Monday, April 21, 2008

on visiting Disneyland

My family and I visited Disneyland over spring break a few weeks ago. Disneyland is always an interesting adventure to reflect on as a theologian. One of my favorite books, “Jesus in Disneyland,” points out how much Disneyland represents a postmodern world as defined by giving the image of being in all kinds of places -- one moment in Switzerland, another moment in the deep south, another moment in the frontiers of the wild west -- very much the postmodern world, and yet all run by the modern machinery of electrical gadgetry and sophisticated systems of entertainment.

It stood out to me, though, that Disney mentioned that every ride in Disneyland has a story. Part of the nature of what makes a ride complete is not just that it has moments of thrill but that it starts you somewhere, it works through a story, and takes you through to the end of that story. It struck me how much this is like what we do in the world of theology -- bringing the story of God to meet the story of humanity -- and how maybe we need to tell the stories of our communities, the people and events that have shaped the communities in which we live and hope to have influence.

Also, in counseling, the value of the telling of story is to help people get out what it is that’s going on, that it’s not merely diagnosing diseases, but it’s revealing stories that give us access to what’s going on. In a way, Disney captures the heart of American history and the stories of individual characters to touch the hearts and minds of kids and adults.

It also struck me that Disney began his whole project with a desire to give children and adults a place where they could enjoy life together. There is something here about putting multigenerational and enjoyment together that I think is significant for us in the life of the church to notice as well. I remember the first time I went to a Young Life club I was surprised when my Young Life leader, Ed Berg, came running up to me full of enthusiasm. As I left that night, I thought, “Wow, Christianity can be fun.” It’s not quite the same thing as Disneyland, but it did occur to me that there’s something about bringing a vision of what it really means to live life as Christians that is maybe close to Disney’s dream of the relationships between adults and children being shared.

Another aspect of dreams, too, is that whatever we think is history in looking past, just speaking about the lives of those who have gone before us, is not nearly as significant in changing the world as the dreams that we have as we think about what we might do, what we might want, and then act in ways that live out those dreams, which obviously Walt Disney himself did.

There’s also something about the dreamers in the Bible. We can also think about the visions of the kingdom of God and live within the kingdom in ways that change the world. Martin Luther King had a dream, and in many ways that dream is still continuing on.

The nature of who I want to be and who I want Washington Seminary to be is finding the best in telling stories across generations and living our dreams in ways that the gospel becomes incarnated in the places that God puts us.

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