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Hollywood, Entertainment & Neopaganism

From the Matrix to Madonna, and from the Lion King, to the bestseller the Secret, pop culture provides a steady diet of neopaganism from which the populace can choose according to their tastes.  Even my three and six-year-old children are bombarded with neopagan content in films, music, and video games designed to catch their attention.  This being the case, it is critical Christians gain tools for discerning the philosophy and religious views present in the media they consume and in the media being consumed by their children.  This is article is by no means exhaustive, but a broad sampling of neopaganism within our culture.

Film

Many of the popular films being promoted today are produced, written, and/or directed by men and women who have pagan/neopagan notions inherent in their artwork.  One recent film appealing to teens and younger children was The Golden Compass.  It is the first of three films based on novels by Phillip Pullman, who admires the apologist for the anti-God movement, Richard Dawkins.   Conclusive evidence of his worldview emerges in the final novel, in which the characters “kill God.”  Pullman’s neopaganism is overt and honest in its hostility to Christianity.  His conclusions are the natural implication of a pagan worldview that is absolutely at odds with Christianity.

On the film’s website, you will find a clickable icon inviting you to “meet your daemon.” Results of a twenty question quiz will tell you which daemon is “fitting” for you. Pullman’s work uses the word “daemon” to mean a disembodied spirit, rather than the biblical notion of a fallen angel.  In Pullman’s imaginary world, your spirit is outside your body in the form of an animal that resembles your personal characteristics.  If you are brave, your daemon might take the form of a wolf; if you’re scared, a mouse; and if you’re curious, a ferret.  This exploration of discovering your ‘daemon’ may seem harmless to some, but it can become a doorway through which children may discover and foster an interest in the occult, animalism and belief in familiar spirits.

In this same vein of fantasy literature and film, there are other stories which utilize sorcery, mythical characters, and magic to bring depth and complexity to their storytelling.  One of the most popular series of books and subsequent films in this genre are the Harry Potter series.  J.K. Rowling has written these engaging storylines and character developments which have been enjoyed by millions of Christians and non-Christians.

In the Harry Potter movies we may find pictures of redemption and illustrations of biblical principles such as sacrifice, or godly character traits such as honesty.  However, we must not stop there.  We must look at the film as a whole.  There is a critical question of how the unbiblical elements effect the storyline as a whole, and then how the film as a whole might effect the audience.

Thus, even though there can be elements of Harry Pottery which are fitting for a Christian worldview, there are still some caveats which must be stated.  The primary caveat being this:  These books and films are made in an exciting manner which depicts sorcery, divination and the occult as something which is attractive and morally neutral. However, these acts are clearly not morally neutral in the Bible.  God said to Moses:

“There shall not be found among you . . . anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer.” (Deut 18:10)

The specific concern we should have with the Potter series is that they make something attractive which is sinful.  Harry Potter is the main character with whom the audience is intended to identify.  Thus, as we read the books and watch the films, we are entering into a story wherein we vicariously learn the attractiveness of sorcery and magic, or at least accept the notion that being involved with such things is morally neutral.  Both notions are dangerous when they are left unchecked, unfiltered, and especially when they are unnoticed.

There are things depicted which Christians are forbidden from exploring, but I want to give a disclaimer before I go any further on this: I am not saying that Christians cannot watch these movies.  We read about divination in the Bible even though we are told never to explore it.  Therefore when it comes to movies like this, it is important that if we do watch them, we need to watch them with discernment.  We also need to be aware that children do not have the cognitive filters adults have when watching these movies.  Adults may watch these and be able to discern – “this is not a biblical worldview, I don’t want to pursue this.”  They can separate the story from the medium through which it’s communicated.  Children don’t often have that ability to break apart these movies and discard inappropriate content while remaining engrossed in the powerful storytelling.

According to George Barna, teenagers thirteen to nineteen years of age who have read or seen the Harry Potter books or movies are more likely to experiment with psychic or occult activities.  Wiccan leaders have noted that the Harry Potter series has created a growing interest in witchcraft.  Harry Potter has hit its target market of teens (and a gold mine along with it). However, media for even the youngest children is steeped in neopaganism.

Disney poignantly presents the neopagan worldview in two of its highly acclaimed animated features, The Lion King and PocahontasThe Lion King is one of the most explicitly pagan movies made by Disney.  The anthem, “The Circle of Life” by Elton John, denies the existence of God as a creator and sees creation in all its beauty as a self-sustaining cycle.  We have only to live our lot in life. If you’re the future Lion King (Simba), then you have a great destiny, but if that is not your lot there is no hope to find the greater meaning or redemption which Christianity provides.  Very few animals are destined for greatness like Simba, while the destiny of thousands of hedgehogs, mice or other animals is to be crushed by elephants or to starve in a drought.  Of course, Disney does not show the negative side—the fatalism, the determinism inherent in this worldview.  They only show the positive because we all want to identify with the king.

Though we can find components of this film which seem to mirror Biblical elements of sacrifice, forgiveness, and the victory of good over evil, we must remember the framework is clearly pagan.  Some Christians might see the love of God the Father in Mufasa’s statement to his son Simba:

“You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.”

This is a powerful scene of a Father’s benediction upon his son.  However, looking inside ourselves is a pagan method.  Biblical hope comes not from looking inside ourselves, but from looking to God – that is where our strength, joy, and hope come from.  Second, we are not simply “taking our place”.  Rather, we are being transformed and empowered through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The “wise man” in the movie is the pagan shaman or ‘medicine man’, Rafiki.  He is the one to speak wisdom into Simba’s life, and is the one to whom other animals bow in the beginning of the film as he prepares to anoint Simba. This scene represents a pagan parallel to the Christian sacrament of baptism.  However, this ‘baptism’ has nothing to do with a Creator God who redeems us from the guilt and shame of sin.  Instead, it merely symbolizes that you were born into royalty, and therefore you will be a king.  If you were born a vulture, then it would it merely mean you were born to eat carcasses .  Simba also finds his identity as he relates to the great Lion Father in the sky, an indirect appeal to ancestor worship. The very “spiritual” feel of the movie is created by an entirely earth-based philosophy.

Though the Lion King is an original story with a strong pagan thrust,  Pocahontas is more troublesome because Disney changed the story in order to put forth a more pagan philosophy.  In the real, historical account it is Pocahontas who converts to Christianity and is attracted to the character and spiritual life of Captain John Smith.  In the Disney version, the settlers are depicted as imperialistic men and women who commit the worst evil – having no care for nature.  Disney makes Pocahontas the evangelist for environmentalism which is infused with her pagan perspective on the environment.  The lyrics of the theme song exemplify this pagan belief of spirits inhabiting all parts of creation:

“You think you own whatever land you land on. The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim, But I know every rock and tree and creature has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”

Notice the pantheistic view that everything has a spirit.  The wise one in the story is the pantheist who opens the poor Christian’s eyes to the value of the earth.

For an adult, these pagan notions may be easy to detect and discard as they watch this film.  However, we must remember the content of a film is compounded for children because they don’t usually watch a film once as adults do.  Adults typically see a movie once and move on.  Children, however, will find a movie they love and watch it thirty or forty times. The inherent theology or worldview of that movie will thus have a greater influence as the child hears and sees anti-Christian beliefs depicted over and over.

It is relevant to note Martin Luther saw the power of this type of repetition.  In fact, he believed the theology within worship music has more impact than the preaching on a Sunday morning because two or three weeks after you’ve heard a sermon you won’t typically remember it. However, people continue to sing the worship songs for weeks or months as they go about their daily lives. The theology inherent in the lyrics continues to have a voice long after the worship service.  As people sang Luther’s lyrics, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing” they were reminded to hold onto God’s sovereignty and strength.  In the same manner, children who watch and sing along to pagan music, singing, “every rock and tree and creature has a spirit…”  will begin to believe that rocks and trees and creatures share the same life that humans possess.. We must remember indoctrination does not take place only in a classroom.  In truth, the subtle indoctrination achieved through movies and television can far surpass that of any classroom.

Thirty years of Star Wars shows the staying power of such pagan ideas in what was considered to be a Christian nation.  This epic film inspired the entire nation.  Clearly there are other epic films, but Star Wars cut a hole in the cultural fence, and neopaganism crept into our culture.   Producer George Lucas said this: “I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people—more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system.” Then he goes on to make this claim, “all the religions are true.”1    In our mainstream culture this has the appearance of tolerance while actually being intolerant.  To say all religions are true means he believes any religion that claims to know the truth is automatically wrong.  So Christians are wrong; Muslims are wrong; and Jews are wrong.  Lucas is actually saying everybody else is wrong except him.  Saying “all religions are true” is a pantheistic and neopagan way to say that only pagans have the whole truth.

Lucas was influenced largely by Joseph Campbell, who followed the perspectives of Carl Jung.  In fact, Joseph Campbell’s interview with Bill Moyers was filmed at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch.   Joseph Campbell has been a tremendous inspiration for many other artists and creative professionals. His books, The Power of Myth, and Hero with a Thousand Faces, are regularly used as textbooks in university classes to explore the stories of religions and mythology.  Joseph Campbell explored the history of myths and many religions and concluded: “all myths are the creative products of the human psyche, that artists are a culture’s mythmakers, and that mythologies are creative manifestations of humankind’s universal need to explain psychological, social, cosmological, and spiritual realities.”2

Campbell believes all myths (including stories in the Bible) are nothing more than a product of the human psyche.  For Campbell there is never anything beyond the story.  Stories are like dreams striving to explain the parts of reality which confound us.  He would read the Bible and suggest this grand story of sacrifice and redemption is simply filling the need of our psyche to be loved, or valued.  He would not pause to consider any historical veracity of the claims or the possibility there is a real God who would truly become man and do everything Christ did.

It is important to note that Campbell does understand something which Christians have largely failed to recognize; namely, the power of storytelling, and the universality of the major archetypes.  It is on these particulars where C. S. Lewis would agree with Joseph Campbell – artists are the myth creators.  Tolkien and C.S. Lewis utilized the term mythopoeia (myth makers).  They would agree artists are the myth makers, and these stories have great power for inspiring and forming our view of the world. However, the goal of myth makers such as Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and The Inklings was to point people beyond these stories to a transcendent God.  For them these great stories would awaken in their heart what they knew to be true(Romans 1), and point them to the reality behind the stories of a sovereign and gracious God.

Christians who understand Tolkien and Lewis will realize this. After all, most of the Bible is written in narrative form.  The unique difference of the Bible is its historical nature.  While studying in Israel I was surprised to hear my agnostic archeology professor say it would be foolish not to use the Bible as a textbook.  This is because it is a major source of historical data.  In great contrast, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were never meant to convey historical facts. This is the key distinction missed by Jung, Campbell, and George Lucas.  The Bible is not one of many myths. The Bible is the true story of which all other myths and archetypes are imperfect reflections.  This is why the archetypes are so ‘moving’ to the human heart – because God placed those desires within us for unconditional love, forgiveness, redemption, and these other universal archetypes.

C. S. Lewis says in the preface to his book Pilgrim’s Regress that he was a pantheist before becoming a Christian.  After he came to be a Christian, he saw his pagan yearnings in a different light:

The books and music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust them.  It was not in them, it only came through them and what came through them was a longing, for they are not the thing itself.  They are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”3

For C. S. Lewis, the point of this myth making, this mythopoeia, is to point beyond.  Narnia beckons us to understand the Christ figure and to believe in a God who redeems. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings shows us beauty, and that good conquers evil.  He also shows us how the temptation for power can ruin a man.  These stories beg us to see our need for something outside of ourselves to redeem us.  Myths reflect worldview. The Lewis/Tolkein myths point to the true reality of the gospel, but the myth of  Star Wars and other such films communicates another worldview entirely.

An extremely popular set of films for gen-ex and younger generations was The Matrix Trilogy.  They contained stunning and revolutionary visual effects, and were written and produced by the Wachowski brothers.  These brothers, and particularly Larry Wachowski, are even more focused on neopaganism than was George Lucas.  The first Matrix film had many Christian symbols, but by the end of the third movie, it was apparent the film was far from a Christian trilogy.  The Wachowski brothers were expected to record a commentary on the DVDs when the trilogy was released as a set.  However, they declined, asking the Neo-Pagan guru Ken Wilbur to give the commentary instead.  The analysis shows that the purposeful mixing of philosophies and religions supported the thesis that the only true religion is the pagan philosophy of Ken Wilbur and his Integral Institute.

Wilbur suggests that it’s not until the last twenty minutes of part 3, Revolutions, that the key to the trilogy is revealed. Listen to this:

although Neo{the protagonist}is physically blind, he sees the machines as luminous, golden light—not quite how the “bad guys” are seen in most movies. And yet Neo is unmistakable in what he says to Trinity: “If you could see them as I see them, they are all made of Light….” Indeed, the machines represent Spirit, but Spirit as alienated and therefore attacking.”4

Wilbur summarizes, “Zion represents body (filmed in blue tint), the Matrix represents mind (green tint), and the machines [this is the kicker revealed in part 3] represent spirit (golden tint).”  Then Wilbur adds:

For those of you keeping track, this is indeed quite similar to the Great Nest of Being as taught by the world’s wisdom traditions, a spectrum of being and consciousness reaching from body to mind to spirit.”5

The worldview and philosophy behind the Matrix becomes clear.  Christianity is nowhere to be found—unless as an aspect of an inspiring myth.  The trilogy preaches a neopagan, pantheistic worldview that believes salvation to be a higher level of consciousness.  Sin doesn’t exist; there’s no need for forgiveness.  There’s only a lack of remembering.  We need to remember what we knew before we were born so we can raise our consciousness.

Another neo-pagan film with tremendous box office success is Gladiator.   This Ridley Scott epic begins and ends with pagan prayers and afterlife scenes specifically designed to bring out the pagan worldview which was so dominant in that era. One of the most famous lines from the film is uttered by Maximus when he says,

“Father of a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife and I shall have my vengeance in this life or the next”

Here we see the reincarnation doctrine specifically cited, and with a strong sense of his ability to impact the world.  However, the pagan worldview does not authenticate such desires.  The nihilistic result of pagan notions is stated elsewhere by Maximus,

“Death smiles at us all. All that a man can do is smile back.”

While most reviews focused on the violence, what they missed was a more accurate depiction of the Roman pagan worldview with it’s determinism and fatalism.  You don’t really have a choice; you just have to live what lot in life you’re given.  This stands in great contrast with a Christian worldview, of a sovereign God who reaches down, and who’s willing to die for us, to save us, and offer redemption and hope and forgiveness and joy.  Neopaganism offers no such hope.  The yearning for redemption and forgiveness within each man and woman’s heart simply cannot find satisfying answers in the pagan world of the Gladiator. 

Another interesting, though violent film embodying a pagan worldview is Pan’s Labryinth.  The director transitions between the two worlds of fantasy and reality almost effortlessly.  This is not merely an artistic choice, but something driven by his worldview.  In fact, he does this because he doesn’t think there should be a distinction between the two.  The writer and director, Guillermo del Toro says,

Organized politics and religion are much more fairy tales than fairy tales.  . . . I don’t believe in geography, I don’t believe in borders, I don’t believe in religion making us different. . . .immortality is the act of refusing death . . .immortality is simply a mind trip; it’s how you think or a matter of the will.  It has nothing to do with God, or redemption, or forgiveness.”6

He goes on to say:

In my mind, this fable is just another variation on the same old platonic theme that in our soul-state we know everything, but the trauma of being born causes us to forget everything we knew.  That’s why the Socratic method was invented and is so effective – because the process of asking questions causes us to ‘remember’ the things we knew before.”7

This epitomizes the pagan worldview—all is one. No boundaries, or religions, or geography, and the only way for us to evolve is to “remember” or come to a higher state of consciousness in order to let go of distinctions, hierarchies and rules.

Music

Here we will examine three icons of the music world.  These older artists have been around for decades and continue to inspire young artists.  We can see their personal transitions into neopaganism as a religious trend which young artists are following in a myriad of ways.

British artist Sting became famous with his band The Police before pursuing his successful solo career.  He grew up in the church, which is readily evident in his music. However, later in life he abandoned his Christian beliefs to pursue neopaganism.  His biography, Broken Music,  provides us with an illustration of his journey into neopaganism.

Before releasing the Soul Cages CD both of his parents had died within a few months of each other. He initially took the modern day approach of pushing through it without taking time to mourn- he didn’t even attend the funerals.  He found after a couple years his creative juices were absolutely stifled.  To rejuvenate his creativity, he flew to Brazil to partake in an ancient pagan ritual in order to mourn the death of his parents.8    This ritual included drugs in the form of a liquid substance called ayahuasca which induced “altered-states” in the context of indigenous pagan ceremonies.  He refers to himself as an agnostic, but yearns for an experience that points beyond this life.  Neopaganism can be very attractive to people of this mindset.

He says specifically in his music that he gave up on the Holy church.  He sings, “I lost my belief in the holy church…but if I ever lose my faith in you….”   The “you” in this case refers to his wife. He replaced his belief in church with his belief in his wife and his marital relationship.  In some pagan circles the elevation of sex, and the female in particular, is an integral part of pagan thinking. In the press, Sting also spoke of his studies and his utilization of the pagan-infused intimacy known as tantric sex.

In his CD “Sacred Love” he sings, “You’re my religion, you’re my truth; you’re the Holy Grail at the end of my search.”  This sounds quite reminiscent of The DaVinci Code, because the center of his religion and religious experience is his wife.  He also has spoken in interviews of his use of tantric sex, a practice that comes out of the Buddhist tradition.  The sexual union is worshiped, rather than enjoyed as a gift from God.  It is important to remember sexual union in the Song of Solomon shows us a foretaste of heaven.  It’s a glorious picture of our union with Christ, and it’s supposed to give us a picture of what it’s like to be fully united with God.  To be fully vulnerable with our defenses down, to be fully naked emotionally and spiritually, and be loved—this is what we desire from God.  Sex should be a picture of that—not a substitute.

The second artist, Santana, has had great success in collaboration with younger artists and continues to express his spirituality in these collaborations.  Santana’s journey into neopaganism began in 1972 when he became a fan of the fusion band Mahavishnu Orchestra and its guitarist John McLaughlin.  McLaughlin introduced Santana and his wife to a guru, who accepted them as disciples and gave Carlos Santana the Buddhist name, “Devadip”.  Simply looking at the titles of Santana’s work one can see the pagan influence: Shaman, Sacred Fire, Moonflower, and Supernatural.  In recent years Santana has had amazing success collaborating with young new artists.  He’s collaborated with Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Rob Thomas, Dave Matthews, and many others.  In an age where so many young artists are interested in spirituality and disinterested in institutions, Santana is an inspiration for a audience that is seeking. These artists look up to him as a phenomenal artist, and therefore become open to exploring his pagan spirituality.  That would be merely interesting if nobody bought the album.  However, the first CD of collaborations sold over 15 million copies and garnered 9 Grammy Awards.  These pagan ideas were the heart of many of these exceedingly popular songs which were produced by one of the all time greatest music producers, Clive Davis.

The last artist I want to look at in the music field is Madonna.  Madonna was originally known as the “material girl.” She also pushed the cultural boundaries of sexuality with songs such as “Like a Virgin.”  At times she was also very vocal against the church. But Madonna has gone all the way around and now embraces the Kabbalah, a mystic strain of Judaism. Within Judaism, Kabbalah is considered a heretical view, but its popularity and impact are growing.  Speaking with Shimon Perez in Israel, Madonna said, “I’m an ambassador for Israel.” Her interest in Israel has come out of her passion for the Kabbalah’s pantheistic understanding of the Torah.  She has influenced many young women in the industry.  It is often noted at the VH1 and MTV awards that she is the one they all look up to and from whom they seek advice.  Madonna has stated she sees herself in a maternal role in relation to some of the young women in the music business, like Brittney Spears.

The neopaganism of these older artists has opened the door for younger artists to adopt pagan beliefs and to express them through their music.

Literature

Literature has been a tremendous hotbed for neopaganism in recent years. The more popular books are often made into films, and thus impact the culture through two media outlets. The Da Vinci Code made a big splash as it proposed the thesis that the Holy Grail is really a woman’s body, and more specifically, Mary’s womb. The suggestion that salvation came through a woman’s body, and not through Christ, is a radical departure from the gospel.  Many valuable books and websites have explored and exposed the ancient Gnostic heresies found and historical inaccuracies in Dan Brown’s work, so we need not go into a lengthy discussion here. As we think of the immense popularity of the book, however, we must realize that it responds to American culture’s insatiable curiosity about the sex life of some celebrity. Who could be a bigger celebrity than Jesus Christ?  No wonder the Da Vinci Code was such a big seller.  It also rode the already present wave of curiosity about the pagan worldview— a curiosity heightened by years of subtle messages found in film and music. The Da Vinci Code provides yet another doorway into a pagan worldview – seeing Christ not as the Creator outside of the creation, who becomes incarnate for man’s salvation, but as a spiritual figure who inseminates the “feminine,” bringing salvation through Mary Magdalene’s womb, in a mystic, mysterious connection through a woman’s body.

Another book/movie production is the Golden Compass.  The antagonist is an organization called “the Magisterium,” which symbolically portrays the Roman Catholic church.  The writer/director of the film, Chris Weitz, tried to water down this anti-religious component found in the book in order to gain religious viewers. At a screening of the film here in Hollywood, I heard Weitz describe how he changed the character of the Magisterium. In the book it is easy to see how the Magisterium resembled the Catholic church, but in the film it became merely a social and political organization, rather than religious. It was clear that the Christian response to Mel Gibson’s The Passion, and Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code had made people in the industry much more aware of potential ticket sales to Christians.

The Secret is the third book I want to consider. It is a self help book selling at an alarming rate. This book, selling 10,000 copies a week before Oprah plugged it, began selling 100,000 a week after being recommended by Oprah.  Consider these quotes from Oprah’s recommendation, The Secret: “Everything that’s coming into your life you are attracting into your life.” The author Rhonda Byrne writes: “You are the most powerful magnet in the universe . . . so as you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you.” The assumption in such a statement is that  your personal desires govern your future.  Such a precept is in direct contrast to the Bible.  The Bible teaches the architect and finisher of our faith is God. Who created everything? God.  Who is the Alpha/Omega?  God. Who rules and directs all that takes place? God alone. Of course, God does work through us. He uses us to feed the poor, to seek justice, to pursue the good of the city, and to speak the truth to our neighbors.  But (fortunately!) our desires do not drive the future.  God determines the future.

Like many expressions of false spirituality, the Secret quotes the Bible in an attempt to persuade Christians of its legitimacy.  The author quotes Matthew 21:22, (“Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”) in order to justify the so-called “law of attraction.”  They interpret the verse to mean God will give you whatever you ask for.  This is a bastardized and heretical interpretation because God never promises to give us whatever we want as if he was a vending machine.  God promises to do great things through us as we put our faith in Him, obey Him, and seek His will to be done – not as we seek our own comfort and pleasure.

The “law of attraction” in the Secret breaks down into three steps:

1st –  Know what you want and ask the universe for it.

2nd – Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way.

3rd –  Be open to receiving it.

There are aspects of this law that are clearly attractive to the human heart.  Who doesn’t want to think they are in ultimate control over their lives?  Who wouldn’t want everything their heart desires?  We would all like to control our destinies and feel that the universe is at our beck and call.

As book reviewer, Tim Challies succinctly points out:

“There is a problematic component: if you follow this through logically it implies that the Jews brought the holocaust on themselves.  Equally as tragic, it implies that the sexually abused child invited the abuse.  These are horrific problems you cannot discard.  Not to mention the question of what happens when two people desire the same thing.”9

The Secret tells us to sacrifice shows a “belief in lack.” Instead, we should always look out for ourselves. The implication for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross means He failed to be all he could be. According to the Secret’s philosophy, the choice Jesus made to become human and to die on the cross was a foolish choice.  He should have pursued selfish desires. This could not be more opposite from the gospel.

True to neo-neopaganism, the author is really ascribing divinity to humanity:

“The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and it sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wondrous thing you experience, is all there, for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life. And now you know The Secret.”10

Note the crazy claim, “none of it can exist without you.” Really?  If all the universe exists for me, then my death would cause everything to stop. I think if I died today the world would go on just fine.  My wife would mourn, my children would mourn, my friends would mourn, but the earth would not stop on its axis.  The earth does not exist for me. I’m not so delusional as to think so.

The Secret makes the same mistake all pagan ideologies make—it takes a good and right respect for the dignity of humanity and raises this respect to the level of worship. Instead of giving honor to the Creator for the fact we humans are made in the image of God—“fearfully and wonderfully made,” as King David put it in the Psalms, pagans start worshiping themselves.  The naïve self-help principle of the Secret fails as a philosophy because it only describes positive wishes.  What about the man who wishes his boss was dead or a jealous lover who desires to beat her boyfriend to a pulp? The desires of our heart are not always good for society or even for us.  As the old Chinese curse supposedly goes: “May you get what you wish for.”  In this case, The Rolling Stones have better theology than Oprah:  “You can’t always get what you want.”  More to the point here: we shouldn’t.

A Biblical Response

With so many films, books, and entertainment filled with pagan worldviews, how should we respond? Christians have typically committed one of two great errors when responding to art, films and pop culture in general.  On the one extreme we retreat from the culture into our own little Christian ghetto of Christian music, films, and art which is sentimental and/or safe.  On the other extreme, we embrace the mainstream culture without discernment which leaves our minds and hearts vulnerable to unhealthy compromises and moral corruption.  In both cases we fail to be salt and light to a world desperately in need of God’s grace and truth.

Some Christians have been astute critics of their culture, and have taken solace in this inflated sense of accomplishment.  Christians must not only critique but create art which fits a Christian worldview, and then contribute that particular art to mainstream culture.  As Destouches wrote so poignantly in his famous play, “Criticism is easy, art is difficult.”11

Christians must also realize the role of discernment for themselves and their children.  It is foolish to simply tell our children which art to see and which art they are forbidden from seeing and then assume we have educated them.

First for our children, it is essential we preview questionable content as guardians of their spiritual development, and it is important we understand what content is age appropriate.  We need to moderate the exposure of children to elements of our culture, but as they grow in wisdom and understanding it is critical we impart to them the tools of discernment, rather than simply imparting dictates.

Naturally, the first step is for adults to acquire these tools of discernment for themselves.  They should know what content may lead them down a sinful path, and what content will encourage them to pursue godliness.  On a more complex level, they must know how to watch content which requires sifting in order to recognize which components are consistent with a Christian Worldview and which components are not.

At the early ages of two or three children are capable of understanding right from wrong.  We must not underestimate the value of pausing movies or music at home in order to dialogue with your children about how plots and lyrics compare to biblical truths and stories.  It is also helpful to discuss the manner in which films depict (or fail to depict) the consequences of sin.

For the sake of future generations, and for the glory of our King, we must take media, and popular culture seriously.  If we are passive in this endeavor and simply ignore these issues, we will be like the frog and kettle- compromised, yet unaware of the danger.  If we are simply religious and retreat from the culture, we will be like salt which never leaves the salt shaker.  May we all resist the temptations to retreat and to become compromised.  May we not be conformed to this world, but transformed – and may we be agents of cultural transformation wherever God places us.

Copyright © 2009 Joel and Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved.  Used with permission.

 

Footnotes:

1 Bill Moyers , “Of Myth And Men” Time Monday, Apr. 26, 1999

2 Bill Moyers , “Of Myth And Men” Time Monday, Apr. 26, 1999

3 C.S.Lewis,  The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, (Grand Rapids Mich, Eerdman, 1965,)p. 98

4 Wilbur, Ken, commentary. The Utlimate Matrix Collection. Produced and written by Larry and Andy Wachowski.  2004. DVD. Warner Home Video.

5 Wilbur, Ken, commentary. The Utlimate Matrix Collection. Produced and written by Larry and Andy Wachowski.  2004. DVD. Warner Home Video.

6 Del Toro, Guillermo, commentary.  Pan’s Labyrinth. Produced, Written, and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro., 2006, DVD. Optimum Home Entertainment.

7 Del Toro, Guillermo, commentary.  Pan’s Labyrinth. Produced, Written, and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro., 2006, DVD. Optimum Home Entertainment.

8 Sting,  Broken Music. (New York:NY, The Dial Press, 2003,)pp 5-10.

9 Challies, Tim.  “Book Review- The Secret “. June 11, 2007 <www.challies.com>

10 Byrne, Rhonda. The Secret. (New York: Atria Books.  2006) p, 183

11 Destouches, Philippe Nericault,  Le Glorieux (1732), Act II, scene V

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