The Disgusting Thing 'Shape of Water' Reveals About Our Culture

Actors Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins attend the premiere of "The Shape of Water."
Actors Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins attend the premiere of "The Shape of Water." (REUTERS/David McNew)

The Shape of Water received 13 Academy Award nominations yesterday, one short of the record. The plot follows a mute custodian who develops a sexual relationship with a humanoid-amphibian creature.

Due to the film's graphic nudity, I will not see it. As to why it received so many nominations, I defer to a film critic who noted: "Perhaps the best argument in its favor is that, in a weird way, it's a film that speaks to our times. One could interpret The Shape of Water as being about a mute woman who finds her voice with the help of her gay and African-American friends to take down the sexually predatory, bigoted patriarchy."

It seems The Shape of Water celebrates "love" as defined however the characters choose to express it.

'Speaking your truth'

The prevailing theme of our culture is the belief that truth is whatever you believe it to be. Oprah Winfrey made headlines in her Golden Globes speech when she announced, "What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have."

However, to claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim. Nor does such a denial change the reality it denies.

More and more Americans are rejecting the concept of hell, but does their opinion change its existence? If I don't believe the Queen of England exists, does my aristocratic atheism change anything about her reign?

The denial of absolute truth also leads to ethical quicksand: Americans view the 9/11 attacks as cowardly terrorism, while al-Qaeda celebrates them as a courageous defense of Islam. Is each viewpoint just "their truth"?

Of course, the rejection of objective truth leads inevitably to the rejection of objective sexual morality. Marriage becomes defined however its participants wish to define it. Your sexual identity is just that-yours. A sexual relationship between a human and a humanoid-amphibian creature becomes the plot for an Academy Award-nominated film.

If we disagree, we are labeled intolerant, bigoted or worse.

One of the most powerful testimonies of deliverance from same-sex attraction I have ever seen is Emily Thomes' story. I strongly encourage you to watch her video. Appallingly, the ministry behind the video has received death threats. One person posted to Facebook, "If I had the means, I would come there and kill every last one of you!"

'God designed the human machine to run on Himself'

Martin Luther observed, "The first commandment will stand and remain, that God is our God; this will not be accomplished in the present, but in the life everlasting." He is right, of course: We will not worship God fully and unconditionally until we are with him in heaven.

But consider what Luther concluded from this observation: "All the other commandments will cease and end; for, in the life to come, the world will cease and end together with all external worship of God, all world policy and government; only God and the first commandment will remain everlastingly, both here and there."

In heaven, we will not need commandments against idolatry, adultery, murder and the rest. We will not need to be commanded to keep the Sabbath or to honor our parents. We will keep the first commandment, and all the others will flow from it.

Now consider the degree to which Luther's observation explains the moral morass of our day. If morality flows from worship in heaven, is not the same true on earth?

Humans were created to need intimate relationship with our Creator. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis explained: "God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there."

The U.K. recently appointed a minister for loneliness to deal with what Prime Minister Theresa May calls "the sad reality of modern life" for too many people. If we are children cut off from our Father, should we be surprised at the epidemic of loneliness in our culture?

Yesterday's violence in Kentucky is the eleventh school shooting this year and tragic proof that we need a Prince of Peace. According to Gallup, 77 percent of Americans say our moral values are getting worse.

A personal question

If we cut a flower at its roots, the flower inevitably dies. As Jesus noted, "the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine" (John 15:4b).

According to our Lord, there's only one way to live with flourishing purpose: "He who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Is American society "abiding" in Jesus today? Here's a more personal question: Are you?

This article originally appeared on The Denison Forum.

Jim Denison, Ph.D., is founder of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a non-sectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth. Join over 100,000 who read Dr. Denison's daily Cultural Commentary: . For more information on the Denison Forum, visit To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit or

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