Maybe Disney Isn’t the Only Problem – Maybe the Real Problem is Us

People don’t like preachy stories.

That’s what Christian writers hear all the time. Avoid preaching! Focus on telling a great story!

Beware of agenda-driven writing! If you want to make a point, write an essay or a non-fiction book but keep your stories pure. Your biblical worldview will infuse them organically so leave the message to the Holy Spirit. You focus on excellent creative writing and truth. Nothing drains creativity faster than preachiness.

Over and over, leaders in the Christian publishing industry drill these types of messages at conferences, workshops, and in private audiences with aspiring Christian writers.

Apparently, some of the writers at Disney didn’t get the memo that people don’t like preachy stories. And this fear of draining creativity is lost on them.

That doesn’t, however, make it less true. There’s no faster way to lose your audience than to preach at them.

There has been uproar in the past few weeks related to a report that some writers at Disney have been given carte blanche to insert LGBTQ characters liberally throughout their stories. There is a danger in using children’s stories to promote an unbiblical agenda but it’s not as if this is the first step Disney has ever taken in this direction.

I’m reminded of a time decades back when a friend called me, outraged that the sitcom Cheers had introduced a gay character. This would be the end of her watching Cheers, she assured me.

I enjoyed watching Cheers, but it wasn’t lost on me that the show was set in a bar and revolved around a narcissistic lothario with no sexual boundaries – hardly upstanding biblical material even before this development. I understood my friend’s dismay but seriously, if we’re going to get self-righteous about it, shouldn’t that have kicked in earlier than the gay character?

We should be concerned about the stories we tell our children and just as concerned about the stories we tell ourselves. The problem is that Satan is crafty and disguises himself as an angel of light. Our discernment needs to kick in long before the obvious offenses to the biblical message appear.

Is the focus of a story (movie, TV show, novel) the benefit of riches, the joy of pursuing self above all else, or the celebration of skill over character? Are the evil characters more fascinating than those that choose good? Is the hero willing to lie, steal, or engage in other nefarious behavior to achieve her goals? What emotions does the story evoke? Dissatisfaction with life? Shame? Anger? Self-righteousness? Judgmentalism? Are the Jesus-loving characters respected or mocked? True-to-life or caricatures? Representative of Christians you know or of negative stereotypes?

The problem isn’t really with Disney. The problem is with our acceptance that the passive consumption of stories as entertainment is innocent and without consequence. And that we leave our children alone with stories that are not representative of the greater truths but that imaginatively engage them in the lesser stories of this world.

As I’ve perused multiple streaming services lately, I can assure you that Disney isn’t the only production company weaving condescending, agenda-driven messages into their stories. If I want to hear a culturally-informed agenda-driven sermon, I can turn to Netflix, HBO, Prime, or Hulu any hour of the week.

And nothing has proven to me more that preachiness drains creativity and reduces even highly produced stories to stale, dry sermons.

But, we’ve lost our appetites for richly woven kingdom-infused stories and choose to satisfy our souls and minds by munching on the junk food of modern media believing one weekly worship service will rid our minds of a week spent consuming dark lies disguised as light.

So, don’t rail at Disney. Disney will only produce what we’re willing to buy.

I’m not rigid and prudish about my story consumption. I don’t limit myself to only clean fiction or only Christian programming by any means (which the range of streaming services to which I subscribe should testify).

But, I do ask questions as I watch. I do check in with myself about what emotions the story is evoking. When I catch myself passively consuming, I ask what thoughts or feelings are rising to the surface and if those are thoughts and feelings I want to cultivate. If not, I change the channel.

We are hard-wired for stories. There is incredible power in the stories we tell our children and the stories we tell ourselves.

Disney writers themselves will testify – storytelling is serious business. It’s certainly not child’s play.

I believe in freedom of expression for all people and wouldn’t restrict others from telling the stories they dream of telling any more than I’d welcome restrictions on my freedom to tell the stories bursting from me.

In fact, if you’re paying attention, you’ll see that even “secular” storytellers are sometimes telling the truth. The TV show Scandal had few redeeming qualities but its central message, marvelously illustrated week-after-week was that sin always leads to death. Powerful biblical truth will emerge from the most unexpected stories.

So, while storytellers have certain powers, consumers of stories can enhance or reduce these powers by being discerning listeners and by encouraging biblical storytellers and creators.

  • Demand stories full of truth. Insist on stories that reflect the actual nature of God, evil, humanity, and the wonder of redemption in Christ.
  • Know God’s story – from beginning to end and pray for discernment for you, for your children, and for your grandchildren.
  • Support great, true storytelling with your money, time, and your words. Ask for wisdom, creativity, and a gentle, Christ-like spirit when reviewing lesser stories, lest you drive the creators further from the gospel.
  • Set high expectations of Jesus-loving storytellers. Don’t settle for stories with the Christian label slapped on them but look for those that are clearly informed by sanctified and biblically informed creativity and imagination.
  • Teach your children well. Help them engage with great stories and discuss lesser ones together to root out the lies and half-truths. Cultivate children with discerning story palettes and appetites for truth well-told.
  • And look for the storytellers in your midst. Pray for God to raise up great and godly storytellers. Then, take seriously their gifts in the work of the kingdom and invest in them, pray for them, and support their work, even in its unpolished infancy.

It’s right to take a hard look at what Disney is producing right now but it’s also right to take a look at ourselves.

We are the people entrusted with the greatest story and full of the Holy Spirit, empowered to deliver His truth.

What effort are we making to create the best stories? And what are we allowing to capture our imaginations and the imaginations of our children?

This headline is our opportunity to rise to our calling and elevate not only the stories we’re consuming but also the one we’re living.


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15 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love this! So much truth!

  2. Loretta says:

    Shortly. Presently we are living in a broken world, as most Christians should know. Everything goes more than ever before 😢😢. This fact is not an excuse to “live and let live!” Thank you, Lori. Please keep taking a stand and may the Lord bless you??

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Lori for getting to the crux of the matter and challenging me!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I kicked out my tv years ago, and especially in our day and age, i have NO regrets whatsoever. Even advertisements promote false ideas about what is important, and what is not. My “poor”grandkids are now “forced” to play with each other here in my home …..and I ❤️it!!!🤗😊😆

  5. Mark & Karen says:

    Good stuff, Lori. KEEP PRESSIN’ ON!

  6. Jan Clough says:

    God forgive us for our apathy for not standing up for truth. God forgive us for allowing ourselves to be entertained by intentional (or unintentional) inappropriate films and TV programmes in the name of ‘chilling out’ . Do we feel good about them, no, so why do we watch them. God forgive me and thank you for challenging me recently. Lori you have just confirmed Gods challenge with your word today. Thank you for the timely reminder that precious time is indeed wasted when that precious time could be wisely put to better use in glorifying God Amen!

  7. John & Lena says:

    Spot on again, Lori. Worldview is everything. Those who write or produce or pontificate do so with a worldview behind it and often with an agenda for it. Truly, we need to consider what we consume and push away from the world’s table when it is no more than junk food. As you said, one service (or two or three) will not serve to cleanse our hearts of the garbage we swallow into our souls–and how much more our children. God bless, keep up the good work. Praying for you over here.

  8. Katherine says:

    That was extremely well-written and thought-provoking. Thank you.

  9. Pam Halter says:

    We Christians love to hand-pick our favorite sins to hate, don’t we? I read in a book about Harry Potter years ago that the lesser of two evils is still evil. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the books themselves, but it did help me teach my daughter that the ends don’t always justify the means.

    I also saw a meme on FB that said, “I’m sorry my gay marriage offends your 5th marriage.” Wow. Talk about in your face! Especially as my sister just left her 5th husband.

    Sin is sin, no matter what it looks like. And it always separates us from God. And the penalty of sin is death. I hate sounding preachy, but there you have it.

    I’m not a prude, either. I enjoy lots of movies/books that are not Biblically based. But I agree with everything you said, Lori. We really do need to be careful what we watch and read. Our brains store EVERYTHING.

    Thanks for this post!

  10. Tammy Breeding says:

    Well said. I have noticed that the stories being told on the popular streaming channels are getting darker and more provocative.

  11. Maureen says:

    Thank you for this. One word summation—TRUTH!

  12. Grampa Bob says:

    This is very true, too much of our time is wasted relaxing infront of a square box being allegedly entertained with cesspools of violence, sex, filthy language which is called drama. We should be very concerned about the number of Christian people who tune in every hour of the day to the multiple channels of such. Lord refocus our attention on You, and help us to relax in Your presence and Your Word.

  13. Dave Hill says:

    Thank you, really appreciate all that you said. Have a wonderful, blessed day.

  14. Dave Hill says:

    Amen! Really appreciate what you have stated. Have a wonderful, blessed day.

  15. Rob McCullough says:

    Well done and said Lori! Thank you for sharing your heart in this matter.