Given the fact that I have seen the Lion King so many times…..even memorized it…….it came as a shock last night when I saw certain scenes, and heard certain lines in a completely different way then when I was 12.

The Lion King is a fairly deep movie….with a lot of intricate themes. While it is not an overtly Christian movie…..like say, The Matrix Trilogy ……it does strike me that the story of Simba is one of redemption and anamnesis.

These two major themes are set up by the main crisis of the film: Simba’s overwhelming sense of guilt and shame over Mufasa’s death.

Through Scar’s emotional manipulation, the young cub comes to view himself as a horrible person.

If developmental psychology has taught us anything, it’s that a child around Simba’s age would be highly susceptible to that kind of thinking…especially in their quest for acceptance within the family unit and by others.

This skewed sense-of-self, and Simba’s earnest desire to forget his identity as the crown-prince of Pride Rock affects the way he grows up and perceives himself.

Don’t believe me???..Check out his thoughts, body language and facial expressions while at the river with Nala (1:05)

Simba’s guilt is so pervasive, that he feels unworthy of being loved and embraced. Up until now, he has been able to forget himself, and is further convinced that the problems of the world don’t have to involve him. He acknowledges that the past can’t be changed…..but he doesn’t think there is anything beyond it…or at least anything worth holding on to….

Hakuna Matata, right????

Enter Rafiki. Through this encounter, Simba learns that–as much as he may try to escape it–the past is a part of his being…..and he must remember the way in which it has shaped him….otherwise the guilt will never go away……

What struck me the most though is Mufasa’s message: Look inside yourself…..You are more than what you have become….Remember who you are! You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are! Remember……Remember…..Remember…..

In Christian understanding…..anamnesis…..the act of remembering……is never a one way street…..It not only entails who God is….what He has done and how He has shaped us and made us….but remembering who we are .

While we still have the propensity to sin and make mistakes…..we are more than what we have become….While the past may haunt us and be filled with horrible things, they are not the whole of who we are.

Unlike Simba, we are not the True King… BUT we do bear his image. We–like Christ–are called to be priest, prophet and yes… even kings and queens :D.

The notion of faith bringing us a crown of glory is not foreign to the Christian tradition. Check out Rev 4:10 or the words of Emily Dickinson writing in the Puritan miluex of the 19th century:

Too little could I care for Pearls
Who own the ample sea—
Or Brooches—when the Emperor—
With Rubies—pelteth me—

Or Gold—who am the Prince of Mines—
Or Diamonds—when have I
A Diadem to fit a Dome—
Continual upon me—

In the end, the Lion King comes to accept that the past is an integral part of who he is. While he is not defined by it….and while it still causes him intense pain…there is something beyond it. We can learn from our past……and add on to it….finding our way back home…..and claiming our rightful place in life.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again……I ❤ this movie! Thanks be to God for movies that can make us feel like children again and that can still speak to us even after 17 years! 🙂 +

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