4 conversations I’m having with my child about “Mulan”

October 8, 2020

Over the last few weeks, I have been studying the country of China with my seven-year-old daughter. We have researched landmarks, language, customs, and geography. I want to teach my daughter about the diversity of God’s creation, so when we looked at maps of China and its regions, we looked at pictures of the various people groups that live in the country’s different regions.

I intentionally pointed out the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwestern China where the Uighur people have faced brutality because of their race and a campaign of genocide at the hands of the Chinese authorities. I could not ignore this historical moment in our geography lesson. So without going into graphic detail, I shared with her that a government is designed to protect its people (Rom. 13:1–7). But in Xinjiang, the government is hurting its people.

As we studied China, our family also looked forward to the latest live-action Disney movie, “Mulan.” The film recounts the story of a fearless young woman who risks everything out of love for her family and country to become one of China’s greatest warriors. The movie’s anthem is “Loyal, Brave, True,” a song that proclaims the importance of fighting for freedom and to protect one’s family.

With core themes like these, I didn’t anticipate the dilemma I now face. Since the movie’s release, I’ve learned that the movie was filmed in Turpan, a city where local officials operate concentration camps that hold Uighur people. In the movie’s closing credits, Disney explicitly thanks multiple Chinese government entities including Turpan’s public safety bureau, which is responsible for operating camps in the area. Moreover, Liu Yifei, the actress who plays Mulan, has used her platform to speak out in support of the Chinese Communist Party and against freedom for the Chinese people. In light of these realities, the ideals of loyalty, bravery, and truth that the film upholds look more like a thinly veiled facade behind which Disney is hiding actions that actually support China’s totalitarian government.  

My prayer for my daughter is that she won’t grow up turning a blind eye to injustice and suffering but rather see that she has a stewardship from God to be loyal, brave, and true.

We have decided we will eventually watch the movie, though some families have made the choice that they will not. As a parent, I am now faced with several questions. Do I simply teach my daughter the surface-level values of the film? After all, Disney has often presented heroes and heroines that fight for justice and truth. Or, do I pull back the veil and begin to teach my daughter about the complexities of evil?

This is an ongoing work in progress, but here is where we have started:  

  1. Teach your kids about human dignity. It’s not lost on me that my daughter and I enjoy many privileges. We experience safety and freedom while at the same moment Uighur families experience the horrors of persecution. This is grace, because the Uighur people are equal to us in the eyes of God. They are inherently his image-bearers, but they have not been treated with dignity.
  2. Teach your children to seek justice while trusting in God’s sovereignty. When we see injustice happening in our world, we have a desire to take necessary action. But, as Christians, when we act, we should do so hoping in the truth that God is sovereign over both good and evil. God’s Word promises that Jesus will return one day to put an end to injustice and evil on this earth. This fact serves as a reminder for me to teach my daughter to pray for the Uighur people. We pray for world leaders to honor the dignity of the Uighur people by standing up to the Chinese authorities, and we pray that the Uighur people would hear and believe the good news of the gospel—that they’ll find hope in Christ in the midst of this present darkness.
  3. Teach kids to respect government authorities but also help them realize that human governments are broken. It’s part of our civic duty to serve our communities and country by giving back to others. And it’s important to teach our children to be good citizens. As I teach my daughter the history of our nation, I’m careful to emphasize our civic duty as citizens of the United States within the context of a biblical worldview in which God’s sovereignty reigns supreme. Our children should know that bravery is required when seeking to protect others or build up our communities. But our children also need to learn that governments never carry out truth and justice perfectly. Broken institutions are bad saviors. We should not lead our kids to put their hope in man-made institutions but in God alone. Governments will fail, but ultimately God’s justice will not fail.
  4. Finally, help your kids pay attention to history and what is happening around them. I want to teach my daughter to recognize good and evil in the world as she grows. One way to help her grow in discernment is to help her learn history and then think about it in light of the Scriptures. What events and people have led to this current moment? How can I relate current events to her in age-appropriate ways? Parents will differ about whether or not it’s appropriate to pull back the veil on Disney’s connections to the Chinese authorities. Your child’s age and emotional makeup should factor into your decision about what information they can handle. But every parent should seek to talk to their children about current events and help their children to evaluate the world in light of a biblical worldview.

I began this series of geography lessons to help my daughter see that God has created a world that is bigger than her limited view. I believe it’s important for her to learn from an early age that God’s world is bigger than the community of like-minded people around us. I also want her to hide the truths of God’s Word deep within her heart so that as she grows to have a larger view of the world, she’ll also bravely seek justice, goodness, and truth. My prayer for my daughter is that she won’t grow up turning a blind eye to injustice and suffering but rather see that she has a stewardship from God to be loyal, brave, and true.

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Amanda Hays

Amanda Hays serves as the digital strategist for the ERLC. Her responsibilities include digital marketing strategy & analytics. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24