Cartoon Theology: Learning From Unexpected Places

BLG SZ -Cartoon-Theology– Carolyn-Bales–HSLDA Blog

So, let’s talk about the unity of knowledge. I constantly find that my church studies, science fiction, random pre-Socratic philosopher, and Disney movies are talking about the same themes. (I know that not every mom is a geekily-inclined Protestant Christian literature major. Bear with me here.) I get very excited when this happens.

I am raising humans and not clones or minions, and real life is complicated, and frankly, everyone at my house brings their sin natures with them. Stories help me a lot. There is, or was, an inclination among Christian homeschoolers to only allow kids to watch shows and read books where the characters do good Christian things, but in this house, we get a lot of conversation from in-movie mistakes, terrible life choices, and bad guys. I like having the option of saying, “You are acting like Professor Moriarty!” because that is what Sherlock Hound exists for – to relate to real life.

Let us consider Tinkerbell.

“Why, oh why, did Tink cross the border to winter when she knew it wasn’t allowed?” wailed Meg at the dinner table.

“Oh, in The Secret of Wings,” said Jonathan. “I know what you’re talking about.” (Note: yes, he does. He can also tell you about allicorns. He is a good dad.)

“Well,” I said, seizing the teachable moment, “that’s a lot like what people do. I was reading in Romans 7 this afternoon about how all you have to do is hear a rule, and your sin nature jumps up and wants to break it.”

Jonathan added, getting into animated storyteller mode, “Paul said, ‘And the good that I want to do, I don’t do it! And I do the thing I don’t even want to do! WHO WILL SAVE ME FROM THIS BODY OF SIN AND DEATH?’”

I glanced over to Meg. “Who?”

“God.” (She goes to Sunday School.)

“Yes! Good guess! And that was Paul writing.”

“Even he wanted to cross the borders,” said Jonathan.

I went and got my Bible so I could read the answer exactly. “Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord! …There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

We didn’t discuss it then, but now that I think about it, Tinkerbell’s story went on from there and good worked out despite her literal transgression, trans-gress, across-stepping. As far as that goes, Paul would also affirm that good can work out despite a transgression – praise the grace of our Lord Christ Jesus. The mechanics might be different than in Disney Fairies, though.

As a literature person, I do believe that all good stories can comment on other stories and on real life, but I still boggle at how that works out, actually. The combinations are…unique. Another day, I became aware of an energetic Socrates tale going on in the other room.

Jonathan was saying, “And Thrasymachus said, ’Yeah! The strong can take what they like.’ And Socrates said, ‘So then imagine that there were a whole group of robbers. Together they’re stronger than alone, so they can steal more stuff.’ And Thrasymachus said, ‘Yeah!’ But then Socrates said, ‘But what happens when the robbers start turning on each other, and hitting each other on the head, and stealing each other’s stuff? That wouldn’t work so well, would it?’”

Meg said, “No!”

“So caring about what is right regarding their friends actually made robbers stronger. And Thrasymachus said, ‘No, argh argh argh!’”

Meg laughed.

“And if caring about right and wrong makes robbers stronger, when they are concerned about being good friends, wouldn’t they be even stronger if they cared about right and wrong in the first place?”

“And wouldn’t be robbers in the first place!” Meg agreed.

“This is like what you were noticing in Sherlock Hound. Moriarty thinks being a villain makes him stronger, and sometimes he does get away with it for a little while. But imagine if he used his amazing inventions to mine silver. Sherlock wouldn’t have to catch him, and Moriarty would get to keep his silver. And then think if he used that silver to pay his minions enough: then they wouldn’t steal from him. But as it is –“

“Sherlock always catches him by the end of the episode!” said Meg.

“And being a villain doesn’t really make him stronger—“

“But weaker!”

This is the point where I jump up and down shouting “Hooray!” Meg gets it. This gives her utterly practical robust theology and all the riches of her Western literary heritage. She is learning about life and does not despise even the fairies. This is worth homeschooling for.

Earlier this week, I turned around in the car and told her, “I can’t wait till you’re old enough for Shakespeare. We’re going to have so much fun.”

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