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The Theology of Oz

Oz-The-Great-and-Powerful

The other night Karly and I went to see Oz: The Great and Powerful. It was alright. The acting was disappointing, especially from James Franco. But the story was pretty good, if a little predictable. My wife, on the other hand, said it was one of the worst movies she’d ever seen—she’s a bit dramatic.

Anyway, you don’t care what I thought of the movie. I’m not Robert Ebert. I’m writing to ask whether anyone else picked up on the barely veiled protestant liberal theology that ran throughout the story? The dude who supposedly (though not really) descended from the heavens, has come to fulfill the prophecy, to overthrow the wicked witch and to restore Oz to its original glory.  Following the Christus Victor motif, which picked up steam among protestant liberals after the feminist movement of the 60s, the problem lies not within the good people of Emerald City, but in their need to be saved from the wicked witch. And in a classically protestant liberal move, that salvation is defined in terms of political liberty.

Oscar’s time in Oz begins with a sort of baptism in the river—protestant liberals are wont to follow Mark, telling the Jesus story beginning with his baptism and avoiding all that awkwardly miraculous stuff in the birth narratives—followed immediately by a night spent in the wilderness with the wicked witch, during which she almost succeeds in tempting him to turn away from his messianic vocation in favor of money and power. In a way analogous to Origen’s version of the ransom theory, the “atonement” happens in this story when Oscar bates the wicked which into “killing” him. But the trick’s on her, because she has only helped him to shuffle off his mortal coil so that he can be resurrected into an infinitely more powerful (and disembodied!) wizard. The resurrection is a hoax of course, but it accomplishes what is needed: that the good people of Emerald City come to believe.  After all, it’s ultimately their faith, not any objective change in reality that will reverse the power of evil.

All the while, Oscar’s own experience in Oz is one of struggling with his own identity and sense of vocation.

That story sound familiar to anybody else? Yawn.

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