Despicable Me 2 – An Apologetic for Traditional Marriage

Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie, you may not want to read this yet…

I just got through taking my entire family to see Despicable Me Part 2. It was hilarious, engaging, visually stunning, and the best artistic argument for traditional marriage I’ve seen in a while.

As you probably know, the movie features an over-sized, angry-sounding, Eastern European-esque ex-villain named Gru, who had adopted three girls in the first Despicable Me and has now grown into the quintessential father. He’s a single man who does everything you’d hope a father would: barbecuing at his youngest daughter’s birthday party, dressing like a princess just to make her smile, and becoming charmingly exasperated at his older daughter’s romantic inclinations toward a boy she meets at the mall.

But what the movie makes clear, however intentionally or not, is that there is something glaringly missing in this family: a mother. The youngest of the girls, Agnes, demonstrates this as she practices a poem about mothers in front of Gru to be performed at her school’s Mother’s Day celebration. She is insecure about reciting this poem because she doesn’t have a mother, which makes her sad. Gru tries to console her by saying she can celebrate Veteran’s Day without having served in combat, but that of course doesn’t seem to help.

The movie’s lack-of-mother theme doesn’t stop there, however, and continues to become the sub-plot of the movie. The girls continue to tease and goad their new father on the fact that he needs to go on a date, and even attempt to sign him up for an online dating site without his knowledge.

All of this plays through the plot so normally, naturally, and endearingly, that it’s easy to miss the point: these girls desperately want a family. They want a father and a mother, and they aren’t going to be content until they succeed.

The movie progresses with Gru’s partner in undercover crime-fighting, Lucy, becoming more attracted to him, and he likewise to her. And as all great stories end, the bad guy is captured, the world is saved, and, wait for it… the two protagonists get married. Yep, you heard right. No cohabitation, no “friends with benefits,” and no funky “open relationship” stuff. Just a good old-fashioned heterosexual marriage, like something out of Little House on the Prarie. No kidding!

The wedding scene is hilarious, in fact, with the little yellow minions playing their part as wedding singers, dancers, and spectators and the like, and yet it is completely profound. As soon as the couple kisses, little Agnes’ eyes widen in wonder and she grabs everyone’s attention and, this time, joyfully recites her little poem about mothers again. Why? Because now that Gru has married this woman, she has finally has one. It is as if they save the final victory for last: the victory of a family, one with both a mother and a father.

I wondered as the credits rolled if it would be possible for the movie to have ended any other way. For example, what if Lucy had just moved in with Gru and the girls, as the “live in girlfriend.” Would the girls have been equally as ecstatic? Would Agnes have considered Lucy her mother? Probably not. In fact, had the movie played out that way, it would have come off undoubtedly awkward to the average viewer. We would all sense that something wasn’t quite right – that the story was left unfinished. No wedding. No celebration. No commitment. Just uncertainty.

In addition to that, what if Gru had chosen a same-sex partner with which to fall in love? That is what same-sex marriage advocates want, isn’t it? More stories that contain incidental homosexual relationships, not merely those that feature them, so that at some point same-sex relationships will be indistinguishable from heterosexual ones.

But let’s say Gru had been gay and married a man at the end, rather than a woman. Would Agnes’ eyes still have widened in wonder at the reality of having a mother? Would she have recited her poem that speaks longingly of a mother’s love? Of course not. In fact, what good would another man in her life have been? In fact, had the movie portrayed the girls as being just as excited about Gru getting a “husband” as they would a wife, the audience wouldn’t have bought it. What child doesn’t want a mother? And for that matter, what child wants two fathers?

What lends to the success of Despicable Me is the way that Gru’s character can be so decidedly male, with all the quirks and qualities therein, and yet simultaneously be captivated by and vulnerable to three helpless little girls. It only adds to the completion of the story that he should fall in love with a woman, and subsequently give to his children what they each long for: a father and a mother, in a committed marriage relationship.

As I walked out of this movie I breathed a sigh of relief. Even in these culturally tumultuous times, real truth and real beauty are inescapable to the human conscience. We know it; it is self-evident to us. Certainly there will be attempts to “re-educate” the population about what should be, but that which is really true and really beautiful will eventually win the day.

It’s a good thing when Hollywood makes movies like this. The point certainly wasn’t to be a subliminal apologetic for traditional marriage, but it sure did the job as far as I’m concerned. You should see this movie, because even though it’s an animated, fictitious ninety-eight minutes of children’s entertainment, its core message is inescapably true.

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What Came First, the Chicken or Chick-Fil-A?

I normally wouldn’t have gone to Chick-Fil-A today. Nothing against them, just don’t do a lot of fries and sweet tea. But if you’re gonna provoke a dishonest assault against freedom of expression and free enterprise, then it’s time for me to get some nuggets.

As a pastor, I haven’t campaigned against gay marriage. Instead, I have bit my tongue in an attempt to prove wrong all those who say that Christians hate homosexuals and discriminate against them. What I have said from the platform, repeatedly, is that our church is open to everybody regardless of who or what they claim to be. I happen to know for a fact that there are gays and lesbians who attend our church, and I have always treated them with love and respect, just like everyone else.

But then one day you realize that silence just isn’t going to work. The proponents of same-sex marriage are not merely content to express their opinions, but are rabidly and radically committed to extinguishing yours. Well, that’s not going to happen.

So let’s ask, what did Dan Cathy actually say? Did he say, “I hate homosexuals?” Did he say, “Homosexuals aren’t welcome at Chick-Fil-A?” Did he say, “I am absolutely against the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for same-sex couples?”

Nope. Here’s the article, from the Baptist Press. Read it for yourself. The quote that got him in trouble? Here you go: “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Wow. What a hateful guy. But what also got him in trouble was a statement he apparently made on the radio, according to an L.A. Times article: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” It was that statement which prompted the article’s author to label his  to an “outburst,” and later, “retrograde social prejudice.”

An outburst? Retrograde social prejudice? You see, I’ve learned something from having children: when you have no real argument, you inject emotion, throw around accusations, and manipulate language. My kids know how to take what I say and concoct incendiary conclusions to otherwise very lucid, normal statements. The strategy is this: when you can’t fight fair, raise the temperature and twist the truth.

That is how the supporters of same-sex marriage argue, much like my children. Here’s an example: I say, “I support traditional marriage.” They reply, “You hate homosexuals.” But I don’t hate homosexuals. Come to think of it, how dare you accuse me of such a thing. Who are you to judge my character without any knowledge of my heart or my behavior?

I say, “Marriage should be between one man and one woman.” You say, “You’re an angry, narrow-minded, backward, bigot because you don’t see it my way.” That’s the same type of hysterical reaction my 8-year old has when she’s out of rational arguments and just flat-out mad.

Take another example from The Huffington Post. The author accuses Chick-Fil-A of giving $5 million to, among other things, a “certified hate group.” A what? Who “certified” them as such? What criteria was used to “certify” their “hateful” status? Are we supposed to just accept the judgement of some unknown group upon another? But this counts as fair game for journalism.

So if we’re gonna have a fight, let’s have a fair fight. I have reasons why I believe marriage should always be recognized as one man and one woman. Here they are:

1) For the record, the traditional definition of marriage is not discriminatory against anyone. For example, neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals can marry a person of the same sex, or two people, an animal, or a close relative. As a homosexual, you have no more or less rights than a heterosexual.

2) If you alter the definition of marriage, you destroy the concept completely. If it is not between a man and a woman, then its between anyone and anyone. This is because the very logic for altering it to include homosexuals can be used to include any other arrangement. Thus, it becomes nothing and it means nothing. That is an undesirable outcome for society.

3) To alter the definition of marriage creates a horrible scenario for children. Every child should have a father and a mother. Two of me would be bad news for my kids, and quite frankly so would two of my wife. Men and women bring separate elements to the table. If you deny that then we’ve lost the ability to communicate. It is as obvious as the air we breathe. Two men or two women is not the same as a man and a woman when it comes to parenting. The counterpoint, then, is: But what about all the divorces, abusive and absent parents, and single parent households? Isn’t it better to have two healthy, loving people in the home, regardless of their gender? 

Of course there are deep problems in the execution of the traditional family model. People do selfish and evil things as parents which affect their children in a variety of ways. But problems existing in the execution of the ideal does not mean the ideal should be altered to be made more inclusive. If children don’t grow up with a mother and a father, they have missed something very important, regardless of the situation. The traditional definition of marriage affirms this ideal.

4) Then there is the theological argument. Among other things, one reason the Bible says that a man should marry a woman is because both of them bear the image of God in a unique way. When two people come together in marriage, the design is that they would each complement one another in a way that provides the complete picture of God’s masculine and feminine qualities, and do so as “one flesh.” When this works as it should, there is unspeakable beauty in it that cannot be replicated any other way. You may agree with that, you may not. But to call the position “hateful” is disingenuous and, once again, adding invective to a lucid and logical argument.

It’s not hard to be “for traditional marriage” and treat the homosexual with dignity, respect, and understanding. However, what’s good for society does not always fit the desires of the individual.

For many of the proponents of same-sex marriage, especially those who brought about what may be the best day in Chick-fil-A history, there is no real attempt to win the argument, because the argument can’t be won. They can only ultimately win the battle by name-calling, intimidating, and vilifying in an attempt to silence anyone and everyone who disagrees.

It’s easy to remain neutral and say, “There are problems on both sides.” It’s hard to take a position and say, “No, I think we can see clearly on this one.” Most people don’t have the time to voice their objection to the unjust threats to freedom of speech and free enterprise lobbed at Dan Cathy. But they gotta eat, which is why the lines are out the door at every Chick-fil-A around.

Thoughts on the Massacre in Colorado

As the story of the tragedy Colorado unfolds, here are a few thoughts:

1) Before we attempt to politicize, theologize, analyze, or any other “ize” this we must remember that what those people experienced on that night was the manifestation of pure evil in its darkest form. It is unimaginable what they went through and the road to recovery that lies ahead for the survivors and their loved ones. There will be scars of all types for decades to come, and we must not lose sight of that.

2) We cannot exchange our freedom for fear. I purposely took Ryan to see Batman the following morning, just as I had planned prior to this tragedy. The theater was crowded even at that early hour, and yes, I kept a watchful eye. But had we stayed home out of fear, as many now say they would do, then evil has truly prevailed. It’s not just about the odds of it happening again (which are very slim), its about principle. You still get on the plane after 9/11, you still travel to the Middle East after you hear of a kidnapping, and you still go to the movies after something like this. Otherwise the world becomes dreadfully small.

3) I did not tell Ryan about the shooting until after the movie. While I debated this in my head early this morning, I came to the conclusion that an 11 year-old boy deserves the opportunity to sit through a movie and not be consumed by fear. If my son is afraid to go to the movies, then, once again, evil has prevailed.

4) This is not a “gun control” issue – it is a theological issue. Guns are an effective way to kill people. But if every one of them magically disappeared, men would invent yet another way to dispatch his neighbor as easily as possible. The root issue is the human heart, not the device used to carry out its intentions.

5) Since the beginning human beings have had to deal with their propensity for evil, in this case, murder. While most of us would never commit such an act, all of us possess the raw material in our hearts to do it. Most of us may never have to come face to face with such an experience, but when it does manifest itself in such a common environment as a movie theater, we are once again horrified at the human heart at its worst. By citing the weapon as the problem, we misdiagnose the situation and thus are unable to see the problem clearly.

6) In addition to understanding our propensity for evil, we must also acknowledge that all human beings are created in the image of God. Based on that, all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure the safety and protection of innocent human life. Rather than misdiagnosing the problem as “gun control,” we are now able to see the situation as one where we understand both a) the capacity for evil in the human heart and, b) the need to respect human life. That frees us to come up with creative solutions to the threats that we face, rather than the myopic but fashionable conclusion that merely “guns” are the problem.

7) Unfortunately, both notions are under attack in our society today. First, most people wish to deny the human being’s capacity for evil, and second, great attempts are being made to distance humanity from its Creator. The narrative today is that we evolved, we’re accidents, we need no image with which to be created in. Because both of these points are lost on giant swaths of society, evil such as this becomes both inconceivable to us and leaves us paralyzed in our response.

8) If we as a society embraced these two notions, we then could begin to move forward with solutions that directly address the problem. No, we won’t be able to eradicate evil completely in this life. But we could begin to answer questions like:

  • Do businesses such as movie theaters have a responsibility to protect their patrons from conceivable threats?
  • Should everyone be allowed to carry a gun regardless of training or experience?
  • Do we fully understand the effects that depictions of violence have on our view of the value of human life?
  • How can we prepare our general citizenry to respond to acts of violence should they be placed in that situation?

In any case, we’ll have plenty of time to think through these issues. What’s most important now is continued prayers for the victims and their families, that God would bring peace and healing.