Tangled and the Christian Patriarchy Movement II

It is amazing how the movie Tangled has absolutely thrown the Christian Patriarchy movement into a tailspin. Especially the women. These women keep writing “responses” to this movie, hoping to stomp down on its message which displays, albeit through the means of common grace, the idolatries inherent in the movement. The sad thing is, I really don’t think most of these women know why this movie hits the nail on the head so well. I wrote an article about this a while back, but have not touched the issue of this movie since then.

The latest example of this comes from Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin. Again, I am simply amazed at the fact that this whole article is an exercise in missing the point. The Botkins first of all begin by facetiously saying that Rapunzel should murder this women, and that would solve all of her problems. Of course, their point is that this would obviously break one of God’s commandments, and we cannot break God’s law simply in order to be free of tyranny.

I agree that it would be wrong to murder in this situation, but I want you to notice the grossly simplistic way in which the law is viewed. My concern with the way in which Theonomy is going is that the law of God is understood as commandments and penalties, and there is no attempt to understand *why* each commandment was given, nor is there any attempt to understand how these commandments relate to one another. That leads to all kinds of misunderstandings of commandments that we find in the scriptures. These commandments are contained in a context, both cultural and textual, and they must be understood in the light of the culture in which they came, as well as they way in which they relate to the rest of the commandments. In other words, just as I demonstrated with my previous post on homosexuality, laws have intentions, and what is important is not the mere words, but the intention of those commandments based upon the context in which they were stated. This is something that seems to absolutely blindside the Botkin girls in this article.

Aside from this grossly simplistic view of scripture, one of the things that has bothered me about the reviews of this movie is the caricatures these women paint in order to avoid the obvious expose of their idolatry that this movie presents. For example, the Botkin girls write:

What makes advising you tricky is that the brains who crafted your universe and situation never presented you with a good option. The film offered you two choices at the beginning: 1. Rot your useless life away in the tower with the world’s most detestable mother; or, 2. Defy your mother and run away from home with a thief. Your only visible choices now are: 1. Rot your useless life away in the tower with the world’s most detestable mother; or, 2. Follow your feelings, denounce your mother as a kidnapping imposter with no evidence, and leave again. Yes, it does occasionally seem that the only options life presents are bad ones, but in reality, doing right is always an option. Film has the power to create dishonest moral scenarios, forcing its characters to play a version of the lifeboat game (Who will you throw overboard, passenger A or passenger B?) and never offering a third option. And by making your option A look unspeakable, while making your option B look irresistible, “Tangled” draws us in so deeply that by the time your first moral dilemma comes around, we’re rooting for you to do (what we would normally call) the wrong thing.

The immediate question I have is whether #2 is an accurate portrayal of what happened. Is Rapunzel simply “following her feelings,” or is she seeking to break free, even if only for a moment, from the manipulative control of her mother? If her motivation for seeing the lanterns was that her mother was a kidnapping imposter, and she then went on to accuse her without evidence, why did she not accuse her until the end of the film when she learned the truth, long after she had already left the tower? The problem is that, by creating a grossly biased and unfair representation of what was going on in the film, these women have been able to accuse the filmmakers of all kinds of things, when, in reality, their response to the film demonstrates how they are viewing this situation. From their perspective, you must allow yourself to be manipulated by your parents. Unless your parents are asking you to do something that violates the scriptures, you are their slave, and you must uphold their vision above all else. Doing anything else is simply “following your feelings.”

Now, part of this is going to go back to the grossly simplistic interpretation of the law that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, because, as I said, commandments cannot be understood in isolation. You have to allow the text to define its background and intention, and, when you simply allow your parents to fill in the gaps, you can actually allow your parents to define the nature and extent of these commands. That is why the Christian Patriarchy movement is so dangerous. Unless it is obvious that the intent of the command is to rule out something [such as stabbing someone] parents have the right to define the background of the text. I will show how this is done in a moment, but, for right now, this is important, because it is a breach of Sola Scriptura. This is clearly shown by:

2. Apologize sincerely for disobeying, deceiving, and defying her.

Some protest that you were justified in breaking the 5th commandment because she wasn’t really your mother, but let’s be honest: You didn’t leave because you knew that. You didn’t leave because you knew your mother’s command was biblically unlawful. You didn’t leave because you thought it would be wrong to stay and submit to the unbiblical tyranny of a kidnapping sorceress. You left because there was something you really wanted to do, the authority over you forbade it, and you decided to do what you wanted to do it anyway. You actually believed, and said, that it would be wrong for you to go. In your mind, you were as guilty of rebellion as the girl whose parents forbid her to go to a wild party and who sneaks out to go anyway: You left because you didn’t care.

I think if we analyze what happened Biblically, we must recognize that the fifth commandment cannot be isolated from the first commandment. Later the Botkins ask:

There comes a time when, in the words of our founders, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God!” What you need to ask yourself is: Is your mother forcing you to sin, or is she forbidding you to do something God has commanded? In either case, you must disobey. (By the way, God didn’t command you to go see the floating lights.) And if she is physically abusing you or endangering your life, you have a duty to not be an accomplice to her crimes. You need to get out of there. Thankfully, you are fit and resourceful, as well as handy with your lasso hair, and you’ve gotten out of tougher scrapes. We’ll root for you.

In this passage they ask, “Is your mother forcing you to sin, or is she forbidding you to do something God has commanded?” and follow up with “By the way, God didn’t command you to go see the floating lights.” As if God’s commandments are limited to the specific words “Go see the floating lights!” Where does the Bible say anything about putting railings at the edge of the upper deck of a Baseball stadium? Does it have to use those words in order for us to realize that this is what God commands? Where is the Biblical command “Don’t cheat on your tax return?” Treating the law of God as isolated commands like this is absurd, and, in any other context, I am sure the Botkins would realize this.

Now, allowing for the intention of the law to have affect in how we apply the law, there *is* a commandment of God that Rapunzel would break by not going to see those lights: “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” The point of the film is that, for her whole life, Rapunzel was being used for this older woman’s “vision.” Her hair was used to make her young again; she took care of the tower for her. Whenever she wanted to go out of the tower it was always her mother’s worries and feelings that were most important. Notice how her whole life was lived to please her mother. That is a clear violation of the first commandment. If God has created these beautiful lights for you to enjoy [remember, at this point she things they are stars], and your mother says you cannot enjoy them, because her feelings and piece of mind are more important, then, obviously, to not go see those lights would be to violate the first commandment, putting the vision of your mother ahead of the vision of God.

Flynn has also sinned against God and your parents, and again, this is bigger than you and your feelings. Biblically, he wouldn’t be hung or have his hands cut off, but there are consequences for stealing (Ex. 22:1-4, Lev. 6:1-7, Prov. 6:30,31).

This is not, of course, to assume that Flynn couldn’t repent of stealing. If he did, though, he would certainly go further than saying he’s sorry and never doing it again: He would make restitution to everyone he robbed, as many times over as biblically required. It would be nice if repenting meant not having to suffer the consequences, but God is a God of justice Who requires that things be made right. That He is also a God of mercy means that He does give second chances to those who repent, confess, make things right, go their way, and sin no more… and we can too.

This is a total misunderstanding of the importance of the law with regards to stealing. This is why Christopher J.H. Wright criticized Theonomists for being obsessed with the penalties. They totally miss the reason behind why certain penalties were commanded. For example, more competent scholars in Biblical law than the Botkins have pointed out that the command against restitution is after the judges have already convicted the person and he has not confessed. In other words, the law of double restitution would not apply someone like Flynn who was never even brought to court, and who probably gave the stolen item back without a trial.

Also, as I mentioned, what has to irk these women to death is that, although Flynn may have moved on to other idols other than self, is selfishness was gone, as he was willing to die in order to preserve Rapunzel’s life. Not only did he say that he was no longer selfish, but he gave evidence of it by being willing to be killed for someone else. I have to ask exactly what evidence have the Botkin girls given that they have repented of their idolatry of parents? What evidence have the Botkin girls given that they are seeking God and his vision, rather than the vision of their father?

You see, when you divorce the first commandment from the fifth commandment, it completely changes the meaning of the fifth commandment. Now, rather than a simple command to show honor to your parents for all they have done for you, it becomes a license to raise your parents to the position of God, where their vision is more important than God’s vision. In fact, given this talk on the fifth commandment, it was interesting that Scott Brown likewise mentioned the seventh commandment in his recent discussion of Patriarchy. Again, I have to ask, “The seventh commandment understood and interpreted against what?” He goes on to discuss parallels the Bible draws between marriage and the relationship between Christ and his church, but, again, both of these things must be understood in the light of the first commandment. Marriage is *not* the relationship between Christ and his church. Christ can save and sanctify; marriage cannot. Marriage is a sexually carnal institution; the relationship between Christ and his church is a purely spiritual institution. Marriage is corrupted by sin; eventually, we will be free from sin because of our union with Christ.

You see, when God is placed above all, it gives a totally different flavor to even our understanding of the relationship between Christ and the church. As I have pointed out before, the Bible uses many images to discuss the relationship between God and his people [the shepherd and the sheep, the vine and the branches, etc.]. The thing that keeps us from exalting these images to the position of the foundation of society is the recognition that God is to be the center of our thinking and actions, both in society and elsewhere. Marriage, shepherd and sheep, as well as vines and branches are not things in which we are to put our trust. We need to be careful to trust in Christ and his gospel to save our society, not in temporal, imperfect things which can only display certain aspects of the thrice Holy Triune God who is eternally above marriage. That is why I have consistently said that marriage is no cure for sexual sin, and to think that it is a cure for sexual sin is pure idolatry. Only God can take away sin, and he has bound himself to do so for his people on the basis of the work of the cross of Christ alone. If Christ has died for you, you will be sanctified, marriage or no marriage.

Throughout my dealings with the Christian Patriarchalists, this text has been on my mind. In considering reviewing this article by the Botkins’, it has even weighed heavier on my mind:

Mark 10:17-23 And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 “You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

The reason why this text is so significant is, although this man claims to have kept all of the commandments Jesus gives him initially, Jesus points him back to the one commandment he has not kept: You shall have no other gods before me. You see, this man’s god was his money. That is why he went away sad, because he was very rich. He loved his money more than he loved God. You see, outward obedience to certain rules and regulations can look real good. However, you can obey all kinds of rules and regulations, but if God is not Lord, you will falter from the very beginning.

Imagine if a Patriarchalist came to Jesus asking him this question, and the Patriarchalist responded in exactly the same way. I think the response Jesus would give is, “Come, follow me to college, where you will learn how to deal with the unbelief of the world, and respond to it in a Biblical fashion.” However, the Patriarchalist would walk away, because she is committed, instead, to the vision of her parents. Indeed, I believe I am on the right track in interpreting this passage, because Peter goes on to ask the Lord:

Mark 10:28-31 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 “But many who are first, will be last; and the last, first.”

Indeed, exactly how do these people think they can “leave” these things when family is so central to their system? Why does Jesus say that anyone who does not hate his mother and father, cannot be his disciple? Why did Jesus say that he came to bring division in family [Matthew 10:34-38]? Now, I am not going to say that family is unimportant. However, when it comes to service to Christ, service to Christ is infinitely more important than family. Hence, one should honor one’s parents because they honor God, and not honor one’s parents because they demand that your life be lived in accordance with their whims and wishes rather than God’s. That is exactly what Rapunzel was doing, and that is exactly what the Christian Patriarchalists are requiring their children to do. The reason why these women hate this movie so much is because it demonstrates the horrible results of this kind of idolatry. Human beings are sinners, and when you lift them to the position of God, don’t be surprised if they blow it. Don’t be surprised if you see the evil of Rapunzel’s mother come out in the Christian Patriarchy movement with books documenting abuse in this movement such as Quivering Daughters.

Yes, Tangled has hit these people squarely between the eyes. It has shown the horrors that idolatry such as this can lead to. Granted, most of the evil that exists in the abuses within this movement has nothing to do with supernatural power, but the addition of that was simply for effect, and it drives home the point even stronger. Even the pagans can see where this kind of idolatry leads. My hope is that God will grant these people repentance of their idolatry, before more abuse happens.


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