The following testimony from a real, but unnamed Christian parent is presented for the edification of those professing believers embarking on the remarkable journey of parenthood, knowing they are solemnly charged by God to bring their children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
“Tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” – Psalm 78:4
I am so very sad. Over the past two years, my married daughter, now 30, has slowly drifted away from Christianity and recently confessed an interest in neo-paganism, and specifically animism, which is the belief that all living things in the world have a soul, including plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. My first thought was, how could this be? She was raised in a Christian home, received a biblical education early on, and for most of her childhood, she attended a strong, Bible-believing church. When she was a teenager, her ability to articulate and defend the Gospel in her own words was a great comfort to me as evidence of her true faith.
Because of these past indications of her spiritual quickening, I haven’t completely abandoned the idea that my daughter is presently going through a temporary period of metaphysical confusion and uncertainty. I am obviously not happy about her current state and at times I am quite fearful, but it is my fervent prayer that her early and persistent exposure to God’s word will one day be used by God to draw her closer to Himself before it’s too late. Certainly Proverbs 22:6 speaks to this parental hope.
Yet what haunts me the most as I look back on her childhood is the fact that I also allowed her in the midst of her Christian upbringing to freely enjoy all the Disney entertainment she could possibly want. I knew, of course, that many of the storylines in these animated and live-action films were not specifically Christian in content, but I rested in the belief that they were family-friendly and morally sound in general. But was I correct in this assumption?
One of my daughter’s favorite Disney films back in 1995 was Pocahontas. She was eight years old at the time. She loved that movie and watched the video over and over again. She had the Pocahontas bed sheets and bedspread, and the Meeko the raccoon plush toy to cuddle. She knew the words to every song. It was all pretty silly, of course, but it was somewhat heartening to see my clever daughter get caught up in something more than just the run-of-the-mill fairy tale about a make-believe princess. This was a story based upon real people and historical events about the beginning of our country. It was entertaining and educational, so I thought.
As I think back on it now, however, I am absolutely heartbroken. Why? Because Pocahontas taught my daughter something else that I quite ignored at the time, but now I remember with sickening clarity. Back then, I allowed Disney to teach my little girl all about Pocahontas’ spiritual sentiments in their colorful animation, dramatic dialogue, and the romantic lyrics of their captivating songs. And what was the specific religion that Pocahontas was so intensely passionate about throughout the movie?
Animism, straight up:
“This film [Pocahontas] heavily depicts animism, the religious belief that nature such as plants and animals, possess a spiritual essence. Pocahontas and all the Native Americans in this film believe in spirits and value the nature around them. The Englishmen are depicted as Christians and are in the New World to take it over but instead of them ‘converting’ the Native Americans to their faith, it is Pocahontas that shows John Smith the spiritual way of animism. This is shown through the song ‘Colors of the Wind’ in which Pocahontas reveals to him the wonders of nature and the spirit within all living things and tries to encourage him that things are not meant to be conquered but rather they are meant to be respected and harmonized with people. During this song it is as if nature comes alive where spirits are dancing in the wind. The film also uses the idea of animism through the depiction of human characteristics in nature and animals and trees. This is seen through Grandmother Willow who is a tree that displays a human face; she provides Pocahontas with spiritual guidance and Pocahontas confides in her when she is unsure of what path she should choose. Unlike Disney’s depiction of the Islamic religion as negative and inaccurate, this film is presenting animism in a positive and important way of living.” – Online source
In light of the above description of the movie, how likely is it that my daughter just randomly became interested in a fairly obscure religion like animism later in life? And how is it not connected to her current opinion that Christianity is a religion that seems on the surface to be violently opposed to nature? Is it really just a coincidence that my daughter’s specific spiritual struggle as an adult is the exact same conflict found in the symbolic narrative of this Disney film that pits “ugly Christians” against the more admirable environmentalism and heathen spiritualism of a noble Indian princess?
If you are a Christian parent with a young child, please take heed of my grave caution. You might think all those fantasy books and movies you let your children enjoy are nothing more than fleeting amusements for an innocent imagination. But these entertainments may hold a subtle, or not-so-subtle spiritual teaching that is absolutely contrary to Scripture, and you should never assume that your child will outgrow this corrupting influence when they become more mature. Such fanciful tales may very well plant the seeds of propaganda that lie dormant until the more productive and autonomous season of their adulthood.
Childhood is much like Eden, so be mindful of your parental duty within that landscape. Carefully scrutinize these seemingly-heroic fictional characters of the world and consider what they demonstrate to young empathetic minds captured by their mesmerizing grip. Are the fantastical actions and messages in word and lyric emulating true biblical godliness, or do they reveal a contrary spirit hissing forth subtle lies that undermine the truth of God. Who now has your child’s ear?
Yes, God in His gracious power can lay hold of your children and never let them go, but if you think Satan can’t be allowed to drill down to that buried reservoir of childhood memories and have that spiritual poison bubble up to the surface in their adulthood, you are sadly deceived. As Peter sharply warns us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Indeed, that “someone” may very well be a believer’s precious child who once upon a time knelt at the foot of the bed to sweetly pray to God.
I’ve seen what can happen with my own tear-filled eyes, and I’m ashamed I didn’t see that roaring lion coming for my little girl.