On July 20, 1969, the day of the historic US walk on the moon, I was 18 and working at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
Actually, I grew up in Anaheim, with Disneyland just a 10-minute drive away. Walt Disney opened his theme park in July 1955. As I grew up, the park did too. A trip to Disneyland always meant magical fun.
Because of the park’s anniversary this month and the moon walk’s anniversary today, I’ve been reminiscing. On the day of moon walk, Disneyland visitors could follow the event on a screen at the Tomorrowland Theater. I remember walking by and watching on my dinner break, amazed.
Costumes and Cast Members
Back then I didn’t recognize or appreciate the perfect execution the lunar mission required to be a success. But I did know a little something about the standards and execution required to create the magic of the Magic Kingdom.
College students coveted working at Disney. I longed to be a tour guide or ride operator but gladly accepted cashiering positions at the Plaza Pavilion restaurant and the Emporium gift shop, both on Main Street.
Disneyland employees (always called cast members) received freshly washed and pressed costumes (never called uniforms) every day. At the Emporium we wore pastel Victorian-style blouses tucked into floor-length fit-and-flare skirts.
After getting into costume, cast members walked across a large open area called the berm toward a door in the high fence that bordered the back of Main Street attractions. Disneyland’s Main Street is built to three-quarter scale, creating the sensation of entering another world as well as another time. Walking through that door always emphasized the magic for me.
From Main Street to Tomorrowland, from It’s a Small World to Pirates of the Caribbean, every land and attraction featured carefully crafted details. A legion of roaming custodians unobtrusively swept up any trash anywhere in the park as fast as it hit the ground. At night after the park closed, painters searched for scratches and nicks and touched up every surface. Walt Disney called Disneyland the happiest place on earth, and it was, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.
What Does This Have to Do with Jesus?
In the US—and in any other country whose citizens are blessed with voice and vote in how their government will run—the challenge for followers of Jesus is taller than Disneyland’s iconic Matterhorn. We can’t help evaluating, even judging, our leaders, issues, and the responses of other believers—and it’s a sure bet we don’t agree with them all.
But agreement isn’t necessarily the challenge. The attitude of our hearts is the challenge, because the bent of our hearts determines our words and our actions.
Jesus tells us that if His followers love one another, the world will know we’re His disciples. He prayed for His followers to have unity. Letters in the New Testament repeat this theme again and again. How we treat one another matters. Unity and love among believers show Christ to the world, whether we’re worshiping together, assisting those in need, talking about racism, or discussing the President online.
It’s not wrong to be concerned about the behavior of other believers. Jesus called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and the crowds for their spiritual apathy. Paul chastised Peter when Peter had second thoughts about associating with Gentile Christians. James commended bringing wandering believers back into the way of truth.
But we also have this from Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3).
So we each have to decide if, when, and how to speak up, and most important, the attitude of our heart—the why.
Believe me, I am preaching to myself here. It’s easy to simply avoid the people I disagree with or who express their opinions in unkind, snarky ways, and think I’ve got this covered.
But as forgiven and beloved children of God, declared righteous because of our faith in Jesus and our new birth, we’re told to put off sin and put on the attitudes and actions of righteousness. Following the Spirit, we progress toward the goal of becoming more fully who we already are in Christ.
Unlike stepping into the practically perfect Magic Kingdom for a day, we’ve got some work to do.
I’m pleading with my brothers and sisters to do it.