By Jim Tune
In just a few weeks Claudia and I will be on our way to Anaheim, California, for the 2016 North American Christian Convention. President Dave Stone has put together a great program, and the theme, “A Better Story,” is especially appropriate considering the convention is happening in Walt Disney’s backyard.
Walt Disney loved a good story and devoted his life to helping people imagine a better world and a magical future. He was tireless in his optimistic vision of a better tomorrow. The creation of Tomorrowland at Disneyland (and later at Walt Disney World) was the realized culmination of his views and vision. Still, the Disney people have had to work relentlessly on changes and updates in their efforts to keep Tomorrowland from becoming “Yesterdayland.” Some have speculated as to whether Tomorrowland has a future.
I’ve heard similar alarm regarding the future of the church. Some churches are stuck in Yesterdayland—clinging to a vision of another era even as attendance dwindles. On the other hand, even our most innovative and imaginative churches are becoming increasingly perplexed with the challenges presented by a constantly changing tomorrow.
Even Walt Disney would have been astonished by the sheer speed of disruptive change in our world today. I think Walt’s generation had a more optimistic outlook of the future than current generations.
One of Tomorrowland’s early attractions was the Carousel of Progress (created for the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and moved to Disneyland in 1967, and then to Walt Disney World in the 1970s). It exemplifies Walt’s optimistic conviction that innovation will continue to propel mankind toward “a peaceful and united world.” The ride follows a typical American family from 1880 through the amazing technological advances of the 20th century. The ride moves through a presentation of a utopian future characterized by the carousel’s theme song, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”
For many people today, the future now awakens anxious worries and fears. Economic uncertainty, global warming, wars, terrorism, and moral ambiguity—the future isn’t what it used to be. It’s easy to give way to pessimism.
Innovation has solved many problems. Advances in medicine have improved the lives of millions. But like the many-headed hydra in Greek mythology, for every problem solved, many others are created.
Jesus reminds us of the vanity in worrying too much about the shape of Tomorrowland. Not only that, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus offers the world a better story. And when I ground myself in that story, I can approach life with an optimism that surpasses even that of Disney.
Make sure you go to Anaheim this July. We all need a fresh injection of hope now and then. Some great practitioners and speakers will share useful tools for navigating today’s churning cultural seas. I’m going because I want to reimagine the greatest story ever—a better story than that conceived by any theme park.