Caveat Emptor

Does the Disney Wish Ever Come True?

Most Christians have at least a vague sense of how they will respond to the antichrist, should that biblical figure prove not only to be literal, but also to arrive in their lifetime. There’s a general idea that we will need to grow and store our own food, learn to barter, and above all avoid the number 666. But behind this lies another assumption, which is that he will be sufficiently sinister as to be recognized, at least by true believers.

Self-protection is rarely easy, but it’s always easier when the enemy is identifiable as dangerous. What we are inevitably less prepared for is Satan’s capacity to appear as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Implicit in this biblical warning is the reality that none of us since Eve have been immune to deceptions, especially those that tug on our God-given desires for beauty, significance and pleasure.

Yet some of our contemporary prophets have given us warning. In 1985, Neil Postman wrote this in Amusing Ourselves to Death:

Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think....

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

If there is any sacred ground left in our nation, I suspect it’s to be found in Orlando and Anaheim—even for a secularist. We have the recent testimony of Graeme Wood, who, after visiting Disney World, wrote this in The Atlantic:

I looked online to see whether the Disney micronation had any chapels or scheduled services, and an unofficial website declared that “there are no religious services held on Disney property.” I don’t think that statement is as straightforward or accurate as it appears, unless you suppose, naively, that religion is just a set of things you believe.....Another view of religion is that it is more subtle and pervasive. It is the base layer of our imagination and consists of stories and ideas so deeply imprinted on our minds that we do not realize that our realities are formed by them. By that standard—authorship of the imagination—Disney is a religion and going to Disney World is a pilgrimage.

The powerful draw of Disney seems to be only partially mitigated in light of evidences of under-the-surface corruption—which in fact are now becoming far more overt. But surely there are still redemptive qualities. How can millions of children (and their parents) be wrong about this? After all, we who are their parents and grandparents have wonderful memories of the early Disney, back when it certainly was safe.

Or was it? I personally recall (in the 1950s) faithfully gathering around our TV sets on Sunday evenings to watch the various Disney programs. More consistent than our Sunday School lessons, a message was driven deep into our hearts through these enchanting lyrics sung by an earnest little preacher:

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

It never bothered us that instead of God, the granter of our hearts’ desires was a mysterious entity called Fate. In the magical and perfect realm of Disney, it was easy to believe that this was somehow just a part of God’s wonderful plan for our lives. Besides, to young impressionable souls, stars are easier to see and follow than the Man who once told a group of men, “You are those who justify yourselves before me, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Perhaps we should have noticed that Disney’s preacher was named Jiminy Cricket, which is a euphemism, a “minced oath,” for Jesus Christ. According to Wikipedia, Jiminy Cricket was originally voiced by a man named Cliff Edwards. Tellingly, his heart’s desire certainly did not come to him.

Edwards was careless with the money he made in the 1920s, always trying to sustain his expensive habits and lifestyle....Most of his income went to alimony for his three former wives and paying debts....Edwards suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction in his later years, and was also a heavy smoker for most of his life.

Living in a home for indigent actors, Edwards often spent his time at the Walt Disney Studios to be available any time he could get voice work....He had nearly disappeared from the public eye at the time of his death in 1971 from a cardiac arrest brought on by arteriosclerosis. Now penniless, Edwards was a charity patient at the Virgil Convalescent Hospital in Hollywood, California. His body was unclaimed and was donated to the University of California, Los Angeles, medical school.

What does all this have to do with the antichrist? I would propose that just as the antichrist may lure us not so much with threats as with enticements, so we have been offered for many decades an anti-heaven that lures us into “the happiest place on earth,” even as it vies for our very souls.

Lewis famously wrote in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” But logic prevails only so far. Little girls long to be princesses, and when told their wishes can come true (albeit with a hefty literal price tag), parents too easily comply.

But ask yourself, does this sort of princesshood bring them what they really desire, or in the long run does it leave them empty? Do they not know, somewhere deep inside, that it’s really a sham? More to the point, does it not leave them with deep insecurities, never measuring up to what they’ve been promised they are...or somehow can become, if only, if only....

For those whose eternal destiny will not be heaven, perhaps the manifold Disney experience is a justifiable option. But for those of us who truly “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16), how safely can we allow ourselves and especially our children to be swept into the dark magic of a kingdom that never has and never will lead us there?

is a homemaker who lives near Centerville, Tennessee. Her website is www.bereansnotepad.com.

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