Chris Evans plays the title character in Disney’s new film, Lightyear, that released in theaters Friday. As you probably know, the movie has generated controversy by featuring two women in a lesbian relationship and a kiss between the two. When asked about those who have raised concerns, Evans said, “The real truth is those people are idiots.”
He explained that the “human story” is “one of constant social awakening and growth” and claimed that people who oppose such “growth” will “die off like dinosaurs.” According to Evans, “the goal is to pay them no mind” and to “march forward and embrace the growth that makes us human.” (For more on the film, please see Mark Legg’s article, “’Lightyear’ features same-sex kiss: Should kids see Disney’s latest film?”)
Our post-Christian culture is certainly attempting to follow Evans’s advice and is especially focusing on indoctrinating our kids. Disney has launched an LGBTQ clothing line for children. CNN is promoting a “guide to LGBTQ summer reading for kids and teens.” Earlier this month, a group of four Colorado elementary schools staged an after-school celebration of Pride Month including a drag queen story hour.
Our rejection of biblical morality is a symptom of our broader rejection of biblical truth. Gallup announced Friday that belief in God in the US has fallen to 81 percent, a new low. Abortions are increasing in America, reversing a thirty-year decline. And attacks on religious liberty continue: a Jewish school in New York has been ordered by a state judge to recognize an LGBTQ student club despite its religious objections.
Why Juneteenth is a spiritual holiday
A fifteen-year-old boy was killed and three adults were shot when gunfire erupted last night at a music festival in Washington, DC. An ethnic attack in Ethiopia left more than two hundred dead. The FBI is investigating a series of attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and churches. A New York Times editorial writer explicitly describes her difficulties with childbirth as an argument for abortion over adoption.
It may seem that our world is too broken to repair. But yesterday’s Juneteenth celebrations remind us that it is always too soon to give up on God and his work among us.
Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, with news that the Civil War was over and slavery in the US was abolished. Juneteenth Freedom Day (combining “June” and “nineteenth”) has become the oldest known celebration observing the end of the enslavement of humans in the US. In 1979, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. In June 2021, President Biden signed a bill making it a federal holiday.
Reflecting on the theological significance of Juneteenth, teaching pastor Rasool Berry writes in Christianity Today, “It is always good for Christians to celebrate freedom. The end of the evil institution of slavery in our midst is valuable and valid no matter how messy and incomplete it is. There’s a renewal possible with a celebration such as Juneteenth—it’s a reminder of where we’ve been and hopefully where we’re going.”
He reminds us of Paul’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and states, “Juneteenth provides a unique national moment to do both.”
Beware a self-fulfilling prophecy
Slavery grieves the heart of the God who made every human in his image (Genesis 1:27) and loves each of us as if there were only one of us (quoting St. Augustine). And yet he used humans to liberate humans. He used Abraham Lincoln to emancipate the slaves in 1863 and the US government to enforce that emancipation across the nation. He used Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and legions of brave Christians to lead the fight for civil rights, a struggle that continues today.
If we give up on God and on our nation, we will obviously be unavailable to either. Then our spiritual and cultural pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, being change agents in a broken world requires more than a willingness to be used by God—it requires loving those we are called to serve. Paul grieved so deeply for his fellow Jews who rejected their Messiah that he could wish himself “accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).
His compassion came from the One who “had compassion” on those he served (Matthew 14:14), the Shepherd who would leave the ninety-nine sheep to find the one who was lost (Luke 15:3–7), the Savior who would call a hated tax-collector by name and stay in his home so that salvation could come to his house (Luke 19:1–10).
“Allow your heart to be a marketplace of humanity”
If our response to Chris Evans’s ridiculing of biblical Christians was anything less than loving grief for his soul, we need to be “filled” with the Spirit. If we could read about the falling rate of belief in God and the rising rate of abortion without pain in our spirit for our nation, we need to be “filled” with the Spirit.
Henri Nouwen observed: “One of the greatest human spiritual tasks is to embrace all of humanity, to allow your heart to be a marketplace of humanity, to allow your interior life to reflect the pains and joys of people not only from Africa and Ireland and Yugoslavia and Russia but also from people who lived in the fourteenth century and will live many centuries forward. Somehow, if you discover that your little life is part of the journey of humanity and that you have the privilege to be part of that, your interior life shifts. You lose a lot of fear and something really happens to you. Enormous joy can come into your life. It can give you a strong sense of solidarity with the human race, with the human condition. It is good to be human.”
To experience such loving “solidarity with the human race,” we need the help of God’s Spirit. English theologian Edwin Hatch’s prayer should therefore be our daily intercession:
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou would do.
Would you make his words your heart’s cry to God right now?
(For more on experiencing the love of God in the power of the Spirit, please see my latest personal blog, “Is this the end of the English bulldog?”)