Movies these days are generally pretty bad, or at best, forgettable. Even the great blockbuster achievement of the MCU, for me, is a one-time see. It was an epic ten years of watching the characters and their journey’s bring them to the end. Yet in the end, I watched Endgame once in the theater, and that was it. There are many reasons why movies today, and media in general is producing such forgettable content, but that’s not what I want to focus on here for this article. The point here is that as I was contemplating what to watch, I was in a bit of a tough spot, and all I knew what to do was to ready my Bible and pray. After this, I thought instead of trying to find something new, go back to something old and classic. The Prince of Egypt came to my mind, and I found myself watching it again.
I had forgotten just how beautiful this film was and still is. Twenty-three years has not done much to age the incredible animation, and plot-wise, it truly competes with today’s material in so many ways. Still, the messaging the movie conveys is what goes deeper than all of these things. What I want to do in this article is to highlight one of these messages I got out of the movie, watching it now twenty-three years later.
Total Freedom, or Absolute Order?
In this particular viewing of the Prince of Egypt, one of the things that really began to hit me was how the notion and concept of freedom was presented in it. First, let’s ask the question, was the Prince of Egypt simply telling another Brave Heart story? A story of oppressed people rising up and fighting for their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Actually, it isn’t! Never in the movie does a single Hebrew pick up a sword against the Egyptians. In most of today’s oppressed vs the oppressors, there is always the underdog rebellion, fighting against all odds, and it’s because this trope is used so often that these movies will always remain forgettable, even the Hunger Games, despite the concept of the first movie.
But think even farther on this, and it’s rather striking how similar these revolutionary movies are, not to an American Revolution, but a Marxist one. Not even the great V For Vendetta escapes this trope. Most of the time, the narrative is as simple as an oppressive, elite class, built on the backs of the majority and poor, who eventually rise up against them. Is this not how most of these movies turn out? You might say, but isn’t even the American Revolution that way? That’s a good point, and it leads me to my next big point. There was a great difference between how your typical movie portrays a revolution, and how the American Revolution turned out, and it can be brought out with this question: What was the end-goal of the revolutionaries? Freedom from bad men, or freedom from God and bad men?
Believe it or not, it is possible for a ‘revolution of freedom’ to end horribly wrong. In fact, all but one revolution in the history of revolutions (and there are many) ever turned out to bring true liberty, and that was the American Revolution. Of course, the slavery issue plagued the Revolution, but that’s not the point I am making. The point here, is that the idea of revolution against oppressors means little to nothing if we do no consider seriously the reality of mankind, if we do not truly, and soberly reflect on why it is that oppressors rise in the first place. There is and will always be, my friends, a great cost to be paid in the blood of millions, if we, in our idolatrous pursuits of personal liberty and empowerment, do not remember this simple fact: man is fallen.
Men are indeed, basically evil, not basically good. Scripture continuously demonstrates through both the didactic (teachings and doctrines) and the history it records, that men, save by grace, always succumb to their evil desires; the world is not worse because God is lazy, it is worse because men love their sin. We are born with that deep-rooted inclination towards evil, and we need much more than simple rules to keep us in check, we need a full change of our hearts.
But is the solution therefore that of Egypt? And Pharaoh? How can this be? Since Pharaoh, contrary to popular belief in Egypt, is not in fact a god, or the God, he is therefore a man, and hence himself wicked, what can this man do but perpetrate his own sin on everyone else? The only thing worse than a selfish, all-consuming sinner who, in the deepest recesses of his heart, would slay his own brother to save himself, is to give such a man absolute power over a nation. Thus we see in the Prince of Egypt, how Pharaoh does indeed sacrifice lives for his own good, rather than giving himself for theirs. This not only leads to the slavery and oppression of the Jews, but it leads to the suffering of his own people when God comes with a vengeance.
If men are basically evil, how can you trust them with their own judgment to do what is right? On the other hand, if they are basically evil, how can you trust men to rule over others? So be it then, neither absolute freedom (anarchy), nor absolute statism can solve the dilemma. One leads to chaos, the other leads to tyranny and oppression.
The Biblical View of Freedom
You’ll notice that the Israelites have a prophet, Moses, to guide them. God speaks through Moses, to lead the Israelites out of slavery and oppression. What we see here immediately is that this freedom is theological. Like Egypt, there is leadership, order, hierarchy. It is intended to keep our sin in check. Yet as we see in both Moses’s life with Jethro and his family, as well as Moses after the exodus from Egypt, the people are happy. They are neighbors to one another. Of course, we all know this is far from the end of the story according to Scripture, but let’s keep focus on the movie’s ending. In the final shot, Moses is seen carrying “The Law”, which we can assume is the Ten Commandments (a concept we’ve made to make the Law easier to learn).
The freedom in the Prince of Egypt is not found in an empty, libertine idea that ends in chaos. It is rooted in creation, that man was made, not a simple accident, and that he was intended to live a certain way, and when he does, he fulfills his true purpose, grows in virtue, not in vice. He becomes less selfish, more self-giving, not when he is allowed to indulge his corruption, but when he is washed in the grace of God, when his eyes turn towards his Creator, who made him to be a certain way. True liberty is not the freedom to sin or not sin, it is the freedom from sin. The idea of sin assumes a law to sin against, and hence, the law, given by the Creator, not by men, is true liberty. True liberty is rooted in the Law of God. But even more than this, since we know the Law only reveals our depravity, we need an atoning sacrifice that allows us access to the God who alone can bring us into conformity to that Law, and Christ is that one, who is also our Great Prophet, greater than Moses ever was.
We must finish a point mentioned above, which was that Israel did not raise a sword against Egypt. The point I was making was not that we Christians are to always be pacifists. Here is the point: while it is true Israel did not raise a sword to the Egyptians, I am not saying we ought never to do so to preserve our own families. We are called, especially as men, to protect our homes from any invaders. The point in raising the fact that Israel did not raise a sword against its oppressors is that it relied solely on God’s promise to deliver them, not their own strength. This again is where so many revolutions end in disaster. They aren’t fixated on the biblical liberty, they are fixated on secular, autonomous liberty, and my fear is that that is what our nation’s conservatives are primarily fixated on. How often does your favorite talk-show host talk about their faith?
And I’m not talking about some vague, “Jesus is my homie”, shallow Christianese stuff. I’m talking about the guy who you can tell by how he talks, and how often Scripture pours out of his words, this is a man who walks with God. I know for me, I got sick of all those standard conservative talking heads. I wanted someone who truly believed, and their faith was before everything. They don’t do what they do for the sake of freedom, they do it for the sake of the gospel, because the gospel is freedom. It is freedom in every good sense. In this light, and in this alone, ought we to stand up to tyranny. If we as a nation will not do it like this, we deserve what we get.
The Fall of Secular Freedom
How does this apply to us today? This is what makes the American Revolution unique among the rest. Instead of a “freedom for freedom’s sake”, this revolution was careful to recognize and not fall for the same trap every revolution that came after fell into, and that is, that while men have a right to be freed from the tyranny of fallen men, it is the doctrine of fallen mankind, which applies to those same free men, that must always be remembered, else we give this nation over to utter chaos, in which absolute order for the sake of stability must be necessary. Do we not see this happening today? Is it not obvious that as we destroy the basic meaning of what it is to be a human; to be a man, to be a woman, to be a child; as we splinter ourselves into countless categories of this, that, and the other, that unity is impossible to find? That the further we indulge utter autonomy, the more society crumbles into chaos? As John Adams famously said, “The Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
So many people today, in the secular humanist worldview, who are found even amongst conservatives (conservatives who are willing to allow transgenders and homosexuals into the movement as long as they vote Republican), claim to be following the ideals of liberty found in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Because an impersonal, vague concept of ‘freedom’ from all law will lead to chaos, and this was not what the founders had in mind by any stretch of the imagination. What these humanists reject first and foremost is the Doctrine of Creation, the idea that we are created beings, made for a purpose, and to serve that purpose in the various capacities we can. They don’t believe we were created, they believe we are the products of random events in the physical world. There is no purpose, and the duty of all is, as Dawkins said, to spend our lives putting off the notion that never seems to go away, that we are made and purpose-made creatures.
This ideology must fail, and will fail. No people in history survived attempting to shut the lights of God’s freedom-giving law out, and living in total anarchy. The freedom of the Constitution is a freedom that recognizes God’s sovereignty in man’s affairs, that His Law matters, and when we reject Him, we reject His Law that brings order and liberty, and when these are rejected, there is only judgment left, a judgment that will not be the kind that Egypt in the Exodus faced, but one in which a nation, that rejects the food that gives it life, must eat its own, then itself, and then starve to death.