I recently enjoyed watching (and rewatching) The Greatest Showman. I have listened to the soundtrack approximately ten times. I am not ashamed to admit my infatuation.
But part of me feels guilty for loving a movie this much, especially this film. The Greatest Showman presents a powerful and inspiring message about following your heart and writing your own story for your life that has enraptured its audiences worldwide. It sounds a rallying call of sorts to the marginalized and discriminated and offers them a self-empowered hope and confidence. Should a movie with such a message be so embraced by a Christian? Is it wrong to be swept away and inspired by a movie with a secular “gospel”? As with any type of entertainment, we should always ask what are the redeemable qualities of the movie (qualities that fit in a Biblical worldview but with clarifications) and what qualities, although enticing, must be labeled as false hope and unbiblical. That is what I aim to do in this post.
I am not writing a critical review of The Greatest Showman. Rather, my purpose is to demonstrate to my fellow followers of Christ how to think about this movie through the lens of a Biblical worldview.
Three Main Messages in The Greatest Showman
- Be unapologetically proud of who you are; shine brightly & confidently.
- Be open-minded & accepting of others; celebrate diversity.
- Control your own destiny; follow your heart, regardless of the world’s hurdles and rules.
- Because God made all people uniquely and purposefully, we can take joy in His handiwork. We should let the light of Christ and the beauty of our God-given personality shine, walking confidently in our sonship. Yet, we must recognize our sin, our fallenness, and our need for God’s grace to not only save us but to sanctify us as well.
- Unity among diversity is a Biblical idea originating in the Trinity, in which there are three distinct Persons in one God. Such is God’s design for the Church. Therefore, it is good to be accepting of others and to celebrate diversity. Yet, we cannot compromise truth. We must call sin what it is and hold fast to our faith which is rooted in objective, Biblical truth.
- The third message champions the popular sentiment of controlling your own destiny and following your heart. This is one facet which makes the movie’s gospel a false gospel. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” As Christians, we follow Scripture. We follow Jesus Christ. We submit to Him who controls our destiny with wisdom and goodness, even when His Word contradicts our desires and the way we feel. Emotions and desires are tools used by the Lord in our life, but they must not be our driving force. In the true Gospel, we find salvation and triumph by placing our hopes and identity in what Jesus Christ has and will accomplish, not in following our own dreams.
The Greatest Showman offers its own “gospel,” or “good news”. Within that small-g gospel, we can pick out borrowed ideas from the Gospel of Christ. But at the end of the day, the movie’s gospel grants false hope, and the Gospel of Christ provides our only hope.
I have personally settled on this conclusion: We can enjoy the entertainment of such a well-made film – along with its exceptional soundtrack – because God is glorified when His image-bearers reflect Him by creating film, song, art, prose, etc. Our God gives us good gifts to enjoy.
On the flip side, the Lord also wants us to guard our hearts and minds against false gospels. I can take pleasure in a movie such as The Greatest Showman while also being careful not to jump on the bandwagon of its secular ideology and Godless hopes. Through this whole process, I have not lost my love for the movie. When the movie comes out on DVD, I will be among the first to hand over my money. I have only cleaned off my Biblical worldview lenses and let them adjust my vision.
Michelle Meade is a follower of Jesus. She’s a Tennessee girl currently transplanted in Louisville, KY who cheers on the University of Wildcats (Go Big Blue!). She received her A.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Northland International University and a B.S. in Humanities from Boyce College. She’s a member of Oak Park Baptist Church in Indiana and is currently a teacher for its Women’s Ministry. Michelle helps edit the content that Dustin, Jonathon, and Nathan post and she will from a time-to-time post here at Theologyalongtheway.