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Monday, April 1, 2013

Once Upon a Tangled Mess: Situational Ethics

I like fairy tales. 
I've liked them for as long as I can remember. I like to read them and write them. So I stumbled across a show on Hulu called "Once Upon a Time," and that sounded just like my cup of tea.

It basically throws all of the classic fairy tales into one story world in which the evil stepmother from Snow White concocts a curse which is meant to prevent all happy endings. Our favorite fairy tale characters are locked into a town called Storybrooke (set in modern Maine) with their real memories erased and fake ones in their place. Everyone has backstories in their heads which didn't really happen...and the goal of the story is to see the curse broken and the truth back in the minds of the people. It's a fun premise.
Snow White and Prince Charming are newlyweds when the curse takes effect, but as far as their new brainwashed selves are concerned, Snow is a single schoolteacher named Mary Margaret, and Charming is now David...who is married to another woman.

The problem is, because none of that is actually true, David and Mary Margaret find themselves irresistibly attracted to each other. They feel a connection that's just "right," and no matter what they do, they just can't help knowing they were meant for each other.

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So David leaves the woman he thinks is his wife for the woman who really is his wife. We are clearly meant to be cheering and exulting at this point, but it just left a sick feeling in my stomach. They could very easily have written the story so that his true memories were coming back to him--other characters were remembering bits of theirs around the same time. But they wanted that twinge of naughty satisfaction to go along with the audience's justification of the affair. That's their choice...but it cost them a viewer. And this is why.

As my pastor is fond of saying, "Even if something is not wrong to do, if you think it is and do it anyway, you're sinning." 

This is sort of a paraphrase of Romans 14:14, which says, 

"I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean." 

Paul is speaking of food, but the principle transcends the context. He gives it a broader application later in the chapter: 

"But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." 

Then we have the movie Tangled. It's a beautiful movie with some things I really like, but why did they have to change the story and set it up so that Rapunzel thinks the witch is her mother who loves her and has her best interests at heart?

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Friends have asked me what I would have her do differently in such an emotionally abusive situation. I'm not saying I don't think she had options, even if she did think the witch was her mother, but if her only motivation for leaving was that she just had to see the magic lanterns on her birthday...I just don't think that cuts it. Escaping could have been fine in certain situations--I mean, she could run out of food...some emergency...but no. She just wanted to have fun. Silly mother just worried too much. She knew she shouldn't leave...and she did it anyway. I think that was sin.

The world loves to present us with hypothetical situations in order to see if we'll compromise. But we have a promise:

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." ~1 Corinthians 10:13~

We will always have a Godly option. It won't be easy, and it may require sacrifice. But sin is never the only way.