God and Disney World: Just Believe!

Posted: June 23, 2011 by clairer in God's Faithfulness, Trusting God

As my family passed by Cinderella’s Palace, the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom Disney park, a crowd started to gather, music began to blare from the speakers, and Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy all popped out of the castle. Little kids excitedly waved and adults knowingly smiled as the “real live” princesses and princes from the Disney movies joined Mickey on stage. In an instant, though, those kids stopped waving as, in a cloud of green mist, Maleficent, the villain from Sleeping Beauty, appeared on stage telling the crowd that she was going to take over. But the day was saved by Donald Duck who stood up to the evil queen and told her, “As long as kids still believe that dreams come true, evil like yourself will be conquered!” As Donald led the crowd in a chant “Dreams come true! Dreams come true!” Maleficent descended through a trap door in screams of agony.

It was a cute skit with good songs and talented dancers…but something bothered me about the play. To a crowd full of starry-eyed youngsters, all the advice that Mickey and Minnie had to offer the next generation was “Just believe that dreams come true!” That’s it. No promise of success, no foundation for their hope, no assurance for their future. What kind of advice was that?

But as I thought about it, I realized that Mickey and Minnie gave this advice because…they really didn’t have much else to give. When you look at the choices available to us, there are really only four options of things we can choose to trust in: God, ourselves, other people, and other things.

It doesn’t take long for any of us to learn that other people will fail us. People hurt us, insult us, lie to us, and break promises. Why? Because we live in a world that’s full of sinners. Even Christians, who have been filled with God’s Holy Spirit, will fall short of perfection…often. Because of this, people quickly learn that basing our faith on other people will ultimately fail us.

Things too, don’t satisfy. People often spend their lives jumping from fad to fad, possession to possession, addiction to addiction searching for the thing that will satisfy their need for more — the thing that will give them happiness. Why do their interests continually jump around? Because each new thing they try only leaves them with the empty awareness that it didn’t satisfy. It may have made them happy for a time, but possessions get old and break down. Addictions never satisfy, but leave the addict desiring more and more. Fads occur, then people move on to a new fad. Believing in “things” will never be a sure foundation for our lives.

Then what about ourselves? Surely if other people and other things can’t be trusted, the one thing we can be sure of is ourselves…right? I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want to trust in myself for my whole life. I’m very aware of the fact that I fall short and that I control very little. I would hate to go through life beating myself up over all the bad things that happened to me, because, if I’m trusting in myself, those bad things must be my fault. I would hate to have to go into every test knowing that the result depended exclusively on how smart I was. I would hate to know that I would have to be constantly vigilant to find the job I hope to hold, because that’s all up to me to find. No, living by trusting in myself would be the most depressing, stressful, and discouraging option of all.

So…what was Disney left with to tell kids to believe in? Dreams: a vague, hopeful idea that things will happen the way we want them to. That’s all that Disney thought was left to tell the next generation. Just believe!

Donald Duck isn’t the first person in history to tell people to “just believe,” though. Those very words were spoken by another person nearly 2,000 years ago: Jesus. As Jesus came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jairus, to heal his daughter from sickness, people told him not to bother…the little girl was already dead. Jesus turned to Jairus and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

Just believe. What is the difference between Donald Duck’s advice and Jesus’ command here? The differences is that Donald Duck gave the children nothing to believe in. Believing in dreams will get you nowhere except an understanding that dreams don’t always come true. Jesus gave us an object of our faith: himself. He also gave us a reason to believe: he provides. The crowd believing that “dreams come true” may have defeated the fictional Maleficent in a Disney skit, but Jairus’ belief in Jesus defeated death in the real world: Jairus’ daughter came back to life.

So, while the world is telling us to believe in things, or people, or dreams, or ourselves, it is important to remember that there is only one steadfast foundation that can satisfy: Jesus.

  1. Lee Roush says:

    Jesus is the only one to trust.

  2. nbarden says:

    This reminded me of a verse…

    “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the LORD require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.”
    -Micah 6:8

    It seems to encapsulate all of Christianity really simply. Believe and obey. And the belief is as Christ said, a childlike faith. But its an active belief.

    • Brennan says:

      Well-said, well-said, Claire! My siblings and I have been long-time despisers of the “believe” mottoes advocated by Disney and so many other parts of the secular world. I love your explanation of WHY they’re left with only such useless mottoes: because they’ve got nothing else to work with. Without the Gospel, there really isn’t much to hope for or believe in.

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