Kung Fu Panda: There is a Secret Ingredient

Posted: June 24, 2013 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Adventure, Animation, Comedy
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Kung Fu Panda

I missed Kung Fu Panda when it first came out in 2008.  I’m not a big fan of Jack Black or Kung Fu or films that try to instill a bit of Eastern mysticism into my kids.  When the movie became a children’s TV show, I watched it a few times with my boys and found the writing to be quite funny and engaging.  So I finally watched Kung Fu Panda a year or so ago, and just viewed it again recently.  Yes, I still don’t care for all the false religious references couched in cute animal characters, but it does provide a wonderful platform for talking about why we need the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

Po the rotund panda is just a cook in his father’s noodle store.  Through a series of events (some would say accidents), Po fulfills the prophecy of the Dragon Warrior.  He will be the mightiest of all of the Kung Fu fighters in the land, and will defeat the mightiest of enemies–Tai Lung.  You can probably guess most of the rest of the story.  Po is horrible at Kung Fu.  The other warriors think that he couldn’t be the chosen one.  The master doesn’t believe in him.  Even Po doesn’t have faith.  But Tai Lung escapes from prison, so it’s time for Po to step up as the Dragon Warrior.  Motivated by his love for food (nice fat guy stereotype), he eventually trains in a remarkably short amount of time to be an excellent Kung Fu fighter!

Then the whole point of the movie bubbles forth.  Po receives the much coveted “Dragon Scroll” since the master now believes he is the chosen one.  He opens the scroll to reveal the much-needed words of wisdom, and (gasp) it’s empty!  What?  Has this all been a joke?  Po loses all faith and returns home to his noodle-making father.  This wise duck (yes, Po’s adopted) says these words: “Po, do you know my secret ingredient noodle soup that everyone loves?  Do you know what makes it so good?  Nothing!  There is no secret ingredient!  It’s just chicken noodle soup!”  Profound, right?  This duck has been manipulating people in his restaurant for years!  Seriously, his point (typical of most children’s movies) is that just as people believed his noodles were the best in town, you have to believe in yourself.  The “empty” scroll was communicating that there is nothing special about the Dragon Warrior–Po was just supposed to be himself, and believe in himself.

So, when Po has to face the great Tai Lung in battle, he also ends up sharing this amazingly profound worldly pagan truth with him.  In the midst of the fight, Tai Lung grabs the scroll, looks inside of it and is extremely disappointed.  He too thought the scroll had given Po great power.  Po says to him: “I didn’t get it at first either.  The power of the dragon scroll is NOTHING.  There is no secret ingredient.  It’s just you!”  Thus our children are fed a sickening combination of self-esteem philosophy and Eastern mystic “reach your true destiny and potential” ideology in a cute film about a fat panda.  Thanks again Hollywood!

The truth is that there is a “secret” or “missing” ingredient in all of us.  It’s the Holy Spirit!  As fallen, sinful creatures we can only be transformed into mighty spiritual warriors by the amazing work of the Spirit of God.  It is not about believing in ourselves.  It is not about loving and accepting ourselves.  When we are chosen by God, He also gives us His mighty Spirit to change us and equip us to do battle against Satan in this dark world.  We are only victors in this war because Jesus Christ won the battle for us!

Oh, and one more thing.  Our children need to know that we don’t have a Dragon Scroll that is empty, just reflecting what we want to believe about ourselves.  We have the Holy Scriptures that perfectly instruct us in the way of God and His wisdom!  And when we gaze into the Word of God, we come to see our Savior and learn who God is and who we are and why we need a Redeemer.  It is the perfect Word of God combined with the Holy Spirit that sanctifies God’s people to fight until Christ returns!

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