I was not born in 1955 when Disneyland was opened. But I know Walt’s speech to his guests. It is short and sweet. It celebrates the past while looking fiercely toward the future. It is inspiring. It is welcoming of all. It is a guiding principle that has shaped that park and all that followed it. It is also belittled and demeaned by some in the name of faith.
I am a pastor serving in a small church. I am not an expert in anything. I am not published. I have no great theological credits. I don’t even have my doctorate. I do have a deep and abiding love of Disney; the movies, the parks, the attitude, the lifestyle. I find it fascinating that one of the things I love has been called everything from anti-Christian to Satanic because, “Magic can’t take the place of prayer”.
I grew up in an age without VCRs, DVDs, Blu-rays, or even the Disney Channel. Getting to see a Disney movie was a treat. I loved them! I absorbed their messages like a little sponge. Good conquers evil. Love is powerful. No one is truly alone. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to be a princess (but I wanted to be one with a sword. That’s a different blog.). At no point did I ever really believe that magic was going to save me. I believed in Santa until 5th grade, but never thought I had a fairy godmother or thought an evil witch was going to lock me up somewhere. I also never learned anything I had to unlearn at church.
All of this has made me something of an apologist for Disney and faith. So I have taken this space as my forum. Disney teaches the big stories of love, transformation, and triumph that the Church used to teach. Disney reaches out in welcome and inclusion in the way the church should reach out. I will be taking this little bit of time and space to explore these ideas.
I am a pastor. I wear Mouse ears. And I am unashamed.
“To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past…and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America…with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”