Tomorrowland and the City of God

tomorrowland-cityThe gospel of grace is the happy gospel of the happy God who loves you like a beloved son or daughter. This good news comes from a book that begins gloriously and ends better. Preachers used to say of the Bible, “I’ve read the end and Jesus wins!”

Those who love God ought to be the most optimistic people on earth because if his gospel is anything, it’s a gospel of hope (Col 1:23). It’s the emphatic announcement that what you see is not all there is, that fear and death are doomed because Jesus has come!

But in many churches the shelves of hope are empty because the good news has been replaced by a toxic gruel of condemnation and wrath. Instead of being broadcasters of hope, we’ve become merchants of fear. Instead of being light in a dark world, we’ve turned off the lights and smashed the light bulbs.

I was reminded of this while watching the Disney movie Tomorrowland. (Warning, spoilers ahead.) The message of the movie is one I’ve heard from pulpits:

There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. Which wolf wins? The one you feed.

In the film the dark wolf is represented by a machine called the Monitor that has been broadcasting negative messages about the future of humanity. These are the messages we see on TV every night – war, terrorism, starvation, ecological catastrophes. The Monitor’s purpose is good – it’s sending a warning – but its outcome is evil for it triggers the very things warned about. By feeding fear and despair it inadvertently creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction.

The other wolf, the light one, is represented by a hope-filled young girl called Casey. She is aware of the problems in the world and her response is “How do we fix this?” Near the end of the film Casey helps to destroy the Monitor machine, thus interrupting its destructive message. However this leads to a new problem, which is expressed by George Clooney’s character:

It isn’t hard to knock down a big evil building that’s telling everybody’s that the world’s going to end, what is hard is figuring out what to build in its place.

The solution offered by Tomorrowland is to recruit dreamers, “those who haven’t given up,” for the building of a better future. In a compelling final scene we see dreamers from all walks of life – engineers, dancers, artists, tree-planters, scientists, designers – being empowered to build the city of tomorrow. It’s a great ending to an inspiring film, but not everyone liked it.

Who was excluded from Tomorrowland?

Reading reviews of Tomorrowland I came across a blogger who had problems with the final scene. The ending made him angry because not one pastor was recruited to make the world a better place. All Christians are responsible for proclaiming a message of hope and healing, he said, “but pastors are the primary agents and they were omitted as an option.”

Does this surprise you?

First, I’m not sure that pastors are any more “primary” than any other believer. We are all called to reveal the goodness of God to a dying world. We are all ministers of a new covenant (2 Cor 3:6). God has given you a dream, an itch, a talent, a gift that your pastor doesn’t have. We need his and yours. Both matter.

Second, it seems to me that the message the world is hearing from much of the church is similar to the one broadcast by the evil Monitor. “God is mad at you. Natural disasters are divine punishments. The world is going to hell, you’d better jump off. The rapture bus is leaving, don’t get left behind.”

If that’s your perception of the church, you’d be mad to let pastors shape your future.

I read several reviews of Tomorrowland and the very best thing I read was this comment from Steve Parker, a reader on the blog I mentioned above:

I believe in many ways, the church has been like the Monitor, broadcasting apocalyptic visions of the future and robbing people of their hope. Not too long ago, one of the hallmarks of America was the overwhelming optimism about the future. This has changed dramatically, in no small part, I would argue, because the church has led the way in broadcasting a doomsday scenario on the horizon… If we are to change it, the church needs to rediscover the gospel of hope, the gospel that says things can be better, not just some day in the sweet bye and bye, but right now, right here.

I couldn’t agree more!

I’m not here to condemn the church. (I don’t want to feed that wolf.) One thing I love about the church is that we are good at repenting. My hope is that we will repent from proclaiming the bad news of condemnation and return to the good news of Jesus Christ who reveals a God who loves us like a Father, who holds nothing against us, and who wants the very best for us. It is this message that has the power to save men and change the world.

tomorrowlandposter

The City of God

I enjoyed the movie Tomorrowland and I’m a big fan of Walt Disney. But I’m not here to build Disney’s dream of a better tomorrow. I’m working for something bigger and better.

In Tomorrowland, the future is represented as a technologically-advanced city complete with flying trains, levitating swimming pools, and personal jetpacks. It’s awesome stuff, particularly if you are, like me, a child of the lunar-landing generation. But at best it’s only a shadow of the real City of God whose buildings are people (1 Cor 3:9).

Heaven on earth – that’s what it looks like, because contrary to what you’ve heard, the earth isn’t going to hell, but heaven is coming here (Rev 21:2-3; I’ve read the end of the book too). Jesus prayed, “Let your will be done on earth,” and all the dreamers say, “Amen!”

Like the little robot girl in the movie, I want to activate your dreamer.

Don’t let religion kill your dreams and don’t let other people define them. The adventure of life is discovering the dream God has placed within you and revealing it to the world. We’re not here to rage against the machine but to build a better one.

Like the Tower of Babel, the city in Tomorrowland was never finished. No manmade civilization ever lasts. But the Heavenly City endures because its architect and builder is God (Heb 11:10).

The church’s mandate is not to rail against sin, but to reveal Jesus, who is the Source of all good dreams and the sure foundation on which we build.

Have you seen Tomorrowland and did its message resonate with you? Don’t tell us what you hated about the movie (wrong wolf), but what inspired you.

___________

If you enjoy Escape to Reality, sign up to our email list and we’ll notify you about new articles as soon they come out. No spam, we promise.

And if you’d like to see these messages of love and hope go further, support us via our Patreon page.

23 Comments on Tomorrowland and the City of God

  1. amandapride45 // June 25, 2015 at 3:54 am // Reply

    I didn’t see the movie but this dreamer says AMEN!

  2. Warren (South Carolina) // June 25, 2015 at 5:00 am // Reply

    Paul, I haven’t seen it but now want to. Thanks for this encouraging review / post.
    I really like the “church’s mandate” you give at the end.
    Blessings,
    Warren

  3. Saw the film and had the same view as Steve Parker. There are many new films that carry this very same message God is speaking through people out there who are not flaughnting their religion but showing their faith.The church as we know it will dissapear and the true church will rise in the hearts and minds of people who all in their unique way , with talents given by God, spread the gospel of good news taking a back seat and watching God move.The only church without blemish or spot, the only church in revelation without any negative comment will rise. The church secure enough to have no need for inward focus, it knows what is inside.

  4. Awesome post, thank you!

  5. thanks for the awesome post!

    i haven’t seen the movie. now on my list to watch later.

  6. Great post Paul! Yes, I believe the church sadly has become the Monitor in many ways.

  7. Paul, Are you teaching Replacement Theology?

    • I don’t know what that is. I had to Google it. I normally only publish comments that are relevant to the post being discussed. I can’t see the connection, but maybe there is one.

  8. Great film. Lots of films can make one think. The thing is with churches, most of them do preach/teach condemnation but if we all left; where can we go to congregate? My hope is that the more grace base teaching is spread around, then those that know, must tell others, even if it’s one by one; for faith comes by hearing and hearing and those that receive – great.

  9. I am very happy you have a faith. I will never understand in what. The final message is believe in people in this story. Similar to the Bible. Just another story. Have faith in reality and people. Have faith in yourself.
    All the best for the future !

  10. Andre Alexander // June 26, 2015 at 3:48 am // Reply

    It’s not a matter of presenting a negative message. It’s a matter of presenting reality and the truth. The Lord Jesus spoke many times regarding hell, how and why people will get there.
    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Mathew 7:13
    However Jesus came to provide a way to deliver us from the road that leads to eternal damnation. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”Mathew 7:14

  11. The world doesn’t hate Gods servants because they are warning and threatening people (although that may be partly to blame) rather the world hates Gods servants because they belong to Jesus!
    If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭19-21‬ NASB)
    Also the world didn’t hate Jesus because he was preaching a happy God who was pleased with everyone. Here is the reason Jesus gave for their hatred of Himself:
    “Jesus replied ,’The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. “( John‬ ‭7‬:‭7‬ NASB)

  12. I think the popular end times view of a fast approaching end times and a pre tribulation rapture is a large factor in the negative message that Christianity is getting caught up in. I had been uncomfortable with parts of this teaching for a while but didn’t really know of any other ways to view end times. Having come to a new understanding of Grave, forgiveness and Gods love has then allowed me to look at the bible with new eyes. To ask questions I had pushed away and to explore different views. There are good biblical reasons to reject a lot of current end times teaching. I even dare to say that the alternatives are a better fit with grace. Is there really a seven year hell on earth, wrath filled judgement coming or have these prophecies already been fulfilled? I encourage people there is more out there than you have heard in most churches.

    • I don’t write much about the end times here on E2R because it can become a huge distraction. (This post is an exception.) But I agree with you. It used to be that Christians had a very positive view of the end times. Read some of the descriptive passages in Isaiah pertaining to the kingdom come and how could you not? Then a fear epidemic swept across America and everything changed. What you look through determines what you see. Read the Bible through the lens of fear and you will feed a fearful eschatology. But read it through the lens of grace and you will have much hope and a confident expectation of what is to come.

      • So true Paul! The fear motif in American eschatology is both enormous and unbiblical. Authentic biblical eschatology is a great hope (“the blessed hope”) , a time to “lift your heads high for your redemption draws near.” And should be anticipated as much as a new birth not a death “these are the beginnings of BIRTH pains.”

  13. awesome.thanks paul.would you help me understand Luke 14:23-33 please?

  14. brilliant !! sad but true very hopeful what a messsage !

    • The happy news of the happy God indeed!
      No child of God can live above their inner heart’s view of God. In the hearts and minds of most objectors to the message of grace is this notion: God is not glad but is mostly sad or mad . The notion of an unhappy God is a false speculation stronghold that stands in opposition to the true knowledge of God and takes the mighty divine weapons to dislodge and dismantle it (II Cor 10). Yet it does not stand up to sound reason.
      It is impossible for God to be sad or mad as He relates to Himself and to His own children for 2 unassailable reasons:
      1. Being fully self aware of His own limitless perfections and fullness it is thereby impossible for God to be anything less than completely happy and exploding with joy with Himself and within Himself continually.
      2. Being fully aware that He was pleased to crush his Son (Isa 53:10) to remove any unhappiness or anger he held towards his elect children and to fully secure for them their indescribable inheritance which is nothing less than GOD HIMSELF! When he looks at His beloved’s inheritance he is looking at HIMSELF in all of his own limitless perfections and fullness. What is left about them to make him less than outrageously happy and outlandishly joyful continually.
      While it is gospel true that sinners are by nature are objects of divine wrath (Eph. 2:3)
      For His own children it is eternally:
      Happy God – HAPPY LIFE!
      Is your God mostly sad or mad or is He mostly glad? No one can live better than their view of God.

  15. I have seen the movie.
    I loved the movies obvious message of hope which is easily aimed at our conscious minds.
    I must say though, that the message aimed at our subconscious minds is that we need to destroy the self fulfilling prophecy. This in and of it self is wrong. We need to change the programming of the message not destroy the machine.

    In the movie they theoretically kill religion and with it the creator, who was doing what he thought was correct by warning us.
    I have seen many many movies that technically follow the same theme. This is why so many conspiracy theories exist that say the UN is a one world government gradually taking power drop by drop. Their Agenda 2030 lays it all out full spread. Also the movies subconscious belittling of the male sex is there as a non broadcasted undertone. Two males failed where one ’empowered female’ fixes the issue. The two males ‘The creator’ and the ‘supposed savior’. The Agenda 2030 speaks about empowering females yet doesn’t seem to care at all about educating and empowering females. They did work as a team, but she apparently is the chosen one. In the end it really shouldn’t matter what sex the person is who saves the world. It just bothers me that the feminist agenda is being projected into the minds of the unknowing all over this planet. We have a world of humans turning away form the laws of nature and we think that its the one warning us is the issue.
    They should be focusing on males and females working together to save the world more than having a chosen anyone. But when you are trying to access the subconscious mind of a world full of self centered individuals, you must give them a character they can sink into and become through empathetic projection. In the beginning she also fixes her fathers invention but its a relatively fast scene. He of course is amazed that she just instinctively knew what to do. In the real world if you walk up to a device and swap wire of a circuit you have no idea about you will probably fry something. So I would say its a great movie as long as you are not easily programmed. Do parents even want to send their sons to college anymore or have we whole heartedly accepted that males must be inferior and we should put all of our resources into our female offspring? I say treat them fairly.

    OK, I am done ranting and rambling.

    • kevin scholes // October 21, 2016 at 8:03 pm // Reply

      omg you are looking too deep into this its a kids movie its a great story its great optimism for the future the church can say doom and gloom thats a big part of its message .no we say stop that message destroy it ,replace it with partial preterism , let it be known that revelation mathew 24 daniel 9 was fulfilled in the destruction of jerusalem that the gospel is good news not cult survivalist hiding away in a bunker mentality .

Tell us what you think (<250 words)...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s