Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Gospel According to Frozen

My parish magazine item for August:

My five year old daughter is very taken with the Disney double Academy award-wining film, Frozen. Maybe the children or grandchildren in your life are too? In many ways it’s no doubt an excellent film. And it’s been very successful: accumulating nearly $1.3 billion in worldwide box office revenue, it is the highest grossing animated movie of all time. You may well know it’s anthemic song, “Let it go!” and even this August we may find ourselves asking, “Do you want to build a snowman?” In fact, my eldest son has taken to pleading with me, “Please will you stop singing that annoying song, Daddy!”

I have argued before that the good news of the Christian faith is what we might call the true or ultimate fairy story. All the stories which we tell are really variations on the theme of the Bible’s story, God’s story of the world – or sometimes protests against it. All the best stories involve some kind of problem or crisis, a Fall, and a resolution, rescue, redemption or deliverance. Death and resurrection is the shape of all life. We all long for a happy ending, but can it be true? Christianity’s great story is that God loves this wonderful yet broken world. Jesus is the mysterious stranger, the Prince from another world who kills the dragon and gets the girl. At the cost of his own life he triumphs over evil and he and his bride, the church, live happily ever after.

Yet the writers of Frozen are on record as saying that they are deliberately trying to tell a different kind of fairy story. In the film, the crisis is that Anna is gradually freezing. As in Narnia, an endless winter without any Christmases threatens. Anna is told that she can be saved only by true love. She imagines that might come from the charming and dashing Hans, who turns out to be a rotter of the worst sort. In the end, Anna finds that she has to look within for true love. She can’t depend on some handsome fella to swoop in and rescue her. She has to dig deep and stand on her own two feet. It’s Anna’s own love for her sister that saves the day.   

Although there’s something to be said for this, the Bible would tell us, I think, that it’s basically wrong! One of the most important things to grasp about the Christian worldview is that it sees us as sinners in need of rescue. Yes, we are astonishing, mysterious, deep creatures, made in the image of God himself. But if we look within our hearts we won’t find perfect, true love. There are all sorts of confused and contradictory loves in our hearts. And the fatal flaws of selfishness, sin and pride touch everything. In the end, we are part of the problem not the solution. We cannot fix ourselves or our world. We need the perfect love of God from outside to come down and save the day. The Bible’s story is of God in Christ to the rescue, a story that interrupted and transformed history in a stable in Bethlehem more than two millennia ago, and is still changing lives today.  

But for all their rejection of the classic fairy story, the writers of Frozen can’t totally escape God’s story. We are characters in the drama God is performing whether we like it, or realise it, or not. Anna’s act of true love is self-less and self-sacrificial: she jumps in front of her sister, Elsa, to save her from Hans’ sword-thrust – and thus the curse is broken. Which of course is an echo of Jesus’ laying down of his life for us on the cross. God’s reality breaks in to all our stories and begins to make sense of them. A happy ending depends on realising what the story is and embracing it as our story.

The Revd Marc Lloyd

I owe many of the ideas for this article to a talk given by The Revd Dr Tim Keller at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly this year. See: /

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