The Spirit Behind The Lion King
by Berit Kjos
Betrayed, rejected, running from responsibility, growing strong through adversity... Disney's latest box-office hit, The Lion King, is full of Biblical parallels, colorful characters and personal struggles that help us identify with a lovable lion made in the image of man. But watch out! Behind the spectacular scenery and noble sentiments hides the timeless earth-centered view of reality that has always lured God's people from truth to myths.
In other words, The Lion King - like Aladdin - demonstrates an alarming shift in values. While the old fairy-tale cartoons like Snow White linked sorcery to the evil characters, The Lion King uses tribal magic for "good." While most children in the seventies knew enough truth to place divination in the forbidden realm of the occult, today's children - who often feel more comfortable with occult games than biblical truth - see nothing wrong with pagan practices.
The new Disney story opens with a spectacular celebration in honor of Simba, the newborn prince. The animals of the land flock to Pride Rock, where the mystical baboon Rafiki cracks open an egg-like gourd, dips his finger into the dark liquid, and anoints the little lion with a mark on his forehead.
While Pride Nation worships its royal heir, Simba's devious uncle Scar wishes him dead. As soon as the infant king grows to cubhood, he becomes a target for Scar's cruel schemes. The first plot fails, but the next assault kills King Mufasa. Scar blames Simba for his father's death, sends the heartbroken cub into the wilderness, and tells three savage hyenas to finish the execution.
Simba escapes through a web of thorns and collapses under the hot African sun. A warthog and a meercat find the little prince, revive his exhausted body, and teach him a new philosophy: No worries! Hakuna matata!
Back in Pride Lands, Scar and his hyenas reign. The land lies dry and barren. One day, Rafiki looks into his magic gourd and sees Simba's living image. He sets out to find the reluctant heir to the throne, then demonstrates a worldwide pagan traditions: reliance on help from everpresent ancestral spirits.
"I know your father," says Rafiki.
"My father is dead," answers Simba.
"Nope! He's alive. I'll show him to you." The shamanic baboon leads Simba to a pool of clear water. "Look down there."
First Simba sees his own reflection, then the face of his father.
"You see, he lives in you!" says Rafiki.
Simba hears a familiar voice call his name. He looks up. His father's ghostlike image appears among the stars.
"Look inside yourself..." says the apparition. "You must take your place in the circle of life. Remember who you are..." The vision fades.
Simba believes. He sees that the dead are not separated from the living, nor earth from the realm of spirits. Everything is connected. Empowered by a new sense of identity, he races back to Pride Lands to challenge his uncle, win the throne, and restore the land. Soon, Pride Nation celebrates the birth of the next lion prince, the son of Simba and his cubhood friend Nala. Again, Rafiki lifts a royal infant for all to worship. The cycle of life continues.
Consider the following six concerns:
1. King Mufasa tells his son, "Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. They will always be there to guide you... and so will I." This fatherly advice blends the world's timeless trust in astrological guides, spiritism, ancestral worship and multiple gods. The Bible tells us to shun all such expressions of paganism. (Deut. 4:19; 18:9-13)
2. "Simba, everything you see exists together in a delicate balance," explains Mufasa. "As king, you will need to understand that balance and respect all creatures because we are all connected in the great circle of life."
In light of the earlier reference to the "circle of life," we know that this statement moves beyond a biological food chain and natural cycles. Mystical connectedness, the spiritualized circle of life, and respect or tolerance for everything - no matter how evil by God's standards - fit right into contemporary multicultural and environmental teachings. Educators, entertainers and media-leaders promote these pagan concepts as moral ideals needed to save the earth and bring global oneness. In contrast, God's Word tells us that nature-worship and oneness with pagan cultures bring destruction both to land and people. (Deut. 11, 28; Rom. 1:18-32)
3. To "look inside" for wisdom and guidance usually implies that anyone - Christian or not - can tap into an inner source of uncorrupted wisdom, because all are one with some sort of pantheistic deity or cosmic intelligence. Liberated from outside authorities, children can freely follow the destructive ways of ancient Israel, where "everyone did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21:25)
4. Today's attraction for the gross, bad and cruel can be measured in audience responses to evil or ill-mannered characters. In The Lion King, the devilish Scar, the bloodthirsty hyenas and the flatulent warthog drew the loudest laughter. Like the sordid success of Beavis and Butthead, this phenomenon reminds us that in our culture bad is good, and good is boring.
6. The Lion King matches the new earth-centered paradigm or world view that is transforming children's view of reality. While God told us to communicate truth to our children when we "sit... walk...lie down and... get up," (Deut. 6:7) today's culture trains children to see reality through a global, earth-centered filter. This "new" mental framework distorts truth, stretches the meaning of familiar words, and promotes spiritual "insights" that are incompatible with Christianity. Packaged as entertainment, this message usually bypasses rational resistance, desensitizes opened minds, and fuels general acceptance of pagan spirituality.
Families that have already seen The Lion King may still use its pagan context to show the contrasts between God's truths and earth-centered religions. Look together for the many parallels. Point out the vital differences. Remember, the most deceptive spiritual counterfeits look most similar to God's truth. Discuss Scriptures that counter the deceptions. Then thank God for His genuine truth and His life within those who follow Him.
PARALLELS TO PONDER
THE PRIDE LANDS
One day a new king will rule the land In that day, all will bow to the true King The jealous Scar hates the new king Satan hates Jesus and all who follow Him Scar lures Simba onto a deadly path Satan tempts us to choose our own way "We'll always be together," says Simba God will never leave or forsake His own King Mufasa dies to save his son Jesus gave His life for us Scar blames Simba for his father's death Satan accuses Christians Simba runs away, is saved by "outcasts" Samaritan "outcast" helps victimized traveler Simba grows to maturity in exile Moses trained for leadership in the wilderness Simba reluctant to return to responsibility Christians reluctant to obey God "He lives in you... Look inside yourself..." Christ, our King, lives in us.
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