Monday, January 09, 2006

Popular Pantheism

Whenever I think of the Walt Disney's Movie The Lion King the words to one of the songs from that film pops into my head- "The Circle of Life." Its words are most clearly explained in one particular scene. As the young lion cub and his royal father stroll along the African hillside the King says to Simba, "Everything you see exists in a delicate balance. As the king you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures. From the crawling ant to the leaping antelope." The young Simba then asks, "But dad, don't we eat the antelope?" "Yes Simba," his father says, "but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected; the great circle of life."

It amazed me that I had never seen it before, but in this one scene the beginning of a panthesistic worldview is suddenly presented. Of course its Disney, so its not a full blown religious philosophy, but nonetheless in this popular animated film we have a representation of the ever growing popularity for pantheism and its close cousin panentheism.

By the words pantheism and panentheism I mean that God and the world have such a deep connection that in the first religion God is the world, and in the second God is in the world. In both these religions there is not necessarily a personal God, but rather an impersonal force that is governing the world, a force that is- as the Lion King tells us- in us all. We are all connected. The religion is important to undersand in so much as it affects and comes out in our culture. It amazed me as I sat through my class today and began to hear my professor list of just some of the popular presentations of pantheism and panentheism in the culture. Such films as Star Wars, The Lion King, Grimlins. It comes through in the writings of figures like Depak Chopra and Joseph Campbell. And as well in the ever popular talk show host Oprah.

All of this led me to think more carefully about the things that I have let infiltrate my mind just as the culture at large. I am not on a campaign against the Lion King or any such nonsense, but I have begun to see more clearly how our culture picks up religious conceptions rather by osmosis. By simply being immersed in the culture, having watched Star Wars or Oprah, many people may begin to spout ideas quite inline with pantheism without even knowing it. Infact many do when they speak out in favor of religious tolerance. These popular expressions of false religions today can inadvertantly lead many, both within and without of Evangelicalism, to confess, unbeknownst to them, either pantheism or a general religious pluralism. It is with this in mind that Christians need to think and observer, hear, and read more actively.

Evangelical Christians need to be active viewers of movies and television. That is we need to be aware, concious, of these expressions within and from the popular culture and learn how to argue against them. We live in a day and age where the ignorance of apologetics for most people in the church simply will not cut it. Thus I believe that many churches in doing apologetics with their young people and older people as well are preparing them to talk to the world rationally and from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Not only that but pastors and teachers are also, by teaching apologetics, keeping their flock from being decieved by "empty philosophy" as the apostle Paul says.

So whether you watch the Lion King, or love Star Wars (as I do), or whether your simply a regular viewer of Oprah, you too can and should be concerned about the religions and philosophies being expressed in them- and from that you can deny the Circle of Life, and teach yourself and others about the Godly Life!


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