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Lessons from Kung Fu Panda

June 11, 2008

I took my family to the matinee showing of Kung Fu Panda at the Alamo Drafthouse yesterday. It was Baby Day Tuesday and babies/toddlers are welcome at the first showing of the day. While watching the movie I was struck with the fact that I pretty much knew the overall story of how the movie was going to progress and end. I am not giving anything away here when I say that the Po (the Kung Fu Panda) was to have a hard time in training, learn to believe and then defeat the enemy. The turns in the script are common themes in movies.

Some movies are poorly made and some are well made, but overall we eat up the regular guy, big challenge, heroic victory thing. We spend billions watching them, talking about them and being influenced by them.

Why is it that we are so willing to pay good money to watch movies when we pretty much know the ending even before it starts?* For one I think we really love a story where the underdog comes through and is victorious. We want to identify with that guy. But while the good guy almost always comes through, some movies are still just bad. No matter the ending, we are bored with a boring, poorly written, overly undramatic predictable middle. We want a good middle story. We want drama in the midst of it. How will the story unfold? Who will we meet along the way? What are the challenges? And how will they overcome? How do the characters react to the challenge? Are they reluctant? Or willing? Who dies and who lives along the way? What do they learn along the way? Who gets helped along the way?

I think what makes a bad movie also makes a sad life. If everything is predictable, if the character never rises up from challenges, if some peoples lives are not changed along the way, then it just doesn’t work, it isn’t compelling to those who are watching it and it isn’t compelling for those in the story.

Fortunately for Christians, we know the end of the story (even if the exact details are debated) and we know that Jesus is the ultimate hero of the story. It is God’s story, and our part of the story is being revealed, but unlike the movies, we get to participate in the drama. We get to actively participate in the drama.

Do you want a boring, predictable story or a dramatic transformation story that brings others along? It would seem that we cry out with our time and dollars for a good transformation story, but that many of us settle for the boring one personally. And you know what else, people will watch your part in the story if it is compelling, rather than boring and predictable.

*M. Night Shyamalan being the rare exception, and The Happening looks terrifying by the way.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2008 7:40 pm

    So why are Christians’ stories so boring?

  2. June 11, 2008 10:34 pm

    Hey Jonathan, of course not all Christian stories are boring, but the vast majority of them would qualify as such. And I know your question is not because you don’t know, but rather to bait it out of me. It is like when God asks a question in the scriptures. He isn’t asking because he needs you to tell him the answer. Good for you, make me do the hard work that I should have included in the original post.

    I think many of the boring Christian stories are a result of not really knowing the fullness of the overarching story, including the level of danger that we really were rescued from and the costs to rescue us. Because we don’t understand the fullness of the gospel, we don’t seek to live the fullness of the gospel, which is rich and challenging. It is full of a fullness of life, lots of stumbles and lots of getting back up. Many have not been called to the missionary life either. As you know, it is for much more than just a specialized minority, but for all disciples.

    It’s funny, when we watch a character in the movies who is selfish and chooses himself all the time, we don’t like the character. If we saw a character watching TV every night it would bore us to tears. But we have been given the words of truth and we choose self. We have been given the opportunity to participate with God in the revealing of the saints and the giving of new life. It is a crazy, joyful feeling when someone gets the gospel for the first time, repents and trust Jesus.

    It is not boring when we give of our resources and talents to feed people, to clothe people and to bring freedom to the oppressed. I look at the scriptures, at the life of Jesus and the lives of the apostles and they just seem anything but boring.

  3. June 12, 2008 5:43 am

    Well, perhaps it was bait, but I really wanted to see what you thought. I haven’t really asked the question of myself, and you response was helpful, thanks.

    You are right; Jesus and his disciples lived very exciting lives, though excitement was not their aim. It seems that boredom was a non-factor because they lived so radically…following a controversial messiah figure all over the country, watching and performing miracles, serving across social and cultural boundaries, encountering God in the flesh over and over, growing in a understanding of their grand story, the jewish tale being fulfilled and expanded by the life and ministry of Jesus.

    Much of this is available to us, but as you pointed out we settle for entertainment week after week. No wonder our stories are boring. As you said:

    I think many of the boring Christian stories are a result of not really knowing the fullness of the overarching story, including the level of danger that the that we really were rescued from and the costs to rescue us. Because we don’t understand the fullness of the gospel, we don’t seek to live the fullness of the gospel, which is rich and challenging.

  4. June 12, 2008 10:54 am

    I would agree that excitement was not their aim. But prior to faith, there is often this feeling of something more than this life, something more than the quiet, desperate lives we lead. Their is definitely something missing, maybe even something more ‘exciting’ than the current life.

    So while excitement was not their aim once they believed, the lack of it (or something like it) prior to faith is part of the groaning for redemption that we have.

    Groaning > Redemption > Changed Identity > Mission > Joy, Drama, Excitement, Pleasure

  5. Adam permalink
    June 13, 2008 9:13 pm

    I can see that the Soma School really has been transforming and “resonating” in your soul. Beautiful!

  6. reason2smile permalink
    June 17, 2008 8:07 am

    We need adventure, getting out of our comfort zone. Even sometimes religious attitudes can get us into a boring life… We Christians need to shine in the world and marketplace.

    We Christians should not be afraid of making failures as well. Stepping out of the boat is risky, but it’s a story we can inspire others, help others, attract others. Let the world know that we Christians are not boring people…

    My 2-cents. I got an article here on breaking from religious attitudes…
    I believe it’s very thought provoking for Christians… I will appreciate your input.
    How to break religious attitudes and learn from anyone

    And btw, I really enjoy the movie as well.

  7. soulvessel permalink
    June 21, 2008 2:29 pm

    eh….i agree as a writer that the middle of the story is just as important as the hook in the beginning and the big finale at the end. but having just watched the movie about a half hour ago, i cant say it was a boring experience. i think it was the predictability that made it fun, and the cheesiness and cutesyness too. i chose not to take it seriously and had a blast.

  8. June 21, 2008 5:37 pm

    Thanks for the comment Soulvessel.

    No, it was not a boring movie at all. It was funny and entertaining. I can’t say it was the predictability that made it fun though. It was the comic relief and the turns in the midst of the overall predictable direction that made it not boring. Please don’t miss that King Fu Panda was not really the point of the post, but rather that even though Christians know the full story of life through scriptures, our lives can still be very exciting and have great meaning in this life. With King Fu Panda there was a thought that occurred in the midst of it that became more fully formed and transferable later on. Hence the post. Kung Fu Panda just happened to be context where the thought occurred.

  9. edz permalink
    June 22, 2008 9:04 pm

    There are no accidents. -Master Oogway

    It wasn’t an accident that Christ redeemed us. We have to believe. We have to have faith.

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