The Lorax is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss tales. I remember watching the old animated version for the first time. I was in the 4th grade, and there something about that gruff Once-ler’s voice at the end that really made an impact on me: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
The environmental overtones never seemed apparent to me until much later in life, but that never gave me any reason to disagree with the overall premise. I was not excited about the Danny DeVito version when it first came, primarily because I had been so appalled at Horton Hears a Who and it’s overtones of acceptance. I was pleasantly surprised by The Lorax, and found that although it still maintains a bit of the old pantheism that often characterizes environmental propaganda, it had many redeeming characteristics. The Once-ler’s refusal to believe the Lorax could have been something lifted straight out of the Bible. And the scene where he watches as the Lorax ascends into the heavens still looks a lot like an allusion to Jesus. I’m not saying the writers or director were Christians; I’m simply saying that Christian themes are there. I was surprised when many of my Christian friends hated the film. It was the same vitriol I had encountered when Wall-E came out, and for many of the same reasons.
“It’s propaganda aimed at children.”
“Hollywood is pushing the environmental agenda.”
“Not all American’s are lazy (or greedy), so this is an unfair caricature.”
Fair enough. With both of these films though, I find this line of thinking to be missing the larger point. It’s like watching Man on Fire, and taking away from the film that revenge is a good thing. I have no problem admitting the flaws of these films (despite loving both of them). What is problematic in my mind is how much this “environmentalist” message ousts other issues for do many Christians.
Take Shark Tale for instance: this is a movie where the character of Lenny clearly represents homosexuality. Or in Horton, where the motherly kangaroo represents the puritanical Christian, who rejects people who are “different.” Or Pixar’s Brave, which was so deep in feminism the company ultimately let the director go in order to tone it down a bit. These films are hardly protested by evangelical Christians, despite having a more detrimental message about Christianity. Compartmentalizing the Christian life leads to this kind of half-sight, which only singles out particular themes to oppose. It is like being a “single issue voter,” who would elect Hitler again if he promised free healthcare or swore to end abortions.
So why is that environmental care sets Christian off? Why does this message overshadow messages of connection, relationship, and redemption? I don’t have an answer. But I would suggest Christians resist “cultural agendas” with caution. Some of them may be closer to home than we think. And others, they may just be the undoing of what Christian foundations remain.