An Unsung Media Hero

74

 When you think of Christian filmmakers impacting the culture, who comes to mind? Is it the Kendrick brothers creating evangelistic indies out of their church in Albany, Ga.? Or maybe it’s a Hollywood power couple like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey producing The Bibleas a miniseries for the History Channel? Both are great examples. But behind the scenes, and without much fanfare, many more Christian artists are shaping mainstream entertainment in subtle ways every day.

On a recent episode of The Official Plugged In Podcast, I spoke with former Disney animator Tony Bancroft about his first directing gig, the 1998 hit Mulan, which is based on a Chinese folktale. I asked Tony if he found it difficult, as a Christian, grappling with the story’s cultural origins and Eastern religion. He said, “I was very blessed and fortunate that my co-director, Barry Cook, was also a believer. It was something I didn’t know about him when I joined the film, but one of the first conversations we had was about our faith. We kind of made a pact up front about how far we would go with certain content and certain elements.”

Of course, it wouldn’t have been appropriate for these men to turn a $100 million Disney feature into a personal soapbox for their Christian faith with baptisms in the Yangtze. No four-point sermons. Rather, their calling involved softening some of the Eastern spirituality.

“Of course, Buddhism and ancestor worship was a big part of that original story, and very culturally relevant in that historical time period,” Tony explained, “so Barry and I really struggled with how to represent that and be true to Mulan’s story without becoming preachy about it. Because it wasn’t something we believed in. It wasn’t something we wanted to put out there in a big way, in a preachy way.”

 Some Christians might argue that these artists shouldn’t have been putting it out there at all. They’d argue that believers have no business devoting time and creativity to a project steeped in spiritual counterfeits. It’s a no-win situation best left to others, they might say. But Tony and Barry realized that, left to others, the result could’ve been a Disney smash that, for generations, would proselytize children as much as entertain them. So they did what they could.

“We found different ways of handling tone. One of them was that the ancestors are kind of a raucous group [in] a crazy family reunion. So when the ghosts rise up out of the bays, it’s a comic sequence. It’s not reverential. That was one of the things we felt strongly about that we infused in there.”

Subtle, but significant. You won’t find encouraging stories like that among Mulan‘s newly released blu-ray bonus features. Yet it says a lot, and is probably more representative of Christians’ impact on entertainment than we realize.

Who wrote this?

Senior Editor for PLUGGEDIN.COM. In addition to hosting the weekly "Official Plugged In Podcast," Bob also writes reviews, articles and Movie Nights discussion guides, and manages areas of this website. He has served at Focus on the Family for more than 20 years. Since 1995, Bob has penned "High Voltage," a monthly column that answers children's entertainment questions in Clubhouse magazine. He has co-authored several books, including Chart Watch, Movie Nights, Movie Nights for Teens and, most recently, The One Year Father-Daughter Devotions. Bob is also co-host of "The Official Adventures in Odyssey Podcast."

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Channing Parker More than 1 year ago

None of this really matters to me no one can sing as good as Beyonce KNowels www.empowernetwork.com/.../earn_more_money

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

@phred

I'm glad to see we agree about something! :)

phred phlinstone More than 1 year ago

@kittylover, Aerin17 is right. Few people will be persuaded by clever arguments but they will take notice of the power of God working in your life. But apologetics is useful for strengthening your own faith.

When you are asking who wrote the Bible I think that you are asking the wrong question. If you think that one person wrote it and that it has one voice, you will soon get hung up on things that look like contradictions. But the Bible was written by lots and lots of different people over a long period of time. It records a conversation about what God is like and what God has done in people's lives. Some of these people disagree and some might get some of the details a little wrong but we're supposed to be paying attention to, and taking part in, the conversation itself.

Too that end, I'm going to recommend an interesting little book, The Meaning of Jesus ( books.google.com/.../Meaning_of_Jesus.html ). It's written by two people who disagree about much in Christianity but that nonetheless recognize each other as friends and brothers in Christ.

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

@kittylover

Great questions! I've had very similar questions before so I'll give you all I got. :)

First up is sacrifice. There were many reasons to sacrifice in the OT, but the largest was to be cleansed of sin. By sacrificing a blemish-less, the Israelites were able to be forgiven. This is also a picture of Jesus though because He was sacrificed as a perfect lamb, for our sins. He is actually called the "Lamb of God many times in the Bible. John 1:36 is a reference for the Lamb of God.

Next is the question, "Who wrote the Bible?" There are actually many answers to this 'cause the Bible had many writers. Paul wrote Romans/Corinthians/Ephesians and many others, but Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter. These are just examples. One thing when you're reading through the Bible you'll notice that some books are more like stories and others more like instruction. For the most part the OT is a recording of events and in contrast many of the smaller NT books are actually letters. Regardless, God used all of the writers of the Bible in His own special way. He was ultimately the author/inspire-er of the Bible.

Last one! This is something I struggled with for a while. I think there's a two-fold answer to it. First, why do bad things happen to good people? One very very very important thing to remember is that no one is "good." We have all sinned and deserve hell. So, why in fact should we expect good things? Now the other question, "Why do bad things happen to Christians?" God uses the hard times to pull us closer to Himself. Romans 8 is a great chapter to read on this subject. From personal experience though, when hard times come, your first instinct will be to become angry to try to protect yourself. However, if you instead surrender it to God, He can use those tough things for your good and His glory. That certainly doesn't mean the hard things are going to up and disappear though. My own trials went on for long after that, but also remember how much Jesus suffered for you. Much, much, much, more then you ever will for Him. And even though God had to abandon Jesus, now through Jesus He will never leave you nor forsake you.

I hope this was helpful!! God bless!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

@kittylover

Check out Ravi Zacharias or Dr. John Whitcomb's sermons. They are two well known apologists and are better able to help your grandad than probably anyone here. Also remember, a consistent Christian testimony in your life is the best way to convince him of the power of God and his need for Him.

kitty lover More than 1 year ago

Hi guys,

My grandad has questions very similar to the ones syd  and return2torah have been asking. Frankly, I need help with the answers. here are a few of the questions. What is the meaning of sacrifice? Who wrote the Bible? and why does bad stuff happen? I have tried to answer these for myself, but I think an input of older more experianced Christians would be greatly appreciated.

;) thanks!

Jonathan Henry More than 1 year ago

Happy Easter everyone!

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

@phred

I still disagree with you. Like I said, those were not the charges against Him. The charges against Him were blasphemy which by Jewish law, meant death. However, as I said before, Jesus was crucified because He came to save us. Not 'cause of the charges against Him. I however don't see any point in continuing this conversation since we both are seemingly unwilling to change our views. Blessings and happy Easter!!

phred phlinstone More than 1 year ago

@Joy, Jesus was most certainly taken to be trying to start a violent rebellion. Crucifixion was reserved for that sort of thing. They didn't hand it out for telling people to treat others the way that you want to be treated. But I don't want to say that Jesus isn't my personal savior, quite the opposite. I'm saying that one piece of the Gospels, Jesus claiming to be the good shepherd, has a very different meaning if you are using that other Bible, the one used by all the Christians who aren't Protestants.

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

I think we can very easily tell that the statement was not taken as being a call to follow Jesus in a fight against the Romans. Pilate found Jesus "without sin," so how could he, as a Roman, ignore something meant against the empire he was part of? Also that was not a charge against Jesus. One more thing I want to clear up is no one "killed" Jesus. He gave His life willingly. I mean how do you kill God? You can't. He gave His life, it wasn't taken from Him. I'm so sorry, phred, that you think Jesus is not a personal savior. The Bible in fact says otherwise. 1 Timothy 1:15 says, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." So we see that in fact Jesus came to be a personal savior. I do hope that you can see this and know Him personally 'cause He's AWESOME!!! (literally.)

Blessings

phred phlinstone More than 1 year ago

@Joy, this isn't about differing translations. That's a problem that is easily dealt with. This is about differing decisions about what to translate. This is more like deciding if we are going to include the Gospel of Thomas.

When Jesus was leaving the temple and declaired "I am the good shepherd" he did so on Chanukah. They were celebrating Judas Maccabeus and what a great shepherd of Israel he was with that violent uprising and all. So when Jesus says "I am the good shepherd" he could have meant that he was calling the peope to get behind him in violent uprising against the Romans, in a way that the Jews would understand but that the Romans would not. Or he could have meant that Judas Maccabeus was wrong in using violence. The statememt is ambigueous, perhaps intentionally. Since the standard penalty for trying to lead a violent uprising against the Romans was crucifixion you can kind of see why that happened to him. With either reading of Jesus' statement you get the sense that he is more about changing the world, who rules whom, then he is about being a personal savior.

The thing is, the story of Chanukah is found in the Greek Old Testament that all Christians except the Protestants use. And knowing that story really changes the way Gospel is understood.

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

Um, okay. It doesn't take an expert to interpret the Bible though. How else would we even be able to study the Bible? And being an expert doesn't automatically make anyone correct. And what I said is based on what I personally believe. My faith is my own. Not based on anyone (save for Jesus) else. I believe what God says is true. However, there's positively nothing wrong with having teachers. I simply try to look at their teaching objectively and see if it lines up with the Bible. If it doesn't there's very little chance I'll trust them.

syd collings More than 1 year ago

Are any of you actually learned theologians or apologists? Otherwise I don't see how you can make an interpretation of the bible and try to pass it off as true and correct. Even if you were a theologian, you'll just be repeating stuff you learned from a professor.

I don't think anyone can claim to be an exprt on the bible.

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

@phred

the tomb question: the different people could have EASILY come at different times.... why not? I mean there are like 24 hours in a day......

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

@phred

I know that there are minor discrepancies due to language translations within the Bible. This is why I think it's always a good idea to look back to the original language the book was written in. In answer to the Scriptures question, I strongly believe Timothy was speaking of the Word of God. True, the whole Bible was not finished, but he still meant the word of God. In response to the James question the original name was Jacob but King James (as in the KJV) changed the name after himself.

phred phlinstone More than 1 year ago

Another thing that will drive you nuts when you are reading the Gospels in Greek, the name is Jacob and not James.

phred phlinstone More than 1 year ago

On the surface the Roman Catholic version might look the same but there are very great differences. The problem is that there are two different versions of the Old Testament and then two different versions of the New. Originally you had, at best, a loose collection of scrolls in Hebrew and Aramaic. then about 200 years before Jesus a Greek translation and collection was made. This was the Bible of the earliest Christians and the Old Testament used by the Orthodox Christians today. In the fourth century a Latin translation was made of the Greek version and that is what the Roman Catholics use. In the ninth century Jewish scholars collected an authoritative version and collection of the texts known as the Masoretic. The two versions are different in a lot of ways most especially in that the Masoretic omits a lot of books. Jews and most Protestants use the Masoretic, though the Episcopalians use the Greek for those missing books.

Over the years of hand copying changes crept into the text of the New Testament. We know this because we have other texts from the Church Fathers that quote things as they were at the time and they don't match up with what we have now. The Orthodox maintain that those changes occurred at the direction of the Holy Spirit and so use the received version. Protestants use one or another, or a combination of several, attempts to get back to the original version. There is one amusing exception. "Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men" is from the Eastern version that Protestants don't otherwise use. In the Greek of the Protestant versions of the New Testament it's "And on Earth peace among men of good will."

phred phlinstone More than 1 year ago

@Joy, in that letter to Timothy Paul doesn't say what counts as scriptures. There was no Bible at the time so it can't mean that. The Gospels weren't written yet. Or perhaps it meant all scripture, written and yet to be written. Does that include the Bhagavad Gita, the I Ching, the Koran?

And the Gospels do contradict each other and on the single most important part of the Bible and all the written word, who where present at the empty tomb and thus the original witnesses to the resurrection.

The whole Bible begins with two completely contradictory accounts of creation. Perhaps that's supposed to  be a clue as to how we are to read the rest, as a conversation not as a repair manual.

Jonathan Henry More than 1 year ago

There are theologians and apologists who would be a much better source of information than those of us here who merely wish to discuss the entertainment industry. But don't just assume belief is always a choice; sometimes it happens to those who don't expect it or even want it when it happens.

Lauren Petiti More than 1 year ago

I also think we got away from the original point of the blog post, that people who work in the film industry can and have been careful about how they handle things that are not in line with their beliefs.

Lauren Petiti More than 1 year ago

I think this argument isn't going to go anywhere because neither of you are going to change your views (although I have to say I agree with Joy more than returntotorah)

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

Also I find it interesting that the lineage of Esau's wives was the same. So maybe the ladies changed their names? Why not? I just really don't find this relevant since there's so much that isn't written that could have happened. Please, Please, PLEASE, give me a good example of a OT to NT contradiction, if for nothing else than for me to think on. Blessings!

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

1 Tim 3:1 when it says "inspired of God" literally means "God-breathed" by the way.

I also think that to have one err in the Bible changes everything. I mean come on, if God can make a mistake just writing a book, where else?

Anna Salisbury More than 1 year ago

So, what if Esau's first three wives died? Or divorced? Or anything else? I mean I still don't see how this is a problem. There's so many things that could have happened to the first three. I still would like to be presented with one truly "good" contradiction from the gospels.

Also 1 Tim is a good verse because it says the Bible is inspired by God Himself. As God does not make mistakes, I cannot see how His Word can contain mistakes either. I believe in not "reading into" the Bible but instead opening myself up to the truth. There's only truth and lies. No in-between. So I choose to read the Bible as God's inerrant word and believe it for what it says.

My mistake about Luke... I forgot about him.... oops!! However, like I said God gave him, and the other writers, the resources that he needed when he needed them which resulted in Luke, the book as we know it. I don't know about Mark.... I'll have to look him up sometime. It could be that just as Peter was not known as "Peter" during his time with Jesus (he was known as Simon until Jesus changed his name) Mark changed his as well. Lots of possibilities out there. Just sayin'.

freedomn christ More than 1 year ago

Now, as to the catholic bible. Please do the google/yahoo search I suggested on the issue. The catholic bible does contain books that the evangelical protestant bible doesn't. Eastern orthodoxy deviates even further. And it goes on and on. As examples. Psalms, Ruth, Maccabbees, Enoch, and many others are included/excluded based upon the denomination. I hope that this helps your search.

I have no desire to go into the contradictions of the gospels on this blog, but they are there. Also the contradictions between the gospels and the "old testament" are almost too many to count.

Matthew was the name selected for the "gospel of matthew", as rumors of a hebrew gospel of matthew permeated the region in that time, but the gospel of matthew was NOT written by matthew. Luke and Mark were not disciples, despite the fact that many people (myself once upon a time) believe they were. Gospel of John has debate about whether it is in the same boat as matthew.

1 Timothy 3:16 is not a verse that can be used to say scripture is perfect and inerrant. Why? Because it doesn't say that it is perfect or inerrant. Lots of verses in the bible are used to support ideas and theories that they don't actually say. I could say that I feel inspired to go to the pool. Someone could falsely say that I said, God told me to go for a swim. But that isn't what I said at all.

Anyway, it doesn't matter what I think. Everyone believes what they choose to believe and reads into scripture whatever they want to see. My view of scripture and what is says is one possible view, the view that I think is most truthful based on my experience, study, and prayer.