The Jungle Book

A hundred years ago, the great author Rudyard Kipling amused his friends by tacking a sign to the door of his London home reading: "To Publishers: Classics written while you wait." These days, some would urge the Disney Studios to tack a sign on their door reading: "Classics ruined while you wait." Disney recently came out with a film entitled Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. But Kipling himself wouldn't recognize this politically correct rendering of his jungle tale. Kipling gave us a story about an East Indian man-child named Mowgli, who is taught by animal mentors how to survive in a dangerous jungle. Disney gives us an adult Mowgli who re-enters civilization at a British Army post. He falls in love with a young English girl named Kitty. When dastardly British soldiers kidnap Kitty, Mowgli takes off after them on an Indiana Jones-style chase through the jungle. In their search for a fabulous treasure, the soldiers fall off cliffs, drown in quicksand, and confront what must be the scariest snake in Hollywood history. The movie is great fun for kids who enjoy action-packed thrillers. But even Disney spokesmen admit that the film bears little resemblance to Kipling's classic. Most important, the film teaches a philosophical lesson that is profoundly unbiblical: that human beings are by nature good and uncorrupted—that they are corrupted by society. Disney portrays a child raised in the jungle without human parents, outside the rules of civilization, as by far the most civilized character in the film—a person immune to the petty hostilities that plague the rest of us. In one scene, a puzzled Mowgli asks a British officer, "What is enemy? What is hate?" By contrast, the upper-class British soldiers Mowgli meets are vicious, greedy men who will stop at nothing to obtain the treasure they seek. The message is clear: The men raised on the playing fields of Eton are corrupt; the man raised outside the rules of society is morally superior. That's exactly the opposite of what Kipling wrote. Kipling's Jungle Book gives us an animal society that closely parallels human society. Kipling's wolves, tigers, panthers, and monkeys reveal goodness and evil, cleverness and stupidity, nobility and pettiness, compassion and cruelty. When Disney screenwriters turned Mowgli into a noble savage, they were following the ideas first taught by nineteenth-century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau believed that children are naturally innocent, that civilization, with its traditions, customs, and rules, is the source of all corruption. But the Bible teaches that we're all born with a sinful nature. And modern studies are backing the Bible up. Children raised with the least amount of adult discipline are the most likely to behave in uncivilized ways—not as noble savages, but simply as savages. So go ahead and take older children to see Disney's Jungle Book. And then help them to understand the true nature of sin. That there are no "noble savages." Only sinful people in need of God's grace.


Chuck Colson


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