Disneyland. The “Happiest Place on Earth.” Julia started enjoying the rides while still in the womb. She went from the Baby Bjorn and nursing in the air-conditioned rocking chair room to riding around in a stroller. Oh, I remember the stroller. Probably folded and unfolded the thing 10,000 times maneuvering around Disneyland. After she learned to sit up on her own, she would smile and wave from her stroller to all the people walking down Main street as if to say, “Glad to see you. Welcome to my personal parade. Thank you. Really. Thank you, for coming to my park!”
Once the potty training season came around, she couldn’t wait to try the special toddler size potties. Several attempts, perhaps one or two actual uses. Then we rolled into the princess stage and she patiently stood in long lines, dressed as Belle, and took pictures with all her favorites. Her height had to catch up to her adventurous spirit but soon enough she was tall enough to ride the roller coasters.
A decade flew by. My parents generously gave Julia a pass to Disneyland for her birthday this year (and included me, too, since I’m the driver ). It had been over a year since our last time in the park. We went on Monday, stood in long lines to ride the fast rides, but we also took time to enjoy “It’s A Small World” together just like we had the previous ten years.
We were seated on the first row. We laughed and threw our hands in the air and “woo-hooed” like the roller coaster rides when the boat moved off the track and slipped into the water. Behind us was a caucasian mom with her preschool aged daughter. We drifted into the tunnel and then into the magical world of 300 dolls singing the song that never ends. The mom behind explained clogs to her daughter as we passed Holland, we saw Alice, Cinderella, Big Ben, Italy, and all the while the mom pointed things out to help her daughter learn and understand what she was seeing about the world.
Then we went through another brief tunnel into the Middle East and Asia section. The explanations behind us stopped until Mushu was spotted by the Chinese fire crackers. The ride took us by Africa, Latin America and then Hawaii, the South Pacific, Australia and the U.S.
Then it struck me.
I’ve ridden this ride hundreds of times but never noticed. Even though the ride was created to illustrate the whole world, the world was presented as primarily a white Euro-centric world. A full three minutes of this ten minute ride focused on Europe. The Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America were all covered in 30-45 seconds each. It brought back to mind the frustration I felt when my oldest needed to pick a foreign language for the International Baccalaureate program. He wanted to take Japanese, but the high school would only give credit for French, German or Spanish because those were the only languages they tested. So much of history and geography taught in our schools centers on Europe. Like the mom in the row behind us, we teach what we know but miss so much of the actual world.
The final section of the ride was when all the dolls, dressed in white, sang together intermingled. I thought about the world’s current population. If the ride was true to actual cultural and ethnic breakdown, one-third of the dolls would be from India and China alone. Only 13% of the dolls in the white section would be white.
Walt Disney had in mind showing the world the children of the world living together in peace for the last section of the ride. I’ve always thought of the white section as a glimpse of heaven. “…a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,” Revelation 7:9.
If I’m honest, since the vast majority of the Christian books I’ve read have been authored by Caucasian men, the vast majority of church history I’ve been taught have been about Caucasian men, and the vast majority of Christian leaders I’ve seen and heard from have been Caucasian men–I kind of picture heaven full of Caucasian men.
While I respect, appreciate and have grown through learning from Caucasian men, I wonder:
How much do I miss of the actual make up of heaven and of the actual heart of God because I have not learned more from women and from the rest of the world?
What do you think?