What to Do with Disney…
Disney has sparked debate for Christians for decades. Is it a trustworthy source for harmless entertainment for kids? Is it a progressive organization intent on indoctrinating your kids with a secular sexual worldview?
Listen to comments by Disney producer and director Latoya Raveneau at a recent executives’ meeting and decide for yourself:
“In my little pocket of Proud Family Disney TVA, the showrunners were super-welcoming. Meredith Roberts and our leadership over there has been so welcoming to my not-at-all-secret gay agenda.…I don’t have to be afraid….Wherever I could add queerness in the show I would…no one would stop me, and no one was trying to stop me.”
In case you missed it, leaked videos recently surfaced of meetings with high-ranking members of Disney, slamming Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill (pejoratively called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) as well as discussing their own goals for the company when it comes to advancing LGBTQ+ representation and normalization. The videos revealed that many of Disney’s highest-paid employees are not shy when it comes to pushing a sexually progressive agenda on our children.
How should we respond? After all, at this point, almost every major company you can name is donating to a cause you probably don’t agree with. If you want to buy groceries from a store you’re sure isn’t donating to Planned Parenthood, for example, I hope you have a big backyard, because you might need to grow your own food. The idea that Christians should never interact with a business that promotes values that contradict their faith is tricky.
“The idea that Christians should never interact with a business that promotes values that contradict their faith is tricky.”
Needing to buy groceries is one thing. But when it comes to the entertainment that we feed our children, we’re talking about time, money, and energy over which we have a higher level of freedom. As I’ve been thinking through my own choices in this area of my family’s life, here are some principles I’ve found helpful. I hope these principles help you as well as you navigate these issues.
Principle: Childhood entertainment is formative.
The entertainment your children grow up on is formative. It leaves a lasting impression on their minds as well as their spirits.
James K.A. Smith wrote that “Jesus’s command to follow him is a command to align our loves and longings with his—to want what God wants, to desire what God desires, to hunger and thirst after God and crave a world where he is all in all—a vision encapsulated by the shorthand “the kingdom of God.”
The media, songs, stories, and adventures you take your kids on are teaching them what to love. Their worldview, even from a young age, is being formed by these things. And so is yours. If there was a time when children’s media was neutral (I’m not sure there ever was), that time has passed. Movies, shows, books, and songs are not just “harmless fun.” They are teaching your child what is true, good and beautiful.
“They are teaching your child what is true, good and beautiful.”
The music we sing along with as children? At age 40, they will still be able to sing those songs that you’re so tired of hearing word-for-word. Every. Single. Day. There are plenty of studies that show the elderly who lose their long-term memory can amaze us with their memory of music. Music allows us to “chunk” lyrics together by linking words and phrases in a tune. The melody and rhythm act as a framework to which we can attach the lyrics. Few things stimulate the brain the way music does. Music isn’t neutral.
What impact do you think having your sweet three-year-old sing “No right, no wrong, no rules for me,” all day is going to have on what they think is acceptable? You encourage what you allow.
The music kids listen to and the movies they watch teach them what is true, good, and beautiful. So, when it comes to entertainment and our kids, it doesn’t need to be easy, it needs to be intentional.
Principle: Building character takes sacrifice.
Christian society in the Western world has become so alienated from the idea of discomfort and Christianity going hand-in-hand that the idea of canceling Disney+ is too hard to consider. The thought of not taking your kids to Disney World seems cruel.
What would my kids watch? They would miss out on so much! I loved going as a kid! How will they know pop culture?!
Yet living a sacrificial Christian lifestyle goes so far beyond relatively easy choices such as deciding to not go to Disney World or not taking your kids to watch the movie all their friends are talking about. It’s laying down what’s convenient but corrupting in this life, knowing that by Jesus’s sacrifice we are not only made perfect in a one-time event, but are also being made holy day-by-day (Hebrews 10:14). Intentionally choosing holiness takes work. It’s not easy. But was it ever supposed to be?
“Intentionally choosing holiness takes work. It’s not easy. But was it ever supposed to be?”
Let’s go back to the gospel and remember what real sacrifice looks like. Maybe we need to learn more about our brothers and sisters in Hebrews 11. These are faithful followers of God whose faith meant giving up homes, riches, comforts, and even lives. Let’s use them to inspire us to sacrificial living.
Principle: Parenting wisely takes intentionality.
I’m not trying to imply that you should never turn on your TV or that Pure Flix is the only safe place to watch movies, although some people do come to those conclusions. The battle for our children’s hearts and minds is larger than Disney. What I am trying to say is that we as parents need to be vetting and examining what our children use as entertainment. Storytelling is powerful. We are hardwired to learn deeply from stories. Just look at the way that Jesus taught!
Our enemy is waging a war for your children, and the main weapon he uses is lies. If he can implant lies through compelling stories and catchy tunes, he’ll do so. In a war, the easiest way to lose is to not even know you are in one.
“Let’s be assertive about what our entertainment choices are teaching our children.”
So, let’s be assertive about what our entertainment choices are teaching our children. Let’s stop assuming that each new G-rated cartoon in the theater is going to teach them what’s harmless and helpful. Let’s use real discernment in the things we allow into our homes rather than looking for the next good storyline. I’m asking the Holy Spirit to convict me of any entertainment in my home, that should be replaced with something else. I encourage you to do the same.
Allow me to offer a few questions you can ask yourself the next time you are about to turn a movie or show on for your child:
- What is this program saying is wrong with the world?
- What is this program saying is true and beautiful?
- Would I want my child to be discipled by the main character in this movie? If not, is my child at an age where we can discuss this?
- What ideals would we need to debrief about after this show?
When you know better, you do better. I consider it a gift from God that we can clearly see where Disney stands on these issues regarding our children. Keep in mind, the war for our children’s hearts and minds doesn’t stop there. Parenting in the age of instant media and information takes vigilance. But, because now that I know better, I want to do better. Maybe my kids won’t watch the same movies I did growing up…maybe that’s ok.
You might not land where I’ve landed. But if you are a parent, at least we can agree that we’ve got to exercise wisdom and intentionality whether it’s Disney or any other entertainment option. We shouldn’t set our children in front of a TV or hand our children a device and believe this is a neutral activity.
“We shouldn’t set our children in front of a TV or hand our children a device and believe this is a neutral activity.”
Some Christian parents will leave Disney behind when it comes to children’s entertainment. (By the way, this approach is what we’ve personally chosen for our family.) But, whatever entertainment you choose for your family, the principle of sowing and reaping applies. The music you listen to and the shows you watch with your children are sowing seeds in their hearts and minds. Paul reminds us of the stakes in Galatians 6:7-9:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
 James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2016), 2.
*Editor’s Note: It’s hard to imagine a higher responsibility than shepherding a child in discernment. In light of this responsibility, some Christian parents will want to step it up in the areas of previewing what their children watch or researching it on trusted websites such as this, and engaging their children afterward in intentional conversation. Other Christian parents will go even farther and leave particular organizations behind when it comes to children’s entertainment. Whatever we choose, let’s know what is being planted in the minds and spirits of the children over whom God has given us responsibility. Because what is planted will grow.