Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Theology Goes to the Movies: Toy Story 3

Pixar and quality films have been synonymous for over 15 years. Many have tried to imitate the graphic quality and rhetorical, comedic and adventure story style but few, if any, have come close to matching their wit and humor. Not to mention their seemingly never-ending ability to create indelible characters. Buzz Light-Year, Woody, Doc, Heimlich and Nemo - just to name a few.

But I rarely watch a movie without thinking theologically. If Confessional Lutheran theology is the most practical thing one can have (and I would argue it is), then it only makes sense to view movies, listen to music, watch plays, observe culture, etc. with this in mind.
For the longest time, I'd always thought of Andy as the "Christ-figure" of the Toy Story movies. Especially given the way he names his toys. If you are Andy's toy you know it. He marks you. He makes you his own. He goes so far as to write his name on Woody's foot. That's when Buzz finally realizes it's good to be a toy. He belongs to someone. He has been named.
And this is the way of the Christian life.

"Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." - Romans 6:5-7

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." - Galatians 3:27

"And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20

"In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you." - Exodus 20:24

That's God's mark. That's His work. He baptizes. He saves. If you are God's child you know it - not by some kind of inner burning of the bosom. Not by some special revelation or secret knowledge. Not by works lest anyone can boast. It's a gift. Plain and simple. Baptized. Buried. Dead and Raised. That's how you know God loves you. He marks you with the blood and water. He makes you His own in the font. He goes so far as to write His Name - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - on you with the sign of the cross, some ordinary tap water and those performative words: I baptize you...for the forgiveness of all your sins. And if that's not enough, He inscribes your name in the Lamb's book of life.

But the Christology of Toy Story goes deeper than one character. There isn't any one character that can embody such incarnate bodied and blooded for you in its fullness and perfection. I came to this realization after watching Toy Story 3.

If you haven't seen it, consider this your spoiler alert! Andy's heading to college and the toys are in a panic. Does Andy want them anymore? What will happen to them? Well, you'll have to see the movie to fill in the gaps but in the end, Andy gives his toys to little Bonnie (who by the way is an adorable little computer-generated girl). He simply gives her all the toys, knowing she'll take good care of them. But this is not yet the "Gospel Handle" as Rev. Francis Rossow would say. The Gospel lies in this statement:

"Now Woody, he's been my pal for as long as I can remember. He's brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he'll never give up on you... ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what."

That's right...He'll never give up on you...ever. He's the great Hound of Heaven. The Shepherd who leaves the 99 to rescue the 1. The woman who searches tirelessly for that lost coin (no this is not an endorsement of feminist theology). The Greater Aslan. The Greater Andy. Our Prophet, Priest and King. The telos of all types. The Greater and second Adam. Christ, the true and only indelible character. His incarnation is the euchatastrophe of mankind and His death and resurrection are the euchatastrophe of the New Testament, indeed, of all human history. And all of this is for you who are buried with Christ in Baptism so that He may drown you into eternal life and raise you as a new creation. Washed. Marked. Saved. Named. Not Andy's, but Christ's.

"For when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." - Titus 3:4-7

So, enjoy the movies and don't forget to take your theology with you.

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