HERCULES -- A COUNTERFEIT SAVIOR?
by Berit Kjos
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A kind-hearted character, hair-raising action, and fun, fast-moving images have a way of planting politically correct notions while bypassing rational scrutiny. Even Christians tend to flow with the story and feel relieved when young Hercules conquers evil, restores peace, and earns a hero's welcome among the gods.
But what forces really win in the latest Disney animation? How do the enticing images affect "cultural consciousness" in today's fast-changing world? And why are Disney movies important to the consensus process - the public acceptance of an evolving set of global beliefs and values that rule out Biblical truth?
Following in the footsteps of other contemporary myth-makers, Disney has spun a new tale out of the ancient story of Hercules-the not-so-nice strong-man in the ancient Greek pantheon of self-loving gods made in the image of man. In this new story, the gods are good. Our hero is born to the mighty Zeus and his loving wife Hera, who reign on Mt. Olympus where family values abound. Everyone loves the radiant little baby destined to be "the strongest of all the gods."
Everyone, that is, but Hades, the god of the underworld. He plans to take over Mount Olympus, and only Hercules stands in his way. "Eighteen years hence," prophesy the Fates, when the planets will be "in perfect alignment," Hades will release the monstrous Titans and dethrone Zeus. "But," the Fates tell Hades, "should Hercules fight, you will fail!"
Hades sends the demons Pain and Panic to destroy the little god. But a childless couple, Amphitryon and Alcmene, find the kidnapped baby before he swallows the last drop of a magic potion. Hercules becomes a mortal but retains his supernatural strength.
"For so many years we have prayed for a child," says Alcmene. "Perhaps the gods have answered us." It makes sense in a movie that makes Zeus look as loving as God.
Eighteen years later, the strong, awkward Hercules feels the pain of being different. He can neither control his strength nor understand his purpose. "Maybe the gods will have the answers," he tells his adoptive parents, then heads for the temple of Zeus. There he kneels in prayer before a massive statue of the god. It comes alive, and Zeus promises his son, "If you can prove yourself a true hero on earth, your godhood will be restored."
Hercules finds a professional hero-trainer (a satyr, part man and part goat), prepares himself for the battles ahead, and sets out to conquer evil. After killing a centaur, a many-headed serpent, and countless other monsters, he returns to Zeus to claim his godhood. His father seems pleased but not satisfied. "Being famous does not make you a true hero."
"What more can I do?" asks the boy.
"Look inside your heart," answers his father, sounding as wise as the spirit of Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas.
Meanwhile, the seductive Meg, enslaved to the evil Hades, is falling in love with the wholesome hulk. To free her, Hercules makes a bargain with her owner and gives Hades the opportunity he has long awaited. As the planets move "into perfect alignment," a huge pit in the ocean splits open, and the Titans are released. But Hercules has bargained away his strength.
With Meg dying and Mount Olympus invaded by beasts from the pit, Hercules finally proves to be a genuine hero. His strength restored, he nobly gives his life for the woman he loves. In self-sacrifice, he wins his divinity - and returns to life and Mt. Olympus as "the greatest hero of all time."
THE MYTH BEHIND THE STORY.
The ancient Greek myth shows a different picture. Like the shape-shifting deities of Native American shamanism, Zeus would transform himself into anything he chose. To create Hercules, he merely took the shape of the human warrior Amphitryon and lay with his wife, Alcmene. She gave birth to the half-god Hercules.
Raging with jealousy, Zeus' wife Hera initiated a string of challenges designed to undermine the power of her husband's illegitimate offspring. Hercules' own fiery temperament fit right into her plan.
After winning a war that began when he cut the nose and ears off a royal messenger, Hercules married Megara, the daughter of the conquering king. Unlike Disney's seductive Meg, she didn't please him. Confused by the Fury of Madness sent by Hera, Hercules massacred his wife and children.
As punishment for his crime, the Oracle at Delphi sentenced him to serve Hera's favorite king Eurystheus. Among his twelve lethal assignments were battles against the nine-headed serpent and Cerberus, the dog-like guardian of the underworld. To the king's dismay, the superhero survived each trial.
But a new string of murder, monster-bashing, romance and revenge, led to Hercules' poisoning. Driven by excruciating pain, he built his own funeral pyre. As the flames rose around the dying hero, a cloud descended from the sky, and with a thunderous display of lightening, Zeus lifted his son from human sight and up onto Mount Olympus to enjoy eternal bliss with the immortals.
With Aladdin, Disney introduced a "new genre" of multicultural movies that would challenge the old monotheistic beliefs of the Western world and build acceptance for the world's earth-centered religions. This politically correct attitude would help establish the new global spirituality needed to unify the world around a common set of beliefs and values. The Lion King and Pocahontas popularized pantheism (all is god, everything is connected) and monism (all is one). Hercules promotes polytheism (many gods). All three help desensitize viewers of all ages to the pagan beliefs and rituals God forbids in His Word.
To popularize Greek gods in a culture that rejects God's warnings but values His goodness, Disney had to re-invent the old characters. The mythical Hercules who would have sex with fifty young women in a single night was unacceptable. The old stories had to be idealized-just as today's classroom stories about the world's pagan cultures had to be purged of all negative facts.
Actually, pagan religions have always been counterfeits of truth. Since God created everything, Satan could only counterfeit the good that God created-including His wisdom and prophetic messages. It's no surprise that the story of the fall in Genesis 3, the promise of a Savior, and the image of a young mother with child would spread around the world, inspiring counterfeit creators, saviors, divine mothers, and god-man babies.
For those who don't know God and His Word, Hercules makes a good imitation. Together, the original Greek myth and the Disney movie bring the following signs of a counterfeit christ:
Like Israel in Old Testament days, God's people today are surrounded by pagan values, images, and rituals. To guard your children against these deceptions, teach them to "put on the whole armor of God"-an outline of the basic truths needed to expose and counter paganism. (Ephesians 6:10-18) Since today's most dangerous deceptions are the distorted views of God, the primary truths to speak and remember are His own revelations about Himself in Scriptures. Next, affirm the other truths of the armor-the truths about His righteounsness, peace, faith or trust, salvation, and the living Word.
Walking in His righteousness means first being filled with His righteous life so that we can love and follow His ways. Today, as in the days of Moses, God warns His people to shun "other gods, the gods of the people all around you." (Deuteronomy 6:14) He continues with a New Testament warning: "Walk as children of light... finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them... . Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:8-11, 17)
Perhaps God's will concerning paganism is best stated in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
"What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? ... And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. Therefore come out from among them and be separate," says the Lord. "Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters."
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To understand today's social and spiritual transformation and to equip your child for spiritual warfare, read Brave New Schools (Harvest House Publishers). Available through Christian bookstores or call 800-829-5646.
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