I took my daughter with a few friends to see Bridge to Terabithia this weekend for her 8th birthday. My wife scheduled the whole thing, bought the tickets and sent me on my way. I was on a 'need to know' basis, and instead of trying to hold all the details in my head all week while I was working, she handed me the tickets, and the car keys, and said, "You and the girls are going to the movie. When you're finished, come home and I'll have the pizza ordered." Sounded like a plan.
All I knew about the movie was what my brain grabbed during the few seconds of the movie trailer I might have seen in the background as the kids were watching America's Funniest Home Videos. I had visions of Narnia and Harry Potter, and filled in the rest of the details with what I expected Disney to do as they cashed in on the current "Turn a kids' book into a blockbuster" craze.
What I got was totally unexpected. Without giving any of the plot details away, this movie packs a wollop about halfway through which was totally unexpected. This movie is not about a fantasy land called Terabithia, but rather about the harsh realities of growing up as the not popular kid in middle school while your parents are too busy dealing with their financial problems to pay any attention to you. The fantasy land was really just a mental escape from the problems that the lead kid was dealing with.
Next we meet the girl who moves in next door. She is an only child with no money problems and quickly becomes friends with the lead boy. As they progress in their friendship, we learn that the Christians (his family) are poor, troubled, defeated, and live as anybody else in the world does with daily problems, while the neo-hippy/artist family (hers) is happy, fulfilled, have loving relationships with each other, and even though there is no influence of Christianity in their lives, they are much better off. (I would argue that even though his family attends church once a week, there is no influence of Christianity there as well.)
This culminates in a conversation between the two after she visits his church one Sunday. Basically, the Christians don't understand Jesus and his atonement on the cross, but are scared to veer from a belief because of a vengeful God. The non-believers, who don't have any need to believe in the Bible, actually find beauty in everything including the Jesus myth. She even goes so far as to say that she can't believe God would damn anybody to hell for simply not believing the Bible, because he is too busy running the world. Even the father couldn't refute this seemingly logical argument.
Sadly, many people sitting in the church have trouble with this argument as well. This stems from a foundational error that basically we are good people, and if anyone is sent to hell, it is because God is sadistic and cruel. The truth is that we are not good by nature. A quick comparison to God's standard, the Ten Commandments will show us that. And, even a look at our conscience, and how we violate our own standard of right and wrong every day should reveal to us that we are not the innocent beings that we imagine ourselves to be.
The truth is also that God is perfect. He is just, righteous and holy. This means that He can't stand sin (transgression of the Law) and is perfectly justified in punishing those who do so. So, whether it is the "guru" who sits on top of a mountain and doesn't harm a fly, or it is Mother Theresa, dedicating her life to "good works" or the pleasant artistic family portrayed in this film, we ALL fall short of the standard God requires. Justice demands that lawbreakers be punished. It is not a good judge who lets criminals go free. And God is a good judge.
The truth is also that even though God is going to pour out His wrath on those who sin, He made provision for all of us to be forgiven. He came down in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, atoning for all sin, and rose again on the third day to defeat death once and for all. The Good News is that if we repent of our sins (not just give lip service to God and continue our own path) and place our faith in the Savior, the way we would place our trust in a parachute if we were jumping out of a plane, then God promises we will pass from death to life, be given a new heart with new desires, and will be born again.
So, go see this movie if you want. But be prepared to share the gospel with people after seeing this movie. Well, even if you don't see this movie, you should be prepared to share the gospel.