Contrary to the “13 Reasons Why” post, this is something that you should have no quarrels about watching with your kids, or for your own benefit. The newest Disney installment, “Moana,” has just been added to Netflix and I’m sure all the parents out there are going to get high doses of the movie so here’s a few thoughts concerning what to watch for or reflect on after watching it with your kids. However, viewers beware, there is something about Moana that can both jerk a tear and teach a lesson for all ages.
One of the songs in the movie is telling of our current situation within the Church and may summarize what the movie can tell us: “We are explorers reading every sign, we tell the stories of our elders in a never-ending chain… at night we name every star, we know where we are, we know who we are…” That’s the questions I want to ask in this post: Do we know who we are? Do we know where we are? Are we, as the Church global, reading the signs in our present age and ignoring them or are we reading the signs and telling the stories of our past in new and fresh ways? I think Moana is a great sign that is pointing us back home after we’ve lost our way a bit. The movie may not give a complete description of the Gospel, but it can certainly give us a fresh look at it and how to put it into action going forward.
Moana tells the story of a young Polynesian princess whose people’s way of life is completely dependent on the island that they inhabit. When food and resources begin to be scarce, they are forced to figure out a way to respond. With her people’s hidden voyager history finally revealed to her by her rebellious-natured grandmother, Moana obstinately resolves against her father’s wishes to solve the crisis by searching for Maui, a demigod who gave up his divinity to become human, who supposedly stole a precious stone, “The Heart of the Sea,” from another island goddess that gives prosperity to the environment. Without it, Moana’s people will become extinct.
She sets out to find and force Maui to give her what she wants and return the Heart to the island, but when she finds him, she soon finds that neither of them can accomplish such a feat alone, and they need one another to restore the world to prosperity.
This presents us with a great picture of the relationship between God and humanity and the crisis that is before us today. The movie portrays quite clearly that we need to be more proactive in the ways in which we are caring for creation, and like Moana and Maui, we cannot accomplish this alone.
We’re at a unique point in history. Never before have we had the ability to destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons, suffocate ourselves with the gas coming from our engines, or poison ourselves in an attempt to try and profit more from the food we cultivate. As followers of Jesus, we need to ask ourselves what our faith in God has to say about how we’re treating our planet and what to do about it. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, you can recognize that, in some capacity, the world we live in is beginning to turn against us the more we try and consume it. It is as if we’re stealing the heart of the earth and it is, therefore, turning into a monster in an attempt to preserve itself, just like the island monster in Moana.
The Bible is full of places that say the earth will be renewed and restored and instructs us that it is our job to ensure this process goes along (Gen 1:26, 2:15; Numbers 35:33; Psalm 24:1, 100; Proverbs 27:18; Rev 11:18, 22). The world is not at our disposal; it is at our mercy. We are to care for those who cannot care for themselves, and this is true for nobody more than it is for the planet we inhabit. And who is the most effected when the earth starts to turn? The poor and marginalized, because they are the ones who cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods or rent LEED Certified apartments that run on solar among other things.
As we’ve seen with the recent Paris Agreements controversy, even the nations cannot come together to solve this global crisis because they have their own vested interests. So what is the only global institution that has the ability to “turn the tide” and care for the entire globe? The Church. And it is more than switching to halogen from incandescent light bulbs or carpooling to work. We need new things to desire, and that may require taking up our cross to the desires that are dependent on our consumption of our resources and the privilege and convenience we receive from them.
We’re so globalized and yet, it seems with issues such as caring for the planet, we seem further apart than we have ever been, and this is the world our children are growing up in. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In the midst of this chaos, we have only begun to scrape the surface of the depths of who God is and what God is doing in this world, right now. In Scripture, the “sea” often represents chaos. This is why it is so significant that Jesus walks on the sea in Matthew 14 and beckons Peter to do the same. We’re in the same boat. The “sea” is calling to us and no one knows how far or deep it goes, just as Moana sings throughout the movie. However, we can only explore it with the courage to imagine a different world and a different way of living in it. We need the courage of Moana and the courage of Peter to take that step and go. We need the courage to go beyond our political affiliations, our cultural situations, or our inherited traditions, “beyond the reef” as it were, in order to partner with God, one another, and the world we inhabit so that we can bring lasting change.
We are at a point in history where we can no longer rely strictly on “how things have always been” in order to get us to where we want to be. The world that our kids inherit from us will be in jeopardy if we don’t take initiative, now. Will the stories our kids tell of their elders truly be a never-ending chain? Or will they be frantically working to fix a chain that we have long since broken? Only the God of love and his children who work together can respond to that question.
So it might be a fun exercise and a great bonding experience to ask your kids after the movie what you can do together to start imagining a different world such as this. By doing this, you’re empowering them to believe they can make a difference. And you might be surprised how a child-like faith can impact a global crisis. In fact, it might just be what the world needs most.