Engaged, Not Just Entertained

New post up at WORLD Mag today.


Last night I took two of my daughters to a free screening of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole. The movie surprised me by being better than I expected. For some reason, the trailers of animated owls trying to convince other animated owls of the existence of legendary warrior owls didn’t spark anything in me (see video clip below). But, as my kids were interested in seeing it, when the free screening opportunity arrived, I took it and we went.

In a nutshell, a legend has been passed down through the generations about a band of owls who saved all owl-kind from destruction by another band of evil owls. In one particular owl family you have the one son, Soren, who believes these stories with all his being, and then you have his brother Kludd, who despises Soren for his easy faith. As the story progresses we begin to understand Kludd has acceptance issues in his own family and is jealous of his brother. When both Soren and Kludd are kidnapped by the bad owls, the tension line is drawn between them as Soren sees the devastation of life all around him and makes plans to get help (from the Guardians), while Kludd only sees his own potential for greatness and makes plan to betray anyone who will get in his way.

In an effort to engage with the movie and not just be entertained by it, I pulled out the three classic questions from one of my seminary education classes: What do you observe? What can we affirm? What must we challenge? Only the questions in the van last night looked more like: Let’s talk about the movie. What were some things that you liked that seemed good and right and true? What happened in the movie that made you uncomfortable or didn’t seem OK?

I was pleasantly surprised at just how much my 8- and 6-year-old were able to interact over these questions. We had a great conversation on the way home about family and honor and worth and for what price you would be willing to pay to give those things up. We talked about motive and community and corruption that comes from the quest for power. We discussed the grossness of owl pellets.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie came when the Guardians were saying their oath: “To defend the weak and vanquish the evil.” What a beautiful picture of gospel-living, right in the middle of popular culture-once again, God’s common grace cannot be hidden.

Thirty minutes after the movie ended, when I pulled into our driveway, I was convinced of these things: My girls know how to engage with culture, but I need to start these conversations with them way more than I do. I want my kids to learn to pull these themes of redemption out of the stories they watch and hear. Discernment can be taught, but we have to be intentional in doing so. I got the message loud and clear last night.


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