What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of Disney? Cinderella’s castle, perhaps? Epcot’s enormous geosphere? More than just a theme park, the Disney experience transcends the tangible into what I can only describe as spiritual, minus the superstition and the supernatural — which, of course, makes the experience all the more profound. As a Christian, it was the message within the music that could often move me to tears. I truly thought I was having a unique and personal experience in which Jesus himself was speaking directly to my heart. Disney proved me wrong in the most beautiful way.
In the fall of 2016, we took our annual trip to Disney World. Not that it should have mattered, but this was my first experience of Disney sans religion. We had the opportunity to watch IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot. As a Christian, I was programmed into such a myopic and tribal mentality. There were Christians, and then there were the others who were simply wrong. For the first time in my life, I saw all of humanity as one - not as right, not as wrong, just humans. I watched the faces of different ethnicities, of different beliefs and religions move across the illuminated, spinning globe in the World Showcase Lagoon, and my focus immediately shifted. Tears filled my eyes as the depth of the message penetrated my heart and mind. “We go one, moving forward now as one…” (Lyrics begin at 10:40.)
When I read the lyrics above, I can’t help but think of the well known biblical story, the Tower of Babel. Of course, I see no truth in the historicity of the story; but what did God do as he observed the people working together towards a common goal of innovation?
Genesis 11: 6-7 (ESV) 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.”
Threatened by progress, God confused their languages. I would expect nothing less from an insecure tyrant.
In 2017, Disney World debuted a night-time show featured at the Animal Kingdom called Rivers of Light. Known for their animal conservation and educational programs, Disney again moved me to tears with their message of global awareness, the unity of all creatures shared on this beautiful planet. The narrator explains in this awe-inspiring production, “As we journey on this great Earth, may we remember the light we share. May we celebrate our bond with the natural world.” (Lyrics begin at 8:30.)
The lyrics obviously require no explanation. So, how does this stack up against the Christian message? What evidence do we have from the Bible that God has a heart for global awareness? Does a global flood count? Does God love animals? Sure, he does, especially when he can smell their burning flesh.
Genesis 6:17 (ESV) 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.
Numbers 18:17 (ESV) But the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and shall burn their fat as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
What does it say when a theme park can create a reality that not only matches but surpasses the imagined experience of a world religion, when a company can create an encounter that evokes such emotion, whose message is relevant, innovative, and simply put—REAL? Maybe it’s time to discard the worn out traditions. Now, before I’m accused of viewing Disney through rose-colored glasses, I do have a legitimate complaint: Disney, it is high time you discard the Gideon Bibles from your hotel nightstands. If the verses above are not illustrative enough that the Bible is not a family-friendly text, perhaps this statement from the Gideons International facts page will:
Generally, Christian businessmen and professional men age
21 and older, who adhere to the basic spiritual beliefs held by
Gideons, are eligible to join The Gideons International. If you
want to make sure you’re qualified, please ask the man who
sent you the invitation to this website. If you are married, and
your wife also supports these same spiritual beliefs held by
the Gideon ministry, she is eligible to join The Auxiliary of The
Sorry ladies. Men only. I wonder where that idea came from?