Redeeming the Magical from the Horrific

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I would like to add one to Benjamin Franklin’s list. Chris Davis will cry during a Pixar movie. That is as certain as death and taxes. When I see an old grumpy car telling a young race car “You got a lotta stuff, kid” (Cars) or a clown fish hugging his missing son (Finding Nemo) or a montage of two kids growing old together (Up), it turns on the waterworks. Even thinking about the ending of Toy Story 3 gets me misty-eyed. I am a total sucker for these stories.

So I was entirely unsurprised to learn that one of the creative geniuses behind these movies, John Lasseter, is a big hearted man who is easily moved to tears. The November issue of Wired magazine chronicled Lasseter’s journey from his early, disappointing years at Walt Disney Animation Studios to his ground-level role at Pixar to his return to Disney Animation after the company purchased Pixar for $7 billion in 2006.

The Disney executives urged Lasseter and his business partner to put the floundering Disney animation brand to rest and simply make Pixar movies from the historic studio. A childhood fan of Disney movies, Lasseter refused and began rebuilding Disney Animation to be a place where relational connection and strong story would again drive feature films. Seven years later, Frozen, a Disney movie, became the highest grossing animation film of all time. Now the redemption story where Lasseter is a hero brings him to tears. There is beauty and magic in the world after all.

And then I turned the page.

The next article in Wired explored “the soul-crushing world of content moderation, where low-wage laborers soak up the worst of humanity–and keep it off your Facebook feed.” The story begins in a suburb of Manilla where Filipino employees stare at screens for eight hours a day and erase inappropriate pictures and videos that social media users have uploaded. I will spare you even the categories of the horrific material they must erase. An estimated 100,000 employees work for companies that contract with Facebook, Google, and other web companies. For perspective, that is twice the number of Google employees and 14 times that of Facebook. Many of the jobs are outsourced oversees. Those who work in the states usually burn out between 3-8 months on the job. Many of the employees find themselves withdrawing from relationships and struggling to trust anyone.

The juxtaposition of these articles tells the story of Christmas. When “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), God the Son entered into all the worst of humanity. When he was a baby, his mother and adoptive father fled for their lives to another nation. A young Jesus likely passed the crossroads of an entire village that was crucified for not paying taxes to the Romans. During his ministry Jesus was immersed in a world of disease, disaster, human exploitation, and demonic oppression. For 33 years he watched the proverbial screen of the soul-crushing brokenness in our world.

If I were God, I would probably give an order similar to the Disney execs: shut it down. Humanity is too far gone, just axe it and start over. But that is not the story God is telling. His is a story of redemption, not replacement.

As the Creator of the world, God knew the goodness that could be restored. The process–crucifixion for his people’s sins–was more horrific than anything ever censored from YouTube. And the result was more beautiful and magical than any fairy tale Disney could imagine. Through the incarnation, God inhabited the worst to bring out the best.

This Christmas let us express our gratitude for God’s work of redemption and, as we tell it to others, pray that God would bring them to believing, saving tears.

Pastor Chris

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