Recently we had our grade 8 retreat and part of that retreat included an act of service (our theme this year is “Serve with a Joyful Heart”) and the Lion King movie. Now many might be wondering what the Lion King has to do with religion. I admit that, I too was wondering how this related, but after watching it with an “adult” mind, I definitely could see a lot of positive Christian messages. I actually enjoyed watching it so much with my class, at the retreat, that I dragged my husband that night to the theatre where we watched it in 3D. (I strongly recommend it, best theatre experience of my life!)
The main message the students were supposed to be focusing on, was the concept of identity and who you are. As teenagers, it is easy for them to lose sight of who they really are, or to be confused with their “place in this world” (or in the words of Lion King, “you must find your place in the circle of life”). There was also symbolism that was obvious. For instance at the very beginning when Simba was getting ready to be presented, there was a religious ritual, that looked exactly like a baptism!
After watching it the second time, however, I really began to see deeper symbolism (perhaps I am stretching my imagination here, but I really could see so many similarities). I thought that Mufasa’s character reminded me of my heavenly Father, how the villain, Scar, mirrored the devil and how Simba symbolized myself.
Mufasa is the good, loving and caring father and Simba adores him. He is fair and just and his kingdom runs smoothly and peaceful. Then there is Scar who is physically weaker than Mufasa, but uses words in such away as to lead Simba away from Mufasa. He doesn’t try to defeat Mufasa through brute strength, but through manipulation, lies and doubt. Isn’t that the devil to a tee? The father of lies, the chief manipulator.
The entire movie, Scar uses manipulation to get what he wants, and to subtly deceive Simba. Even though it was not Simba’s fault that Mufasa died, Scar convinces him otherwise, and Simba runs away. How often are we like Simba, where the devil places doubt in our minds and we run away from God? Or something bad happens, and we give up on God?
Then enters Timon and Pumba. The carefree friends of Simba who share their philosophy of “Hakuna Matata” with him. Their motto which essentially means “no worries” really reminded me of those ads on the buses in Britain “There is probably no god, now stop worrying and go live your life”. While Timon and Pumba are not bad characters, their message of no responsibility, lead Simba down a path that isn’t him.
There was another part of the movie that really convinced me that Timon and Pumba represented atheism in some ways. It was the part where they are lying down and looking up at the stars trying to figure out what they are. There is Timon’s answer which is matter of fact, and arrogant. Then there is Pumba’s which is the scientific explanation and then they ask Simba. Simba’s response about the stars being the great Kings of the past, generates lots of laughter and mocking by Timon and Pumba. In today’s world it is not uncommon for Christians, or any religion, to be mocked for their “fairytale” beliefs. It is also interesting to note that while this “carefree life” of Hakuna Matata seems so appealing, it is easy to tell that Simba is not completely happy and that there is something missing.
When a childhood friend from his home finally discovers that Simba is alive, she tries to convince him to come back home to help, but he refuses. Later, an upset Simba cries out to his father in the sky “You said you’d always be there for me!” Again how many times do we despair and think that God has abandoned us? Mufasa hears Simba and comes to speak with Simba, and it is at this point that Simba finally gets the courage to go back.
I saw so much symbolism here. How we may want to change, but lack courage and need God’s grace to actually change, it’s not enough to have a friend try and help us. Also when Mufasa told Simba “Remember who you are.” This really reminded me, that through my baptism I am a child of God, and no matter what challenge I face, I know God won’t abandon me.
The last time I had watched this movie I was a kid, but this time it was so interesting to watch it with an adult mind. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I really thought that the movie was full of positive and inspirational messages.