In Leadership Journal Skie Jethani, teaching pastor of Blanchard Road Alliance Church in Wheaton, IL, describes the journey of Walt Disney's Tomorrowland. 50 years ago USAmericans were an optomistic bunch, convinced that technology would solve our problems. Disney said it this way:
"Tomorrowland is a vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying
man's achievements…a step into the future, with predictions of
constructive things to come … and the hope for a peaceful and united
It has proven expensive to keep Tomorrowland ahead of our fast-paced culture (any investment in technology does not stay current for long). The result, Tomorrowland in recent years portrays "a tongue planted firmly in the cheek" version of the future that mirrors our jaded attitudes. At least one writer laments Disney's loss of their optimistic prophetic voice.
So what can we learn from Tomorrowland’s transformation? Jethani suggests the following:
- We may take the position held by Walt and his
original Tomorrowland. We can offer people an over-realized optimism
that promises more than it can possibly deliver. Such a church seeks to
ease people’s discomforts with grandiose expectation of blessing and
abundance in our present world. While optimistic, this message is
viewed as wildly naïve and draws suspicion from critical thinkers of
today. Jimmy Long speaks of the dangers of offering people
a hope too focused upon the present age. "[The church] overemphasizes
the present blessings of the gospel, whether the health-wealth gospel
or the charismatic experience. …This generation is characterized by
experience with pain and suffering. Rather than an easy way out of the
suffering and pain of this life, it needs hope for a better life in the
future and a realistic view of the present."
- Another possible choice for the church is the
path of the new Tomorrowland. We can abandon our calling to offer hope
for the future, and retreat to become a supplier of present day
religious entertainment and amusement. This church, like Disney, will
pay close attention to the quality of their productions, and create
extensive programs to draw pleasure-seeking Americans away from their
burdensome lives. The mission of this church becomes rejuvenation and
momentary distraction from the worries of today.
- Clearly, the best path for the church is the one
illuminated by Christ. Our Lord boldly accepted the challenges of his
day, while revealing the glorious hope of tomorrow. We also can be a
courageously prophetic community of hope in the midst of a pessimistic
and lost generation, while not turning away from addressing and solving
the problems of our present world.