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Pixar Film Proclaims Message on Romantic Love

Editor's Note: The Pixar movie Inside Out includes a short film called Lava, a quick story about two volcanoes who fall in love. In the following illustration, Eve Tushnet summarizes Lava and observes how our culture assumes that romantic love, in particular marriage, has become the only place to meet the deepest needs of our heart.

In the short film Lava, a volcano lives all alone in the middle of the ocean. He's surrounded by pairs of animals: two leaping dolphins, two flying seabirds, etc. Every day he sings about how much he longs for "someone to lava." The years pass, he's still alone, and he becomes grayer and colder, eventually sinking into the sea. But lo! a lady volcano has heard his song. Love gives her the strength to explode up above the water. Volcanette and Volcano are united, in a cataclysm of underwater lava, and snuggle together as one island, forever and ever.

In some ways, this cute, short film reflects the fears, longings, blind spots, and expectations of the culture we already have. The villain of Lava is loneliness. This is the terrible fate that our hero must escape. We feel the shakiness of our communal bonds, and worry that we won't find anyone willing to hold onto us: As parents divorce, friends move across the country, extended family members drift into mere Facebook-friend status, we fear that all people are islands.

The only way to vanquish loneliness, in Lava and in the culture that created it, is through romantic love. Love between a lady volcano and a man volcano exists to rescue us from loneliness. There are no other forms of love depicted in the short: no families, for example. The dolphins and the seabirds have no calves or chicks. Romantic love not only exists to free us from the terror of loneliness; it also stops there, and has no obvious fruit beyond the happiness of the lovers. Huge swathes of our culture, from our health-insurance policies to our church ministries, are set up as if the one [and only] way that adults give and receive love, care, and kinship is through romantic love, and marriage is the institution which ratifies and fulfills that love.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Singleness; Celibacy—God has good and rich plans for people who are not married. (2) Body of Christ; Community—the church is the place where our deepest needs for friendship and community are met in Christ and his people.

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