The issue: The LGBTQIA+ movement has become ubiquitous in America, even in communities that are overwhelmingly conservative, rural, and far removed from urban centers. Technology and social media has made the distance between Nebraska and LA virtually meaningless (especially when LA makes all the TV shows people in Nebraska watch). Now, the companies responsible for making children’s movies are overtly planning on making sure that there is LGBT representation in movies. For instance, movies like Pixar’s Seeing Red contains a not-so-subtle endorsement of the same worldview behind transgender ideology; the new Lightyear movie contains a scene where a lesbian couple kiss each other on screen; children’s shows like Blue’s Clue’s included a special Pride Month episode with a Pride parade, led by a drag queen praising transgendered and queer families as they marched along.
The question: What should Christian parents do in light of this? Should we permit our children to watch content like this?
One Answer: One perspective could be that Christians shouldn’t make too big of a deal of this. We need to teach our children that homosexuality and transgenderism are wrong, sure, but we do also live in a world where that is simply a reality. And it is becoming even more apparent as the years go by. Our children are likely going to see homosexual couples holding hands in the grocery store, transgendered individuals perusing the library–it is just a matter of time, so why not let them see these individuals represented in their children’s books, shows, and movies? Mom and dad can talk with them about it afterwards and use that as an opportunity to explain God’s better vision of sexuality and identity.
Another Answer: While I can understand the good intent of that answer above, I believe it contains serious problems that need to be thought through more carefully. While everyone has to choose to draw the line somewhere, and there may be disagreement about where precisely that line should be, I want to present four reasons why I would not want to have my children watch movies that emphasize the sexual and gender ideologies behind the LGBTQ movement.
Children are incredibly impressionable and stories are incredibly powerful. We should not expect our children to have the mental or emotional maturity to parse out: this hero did something good and saved the day, but I don’t agree with their sexual lifestyle. Children’s minds and hearts are shaped massively through stories. Yes, your children may see a gay couple walking through Walmart, but they do not see that gay couple framed in a narrative where they accomplish some remarkable heroic feat, where a crude villain attempts to ostracize them, maybe even because of their love for one another. We are drawn to stories not merely because they are entertaining, but because they present to us ideals and virtues we find attractive. So, naturally, what movies and stories we imbibe will shape our own values. Before we introduce a movie or story to our children we should ask, “What worldview does this story promote? What does this tell us about what is true, good, and beautiful? Does this make sin look attractive and godliness look ugly?” Of course, we can teach our children to respect and love members of the LGBTQ community, to not respond to them with self-righteous smugness in the same way we can treat them to do with that with all people. We do not need to put LGBT individuals in movies to accomplish that.
A story is a fabricated narrative that is being told with intent. All characters and scenes and plot are chosen deliberately. And in today’s climate, LGBT characters are going to be included in movies and shows with the intent of making that lifestyle seem attractive, good, and normal. In movies we see courage and love and selflessness embodied in a character that we connect with emotionally, and are thus transformed emotionally through the story, often in ways that we aren’t fully cognizant of. It is simply naive to assume that your six-year-old will have the same ability to compartmentalize as you do. Children are wet-cement, so we should be especially careful about what we let form and shape them. If you give your child unfettered access to the internet, if you just put them in front of a screen and let them watch TV constantly, you may teach them everything about what the Bible says, but you will have already lost their heart and imagination.
The aim of these narratives is to undermine Biblical sexual ethics. With the power of stories already given, it becomes even more dangerous when there is an overt Agenda being pushed through the movie or TV show. It confirmed what many feared when a Disney executive made it known that her intent was to “inject queerness” into their content wherever she could through highlighting LGBT characters. “Queerness” is not the same thing as expanding the options for sexuality from “straight” to “gay”; where there once was one option, now there are two, or three. Queer theory wants to eradicate distinctions and categories entirely–there are infinite options. It wants to show that everything that we take to be “normal and natural” in sex, gender, and identity are really just constructs of society that have no essential basis in reality. So, heterosexuality and gender-distinctions are no more “essential” than accents, mannerisms, or other cultural traditions.
Queerness is an attempt to be deliberately transgressive, to flaunt those traditional boundaries in order to show that they are merely constructs. All of that to say, the intent behind these movies and shows isn’t merely to tell stories that just so happen to include LGBT people, but to undermine the very idea of categories around sexuality that we take for granted, that we believe are vital for human flourishing. Much like the low-budget Christian movies that are regularly churned out, these kinds of movies and stories are thinly veiled sermons that focus on making the message unavoidable.
Teach your children, or someone else will. Far better than relying on Pixar or a Pride celebration at your local library to introduce this topic, do it yourself. When you believe that your child is old enough to begin having these conversations, talk with them about it. My oldest is 5 and a half, and my wife and I are thinking that we may need to have this conversation with him soon. Teach your children about God’s good design of men and women, that their bodies are a gift given to them by God, that their male-ness or female-ness is a joy and glory to be celebrated. Teach them about God’s happy design for marriage, families, and sex. Teach them that all people are made in the image of God and deserve our love and respect, including the people around us who are currently not walking with Jesus. So we treat our gay or transgendered neighbors with the same love, respect, compassion, and care we would treat anyone else–even as we pray for and plead with them to come to King Jesus. You have to teach your children about sex and gender–much earlier than you probably think– or someone else will.
Not all sin is the same. We want our children to realize that any sin brings God’s judgment, and any sin can be forgiven through the blood of Christ. The only unforgivable sin is the sin that isn’t confessed and repented of. However, the Bible seems to understand that the consequences of some sin are greater than others. “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error,” (Rom 1:26-27). Paul understands that homosexual sin is unique in that it results in what is “contrary to nature” and “the due penalty for their error.” There are real, tragic consequences for subverting God’s design.
Very simply: nature–our very anatomy–teaches us that a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, cannot come together in sexual union the same way a man and a woman can. When a man and woman come together in sexual intercourse not only are they anatomically fitted for one another, but they also have the unique opportunity to bear the fruit of sexual intercourse: children. So, while all sin is equal in that it must be repented of and brought to Christ for forgiveness, homosexual sin, according to Paul, is a unique display of mankind’s rebellion and God’s “handing us over” to our own folly. We do not want to soften the hard edges of what the Bible wants us to look at and think: Yikes, that is dangerous. So, while we rightly don’t want our children to be motivated by self-righteous superiority to those whose sexual sin looks different than their own, we also don’t want to take something that Paul says should be shameful and make look normal.
Perhaps you think this is overblown, that movies in the past have depicted other things like violence or magic or other things we wouldn’t want our children to emulate. Many Christian parents are fine with their children reading Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, despite them being filled with violence and magic. While that is technically the tu quoque fallacy, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to argue about why those books are fundamentally different than what I am talking about here: Children are not being encouraged to undergo procedures that cause irreversible damage because they are reading too much J.R.R. Tolkien. But there is an epidemic of children, girls in particular, who are being given hormone blockers or having their breasts cut off because of transgender ideology. At one point, this may have sounded alarmist, but I am guessing that everyone reading this article now knows someone who has recently come out as trans. What I am advocating for here is to think more seriously about what happens upstream from those 13 year old girls who suddenly are convinced they are really a boy.
Chris Evans, the voice of Buzz Lightyear in the new movie, when asked about the same-sex kissing scene in Lightyear, responded: “The goal is that we can get to a point where it is the norm, and that this doesn’t have to be some uncharted waters, that eventually this is just the way it is.” In other words, we should expect to see more and more overt displays of this kind of sexuality and gender issues represented in our children’s movies and TV shows.
Parents need to begin to do more than check to make sure the movie is rated “G” or “PG” before turning it one for the kids and walking away. Lest we find that our children have been discipled, have had their hearts and imaginations captured by characters that they love, characters who tell them that the only people who won’t let “love be love” are people motivated by fear, ignorance, or hatred.