FCC 03: Finding Christ in “The Wizard of Oz”

Close your eyes and click your heels as we get swept away finding Christian themes in MGM’s timeless classic “The Wizard of Oz“!

The Wizard of Oz: “A Delightful Piece of Wonder-Working”

Neither I nor Michael were alive when The Wizard of Oz first premiered in the nebulousness that is June 6, 1939 A.D. And neither one of us were alive when movie posters like the one below flooded the movie houses.

wizard of oz, poster

But both of us agree that this film is a benchmark in not only our own lives but all those who count themselves “Young at Heart.”

Being one of the “Technicolor” forerunners, The Wizard of Oz is full of fresh and vivid imagery. Also, the characters are relatable on multiple levels, ensuring that everyone who watches the film has a connection.

Upon its release, critical receptions like the one in the header for this section were as abundant as the yellow bricks on the road itself. But I think the late Roger Ebert said it best when proffering his thoughts:

“The Wizard of Oz” has a wonderful surface of comedy and music, special effects and excitement, but we still watch it six decades later because its underlying story penetrates straight to the deepest insecurities of childhood, stirs them and then reassures them.

Moses: “If I Only Had a Tongue”

Do the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion remind you of anyone from the Old Testament? Your answer might be different, but they remind me of Moses.

Think about it: each of the Ozian trio believes he is missing something:

  • The Scarecrow is missing a brain.
  • The Tin Man is missing a heart.
  • The Lion is missing courage (or, if we continued with the anatomical metaphor, he would be missing a backbone).

And because they earnestly believe in their assumed deficiencies, they are wary of joining Dorothy on her quest to see the Wizard.

wizard of oz, trio

There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do: talk me out of it!

Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like Moses? Check it out:

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

This verse comes from the “Burning Bush” scene, where God tells Moses to face the Pharaoh and ultimately free the Israelites. Moses, however, feels inadequate and tries to change God’s mind. But God, as we know, doesn’t let that happen.

And whenever we feel inadequate and deficient when it comes to sharing the Good News, we have to remember that as long as we take care of the “what,” God will take care of the “how.”

The crux of the matter rests on Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)

When something has been made “new” again, it has the chance to grow into something that it wasn’t before – such as what happened with Moses as well as our Ozian trio.

And when we have a chance to grow in Christ, we have the capacity for perfection, as James explains:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

…not lacking a brain, a heart, courage, eloquence in speech, or anything else we think we’re missing.

The Yellow Brick Road: No Other Way

It’s astonishing that half the movie takes place on the Yellow Brick Road. (Sidebar: this definitely brings to mind that hipster adage…that it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.)

But what’s unique about this path is that it is the only one that leads to the Emerald City. Any other path, and you’re out of luck.

wizard of oz, yellow brick road

Sounds a lot like Jesus’s words as penned by John:

John 14:4-6 “And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:4-6)

Dorothy was just looking for a way back home. Our world outside of Oz is one in which people are always looking for a way back to God, and now just as ever, we find ourselves seeking (and even creating) other paths that we think will get us back home to God. Jesus reminds us that that is not the case.

Granted, there aren’t too many other options in Oz; it’s limited to yellow and red. If only it was that simple for us on Earth. Luckily, just as Glinda became Dorothy’s helper, we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper, as Jesus further explains:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

Dorothy’s journey also started off as a lonely one. And it remained that way until she happened upon a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. And it turns out that they needed help, too. And then they realized that they all needed to go to the same place. And if they’re all going to the same place, why not go together and help each other along the way?

This is what that author of the letter to the Hebrews talks about:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Bottom line: since we’re all trying to get back to God, it’s better to all go together, encourage each other to stay on it, and hold each other accountable when we stray.

Our Question

Take the five main characters – Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto (yes, Toto) – and compare their spiritual walks. Are they Christian walks? How or how not? Are they not even Christian in the slightest sense? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!

Lightning Round Links: Roku and Christ and Pop Culture

Roku – Michael’s main tool that makes being a cord-cutter that much easier.

Christ and Pop Culture – One of the blogs / podcasts that I frequent (and give a shout-out to) whenever looking for ideas for the podcast.

*UPDATE as of 2/24/2014: CaPC has a new home at christandpopculture.com. In this episode, I say they are at the Patheos home, but as of today, they have moved. Both of these links can take you to their new pad.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is a graduate student pursuing his Master in Theatre Arts degree with Regent University. He is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. You can find him live-tweeting his favorite movies on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever or posting poetry and unsolicited opinions at thebookofbrenden.com
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  • Doug

    Too much to think about in one post here 🙂 Two things have jumped out at me though: 1) Dorothy and crew almost don’t make it to the Emerald City when they stray from the path and are tranquilized by the poppies, a trap from the witch… I suppose I see myself getting sidetracked from my ultimate goal from time to time, too. 2) When Dorothy wakes from her dream about her journey to “Heaven”, she reveals that Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion all represent members of her family. Could the “negative” characteristics of Brenden’s “Ozian Trio” actually be character flaws of her family of origin? I.e. self-deprecation, cruelty, and cowardice? My 2 cents 🙂 Great job!

  • Very nice thought processes, Doug. Indeed if we remember that in the film, Oz is all in Dorothy’s head. Therefore all Ozian characters are physical manifestations of Dorothy’s own understanding of people in her life, warts and all. One could even say that because Dorothy has witnessed resolution for these characters in Oz, she might have the impetus to help them in reality.

    Quick! Someone call MGM and tell them I have the perfect sequel!

  • Good thoughts, the both of you. As I was watching the film today (for the umpteenth time since preparing for these episodes) I was struck by a new – or more complete – thought regarding Emerald City in general, and the wizard specifically. I’m wondering if he could represent false teachers. Not false teachers in the sense of wolves in sheep’s clothing, but those that assume the role of a spiritual leader who actually do not possess a perfect/more complete understanding of God’s will. Yet even that doesn’t keep Dorothy from reaching her final promised destination: home/heaven. Because, of course, she had what it took all along to reach the goal. More on that in the next episode! Oh, a tease in the comments. Shameless 😉

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