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The Spirit of Oz

“We’re off to see the Wizard! The wonderful Wizard of Oz!”

So goes the song that awakened joy and wonder in the hearts of millions of children over the past century. Who is the Wizard? What is he like? Will he answer our requests? Will he keep us safe? What will he do to those who stand against us?

I’ll never forget the first time I heard that deep, long voice bellow, “Come! Forward!” Suddenly, the hopes and dreams turned into terror and trembling. Fire and smoke filled the room. And you were left with this eery feeling that the main characters had better not tick this Wizard off.

But as I sat there, I also silently thought that this Wizard reminded me of someone that I believed in. He reminded me of God. And the scene? The Great White Throne Judgement! Or the Bema Seat! And while I enjoyed the movie, I was also trying to suppress the feelings of fear that it was reminding me of.

As you know, of course, in the end, the Wizard is discovered to be a fake, an imposter, a scam artist. It’s just a crazy man behind a curtain, pulling levers, and in order to control and scare everyone into worshiping him and doing what he tells them to do. And for years, part of me wondered if the writers of the movie were trying to make a point about God.

In fact, my theory wasn’t that far off. Apparently, many atheists have used this movie as an allegory to show the danger and ignorance of faith. When it was released, many fundamentalist Christians even tried to ban the movie for this reason as well as for the movie’s proposal that our goodness comes from inside of us, rather than from God.

I don’t know what the writers were intending. But I think there is a profound picture here to consider.

The reality is that there was indeed a magic flowing throughout the movie that brought people together on a journey to love one another and to help each other in their weaknesses. That magic was very real, while the Wizard was just a character trying to control people.

As I consider the story now, I don’t think the Wizard should be taken as a picture of God. I think the Wizard should be taken as a picture of flawed humans who try to project an image of God in order to control their world and everyone in it through fear. And unfortunately, many religious people walk around with emerald colored theological glasses, ignoring reality, and serving crazy control freaks behind the curtain.

The real magic, and I believe the real parallel for God, is the invisible power that implants hope and desire for growth in the minds and hearts of each person. It’s the power that creates a longing from within for our true home. It’s the power that brings people from different backgrounds, with different struggles together in a common family for a common journey.

Ephesians 1:9-11 says it this way:

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

God has promised to bring everything in heaven and on earth together under the authority of Christ. And Christ’s authority is not like the Wizard. It is an authority of “good pleasure,” of “inheritance,” and of a full realization of his good plan.

I used to wonder if the Wizard of Oz was meant to be an attack on God by making him out to be the crazy magician behind the curtain. But now I’m seeing that when the control-driven imposters are exposed, and the real curtain of life is pulled back, we see a Spirit that was there all along, caring for us, and bringing us together in a way that renews our minds, transforms our hearts, and gives us courage to walk together on the journey toward home. And in the end, maybe even the imposters can come to grips with who they are, what they’ve done, and come home too.

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