a close watch on his thought life.
- He must protect himself, his family, and his church from sexual immorality and the appearance of evil.
- He must ensure he gets adequate rest and recreation.
- He must watch for habits or idiosyncracies that come from his strengths.
Watch their doctrine:
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:16)
- He must make Scripture central.
- He should keep learning.
- He must make the church’s statement of faith central to the life and teaching of the church.
Posted by Nick Coller on May 26, 2012
Following on from yesterday’s post, here’s the criteria for a faithful elder and the questions we can be asking of a man to evaluate whether he’s qualified for the role. Also, Thabiti uses the term ‘elder’, but you could also use other terms, such as ‘pastor’, ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer’…
An elder should be:
Desirous of the task:
If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Tim 3:1)
- Does he understand the importance of the office?
- Does this understanding lead to a great desire to lead God’s people?
- Why does he desire to be an elder?
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach… (1 Tim 3:2)
- Is there anything in his life that disqualifies him from service as an elder?
- Would any of his coworkers or family be surprised to learn that he was an elder in his church?
- Are there people who would say that he should not serve in any church’s leadership? Why would they say this?
…the husband of one wife… (1 Tim 3:2)
Concerning single men:
- How would you characterise his dating and fellowship with Christian women?
- What are his entertainment choices? Does he view sexually explicit material or pornography?
- How does he battle lust? Does he gouge out his eye and cut off his hands (Matt 5:27-30)?
- Does he evidence fidelity to his wife? Is he faithful emotionally and physically?
- Does he arrange his interactions with female coworkers and women in the church in a way that displays full accountability and transparency?
- Has he faithfully made his home marriage-centred?
- Does he joyfully embrace the Bible’s teaching on gender roles?
- Does he teach other men to live as he lives?
- Is he trendy? Is he a lover of fads, bouncing from one new thing to another?
- Are his appetite’s balanced? Are there any places where he’s given to excess – food, alcohol, anger?
- Does he exhibit godly actions and reactions in every area of life?
- Do others respect how he lives his life?
- Does he greet everyone at church, or only those people who he knows well?
- Does he help those in need?
- Does he open his home to others?
- Does he use other avenues to show hospitality, such as lunch hours?
- Does he accept invitations to hospitality?
- How capable has he been in the past when given opportunities to teach?
- Does he show pastoral sensibility in his teaching?
- Is he committed to the exposition of Scripture?
- Does he agree with the church’s philosophy of what preaching should be?
- Are others edified by his teaching?
- Does he disciple others?
- Is he theologically mature and supportive of the church’s theological distinctives?
- Can he defend the faith (Titus 1:9)?
- Is he himself teachable?
- Is he given to drunkenness?
- Can he biblically discern between the crucial matters of faith and “foolish, ignorant controversies” (2 Tim 2:23)?
- In the midst of conflict is he patient and gentle?
- Beyond avoiding fights, is he a peacemaker? Does he do everything within his power to maintain unity in the church?
- Is he a physical abuser of his wife, his children, or anyone else?
- Does he give generously and sacrificially?
- Are his investments earthly minded or heavenly mided?
- What is his philosophy about gain in this life? What is his measure of success?
- Does he organise his life around the goal of monetary gain or the pursuit of kingdom objectives?
- What is his attitude toward church finances?
- Does he show more regard for money than for people?
- Is he attentive to his home?
- What does his wife say about his involvement at home?
- Does he care for his children?
- Do his children submit to him?
- Would his children say that he qualifies to serve as an elder?
- If he is single or married without children, what is his attitude toward children and child-rearing?
- When was he converted? Is he a new Christian?
- If he has been converted for some time, how spiritually mature is he?
- To what extent is he given to pride?
- Is he overconfident in the face of spiritual temptations and dangers?
- Is he sensitive to criticism?
- Is he able to submit to others even when he holds a different opinion?
- Does he engage with the wider community?
- What do his non-Christian neighbours and coworkers report about him?
- Is there evidence that the outsiders’ opinions are accurate or inaccurate?
Posted by Nick Coller on May 26, 2012
Ok, so I’ve been fiddling with the website a little more, and it seems that my fiddling has messed up the RSS feed – a bunch of old posts (some from six years ago!) have, for some reason, made their way to the top after I messed around with their tags. So if you want to read the REAL newest posts, you’ll have to navigate to the site physically. Sorry about that :(.
Posted by Nick Coller on May 26, 2012
One of the jobs I’ve been assigned for my time here in Toronto is helping to prepare a sermon series based on “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” (by Mark Dever). Basically, 9 Marks is a ministry philosophy that outlines the things a church needs in order to remain healthy. I’m sure I’ll be posting more about it in the near future as I continue to work on it.
A real area of strength in this philosophy is that it places a massive emphasis on the quality and character of the men who are leading the church. This is challenging to me as a budding pastor – am I one of these men? It’s also really helpful to look at what the Bible says church leaders should be like, and endeavouring to be that sort of man.
Today I’ve been reading another book from 9Marks called “Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons” by Thabiti Anyabwile, and have been really encouraged by his summary of what the leadership of a church should look like. He begins by summarising the role of a deacon – those men called by the church to serve specific, ongoing needs in the church, freeing up the pastors/elders for the ministry of prayer and the Word. I thought I’d post his major criteria for deacons, as well as the questions he asks in order to evaluate whether a man is qualified for this role.
A deacon should be:
Full of the Spirit and wisdom:
Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. (Acts 6:3)
- Does the prospective deacon have a reputation for being filled with the Spirit and wisdom?
- Does the person put the ministry of the Word and prayer above the practical needs of the church?
- Is he a servant?
- Does he evidence the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)?
- Does he demonstrate Spirit-inspired wisdom?
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued… (1 Tim 3:8)
- Does he have a reputation for keeping his word?
- Does he speak consistently to different parties?
- Does he speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15)?
- Is he a fair broker?
- Is he impartial?
- Does he stand for justice?
Sober and Content:
…not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. (1 Tim 3:8)
- Does he drink alcohol responsibly?
- Does he exhibit godly generosity and self-denial in his personal financial matters?
- Does he encourage others in generosity, or does he foster selfishness and financial self-concern in others?
- Does he demonstrate pastoral care and self-sacrifice when interacting with others in need?
- Is he honest in his financial dealings?
- What is his attitude towards wealth?
Keeps hold of the faith:
They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. (1 Tim 3:9)
- Does he give a credible profession of personal saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Does he understand the gospel?
- Is he given to falling away from the faith?
- Does he bring the truth of the gospel and Scripture to bear on his life and ministry?
- Does he hold the deep truths of the faith without reservation?
- Is he someone who perseveres in the faith?
Tried and True:
And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. (1 Tim 3:10)
- Is he a mature and growing Christian?
- Does he show competence in the area of service?
- Is there anything that disqualifies him from serving?
- Is the congregation supportive of him entering the office?
Posted by Nick Coller on May 25, 2012
So I’m in Canada! Nat and I have been here for the past three weeks, and are sticking around until July 10th. The main reason I came is to be interning with Grace Fellowship Church, Toronto, learning from the pastors and families here all sorts of great stuff about ministry, marriage and family. Nat and I are loving it so far!
I’ve been working in the church office with two of the pastors. They’ve stocked me up with a couple of good books to read, and I’m helping them out by plotting out a sermon series on “9 marks of a healthy church” that will be preached in September. I’ve also been publishing some of their church statements on various issues – it’s providing me with much food for thought as to what church and ministry should look like, based on what the Bible teaches.
Posted by Nick Coller on May 22, 2012
So I’m fiddling around trying to get a new style for my blog, hoping that with a new style will come some new substance. Watch this space!
Posted by Nick Coller on March 26, 2012
I picked up a new CD from a $10 bargain bin, because it was a band that I’d heard some people talking about and wasn’t sure what they were like. And on this CD were a few fairly corny love songs, but with quite romantic lyrics nonetheless… I just thought I’d share one of them here:
I can’t believe you’re here close to me
It’s getting hard to stand
But I don’t want to leave
Your beauty stands out
Like a bright light shining through the clouds
It’s overwhelming just to be with you now
I can’t stop, I can’t stop falling in love with you
I can’t stop, I can’t stop falling in love with you
Your love is in my heart tonight (yes, I know)
I can’t stop, I can’t stop falling in love with you
I’m in love with you
Sickeningly sweet, yes… but definitely romantic, no one can deny. Later on the album, there’s another song with similarly soppy lyrics:
I’d give myself to find you
Stumble and fall to see you
You’re worth it all
To me you are
I’d swim across the stormy seas
And scream it from the mountain peaks
You’re worth it all
To me you are
(And I said)
Hey! You are the one
That I’ve been looking for
And I found you here
And I found you here
To read the lyrics, it just makes me start humming “Ain’t no mountain high enough” – same sort of feeling with the words.
Now, as you’ve probably noticed, I’m not generally in the habit of posting random love songs… but there’s a reason I’ve posted these ones. They’re two songs by a band called Leeland…
…and they’re about Jesus.
I’ve joked plenty about “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs before, but listening to these songs just absolutely took the cake. How on earth can those lyrics refer to anything other than a romantic love? I would even maybe understand it a little better if it were sung by girls, but by blokes? Singing songs like that to Jesus? It just makes me shudder. Somehow I don’t think that’s what the Bible had in mind when it commands us to “Sing unto the Lord a new song”.
I do have further thoughts about this trend in worship… but I think they’re going to wait for a secondary post. The question I want to ask in this one is this: If you changed the words “Jesus” or “Lord” in songs to “Honey” or “Sweetie”, do the songs work better? If so, is that really what we should be singing?
Posted by Nick Coller on March 13, 2011
For my Children’s Literature course, we had to do an assignment that re-interpreted a fairy tale from a different perspective. So that I remained actually interested in the assignment, I chose to watch Disney’s Snow White, and re-interpret it from a Christian perspective. At some stage, I’ll probably re-edit the assignment into a blog post and turn it into a more fair, well-rounded analysis of the Christian themes (and more importantly, the bits that on the outset appear Christian, but pretty clearly aren’t), but until that point, you’re more than welcome to read this one!
Snow White from a Christian Perspective
From Milton’s visions of a lost paradise through to C.S Lewis’ allegorical tales of lions, witches and wardrobes, Christianity has always been a source of inspiration for stories. These stories, while being original in their own right, are founded on Biblical imagery, values and ideals that may not be immediately apparent to the viewer but on closer inspection are made clear.
One such story is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This classic tale has been subject to many reinterpretations over the years from many different perspectives; however it is my goal to reinterpret the story from a Christian perspective. While the story has been told in many iterations, due to the limited scope of this essay I will largely be focusing on the 1937 film (Disney).
The first character that we are introduced to in the film is the evil stepmother/wicked witch (she remains unnamed throughout). The fact that she is referred to by these descriptors is our first clue that she is a representation of evil and everything that we should not be. Pinsky (2004) writes:
From this beginning there is also the introduction of sin, presented in a clear, unambiguous, and negative light… So, within the film’s first moments the sins of envy, vanity and jealousy are presented, with much worse soon to follow.
As the film progresses, we are shown that the queen’s representation is more specific than generic sinfulness – rather than being a nameless embodiment of evil, she is intended to be representative of the devil himself. Certainly her use of fruit to tempt Snow White cements this in our minds (a clear allusion to the fall of man in Genesis 3), but there are several more subtle nods in this direction. As an example, the throne that she is seated on is in the shape of a peacock (the symbol of pride – Lucifer’s first sin), while on the backrest we see carved images of suns and snakes (biblical imagery used to describe Lucifer – being described as “the morning star” in Isaiah 14:12 and appearing as a serpent in Genesis 3).
Snow White, on the other hand, is meant to be interpreted as a representation of innocence. All of her actions throughout the film – from cleaning the dwarfs’ house through to looking after the disguised witch – are the embodiment of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, English Standard Version). Even after being mistreated by Grumpy, her reaction is not one of hatred or annoyance, but rather to pray for him.
With this in mind then, why does Snow White succumb to the witch’s scheme and eat the apple? The argument has been made that, like Eve in the garden, Snow White was simply ignorant to the witch’s scheme (Brashares, 1938). However, both the film and the Genesis account portray the women as knowing full well what they were getting into as they accepted the fruit. In the film, we see several acknowledgements that there are good and wholesome ways of having your dreams come true – Snow White makes her requests both to a wishing well and also prays (although the recipient of her prayers is never mentioned). Trying to take the easy way out is clearly portrayed as wrong, and in fact we should simply do everything we can to make the time enjoyable while we wait for our dreams to come (such as “whistling while we work”).
With this moral in mind, we know that as the hag offers Snow White an easy solution to her dreams, she knows in that moment that it is wrong of her (just as Eve knew this in the garden). And thus, with one bite of the apple, we see the story of the fall of man unfold in the film – only while in Genesis 3 we read that Eve’s eyes were opened, Snow White’s eyes are closed forever.
Up until this point, our whole evaluation of the film fits within a Christian perspective, but not a distinctly Christian one. The argument could be made that this is also a Jewish or Islamic perspective, as these faiths also use Genesis as part of their beliefs. What sets Snow White apart as a distinctively Christian story is the role of the prince, and the Biblical allusions made therein.
Genesis 3 does not end with hopelessness. Although it would appear that all is lost once the fruit has been eaten and death has entered the world, the text makes reference to someone that would come and solve the problem:
The Lord God said to the serpent, […]
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:14-15)
This passage is known as the ‘Protoevangelium’ – that is, the first proclamation of the “Good News”, that someone would come and defeat death and the devil once more. For Christians, this protoevangelium finds its fulfilment in the coming of Christ.
Snow White has its own protoevangelium – the sleeping death can be defeated only by love’s first kiss. There is absolutely nothing that Snow White can do to save herself by this stage – she is doomed to sleep for the rest of time. Her only hope is to be found in love’s first kiss, which she cannot pursue herself due to her condition. It is this message that gives Snow White a distinctively Christian perspective. The prince pursues his princess long and far, in order to bring her the salvation that she herself could not obtain in her death. The prince brings life.
Once familiar with the biblical story, one cannot help but allow this imagery to bring to mind Christian passages such as Ephesians 2:4-5:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even while we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
The prince, out of love for Snow White, even while she was dead as a result of her sin, made her alive again. And then, in the final shot of the film, we catch a glimpse of his palace that he takes her to – a golden palace in the clouds. What clearer allusion could be made to the final destination of those who have been raised and seated in the heavenly places?
Thus, through the three main protagonists in the film – the queen, Snow White and the prince – we see embodiments of the three main progressions of the Biblical narrative; Innocence, the fall into sin, and finally redemption through the resurrection of the dead. While not a complete allegorical tome (there is no mention of repentance or justification in the film, just to name two other important Biblical concepts for example), it is abundantly clear that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is ripe for Christian interpretation.
Brashares, C. W. (1938) “Walt Disney as Theologian”. Published in The Christian Century, August 10, 1938.
Disney, W. (Director). (1937) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [Motion Picture]. Walt Disney Productions: USA
Pinsky, M. I. (2004) The Gospel According to Disney. Westminster John Knox Press: Kentucky
 We also see prayers being offered in Disney’s second film Pinocchio, in which the recipient is designated as being “fate” as embodied in a wishing star. It seems likely that this, too, is to whom Snow White directs her prayers. Does this diminish from the Christian allusions made therein?
Posted by Nick Coller on September 19, 2010
It’s a well-established fact in my family that whenever a family photo day comes around, I am guaranteed to be exceedingly grumpy. It’s not because I don’t like family photos, or want to ruin the day or anything like that, it’s just somehow happened that way every time. It’s just a subconscious thing – and I can trace it back to a specific event from my childhood.
I was five, and I was grumpy that day that we were going to have the family photos taken. But on this particular day, Dad managed to cheer me up enough to get me to the place, by saying that there was going to be a clown there. I love clowns! It was going to be great!
…there was no clown there.
We had our photo taken, and I smiled and what have you, but as soon as we were out of that place I took up the issue with my father. He’d said there would be a clown there, and there was no clown! His reply? “Yeah, the clown was there, but you didn’t see him because you were too grumpy”.
What kind of an answer is that?!? Now, granted, that was seventeen years ago, and my memories of that period of my life may have become slightly twisted with age (but I’m still positive that we had that pet cockatoo that Mum and Dad deny!). But even so, it’s put a subconscious hatred for family photo days into my life that has extended until today, and I’m sure that there’s some sort of psycho-babble out there that can prove it.
Today, however, we read that love is not resentful – or, in the NIV, that it “keeps no record of wrongs”.
So today, Dad, if you’re reading this, I forgive you. I will never again be resentful of that non-existant clown that only appears for happy children, and I will be happy for family photo days from now on.
Boy, if that declaration doesn’t show love, then I don’t know what does!
Posted by Nick Coller on August 14, 2010
I’m a pretty laid back person. This probably doesn’t come as any great surprise to anyone reading this who actually knows me. If you’re reading this from another country, you may have simply put that down to my Aussie-ness, but the reality is that even by Australian standards, I’m very laid back. On the whole, I consider this to be a pretty good thing, so long as it doesn’t let me fall into apathy or mediocrity (as has happened on far too many occasions for my liking). It’s because of this that I initially considered this eighth quality of love to be pretty easy for me – surely it’s simple to not be irritable (or “easily angered” as the NIV puts it) if you’re nonplussed by pretty much everything?
Then something strange dawned on me. My shoulder and upper body muscles over the past few days have been incredibly tense – so much so that it would hurt to apply any pressure to them. Then I realised that I hadn’t slept a full night’s sleep for over a week. I recognised these symptoms on a theoretical basis, but never from personal experience…
My body was telling me that I was stressed.
It took me as a massive surprise, because I don’t DO stressed. Mentally and emotionally and spiritually, I felt completely fine – but physically, I was stressed. How on earth does that even work? How can my mind be telling me that I’m relaxed, and my body tell me that I’m stressed? Obviously one of them is lying!
And the odds are, it’s my mind that’s doing the lying. Because as I reflected on this quality – of love not being irritable – I realised that although right now I was at peace with everything (even if I may have just been kidding myself about it), it really wouldn’t take all that much for me to become irritated when I didn’t get my own way with something. It harkens back to that patience quality from day one – while everything’s going fine, it’s easy to be patient.
I don’t think my laid-backness or my relaxedness is a facade – I really am a very casual person. Yet as I reflected on this whole experience (which really is a new one to me), I realised that the reasons I was becoming physically stressed over are really inconsequential in the long run. The reason I was bothered by them in the first place was because they’re not things I need to be worried about, yet I am. They’re not things I should even by FOCUSING on, yet I am. And as a result, when they don’t go the right way for me, it’s so, so easy to become irritated or angry over it.
After much praying and soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I needed some serious reevaluation about what’s important, and what I should be focusing on. The dumb thing about it is that I’ve done that exact thing countless times before, and I keep coming back to the same answer; yet I continually get distracted by unimportant stuff, that leads to my being impatient and irritable.
What is that thing?
Well, I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve been snapped by Colossians 3:12 – “Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience”. I see a whole stack of similarities between “Not irritable”, “Not easily angered” and “Meekness”.
And to see what it means, we need to once again look to the life of Christ. Christ epitomised meekness, yet He also got angry. Really angry. Make-a-whip-and-hit-stuff type angry. So what was it in Christ that made him meek, not irritable, and not easily angered? How do we define these qualities as they relate to Christ?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s all about the Gospel. It’s all about the good news that although we’re sinners and have rejected God, He loved us enough to send His son to die in our place. Christ was all about that message!
This meant that when people would come to Him wanting to argue their own points of view or how much he was doing wrong, He didn’t get irritated or angry. Instead, he showed us how to be meek – completely nonplussed by what they were saying. He just let it all slide.
But when people distorted the Gospel message, well then He let it rip. His life had a single focus, and that was the good news. If something was important to that message, it was important to Him. If it wasn’t important to that message, then it wasn’t important to Him.
It’s exactly the same in my life. I find that when I’m wholly focused on Christ and who He is and what He’s done, then I’m far less irritable, and far less easily angered – because everything else just isn’t that important. But when I lose that focus, then everything starts to change. That loss of focus is something that had been happening to me recently.
To be honest, I’m really thankful to God that He’s given me physical indicators of stress. If my body hadn’t started yelling at me, then I have no idea when my mind would have finally realised just how off-topic I’d become. By the time my mind picked up on it, there would be countless opportunities missed, and I’d be so obsessed by unimportant stuff that it’d be even more difficult to get back on track.
So my question to you – what’s your focus? What makes you irritable or angry? Is it God-glorifying?
Posted by Nick Coller on August 13, 2010
This one has taken a while to come, for two main reasons. 50% of the reason is because it’s taken me a long time to get my head around it – it’s not as easy as some of the others have been and it’s taken me a while to try to get a handle on it! The other 50% is slackness in not writing… but thankfully, we haven’t found a “Love is not slack” verse yet, so I’m off the hook there!
Love does not insist on its own way. That’s the ESV translation – the NIV says that “love is not self-seeking”. Either way, it’s a call to selflessness, which is something that I’ve always seen as being the highest form of love.
But that makes it difficult, because you have to ask yourself the question – can we ever do anything that is truly selfless? Even while loving others “selflessly”, there’s still an element in me that wants to do this because I get a kick out of doing the right thing, to put it completely bluntly. Even when loving someone gets no other reward apart from that, it’s still somewhat self-seeking it would seem.
You know what though? You can take that train of thought until the cows come home, but I’m not sure it’s the best description of selfless love. Because something I’ve realised while meditating on this verse is that if that’s my description of selfless love, then Jesus didn’t love selflessly. Have a read of this well-known passage:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
I’ve heard that passage plenty of times, and it’s a good one because it rightfully reminds us to base everything that we do on what Christ has already done for us. That our motivation for doing anything is based on Christ’s love for us.
But take a look at how it describes why Christ died on the cross for us – for the joy that was set before him. If we take a stance that to love selflessly, we must be completely non-plussed by any potential outcomes for us, then Christ didn’t do that. The reason He died for us, the reason He showed His love in that way, was for the joy that was set before Him!
As I reflect on that, and realise that I’m supposed to be imitating Christ’s love through all of this, the whole selfless love thing starts to come a little more into focus. Christ was not self-seeking in His death for us. We see in the garden of Gethsemane that He would have much preferred not to go through with it – but He didn’t insist on His own way. Rather, He insisted on God’s way, because that’s what brought Him the most joy.
It’s the same for us. If we’re to truly encounter joy, then we can’t insist on our own way. We need to insist on God’s way. If we’re to love God, we can’t insist on our own way – we need to insist on His way.
And that takes itself into everything. As I reflected on this verse, I was plagued with the question, “But what about when people are making the wrong decision? Am I supposed to be selfless and let them just make the mistakes?” That would be a fair assumption to make, if we translate “not insisting on our own way” to mean “letting them have their way”. But that’s not what it’s about at all.
If I’m to truly love another person, I need to insist on God’s way. Instead of being self-serving, I need to be God-serving. That’s how Christ loved me, and that’s how I need to love others.
Posted by Nick Coller on August 12, 2010
To be honest with you, I don’t have anything much to reflect on this one. It’s pretty self-explanatory, and not all that hard to do. I suppose I could delve into what constitutes rudeness or something like that, but it seems as though it would be a pointless exercise because we all know what rudeness looks like.
Love isn’t rude. Sometimes stuff really is that simple.
Posted by Nick Coller on August 5, 2010