Mickey Mouse and I are contemporaries. We came into the world at about the same time, a little more than a half-century ago.
I enjoyed Mickey and the Gang as much as any child, but the Mouse was never a part of the Christian nurture that I received from my parents. On the other hand, I never sensed that Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and the other fantasy folk who inhabited the Enchanted Kingdom were incompatible with my Christian faith and values. I guess that is why I now find it so troubling to discover that Mickey has become a stubborn secularist rodent.
Oh, I was aware that after Walt’s death the Magic Kingdom had been transformed into an aggressive, multinational corporate conglomerate, which achieved phenomenal financial success when the new corporate honchos tossed aside the innocence of Walt’s G-rated family films to break box-office records with more “mature” movies, which, they admitted, would surely have made the Old Man’s moustache bristle. None of that, however, prepared me for the hard-core secularism of the new Mickey.
I first recognized Mickey’s secular world view last September when I received a letter on the Mouse’s stationery from Richard A. Nunis, the president of Walt Disney Attractions. Mr. Nunis wrote to me and other college presidents to solicit help in an ambitious Disney project to select the “Person of the Century.” We were asked to nominate in eight categories the top five people “who have had the greatest impact on the 20th Century.”
All through the nineties, persons attending EPCOT Center will be polled in this effort to identify the “Person of the Century.” Polling will also be done at other sites, presumably including the Disney theme parks in California, France, and Japan. Mr. Nunis confidently expects that one billion ballots will be cast.
The secularism was clear from the categories chosen, presumably the principal fields of endeavor worthy of notice: “government/military, science/medicine, education, literature, the arts, entertainment, business, and sports.” Granted, these categories represent major dimensions of public order, social life, and culture, but the list was incomplete. Why was there no category for the great spiritual leaders and religious figures of this century?
Perhaps in the Disney world view religion is not of sufficient significance in our lives—at least in this century—to merit recognition along with other areas of leadership and achievement. Or might they consider the spiritual aspect of human experience too private or too unverifiable to permit selection criteria to be developed? Was religion excluded because it has not in every instance been a source of good? Maybe the Disney people simply feared that religion was too “hot” a topic in the growing pluralism in our society.
I wrote promptly to Mr. Nunis to ask that his organization consider including spiritual leaders, arguing that no account of human experience in this century could be adequate without acknowledging the presence of faith.
With the widest ecumenical range possible, I offered Mr. Nunis a few nominees, including Mother Teresa and several popes, William Booth, Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Theodor Herzl, and even the Ayatollah Khomeini.
I am still waiting for a reply from the Disney organization. The balloting has begun, and there is no category for religion or spiritual leaders.
There may still be a course of action open to those who believe the category of spirituality cannot be so easily ignored. The sacred, after all, must pervade all of life. The ultimate refutation of Mickey’s secularism would be in the selection of a godly obedient servant of Christ as “person of the century” by virtue of his or her own indisputable achievement in one of Disney’s eight secular categories.
Apparently Mickey Mouse has gone secularist. He and his friends must now inhabit a “dis-enchanted” kingdom. But that secularism can be routed if we Christians live daily in a manner worthy of the God who has called us.
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