Exploring Christian Community with Pixar’s Cars

Last night, our campus ministry leadership team enjoyed a viewing of Pixar’s Cars. It was a much-needed night of relaxation as mid-terms and projects come to a head this week. Our own community was strengthened by the ability to enjoy this movie together and fellowship with each other, and I realized that there is more to this movie than a story about anthropomorphic cars.

Usually Cars is not the first movie people turn to when they want to discuss the teachings of Jesus. That’s too bad however, because there is a lot in the movie that matches well with the lessons learned in the Gospels. Various themes emerge when watching the film, from the dangers of fame and fortune to respect for elders, but one of the most important themes that emerges is the concept of community.

Cars explores community through the adventures of Lightning McQueen and the residents of Radiator Springs. Initially we are presented with a community that is down on its luck, just barely hanging on. Enter the young and brash Lightning McQueen, big-time celebrity, although no one in town could really care about that as he has just destroyed their last shred of viability by destroying the main drag. Through the course of the movie we begin to see changes in both McQueen and the community he has entered.

McQueen begins to understand what it means to be a part of a community, and as he begins to accept his new neighbors, he finds himself with more privileges and even a blossoming romance with a cute little Porsche. As he finishes repairing the road, he has built relationships with all the members of this sleepy little town, even asking for new tires from Luigi and Guido (Ferrari racing fanatics), a paint job from low-rider Ramone, and other help from the various services offered in town. He even has built a relationship with Doc, the paternal and dour head of Radiator Springs.

Unfortunately, McQueen is ripped away from this new life to fulfill his obligations as a race car, and to compete for his life-long dream, a Piston Cup Championship. Even at the track, trying to pump himself up, McQueen keeps drifting off with thoughts of his time at Radiator Springs. Then in his radio he hears the calls from his new crew chief and pit crew, the gang of Radiator Springs has shown up to help one of their own fulfill his life’s dream. Their support cements the importance of community for McQueen, a big change considering just one race earlier he was determined to win it all by himself.

This new community has also taught McQueen what is truly important in life, which we get to see in his selfless forfeit of the title to help the retiring King cross the line in his final race. Unlike the self-obsessed Chick Hicks, who by default has won the title, McQueen is offered the chance to race for King’s sponsors, but true to his new understanding of community, McQueen turns them down to stay loyal to his original (and only) backers. He completes his transformation by getting his new best friend Mater a ride on a helicopter (a life-long dream), and getting Radiator Springs back on the map.

A fun movie with great comedic lines and a touching lesson on community, Cars is a great movie to share with those trying to connect with the concept of Christian community.

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