Stuck in your head now, isn't it? It hasn't been tested (so far as I know) in a psychology lab, but I think "Skip the drama, stay with mama" may be the stickiest meme every invented. It can stay in your head for days on end. But I digress.
Frankly, I believe Tangled, on the symbolic level, may be the most Christian movie that has been made in the past several years, whether it was intended that way or not. The themes of light and dark, giving love and selfish love, life through death...I could go on and on. For now, let's focus on the "Mother Knows Best" scene. (By the way, in case anyone hasn't seen the movie, it's critical that you know that Mother Gothel isn't really Rapunzel's mother, she kidnapped her as an infant and raised her in deception).
Throughout the scene, the Disney artists play with light and dark. Gothel keeps trying to shut out the sun, closing curtains and blocking windows, playing with shadows and mirrors. Rapunzel tries to bring back the light with candles, but Gothel keeps blowing them out. And of course, the whole argument they are having spawns from Rapunzel's desire to "go and see the lights." (This is Disney art at it's best, showing what it's saying and saying what it's showing and doing both better together than they could ever be done apart, but I digress...again.)
So, we showed this clip to the boys and girls in our class and I asked them: "why does Gothel tell Rapunzel about the world outside?" We made a chart: the world outside (according to Gothel) is dangerous, mean, selfish, and wants to take away Rapunzel's magic hair. Next we asked, "what is Gothel like inside?" We checked off the same chart: she is dangerous (she kidnapped Rapunzel), mean, selfish, and she wants to keep her magic hair all to herself. In short: she sees the world outside EXACTLY as she is on the inside...and she doesn't want any light to come in from the world that would change that view, either for herself or for her captive. She holds on to a lie, and wants others to believe the lie, because she doesn't want to change her own inner evil nature.
OK, fine. That's Disney. But this is Sunday School we're talking about, so does it line up with the Bible?
We looked up this verse in John's gospel, chapter three (not far after the famous John 3:16): "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." (vs. 19-21, NIV)
There it is right from Jesus' mouth: people choose darkness because of the darkness that is inside them. We could call this the Gothel principle. When we're thinking about the topics of faith and belief, this principle explains so much. You see, there are really only two reasons for not believing truth (seeing the Light): ignorance is one. It's possible you simply haven't ever heard or understood the truth, or perhaps you've been deliberately "kept in the dark" by others. If that's the case, as soon as the light breaks through--as soon as you know the truth--you are set free, and you will naturally believe what you see and hear. But that is not the only reason for disbelief. The second reason is much more insidious: pride. When we have a selfish, prideful, evil heart (and who hasn't at one time or another?), we DELIBERATELY alter our perception of reality to block out anything that would tell us that we are wrong. We're not simply ignorant of the light: we're hiding from it, blocking it, snuffing it out every chance we get, because we don't want to see who we really are. And when we intentionally adopt that twisted view of reality for ourselves, we also start to see it in everyone else. Everyone we meet becomes a "pointy toothed ruffian" intent on stealing what is ours, because we assume they are just like us.
This is what Jesus was referring to in another passage that calls to mind the opening scene of Tangled, when Gothel first tried to cover and keep the Light of Heaven in the Flower Rapunzel to herself: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:19-24 NIV). By trying to keep the treasure for herself, rather than give it away, Gothel has become selfish, and in her selfishness, her eye has become dark, so that the light is not in her, and her whole view of the world is perverted and twisted.
I've heard people say, "how can God judge people just for not believing in Him? People can't help it if they don't know about God, and they can't force themselves to believe something that doesn't make sense to them." But the premise of that challenge assumes all doubt is honest doubt. I tend to think God has tremendous patience with honest doubt; indeed, honest doubt may be the flip side of the same coins as faith. But some doubt--perhaps even the majority of disbelief--comes not from ignorance but from a deliberate blocking of the light of truth because we choose to cling to the darkness within us. In that case, God does not judge us so much as we judge ourselves--condemning ourselves to our own prison. Thus, again, John chapter 3: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son" (vs. 16-18).
These are profound ideas to me. Often, I find myself seeing nothing but darkness in the world and people around me...only to realize it is my own selfish, prideful attitude that is twisting me and twisting my perception of them and keeping me from experiencing the truth, light and ultimately the Love of God for myself and others. So I'm thankful for Disney giving me a tool to help my very young friends begin to explore what Faith means long before they could clearly put those thoughts into words. --Ken Roach