horton hears a who and the culture of fear

first, this fantastic little cartoon from naked pastor’s blog, which i thought was a nice pre-amble to what i’m going to talk about in this post:


i took max to see the movie horton hears a who a couple weeks ago. great movie, by the way. wonderful animation, fun characterization, great voices, and loads of fun. i was really impressed how they both wove the book into the movie, and expanded it into a full-length feature.

horton.pngbut what struck me over and over, as i was watching it, was how the antagonist in the film, mrs. kangaroo (voiced by carol burnett), embodies and personifies (or “kangarooizes”) the fear tactics of many in the church, who, by their alarmist sound-bites and expertise at stirring fear with half-truths, guilt by association, and rhetorical trickery, continue to hold large sway over the american church (whew, that was a long sentence). her character made the whole movie feel like a metaphor and social commentary, rather than just a cute children’s story. horton is a dreamer, a listener, a believer in things he cannot see. mrs. kangaroo believes these things (imagination, dreaming, believing in things that can’t be seen, considering things that go against or cut across logic) are suspect at best, and inherently evil at worst.

i wished i’d had a notepad during the movie to write down, verbatim, some of mrs. kangaroo’s arguments. the line she repeats a couple times, which i can’t find online (someone correct me if i have this wrong, which i’m sure i do) is scary, sharp, and priceless:

if it can’t be seen, touched or heard, it must not be real

there’s a great irony in this kind of fear-mongering in the church, of course. the fear-culture creators certainly believe in many things unseen. i do not question their belief in an unseen god, for example. but they are unflinchingly resistant (nervous?) to consider any idea that has not been “seen” by the last 50 – 200 years of their tribe of christianity and modernism. new (and “other”) approaches, thoughts, ideas, theologies, perspectives and points of view are seen as inherently suspect or downright evil. then kicking up a dust storm of fear about how this idea will erode or destroy truth, destroy the church, or destroy our country (“the last christian generation!”), becomes the means of boundary marking, rallying the troups (who are treated as stupid idiots who clearly can’t think for themselves), and — of course — raising funds.

ok, i’m ranting.

horton hears a who really was a cute and fun movie!

10 thoughts on “horton hears a who and the culture of fear”

  1. I almost blogged on this, we took our kids last week and were very moved – noticed the connections you mentioned, and personally have been on the “Horton” end of things, loving the “little people” (not my term, but how some of the churches we have worked at made children’s & youth ministry feel – and being persecuted because we were teaching things that didn’t line up with the kangaroo “modern” mindset. I find this a great vehicle to illustrate the growing modern/postmodern divide in the Western church and how the mob mentality can drown out the fact that caring for the little people is what we are all called to do. Where is the love??

  2. i hear you and have experienced this kind of fear myself. i dont know what causes it. is it preservation or “defending the truth” or the idea that what i have believed to be true for all these years may not actually be?

    haven’t seen the movie yet. i guess i will now.

  3. We took our family and really enjoyed the movie. I found the mother kangaroo character to be much more opposed to what we in the church are trying to be and do. I saw her ranting and raving as fear tactic attacks from the scientific world against the church. I saw Horton’s response at the end to be accepting and grace giving.

  4. I took this movie the same way Mark did – seeing Mrs. Kangaroo defying belief in anything beyond empirical evidence. While she uses the fear and control tactics of the world, building an empire of under herself, Horton truly has humility and love (because lets be honest, when she chews him out in a few of those scenes, did no one else think that all Horton had to do was step on her and she would be a pancake?). Horton recognized the value EVERY person had, which I think is a message we need in the Church so badly today!

  5. Horton had to accept her becasue “A persons a person no matter how small.” Now if we as followers of Jesus could just love others who oppose us, speak against us, or don’t live up to our standards like that…

  6. I haven’t seen the movie, so my thoughts are based on the above comments. As I struggle with the very “kangaroo-ishness” of people in our church, I am challenged by Horton’s response, not only to not step on her, but to include her in the end. God not only speaks through all of you, but Horton, too. Thank you.

  7. Very insightful and helpful.

    i have blogged about this sort of attitude in the modern church at guidemeintruth.blogspot.com see the heading, “America’s Dad?”

  8. wow.. i kind thought Mrs Kangaroo was HOT!

    Actually i thought Mrs Kangaroo was a great metaphor for anyone in power to preserve their power… saw the Church and other parts of our culture ( media, academic, race) as well.

    so maybe i just think “power” is HOT? ummm… Power!

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