I was intrigued recently as I scrolled through my Facebook news-feed. Christians were calling for a boycott of the new Beauty and the Beast film, featuring Disney’s first openly gay character. When I investigated further, it was more than a mere individual boycott. Entire theatres, such as this one in Alabama, were refusing to show the film at all. Of course, I believe everyone has the right to decide what they want to watch or not watch, but I couldn’t help but wonder: why this movie?
From what I can tell, the boycott argument is that individuals, theatres, or others, do not want to support the gay lifestyle. Okay. So, going to see a film that happens to include a gay character means supporting homosexuality? If we follow that logic through, then wouldn’t watching a violent movie support violence? Wouldn’t watching a movie with premarital or extramarital sex support promiscuity and infidelity? Wouldn’t watching a movie with abuse promote abuse? If the primary concern is what watching a movie will support, then perhaps the choice should be made to abstain from watching movies altogether.
Alternately, perhaps the outrage is not just that a movie contains a gay character, but that a Disney movie has a gay character. Disney is supposed to support wholesome family values. They’re supposed to make movies that are ‘safe’ for our children to watch. Really? If you take a critical look at the movies Disney has produced over time, you’ll see among the cute kids and fluffy animals: witchcraft, violence, war, sexual abuse (or, at the very least, unwelcome sexual advances), theft, and manipulation. Again, it does not seem that Disney is behaving inconsistently. They are creating films that people will relate to, because it makes money. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: society is not Christian and it is not society’s responsibility to create media or other paraphernalia that corresponds with Christian values.
The point is not to cocoon ourselves in a blanket of do’s and don’ts in an attempt to shut out the advancing bogeyman representing our worst fears about society going to hell in a hand-basket. Watching a movie with a gay character isn’t going to corrupt us. A more realistic approach is to realize that there are myriad of influences pushing and pulling us each day, not just one film. We need to engage and think critically about all that we are consuming.
In my mind, the inconsistency in logic of reactions to the film point to the deeper issue of a fear-based and judgmental response towards those who identify as homosexuals (never mind those who identify as transgender, queer, or something else). Christians seem to feel threatened by what they do not understand, and by what seems to challenge their deeply held value system.
The reactions also reflect the fear Christians in the West seem to have over loss of influence. They are no longer at the center of society and decision-making. Their power is marginalized and sidelined. As some have said, we live in a post-Christian world.
Fear leads us into action, yes, but it is subjective, illogical, tight-fisted, and often hurtful. Boycotts confirm what many outside the church already think of us: we are narrow-minded, irrational, prejudiced and arrogant. Boycotts make us look like the real beast. This repels people and goes against what most of us want more deeply than we feel fear: for people to know Jesus for themselves.
Instead of responding with boycotts, why not take a fresh look at how the early church operated? They, too, were a minority group in a society that did not share their values. Instead of lashing out, they sought God in prayer and relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection in word and action, were persecuted, and saw incredible growth. Maybe today that means we go see the film. Maybe it means we bake cookies for our gay friends who experience harassment and discrimination because of who they believe themselves to be. We hear their stories. We love them. Because love isn’t predicated on agreement with someone’s lifestyle or choices. After all, God loved and loves us like that. Let’s stop acting like the beast, and show the world the true beauty of the gospel.