Saturday, March 3, 2012

Let It Grow: The Lorax

Is it promoted by Al Gore?
Is it pro-Democrat?
Is it,...gulp,... green?
We should probably say yes to all of the above, however, if we are Christians, we can consider this a pro-Christian film, too. Regardless of your view of global warming, the film does not do, say or sing anything contrary to common beliefs held by Christians.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax gives us a story of extremes: an extremely greedy and ambitious business man who uses all the trees to make some product that the consumers absolutely have to have in order to respect themselves. Does Christianity preach against greed? Absolutely. Does Christianity preach against ambition?  Christ said, do not follow ambition, but place yourself with the lowly.
The Once-ler is tall and thin while the Lorax is short and fat. Theologically, we can say their characters suit them well. Being tall, the Once-ler finds it hard to associate with the lowly, and being thin means that he doesn't have "much within himself." The Lorax, on the other hand, is short--even though he comes from the clouds--so it's easy to associate with the lowly and, being fat, he has "much within him" that means he can give to others.
The film gives us the extreme of social Darwinism, survival of the fittest, and an extreme view of the theory that the wealthy and upper classes drive the economy so they should be catered to. Anyone who does not practice their Christian faith, would see this as a piece of propaganda to overthrow business in favor of the environment. So what is the teaching of Christ on the environment?
The earth was given to us for us to live in and use for all of our needs, but as with all gifts, we are required to be good stewards of what God has given us. If we don't take care of the earth, the earth can't take care of us. But this is where the Christian sub-tones come in: there are really only two trees in Christianity: there is the tree in the Garden of Eden, and there is the Tree of the Cross and I don't think it's an accident that the film has been released during Lent, when Christians all over the world are doing penance and particularly examining the interior life. It's not just the trees in nature that the film invokes, but the tree inside of us.
The man who made a zillion dollars selling air, O'Hare. He's incredibly short, and this stature, as I have pointed out, will be an issue in films such as The Secret World of Arrietty, Mirror, Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, Project X (there is a midget that jumps out of the oven) and Jack and the Giant Killer. In The Lorax, O'Hare's stature is short because he's a small person inside, while Once-Ler is tall, he goes through a short phase like O'Hare, but he retains his stature because he repents of his evil ways that cut down all the trees.
The bright tuffy-tops of the trees are used to make sweater-things, and we are faced with this dilemma in our own life: are we going to use the fruit of our Christian belief to be consumers of material goods, or to "let it grow," let our faith grow and spread like trees in a forest, and be consumer spiritual goods? One of the lines in the closing song, which invokes the favorite, "This Little Light Of Mine," is "You can't harvest what you don't sow," and for Christians, this is particularly true during Lent.
The artificial world created as a result of cutting down all the trees is really a logical result of what happens to us when we cut down the tree of the Cross within our soul: we cease to be the people God created us to be and become artificial because we follow society, not our Father. It's easy to see, in this world that doesn't follow Christ, the stumps in the forest as all those called to be Christians who do not heed the call, but by God's Grace, we have the seed of Life within us and we can spread that. I wouldn't hesitate to take my kids to see it and I hope you enjoy it!
Part of our Lenten retreat should be understanding what "cuts down" the tree of the Cross in our own life and how we are led away from it. Being as "tall" as a tree, the Once-ler doesn't realize how hurting the tree is hurting his own self.