The new movie, “The Lion King,” is an achievement in animation, but the appeal is more than technological wonder. The story is perennial truth that catches us off guard because we think we are merely being entertained by animated animals.
Throughout this edition of the Advocate, you will read about our devotion to our pets. The link between the animal and human kingdoms in our everyday lives produces a wholesome benefit to both. Companionship, mutual affection and simple pleasure are just a few things we cherish.
When a movie featuring talking animals in the wild draws us in, we are apt to consider the meaning of reality in a way classroom courses in philosophy, theology and political science can’t elicit.
Biblical motifs abound in “The Lion King.” The young prince, Simba, is presented by the baboon priest in a dedication ceremony familiar to any religious tradition. Simba later stands in the water and hears the voice of his father in the heavens speaking words of blessing to him, just like Jesus did at his own baptism in the Jordan River. We should understand this as more than a messianic message. It’s a universal affirmation of divine love and human duty.
How should we use power? The contrast between Simba’s father, Mufasa, and his uncle, Scar, reveals two understandings of leadership. Scar views the world as ripe for the taking, and the consequence is a despoiling of nature that threatens the whole ecology. Mufasa sees his rule as a matter of protecting the delicate balance of creation and creatures. He exercises power to protect others, not to benefit himself. Compassion and love are the virtues that bring harmony and peace to the kingdom.
The temptation to defy authority to prove oneself is the lesson of the Garden of Eden that Simba re-enacts, along with every one of us, as he sets off in defiance of his father’s instruction about the shadowy place ruled by ravenous hyenas. He quickly learns that true freedom is found in obedience to what is good, not in the lure of doing whatever one pleases.
Is life a straight line of red tooth and claw, eat or be eaten, and then you die? Or is there a circle of life in which ancestors and progeny continue to interact in ways that perpetuate honor beyond time? “Hakuna matata” — no worries — makes a lovely song, but living only for the moment leaves one with nothing noble to live and die for.
In the end, loving one’s neighbor is a strategy for those who love and for those who are loved. It applies to caring for our pets, the people who live next door and those coming across our southern border. What’s at stake is everything.
Genuine love requires courage and the bravery to face your fears in defense of others. It’s sacrifice more than sentiment. But sacrificial love is the deepest revelation of reality. The cost is great, either way.