Toward the film’s end, my twenty-one-year-old daughter was so moved she wept. We’ll return to her later. Clearly, there’s something to this movie that deserves discussion.
Here’s the part where some well-meaning Christian writers’ Popular Culture Engagement vehicles could swerve into ditches.
In ditch 1, you grind into the “it’s all basically pagan and besides shouldn’t we preach another sermon anyway” gravel.
In ditch 2, you sink into the “it’s all so full of grace and truth and beauty so why are all the idols only in our churches?” quicksand.
Ted Turnau doesn’t do that. I know this because I know Ted, even though I haven’t read the full article because I haven’t yet watched Soul and this article is full of spoilers. Yet here’s a non-spoiler excerpt that helps show how Christians can better explore any story’s common graces and idols:
There is an important sense in which the film gets our eternal hope both right and wrong. What it gets right is its focus on the beauty of life on earth. The Bible is clear: that is our final destination. Not disembodied souls sitting on clouds playing harps (you get some of that cloud imagery in Soul’s Great Before). Rather, we will have new glorified bodies on a new glorified earth. The stuff we find beautiful here we will regain (imagine tasting a glorified slice of New York pizza!). But this will be creation renewed, cleansed of sin, darkness, and pain. By focusing on life on earth, the film actually gives us a better picture of what our ultimate hope should be: not heaven “up there” but a renewed life right here.
What the film gets wrong about our final destination is that it makes heaven boring.
Read more at “The Hidden Grace of Pixar’s Soul.”
Meanwhile, learn more about this method of popular culture engagement, with special applications to parents, in The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ.