Let it Shine – the “Truth” behind Disney’s new hit

Carl Kerby Jr here. My father is currently at Rush Camp in Miamisburg, OH and asked me to write a blog for our website. He doesn’t have internet at the camp but is excited to tell you about the latest happenings for our ministry.

My wife and I are currently writing articles for our brand new mobile app. You can currently purchase the app at the Google Play market place here.

On this app we have a section called “Mind Over Media”. Our goal is to teach critical thinking on the subject of movies, books, video games and music. The latest article for this app was actually written by my wife, Tish. We wanted to share this review on a brand new Disney musical, “Let it Shine”.

Let it Shine – the “Truth” behind Disney’s new hit.
By Tish Kerby

As director of media and ministry relations for Reasons for Hope (rforh), my husband Carl Kerby, Jr teaches about the media influence in our everyday world. Being aware of these daily influences will help us to stand ready, dressed in the armor of the Lord, to defend our souls, protect our kids and boldly proclaim a biblical message. (See Ephesians 6:20- 28 and 1 Peter 5:8).

So is it any surprise that I was curious to see what Disney’s new movie “Let it Shine” was all about? The movie has been hyped for weeks on the Disney channel and according to one headline It “divined” a lot of attention.  The article proclaimed: “5.7 million Total Viewers gave ‘cred’ to Friday’s premiere of the kid-driven, family inclusive “Let It Shine”  which also now ranks as the year’s #1 TV movie across all core kid demographics with its strong delivery of 3.0 million Kids 2-11, 2.6 million Kids 6-11, 2.3 million Tweens, plus 1.2 million Adults 18-49.” 1  I wonder how many of your children or their friends tuned in.

The storyline, for those who didn’t see the two hour Disney movie, is about a talented, teenage musician named Cyrus. He uses his talent by leading the choir at the church his father pastors, Mt. Bethel Baptist Church, but then at night he sneaks out to be a busboy at the “Off the Street” teen age rap club.

So what does Cyrus’s dad, Pastor Jacob Debarge, have to say about this? Well within the first few minutes the stage is set as Cyrus leads the church choir in an upbeat song and his dad reprimands him for being involved with rap music – calling it the “devil’s music.”

Little does he know that this is just the beginning as Cyrus and his best friend Chris decide to enter the Grand Slam Rap contest, also hoping to reunite with their shared love interest and former grade school friend, Roxie. A now popular singer, Roxie used to be “the girl in church with the loud voice.”

Cyrus enters the contest as the artist named “Truth” and wins.  His record “Don’t Run Away” is, of course, an immediate hit – however a submission mix up causes everyone to believe that the artist “Truth”  is Chris, not Cyrus.

And so the lies continue as Chris and Cyrus decide to deceive everyone by portraying Chris as “Truth”.  Meanwhile, Cyrus continues to work part time at the club and raps on the side.

Disney pushes the envelope once again by showing Chris as being late to church, but arriving in time to hear his dad preach “our Word” — a harsh rant against the language being heard on teens’ stereos, their immoral dressing and of course rap music. In true gospel style Pastor Debarge urges the congregation to come together against hip-hop and make the video vixens be valiant.

It should be no surprise that so many of today’s children will relate to Cyrus’ resentment towards his dad and the church.  Cyrus does however have respect for the oh-so wise rap club owner, Levi, who truly understands him and encourages him to “Speak up for yourself and be who you truly are.”

The story continues with Cyrus struggling to decide if he should tell the “Truth” about who he is. His lyrics seem to reveal his struggle — “pacing back and forth contemplating, meditating; how to use what I’ve been taught as a positive force.” He also calls on his guardian angel to set him free and his lyrics speak of how both he and his dad have messages, but “we just preach to different crowds.”

Disney would not be true to themselves without driving the point home, and so we see Roxie arrive at church to “get her praise on.”   Cyrus lets her lead the choir in a self exalting song about “how good it is to be home” in “a place full of mercy, love and grace,” where she has come to “worship and pour out my offering…in the presence of this love.” In the background we see not a cross, but two bright green banners – one misquoting Psalm 33:3 “I will sing a new song2” and the other misquoting Proverbs 3:13 “Rejoice and be Glad”.3
As the music fades Pastor Debarge stands to thank the “mighty uplifting youth choir” before turning to the congregation and calling out the people for living in “hip-ocrisy”. Once again painting the picture of how we, as the church, do not preach the truth in love but are only here to condemn. Next, after the scolding and demands of his wife, Pastor Debarge goes to the club and apologizes to Roxie, saying “my righteousness is sinful.”

This apology leads to dad’s public disrespect by Cyrus.  Later dad apologizes, realizing that Cyrus’ lyrics have “good Christian values” — just in a different genre. There is no apology from Cyrus as he tells his dad “I got to do what I got to do.”  But his dad does a 180 in his thinking and joins Cyrus at the Gram Slam Rap contest where “the Truth will set you free –right?” And so upon dad and mom’s urging to “get him son,” Cyrus tells Roxie who he is, straightens things out with his best friend Chris, defeats the artist “Revelation” and upstages his rap rival “Lord of da Bling”.

All in true Disney tradition, this feel good story ends with Roxie and Cyrus leading the church in a remix of “This Little Light of Mine” and talking about how they have been on a “journey of truth where you just believe” and it is about “your light, your love” — something that the congregation also must find.

How sharply that contrasts with God’s Word which says “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

Going back to the Bible and starting with God’s Word as authority shows us how to truly live and have reason for hope in our lives. The battle line is not drawn between the church and rap music, but rather between choosing this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15; Deut. 11:19). As Disney continues to aggressively target our children and tweens by producing anti-family, and anti-God entertainment, I encourage you, as parents, to sit down and watch these shows with your children.  Then take the time to show them how the “Truth” can only be found in Jesus Christ and His Word (John 14:6) and then explain to them the importance of the application of God’s Truth in our lives .

1 http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2012/06/16/disney-channels-let-it-shine-divines-5-7-million-viewers-becomes-1-tv-movie-of-the-year-with-kids-and-tweens/138449/

2 Psalm 33:3 says “Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.”

3 While Proverbs 3:13 says  “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding” perhaps they meant Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.”


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