Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Gospel According to ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’


MUSINGS
It took guts for Disney to create a prequel to one of America’s most loved movies, but the gamble seems to have paid off as it is still doing well in the theaters and has received fairly good reviews. (Personally, I thought it was good, but not great. You can read my review of it here.) Some critics felt that the storyline about a mythical wizard might be making a statement about Christians believing in a mythical God. While I doubt that neither Sam Raimi (Director) nor Mitchell Kapner (Writer) tried to create a religious overtone, there are some better themes portrayed in the story that are worthwhile to explore. (Caution: some movie spoilers will be revealed below!)

God made us with a desire to make a difference In the beginning of “Oz,” we meet Oscar who is part magician/part con man. He travels around with a circus amazing the locals with his tricks and then moves on to the next town. In one setting, a girl in a wheelchair mistakes Oscar for a faith healer and asks him to heal her. Rather than tell her the truth, he makes up a lame excuse on why he can’t heal her, he can only do tricks. A woman from his past tells him that he is a good man to which he replies, “I don’t want to be a good man. I want to be a great one.”  Later, Oscar is thrown into the middle of a tornado and expects the worst. He cries out to God, “I don’t want to die! I haven’t accomplished anything yet!” Soon, he is rescued and instead of humbling himself, he puffs himself up. Romans 12:3 instructs, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Sometimes the gifts we are given are not what we want

The problem with Oscar is that he tries to become “great” by focusing on the wrong things. On the outside, he is confident in his abilities, but inside he knows that he’s a fake. He wants to be the great wizard that the land of Oz has prophesied about by using his slight-of -hand magic skills, but realizes that isn’t enough. It’s not until he meets Glinda that admits that he isn’t really a wizard. Surprisingly, she responds with, “You’re capable of more than you know.”


Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” It is then, in a sort of twisted way, that Oscar realizes that he can use his trickery for the good of the people. He later tells the residents of Oz, “I’m not the wizard you were expecting, but I may be the wizard that you need,” which is really just another way of saying that God will answer our prayers, but not always in the ways that we expect.

True friendship is a blessing Almost immediately after landing in Oz, Oscar meets Finley, a friendly flying monkey who is tied up in a net. Oscar helps to free Finley and in return, Finley dedicates the rest of his life to serve Oscar. Oscar doesn’t think much of this at first, but later realizes just how important his friendship means to him. He tells Finley, “You stood by me when other monkeys would have flown away.” I’ve know a lot of fair-weathered monkeys in my life who flew away when I really needed them. Proverbs 18:24 speaks of this very thing, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” True friendship is priceless.

Bitterness will destroy you In this story, there is terribly sad element where Theodora, who has fallen in love with Oscar, is tricked by her sister, Evenora, who tells her that Oscar doesn’t love her and in fact is only using her. This isn’t true, but Theodora believes her sister (much like we believe in the lies of the devil) and she literally becomes green with envy. The once beautiful girl becomes ugly inside and out and is a metaphor for Job 21:25, “Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good.”

We can never run away too far from God After Theodora realizes that she no longer has control of the people of Oz, she jumps on her broom and makes for a hasty retreat. Oscar stops her and says, “Theodora, I know your wickedness is not your doing. And should you ever find the goodness within you, you are welcome to return.” Sadly, she snaps back, “Never!” and flies off. Theodora is so full of hatred and pride, that it clouds her vision. (“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18) Many of us have done things that we are not proud of, but ironically, we are too prideful to let those things go. Fortunately, we are never too far from the long arm of God: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” Micah 7:18. 

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