Disneyland: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

My experience of Disneyland began at the age of two years old, being pushed down Main Street in a stroller and, according to legend, happily clapping my hands the entire way. I’m proud to say that my two-year-old delight has continued to this day…although I now avoid the clapping.

Sleeping Beauty Castle - Christmas at Disneyland!

Disneyland is a bit of a paradox. In many ways, it is a cash-making machine, propagating capitalist society’s mantra that one can buy happiness for the cost of admission. The stores are filled with tourists willing to shell out an inordinate amount of money for a hat, sweatshirt, or corn dog. It’s certainly easy to become cynical of such a place. Perhaps that is our great temptation as Christians who are too often inclined to shrink away from a “corrupt culture” around us.

Yet Disneyland is not merely a gilded centerpiece on capitalism’s table. Disneyland captures a magical beauty. It is encompassing, pushing the limits of delight, reminding us that there are yet more beautiful things to be discovered. The breath-taking spectacle of the fireworks show over the castle, or Fantasmic!, or a myriad of other wonders may evoke oohs and ahhs, but for those with eyes to see, they are also reminders that there is more. Perhaps this is the best that human imagination can come up with, but we know that human imagination is not the only thing at work in this world, or in the one to come.

Disneyland isn’t perfect; it isn’t paradise. The wails of terrified toddlers thrust into costumed performers’ arms is a pertinent reminder of this fact. Yet Disneyland has taught me to wonder, taught me to delight, and even taught me to shed tears before beauty. These are good things.

There are certainly many bad things in the world around us, things we do not want to fill our hearts and minds with. But there are also beautiful things, even hidden among the bad. Disneyland reminds me of the fact that sometimes, in the midst of the evils of our culture or the perversions that surround us, real beauty can still be seen, the heavens can truly open up, and we can catch a glimpse of the Beautiful One Himself.

Yes, we need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s voice as Christ confronts us about the things that we accept too quickly. However, we also need to be willing to unabashedly wonder, marvel and delight at the good things he has allowed us to build and create. Let us always remember that such beauties are sacramental, pointing beyond themselves, and back to their Maker, the Lord himself.

Note: This is an adapted version of an article recently submitted and printed in Regent College’s Et Cetera,  student newsletter.


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