Disney’s latest real-actor remake of one of their classics has just been released in the USA, and early reviews are effusive in their praise of Beauty and the Beast. Except for a few die-hard conservative, evangelicals – the perennial party-poopers of the modern age. Led, of course, by the increasingly frothy-mouthed Franklin Graham, there has been a loud call for Christians to boycott the movie, and in fact Disney as a whole, because one of the characters in the movie is gay (or, maybe gay).
Conservative Christians have a long tradition of targeting Disney for its stance on LGBTI rights. When Disney pre-empted legislation on gay marriage by extending employee benefits to those in same sex relationships two decades ago, Christians staged a boycott of Disney. But Disney was unmoved, and eventually the pull of Mickey Mouse overcame Christian objections and they went back to Disneyland as they had before. Apparently their children’s need for entertainment overcame their principled objections. More on this theme later.
The concern this week is that in the new Beauty and the Beast movie, Disney made it more obvious than in the original 1991 version that Gaston’s sidekick LeFou may be, as we already suspected, gay. It’s not overt, it’s not sexual and it’s not a theme in the movie at all. In fact, in a 129 minute feature film, this issue takes up slightly less than 30 seconds. Yet, Franklin Graham has said:
They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out! Disney has the right to make their [movies], it’s a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney.
Of course Disney have the right to make these movies. And, yes, Graham and his accolytes have the right to boycott it. But I also have the right to point out how hypocritical that is. Because that is precisely what it is. Embarrassingly so.
Let me explain.
Throughout Disney’s history, there have been all number of characters with unsavoury characteristics. In all but a few cases, these characters have been cast as villians, or at least on the side of the villians. (In fact, just like LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, as it happens – but that’s an issue I’ll take up with Disney.) Let’s just focus on this movie for an example. The Candelabrum in this retelling of the story has a huge sexual appetite, chasing women throughout the movie. There’s no comment from evangelical conservative Christians on this character. But surely there should be? Isn’t sexual immorality of all kinds sinful in their eyes?
And what about issues of divorce, abuse, abandonment, sexual immorality and other themes Disney has touched on over the years? Why no boycott over those?
Forget Disney, let’s look at real life. The same conservative, evangelical pastors who rail against LGBTI issues from their pulpits every Sunday say nothing one of their own colleagues is caught with a same sex prostitute. They say nothing against the divorce rates in their churches. And they say nothing about the way in which the men in their churches treat and talk about women. They don’t get worked up about any topic as much as they do about “the gay agenda”. The Bible only mentions homosexuality in seven verses, each of which has clear contexts of idolatry, abuse and cultic practices. Hundreds of verses are devoted to issues of greed and wealth inequality, yet we don’t hear berating sermons about these sins in modern America. Nor about some of the other sins mentioned in Romans 1, like envy, deceit, boastfulness and disobedience of parents, or some of the other well-worn issues Paul and the first Apostles were concerned about like gossip, greed, ostentatious shows of wealth and pride.
No, modern conservative evangelicals are fixated on sexual issues, and utterly fixated on gay sex. One really wonders if “they do protest too much” because this is their own deep-seated vice.
The root cause is clear: it’s about cherry-picking selectively from the Bible and subjectively applying moral standards while claiming they’re absolutes. To be fair, we all do this. We have no choice – it’s part of the human condition. But at least honest people are honest about this. Conservative evangelicals meanwhile claim a moral high ground of superiority, abandoning all thoughts of grace and love in the process, from which they preach their lessons, lay down their laws and most importantly make themselves feel superior, privileged and chosen.
Their inconsistencies are obvious to everyone. They are hypocrites.
This is a major reason that people are leaving the Church these days. Over and over, we Christians are standing, as hypocrites, on the wrong side of history. Because of this hypocrisy, many Christians end up looking less like Jesus and more like what the Bible calls the antichrist.
How should we respond?
Firstly, if you’re a Disney fan, see the movie. It is a marvellous story, filled with Gospel themes of mercy, grace, redemption, restoration and love. Make sure you and your children discuss these grand themes.
Secondly, if you feel like it and if your children are ready for it, talk about LeFou. I bet your children won’t even have noticed the “gay theme”.
Thirdly, if you’re a leader in a church, or just someone who has a voice in a local church, please make sure your church is very, very clear about where you stand on homosexuality. I am becoming increasingly concerned about conservative churches that have realised they can no longer have an “anti gay” stance, so are now welcoming LGBTI people into their faith communities, but only as sinners who need rescuing from the evils of homosexuality. Rather tell gays to stay away than welcome them in on false pretences. If your church believes that gays are going to burn in hell, and that the “gay agenda” is coming to steal the souls of your children, at least be honest and state this clearly on church’s website so gay people know to stay far away. If Franklin Graham represents your version of Christianity and grace, then please don’t create a false sense of welcome to the LGBTI community. And please own your childishness and hypocrisy if you boycott Disney over this.
Finally, let me cherry-pick my own Bible verse on this:
1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I still believe it to be true: in the end, #lovewins.
I wish we heard more about this in our churches, rather than the nonsense about Disney.