Faith & Pop Culture: Frozen

This post may be late to the party. After all, the movie was released in theaters two months ago. But I finally got around to seeing it. Date night with my daughter. She loved it.

So did I.

If you haven't heard anything about Frozen, let me give you a quick synopsis - hopefully without giving away any spoilers for those of you who haven't yet seen it.

In Arendelle (a kingdom modled after medival Norway), the king and queen are lost leaving behind two daughters - Elsa and Anna. Elsa has a magical power to create and control snow and ice. The two sisters are raised in isolation and Elsa is taught to control her powers by suppressing her emotions as her powers are enhanced through emotional outbursts - especially in times of great fear. As a result, Anna feels lonely. Her sister won't play with her like when they were kids. She has no memory of Elsa's power and doesn't understand why her older sister spends her days locked in her bedroom.

Elsa faces the public for the first time on her coronation day. This is also the first opportunity for Anna to see what life is like beyond her sheltered existence inside the royal palace. Anna meets and swoons for a prince named Hans who proposes marriage after the two spend the day together. In reaction to the proposal, Elsa loses control of her emotions and her powers manifest in view of all of the guests attending the coronation festivities. She becomes scared and runs into the mountains freezing the kingdom behind her as she flees.

Anna follows believing that she will be able to connect with her sister and convince Elsa to reverse the eternal winter that threatens the safety of Arendelle. Along the way, she gains the help of Kristoff, Sven (Kristoff's reindeer), the rock-trolls that raised Kristoff, and Olaf - a living snowman that wants to experience summer. And there's music - singing in the tradition of Disney animation's classic films.

I won't spoil what happens beyond Elsa's flight into the high mountains. You'll have to watch for yourself. Instead, I have an observation in the contrast of personalities between the sisters.

One lived a life of fear. One lived a life of hope.

Elsa lived in fear that her powers could hurt others. So she locked herself away and buried her emotions. When it got to the point that she could no longer contain the emotional turmoil insider her, she left in fear of what others would think, of what they would do to her, and in fear that she would never be able to control her powers.

Anna hoped for the best. As a kid, she hoped that her sister would come out and play despite the numerous times she had been rejected before. When she grew up, she hoped to see the world beyond the castle walls. She hoped to find love and adventure. When her sister fled, Anna hoped that she would be able to mend her relationship with Elsa. And when circumstances turned dire, Anna clung to hope.

Frozen was inspired by The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. But aside from a scene set in Trondheim's Nidaros Cathedral, there is little religious influence in the story. Yet that conflict between hope and fear shone through the wintry scenery and songs about letting go.

I walked away from the theater reminded of God's command to the nation of Israel: "Do not fear or be dismayed."
Or when Joshua said, "Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid."
Or the Psalmist who wrote, "Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes."
Or when Jesus taught, "Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."

Conversely, the Psalms are filled with hope.
"So, Lord, what hope do I have? You are my hope."
"For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence."
"But I will always have hope and will praise you more and more."
"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope."

Job, despite his pain and loss, recognized a need for hope. "Even if God kills me, I have hope in him."

Then there is the book of Lamentations. For two and a half chapters, Jeremiah does nothing but complain. It's the biblical equivalent of saying "Everything sucks." But in the middle of this book Jeremiah turns a corner in his lament; it is here that you'll find my favorite passage in scripture.

"I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."

Every day, we have the option to be afraid, or to have hope. Choosing the latter does not guarantee an easy road or success or comfort. In fact, hope is often laughed at as foolish. It is let down in failure. It is bruised and wounded in the everyday efforts of living. Yet, given the choice between hope and fear, I choose hope.

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