What would Disney do?

We spent the day today in Anaheim visiting Doug’s dad and his wife. They have rented a condo for part of the week and the last two days we have been enjoying their wonderful company, some nice air conditioning, and the great swimming pool at their resort. They are located on the edge of the strip of hotels and resorts that border Disneyland, and for most of these properties on the strip it is all about glitz and decoration and over-the-top-ness.

As we drove down the road toward Grandpa and Nana’s condo this morning, I noticed this funny little sign posted on the fence of a vacant property that sits, absurd, in the midst of Disney-Vegas. The sign reads “Fugishige Farm”, and on the other side of the fence there is another sign that says “Fresh fruit and vegetables for sale”. It turns out that from the porch at Doug’s parents’ condo, we sit overlooking this exact property. It is a large plot of land that only looks partially used by the rows of growing green, and later in the day we saw people harvesting things by hand.

We commented on how much this piece of property must be worth (it could easily hold yet another chalet-styled hotel) and how strange it was to see it used for such a humble, and clearly non-profitable purpose.

Yesterday, Doug’s great-aunt, who knows I am a minister, gave me an article to read from the Orange County Register. Their newspaper is doing a twenty-week series on Rick Warren, the Saddleback Church, and the global P.E.A.C.E. initiative he is launching and she thought I might find it of interest. I did. I found it of interest that the article used language like “evangelical superstar” and “spiritual salesman”. I found it of interest that they described a church gathering as “an event big enough to justify the rental of a stadium, the succession of Christian rock bands, the big-screen video tributes, the synchronized placard-waving worthy of the Olympic Games.” I found it of interest that the article was steeped in language of celebrity, fame, and fun.

As I sipped my latte today overlooking an earthy, awkward plot of land in the midst of the shiny, happy facades, I wondered about the church. I wondered what it means for us to be a theme park, a destination resort, a brand? What does it mean for us to be popular and attractive and feel-good like Disneyland? And what does it mean for us to be awkward, out of place, inexplicable to what surrounds us? What does it mean to be the thing that gets your attention because of what it does not look like?


  1. I felt much the same way when we drove past the “Crystal Cathedral”, just up the block from the condo and the humble garden. I looked at that building and the big jumbotron out front and wondered where Jesus was in all that glitz. I suppose God uses the glitzy televangelist types to actually reach some folks and bring them to a sort of an accomodation with God, but I wonder if they really truly know waht Jesus was about when they meet him in that kind of Cecil B. DeMille unreality.

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