What Frozen Taught Me About How to Read the Bible

Elsa          Frozen is one of those movies that stay with you. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I watched it again last week. Like most people I could empathize with Elsa’s longing to disappear into the mountains, away from friends and family, free of their rules and expectations, free to quit pretending, to be me. It’s a universal feeling, one that I think we’ve all felt.

 

            I love the second verse especially:

 

            It’s funny how some distance

            Makes everything seem small

            And the fears that once controlled me

            Can’t get to me at all

           

            It’s time to see what I can do

            To test the limits and break through

            No right, no wrong, no rules for me

            I’m free!

 

            There’s something so stirring about seeing a heroine growing in confidence, casting off the constraints that have bound her and soaring through wind and sky. Haven’t you ever felt that calling, that longing to forget what everyone else tells you you have to be and just be what you have to be?

 

            And yet I don’t for a moment think the writers fully endorse Elsa’s perspective. I got to wondering how they made Frozen and was surprised to learn that initially Elsa was supposed to be the villain. But when Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez sat down and started writing “Let It Go,” they began trying to imagine what it would be like to be her, to carry her emotional burdens: “this concept of letting out who she is, that she’s kept to herself for so long, and she’s alone and free, but then the sadness of the fact that the last moment is she’s alone. It’s not a perfect thing, but it’s powerful.”

 

            Elsa’s self-imposed isolation is hurtful to her sister and ruinous to the kingdom. The writers aren’t encouraging this, as is clear by the end of the movie. “Let It Go” comes at a place in the movie where the heroine is just beginning her emotional journey, hurt and confused but filled with a longing to transcend her meager surroundings and be confident and powerful. But to understand what the movie thinks about all this, we have to follow that emotional journey all the way to the end.

 

            It’s a precarious balance, but I think the writers got it mostly right. Because we could so easily say, “Elsa was wrong to feel that way!” But the truth is, while her feelings may not always be what we’d want them to be, what they “should”be, they’re a part of the human experience, and that’s beautiful.

 

            We have grace for Elsa because she’s so human. And I wish we could read the Bible in the same way we watch Frozen.

 

            So many people have tried to argue with me about the meaning of the Scriptures. You see, they don’t think I take the Bible seriously enough because I have reservations about some of the scarier passages in the Old Testament, the ones about killing children (Ps. 137:9) or stoning women who are raped (Deut. 22:23-25) or slaughtering whole nations. These are the ones they demand I believe in. “If you don’t believe the whole Word of God,” they insist, “you’re a false teacher!”

 

            And it raises some interesting questions, like: Why these passages? Why does no one ever demand a “literal reading” of, “Love your enemies,” or, “If you forgive others, you will be forgiven”? Why are you making, “Destroy all that they have, and do not spare them” the hill that you die on? What does that say about you?

 

            The truth is, like Frozen, the Bible has some very human elements. Human writers and human heroes expressed things that are often not appropriate. They did not always hear God correctly, and their image of God was not always accurate. Because the Bible is a story, and in order to grasp its full meaning you have to read it all the way to the end. There’s a twist at the end of the story, and the twist is Jesus.

 

            The Psalmist said, “Happy is the one who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rocks.”

 

            Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”

 

            Moses said, “You shall conquer them and utterly destroy them.”

 

            Jesus said, “Put away your sword.”

 

            David prayed, “Let there be none to extend mercy.”

 

            Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

 

            In the same way our knowledge of Hans, Anna’s fiancé, is dramatically altered by his self-revelation at the end of Frozen, the Israelites’ perception of God is dramatically altered by the self-revelation of Jesus.

 

           In the first case, the one we had trusted turned out to be a villain and deceiver.

 

           In the second, the one we had feared turned out to be gentle and good.

 

           And that’s really the message of the whole Bible: we thought God was like this; but all along, he was really like this.

 

           We thought God was proud and lofty. But he was meek and lowly.

 

           We thought he would execute vengeance. But he himself was executed.

 

           We thought he would take up the sword and kill. But he took up the cross and died.

 

          It’s the greatest of all surprises—a twist like no other.

 

            But we’ll never grasp what it means unless we read to the end. You can cut up the Bible into pieces and make it say whatever you want, just as you can take “Let It Go” out of Frozen and make a compelling argument for isolation and selfishness. But the true heart of the story is found in its closing scenes, in sacrifices made and love rekindled.

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15 thoughts on “What Frozen Taught Me About How to Read the Bible

  1. This is so powerful, Boze. I’m sitting here on the verge of tears, taking it all in. I was just singing the second verse you quoted last night as an anthem of freedom, a freedom in Christ that I had only just written about a few days earlier. So, it’s giving me chills to now read your words connecting the two. And I love your description of Jesus as “the greatest of all surprises — a twist like no other.” Incredibly insightful and inspiring piece, truly.

  2. This was beautiful, Boze. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    That section in “Let in Go” that you quoted almost made me cry the first time I heard it because, after leaving a very abusive church, I felt like I could relate so much: “It’s funny how some distance / Makes everything seem small / And the fears that once controlled me / Can’t get to me at all”

    Sometimes when I’m feeling nervous about blogging about stories that happened at my ex-church, I sing that section to myself, ha ha.

    Anyway, loved the post!

    • I totally understand. Given that we’ve both come out of abusive environments and had to fight to be ourselves and not let anyone tell us what we had to be, it doesn’t surprise me at all that we would both be affected by this song so powerfully. In a way, Elsa is singing for all of us who for so long didn’t have voices of our own.

      • Yes, exactly! It made me come so close to tears because that’s exactly how I feel — like I’ve gotten some distance, getting prospective, and finally finding my voice.

        I always have mixed feelings when I find another survivor of spiritual abuse’ blog — it’s nice to feel less alone but sometimes I wish I was the only one; I wish no one else had dealt with any of it. I’m appreciating reading your blog, Boze. Keep writing.

  3. Aaaah, Boze, I wish i’d written this, it’s so beautiful. Believe it or not I haven’t yet seen Frozen (yes, I know I should be locked up or something) but I feel like I understand most of what’s going on due to good friends having seen it and related many parts to me. and then this. Amazing writing as ever! Thanks for your wisdom and insights 🙂

  4. Thank you for this! I haven’t seen Frozen, but after this post, i may want to. I really like the analogy, and the way you present Christ. I can relate.

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