The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Wonka invites us beyond ‘pure imagination’ into transformative practice

‘I’ve got nothing to offer but my chocolate and a hatful of dreams’, sings Timothée Chalamet as he dances through the streets in the opening sequence of Wonka.

Wonka is a fresh adventure from the delightfully whimsical minds of Paul King and Simon Farnaby (the creative team behind the Paddington films), detailing the origin story of Roald Dahl’s eccentric chocolatier and inventor.

A young Willy Wonka dreams of opening his own chocolate shop, packed with magical new treats affordable to everyone. But the city’s sweet scene is dominated by the sinister Chocolate Cartel, a Boggis-Bunce-and-Bean-esque trio of chocolate overlords who care only for maximising their profits.

Corruption abounds: chocolatiers cook the books, the chief-of-police takes bribes, and the town’s supply of chocolate is guarded by a memorable ‘corrupt cleric and 500 chocoholic monks’.

As Wonka’s friend laments, ‘The greedy beat the needy every time.’

But Wonka brings a different spirit to his endeavours. He cares about relationships, honoured promises, just reward, beauty, and imaginative creations that are accessible to all. Where other chocolate sellers observe their sales successes from afar, Willy Wonka’s distinctive attitude sets him apart and ushers in change, hope, and a more just future. It brings those around him together.

When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, he responded:

‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ (Matthew 22:37–39)

Relationship is essential to our triune God. Jesus’ response both articulates God’s priorities and provides a relational framework for us to take into the places we live, work, create, serve, and rest.

For some, that place may indeed be a chocolate factory: Christians like Cadbury and Rowntree, motivated by their faith, made a transformational difference to the working lives of their employees. For others it will be a school, office, gym, courtroom, cornershop, hospital, or neighbourhood.

God’s kingdom values encourage a distinctive approach to doing business, where profit blesses people and planet alike for the greater purpose of loving relationships. That might look like challenging your organisation or area on its environmental impact, making proper time to welcome new colleagues, resisting attempts to distort the truth, or setting an example by leaving the workplace at a reasonable hour.

Wherever we are, we’re called to move beyond a ‘world of pure imagination’ and into transformative practice.

Katherine Osborne
Katherine works in communications for the Civil Service and attends Christ Church Balham.


  1. Interesting article – but a bit of a leap to say charitable religious (Quaker) chocolate makers from the past trusted in Christ for true life and their salvation.
    “Some Quakers believe that when we die, we enter a realm of pure love that expands upon our spiritual experience of God’s love during our mortal lives. Others believe that we will enter the presence of Jesus and stay with him through eternity. And some Friends consider death the end of our existence.” › do-quakers-beli…
    Do Quakers believe in heaven?
    It would appear their charity points to God’s common grace, not of them being followers of Jesus. Just being good and doing good is important, but not necessarily a sign post to Jesus.

    By Simon G  -  15 Dec 2023
  2. I am blessed to work in an organisation where profit is sought and then used wisely. Profit is not a bad thing. Profit belongs to the shareholders. Salaries and benefits to the staff. Timely payments to suppliers. Cash to do these things comes from the making of profit. We have some wonderful people who work for us for whom I’m very thankful to the Lord.
    Maybe the greedy beat the needy but the shirkers stress their fellow workers.
    In the Bible are we encouraged as Christians to serve our employers as if serving the Lord or to demand how our owners use profit? As well, what is our reasonable act of worship?
    Being a blessing starts with servant heartedness, preferring others needs to my own and showing that I love the Lord with all my heart and love my neighbour/colleague as myself.
    Could you write an article about setting an example as a good member of staff that isn’t focussed on getting someone else to do something and taking responsibility for giving one’s best at all times whether one’s voice is heard or not.

    By Brian Smith  -  15 Dec 2023
  3. This movie was full of Christian referents

    (SPOILER: See the free sharing of chocolate taking place outside the cathedral, blessed by a supernatural presence, a vivacious communion contrasting with the corrupt cleric leading a society funeral.)

    and after reading your piece I’m eager to learn more about Cadbury and Rowntree, whose faiths are previously unknown to me. Thanks for the post!

    By Jerad  -  15 Jan 2024

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