Encanto, Spiritual Deconstruction and Reconstruction


The colorful musical is undoubtedly charming and I would recommend it. However it raised certain familiar points of pain for me.

When Encanto was available to stream my kids did what has become habitual in many households; they watched it multiple times over the course of several days.
I personally did not sit through all of the viewings. As the tv is in the living room of a small house, I heard the story multiple times.

The colorful musical is undoubtedly charming and I would recommend it. However, it raised certain familiar points of pain for me. I grew a legalistic Christian home. So I am no stranger to the sense of pressure that multiple characters express through song and dance numbers. The burden of “taking every thought captive” and self-control (of all emotions) was one I learned to carry from a young age. I learned what I had to do in order to please my parents. I just hoped that by doing so I was also pleasing God. As the oldest, I was taught that it was my responsibility to make sure my younger sisters had a “good example”.

Let’s look at some of the ways the women in the casita are told their value is:

-Mirabel struggles to feel valued by her grandmother. Because she does not have a gift like the other members of the family. She wants to be loved for who she is but knows that she is not “good enough” for her Abuela.

-Isabella believes she has to marry who she is told to. She is supposed to keep everything “perfect” for the sake of the family. (Did you notice how she freaks out when Dolores mentions the man wants to have 5 children?)

-Luisa has to take on the hardest tasks because she is physically strong, even though it creates immense mental strain. People constantly pile onto an already precarious pile.

-Pepa is belittled for being too emotional and told she needs to keep her feelings under control at all times.

-Julieta is supposed to make everyone feel better, all the time. She puts the needs of the village even ahead of her daughters.

-Dolores is privy to all the secrets but has no one to share them with. This is why she wants to be loved by the man chosen for her cousin.

-Abuela believes she is responsible for the “miracle”. She must keep it safe, holding onto what she believes to be the truth.

My Experience of value

Growing up in the homeschool, countercultural, purity culture movements of the late 20th and early 21st century this is all reflected there.

Your worth as a woman in the eyes of God is to be wife and mom. You better have lots of babies, have a “meek and quiet spirit” (i.e. do not be too emotional) while taking care of the family’s needs. Also, don’t talk about your needs and desires. Plus you need to manage a household well (keep it organized, healthy, on a good budget, etc.) Don’t ask questions of any man except your father, husband, or brothers. Dress modestly so the men don’t stumble.

While healing can occur for the family Madrigal in the course of a magical two-hour movie, real life is more complicated. The metaphor of rebuilding the house is particularly powerful in the movie. Across the internet, many people are using the term deconstruction in relation to their faith and spiritual life. Once something has gone through the process, methodically or otherwise, the rebuilding can begin.

I have been in the process of spiritual deconstruction for some years. With the help of wise guides, I believe I am ready to begin the reconstruction phase. One beautiful scene in the movie is when the whole village comes to help rebuild the house. This reiterates to the family that their presence is valued. Valued without the magical abilities that Abuela had stressed as the most important.

Jesus came to tear down a religious system that had made what you do more important than a relationship with God. A faith that is based on merit is not the point. Yet so many people continue to make it their whole personality. This can happen with or without a religious experience. Being a social media influencer can become someone’s whole personality. Choosing a political affiliation can become one’s basis for life choices, etc.

Reconstruction starts with understanding that “I am a beloved child of God”. And my neighbors are also beloved children of God. This creates connection based on common human experience, rather than assigning worth based on where you attend church. Or some other metric that only a few can fit into.

Belovedness is the starting point of reconstruction. Right now there are a lot of newsletters, podcasts, and people using the phrase deconstruction. Millennials and Gen Z are out here in a world full of information, misinformation, and pandemic pandemonium. There are overblown sexual crises and racial problems. There are religious leaders toppling under scrutiny, so it’s no wonder that faith is like one more domino toppling. Yet that does not mean that all is lost. Because things that have been torn down can be rebuilt. So let’s roll up our sleeves and clear away the debris. Then we will find the true foundation of miracles, alongside the beloved children of God.

Those of us raised in the era of Acts 29 groups, or the Harris “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” courtship, ATI conferences, and homeschool conventions were filled with the “right” knowledge. We were raised full of religious fervor that we could change the world if we just lived the right way. If we worked hard and stayed true to the “truth” we would bring America back to Christianity.

Yet no amount of theological knowledge and memory verses crammed into the brain will truly transform the heart. As Paul aptly said. “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

Faith reconstruction will occur when your start understanding belovedness. Your worth is not in your gifts, your skill, your church attendance, or your ability/desire to argue on Twitter. You are beloved by God. He made you, he died for you, and he lives for you. That is a miracle worth remembering.