Frozen and Freedom

I may be the last American to watch Frozen, but I am certainly aware of the frenzy over the animated film and its main song, “Let It Go,” belted out rock anthem-style by Idina Menzel. I’ve now heard the song joyfully sung by little girl toddlers several times in stores around Central Maine.

As I watched the movie and listened to the lyrics of its hit song, I was struck by one part of the song that offers this sentiment: “It’s time to see what I can do/To test the limits and break through/No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!”

In her new found “freedom,” Elsa, whose special power to bring cold and ice has long been suppressed, leaves her quaint village and forms an ice castle for herself in the mountains, where she can be alone . . . and “free.” It’s an interesting, and troubling, path on the road to girl empowerment. Granted, she does finally, at the end of the film, learn how to deal more constructively with her “special power”—if only her parents hadn’t been so quick to tamp it down and conceal it, perhaps she would have discovered earlier how to keep from spreading only ice and cold (it’s interesting that parents view this film in such a praiseworthy fashion, given that her parents seem to be the primary problem in poor Elsa’s early life).

At Old South this summer, we are examining freedom and rules by spending a few weeks focusing on THE rules, the big Ten, the Ten Commandments. Early in the series, we looked at the beginning of the Ten Commandments from Exodus. I noted that the commandments are rooted in freedom: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

The commandments, from the beginning have a foundation in freedom. But, then we went on the very next part: “you shall have no other gods before me.” Someone in the congregation actually quipped, “Well, there goes our freedom.”

And, then when we got to the rather long-ish section on the Sabbath (many of the commandments are really quite brief, but the one on the Sabbath goes into quite a lot of detail). Some in the congregation were quick to wonder about the animals. What does, or did, it mean that one’s livestock should have the opportunity to observe the Sabbath, to rest on the holy day? But, then finally someone raised a hand and asked, “Are we going to talk about the slave part? It looks like not everyone’s free.”

True enough.

Freedom is a complicated thing. At Old South this early summer, we are wondering about what freedom means in the context of faith. Quite a few have articulated the parent-child relationship, that children need “structure” and “boundaries,” especially in families and communities. What would complete and total freedom look like, feel like? Would we really want to live in such a way? Others in the congregation have shared the thought that without limits, how would we know what freedom is?

As churches here in Central Maine continue to face decline, I wonder about where such conversations will take place, in wrestling with important issues of human family and community. Will we all be content to hand over the interpretation of the human condition to Disney?

I realize that the Christian Church has not been, nor is it today in many corners, fertile ground for dialogue on freedom and girl empowerment. I realize that many of the “rules” have often been used to suppress freedom and to tamp down gifts and talents, especially in the case of girls and women. But, I struggle with the notion that this new thing, with churches and religious organizations shoved into the corner, is a better way, or even more empowering, or liberating.

Perhaps it’s more empowering to damn the rules and set out to express ourselves in whatever way we want, but even Elsa from Frozen discovers that the way to curb her icy tendencies is to let go of her fear and to embrace love. And, as the movie also demonstrates, love is about putting the needs of others before one’s own needs.

Sounds an awful lot like some of the lessons that that Jesus guy taught, and an awful lot like the lessons that we preach at Old South, and try to live out.  And, I’m sure other churches are just the same. So, why is it that we feel like we subscribe to an old fashioned, out-dated set of ideals?

I wish I could say that I could “let it go,” but instead I’m frustrated by the lack of connection that characters like Elsa come to a realization that is not new, or unique, but instead embedded in a long and abiding story—one that goes back all the way to the beginning.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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