the gospel according to Disney

Reading Hauerwas inspired me to tackle an American idol. If you have any suggestions for improvement, I have time to make them before submitting to Our Daily Journey.

read > Philippians 3:1-11

We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could (v. 3-4).

         As my family was leaving the park after a fun day at Disney, the loudspeakers were playing a happy song with the chorus, “In everything you do, celebrate you!” The song reminded me of the earlier parade which encouraged us to celebrate our dreams, “whatever they are.” My twelve year old son, apparently the cynical one in the family, proclaimed that his dream was to take over the world. Should that be celebrated? My dream was for free refills, but that was dashed too.

        Disney seems to be selling smiles and self-esteem. This makes good business sense, as no one would hang out in a place that berated them for their shortcomings. Disney is an amusement park, and the quickest way to amuse someone is to play catchy songs that say they’re great.

        I get that, but it’s still important to spell out the message of iconic parks such as Disney to see how it stacks up against the gospel. Those who unreflectively hum the world’s songs are most likely to be influenced by them.

        The Disney gospel encourages narcissism. It suggests that our main problem is we don’t celebrate ourselves enough, so others don’t realize how special we are. This positive message is actually cruel, for the poor fellow who follows their advice, “In everything you do, celebrate you!”, won’t be married long. And he won’t have many friends.

        The Apostle Paul never went to Disney, and he offered a better gospel. He confessed that he was a sinner, so despite his strong reasons to feel superior, all his accomplishments were “worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (v. 8). The truth is we are special, far more than a Disney song can tell. We belong to Jesus. So in everything you do, celebrate Him.

4 Comments

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  1. For what it’s worth, you might check out (or reference) Velarde’s The Wisdom of Pixar: An Animated Look at Virtue (see my review here – http://gospelthroughsharedexperience.blogspot.com/2012/04/review-wisdom-of-pixar.html) for a more positive, and virtuous, reading of Disney in their Pixar films.

  2. I think that Jamie Smith’s recent book Desiring the Kingdom tackles this well, though he recycled the idea from others. It seems that things like Disney have become our public liturgy. We go in, sing their songs, listen to their ‘gospel’ presentation, and are supposed to leave changed, with a new insight into who we are supposed to be.

    Disney is not evil, but their message is a dangerous message. I believe that the message of a Disney is more dangerous to us due to it’s subtlety. We do not hear “Reject Christ and embrace X”. That would set us on guard. However, if we think about what they are telling us, it amounts to the same thing, but still we embrace it and make it apart of our daily lives.

  3. Priscilla Lohrmann May 1, 2012 — 12:54 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who goes to Disney and has to talk about the false worldview in the songs with my children! (:

  4. Are there unhelpful messages one receives from Disney? Indeed. Is a false worldview in play? Absolutely.

    Does that mean there is nothing redemptive to be found there? I don’t think so. Even in the Magic Kingdom there are echoes of The True Kingdom. I wrote a series of four blog posts about it a couple years ago…

    http://pcscrib.blogspot.com/2010/04/gospel-according-to-disney-part-1.html

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