The Happiest Place on Earth
God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away. – Revelation 21:4
I took my daughter to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for her birthday last month. Theme parks are not really my thing, but my girl was turning 13, and it seemed like parental malpractice not to give her an experience of the Disney phenomenon before she disappeared into the adolescent quicksand of boredom and cynicism.
Confession: I didn’t want to love it, but I did. It was heaven on earth. Feats of engineering and art, worlds of wonder and participatory transcendence for all for the bargain price of $129 plus tax.
Disney theme parks have a series of underground tunnels used to whisk trash away and allow characters to move across the park unseen, preserving the illusion of each distinct and perfect world. I can’t help but wonder what Disney’s Imagineers could do if they applied their considerable skills to, say, late-stage mainline Protestantism.
Because church is so not perfect. Our messes are often on grand display. We try to give expression to other possibilities, beautiful imaginings, but we fall short.
Still there is something to church, however human and wonky, that won’t let me go—because it is real, and not an illusion. There’s something about the sweaty realness of Here that is preparation for There.
I walked through the fake Disney African village five times that day. Every time they were playing the same song, for the same “impromptu flash mob.” It felt like a glitch in the Matrix. I was glad to go back to the imperfect Here at the end of the day
God, thank you the fantastical imagineering of human beings who you have made a little lower than yourself. And thank you for the messy maze of fallible human community, in church and outside of it, where real life is lived. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.