A Gospel of Self-love? | Connecting with Culture
Warning: This piece contains spoilers.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the film will never be as good as the book.
That being said, however, I had high hopes for the newly-released A Wrinkle in Time, the Disney adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic.
Beloved by many, A Wrinkle in Time is the story of 13-year-old Meg Murry who, along with her friend and her precocious younger brother, is whisked across time and space by three ethereal beings to rescue her father, mysteriously missing for years. It is a book about how love for others, even in and despite their failings, is the most powerful force in the universe – even more powerful than the monstrous ‘IT’, the ‘brain-like’ creature that has trapped Meg’s father in a world of conformity and control.
Reflecting L’Engle’s own faith, the book is ‘replete with explicit Christian citations’, and biblical themes of faith, hope, and love are prevalent throughout. When Meg’s brother is possessed and controlled by IT during the rescue mission, Meg only manages to win him back by concentrating on her love for him. Love for others is what IT – this powerful, evil force – is ultimately lacking. Sacrificial love wins.
The film, on the other hand, is a crash course in what happens when you take almost all the Christian themes out of an inherently Christian book in order, it seems, to appeal to more people. The only faith present is faith in ‘who you are’, and the film – although beautifully shot with a star-studded cast – becomes a ‘bite-sized lesson about loving yourself’, rather than a world-altering adventure of discovering that people aren’t perfect, but love for them can conquer evil even in its most terrifying forms.
This film presents its Christian viewers with various challenges – moral, literary, and theological. My niggling question, however, is a simple one: are we in danger of reducing the gospel to a similar soundbite of self-love?
It is understandable that we would wish the good news of Jesus to be ‘accessible’ and ‘attractive’ to all, but do we water down our failings, the weight of our sin, and the need for forgiveness and Jesus’ sacrificial love – in order to talk more about acceptance and self-worth?
We need to face our own IT, to understand the true depths of our brokenness, before we can fully grasp the power of God’s sacrificial love in our lives – and the lives of those he longs to save.