Safe Fiction – Part 5


The other night I was talking with a group of friends, and the topic of “safe” fiction came up. Since two of these Christians are moms and the other is a school teacher, they had a vested interest in the topic. At one point, we began discussing The Wizard of Oz, primarily the film version so well-known today.

In most circles, this book and movie would be an illustration of safe fiction, the kind we want our children to read. After all, it upholds the importance of home, the value of courage, heart, wisdom and honesty.

From Wikipedia:

Regarding the original Baum storybook, it has been said: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is America’s greatest and best-loved home grown fairytale. The first totally American fantasy for children, it is one of the most-read children’s books . . . and despite its many particularly American attributes, including a wizard from Omaha, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has universal appeal.” The film itself is widely considered to be one of the most well known, beloved films of all time, and was one of the earliest films to be deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress.

“Culturally significant” is an apt description, I think. The movie and book, in my opinion, prepared several generations to accept secular humanism in place of Christianity. A bold statement, perhaps, but not without grounds.

First, the author himself, L. Frank Baum, was a theosophist. Again from Wikipedia:

Theosophy is a doctrine of religious philosophy and metaphysics … [which] holds that all religions are attempts by the “Spiritual Hierarchy” to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.

No wonder, then, Dorothy and friends arrive in Oz only to discover that the wizard, as the supposedly all powerful ruler (and therefore a God figure), is a fraud. No wonder in the end, good witch Gilda tells Dorothy she’s had the ability to go home all along, she just had to find it inside her. No wonder the Tinman discovered he had heart all along, the lion learned he had courage, and the scarecrow, brains. Throughout the story, there is this strong thread, You can do it, you can, you can.

And what a popular message that is today. Self-help seminars, books, infomercials, all proclaiming this belief in the human spirit. How many athletes say that in wrap-up interviews! We just had to believe in ourselves.

So now in western culture we have Man, clawing up behind Satan, trying to replace God. In part because of a piece of “safe” fiction.

There were, I’ve heard, some objections to the movie when it came out—because it had witches in it, I was told. So if the good and bad witches had been replaced by good and bad shoe salesmen, the problems would be taken care of?

The search for safe fiction can be a dangerous, dangerous pursuit. It looks for whitewashed walls, all the while oblivious that a tomb may be behind them.

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