Disney Vacation Dilemma: Critical and Biblical Thinking for Families

February 22, 2024

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Today's question says, "My husband and I plan on taking our kids to Disney World this summer. We both really enjoyed Disney vacations while growing up, but I know Disney has changed a lot since then. What are good questions we can ask our kids to help them think critically and biblically about our time at the parks?"


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "My husband and I plan on taking our kids to Disney World this summer. We both really enjoyed Disney vacations while growing up, but I know Disney has changed a lot since then. What are good questions we can ask our kids to help them think critically and biblically about our time at the parks?" I'm so grateful that this question came in, and before I answer it, I know that some of those who are watching or listening are already thinking, how could Elizabeth even answer this question? It's unbiblical to take your kids to Disney World. She shouldn't even be answering this question.

And so just want to address this upfront that I believe that engaging in things like Disney is a Romans 14 issue. And if you're not familiar, Romans 14 is the passage that talks about whether or not Christians can eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. Paul concludes that it's a matter of conscience that some Christians are going to be convicted that they cannot eat any meat that has been sacrificed to an idol while other Christians are going to be convicted that they can eat meat that was anywhere, whether it was sacrificed to an idol or not. But what is important is that whatever our conviction is, that we're faithful to that conviction and that we don't cause another to stumble. And so I think it's similar with engaging with Disney World, that some people are going to have convictions that say, as Christians, we cannot engage in anything that has to do with Disney because of what the company stands for, where other families are going to think, you know what? We understand that Disney stands for some non-biblical things. We think that we can still engage in some of their content and help our kids think critically. And so I really do genuinely believe this is a Romans 14 issue. And so if you are of the thought that according to your conscience, you and your family need to stay away from Disney, I am going to encourage you to stick with that conviction because in Romans chapter 14 in verse 23, Paul writes, "But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." So if it's your conscience conviction that your family cannot engage in Disney or Disney World, then you need to stick with that. And by answering this question, I do not want to cause you to stumble in any way. So if you're going to listen to this podcast, I would encourage you to listen not with the goal of changing your conviction, but with the goal of just thinking through things that you can talk through with others who may have a different conviction about this.

So please hear me very clearly if that is your conviction that you are to stay away from things Disney. I am not trying to convince you that you should engage because I genuinely believe that as Romans 14:23 says, that whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. So I do not want to encourage you to go against your conscience, nor am I trying to do that by answering this question. If you're someone who's uncertain, you're not sure whether or not your family can engage with Disney, that's something that you need to talk through with the Lord and you need to figure out what your convictions should be. And I'm hoping that by listening to this podcast, you can gain further insight into thinking through is Disney something we just need to put on the shelf and not have our family engage in? Or is it something as the Mama Bear Apologetics team calls the Chew and Spit method? Is it something where we can engage with certain parts of it and help our kids think through it biblically and then spit out and reject the things that are not biblical. If you are of the conviction that your family has the liberty to engage in Disney content, take your kids to Disney World, that kind of stuff, my goal is to help you make your trip to Disney World, not just one of entertainment and family time, but one of actual deep biblical and critical thinking. So just wanted to set that as the stage up front.

Now, before we dive down deep into answering this question, if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that question by going to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast. Also, just ask that you would take the three seconds that are involved in giving this content a five star rating if you think it is five star content or other star rating if you think it's other star worthy content. But just rating this podcast helps more people discover it so that we can equip even more Christian adults to get their kids thinking critically and biblically.

So I will share with you upfront what my convictions are regarding this topic. And again, if you have different convictions than me, I am not trying to get you to change your convictions because you need to honor what the Lord has convicted your conscience of. But where I'm currently at is that I think that it is okay for me to engage with Disney content and to practice the chew and spit method. One day my convictions may change, and if they do, I'll let you know. But for today, that is where my convictions are. And so I'm going to show you how I approach Disney content, especially as regards to Disney World and to hopefully help guide those of you who have similar convictions to make this your Disney trip, one that is honoring to God.

So I think that when you go to Disney World, I typically once a year a close friend and I will actually go down to Disney World for a few days. It's just really great time of connecting with one another, of relaxing, of enjoying time together and thinking deeply about our worldview. And so I'm just going to talk you through some of the questions that we talk through on all of our Disney trips, and I think they're conversations that can really help guide your family as you are engaging in a Disney vacation. So here's three questions that my friend and I typically talk through and that I think you can talk through with your kids.

The first question is, what is it about the image of God in us that draws so many people to the parks? Every time I'm at Disney World, it's pretty packed. There are tens of thousands of people at the parks every day, and so what is it about the image of God in us that draws so many people to the parks? Then another question that I think we can talk through is where do we see Disney attempting to temporarily hide the effects of sin? Where throughout the parks and the resort do we see Disney attempting to temporarily hide some of the effects of sin? And then what parts of the story being told in this show or in this ride are true and what parts are not true? So these are three questions you can just sit down around the family dinner table and say, Hey, when we go to Disney World next week, these are three questions we're going to be constantly on the lookout for. What is it about God's image in us that draws so many people to Disney World? And then where as we're in the parks, as we're at the resort, where do we see Disney attempting to hide some of the effects of sin? And then as we're engaging in different shows and fireworks spectacular and rides, what parts of the story being told in the show or on this ride are true and what parts are not? And so I'm just going to guide you through some of the conversations you can have as you are in the Disney parks and on Disney property at the resorts, et cetera.

So that first question, what is it about the image of God in us that draws so many people to the parks? I was actually just at Disney World several weeks ago with a friend and we were having this conversation as we were just looking around and seeing so many people. We were talking about what is it that draws so many people to this place? What part of being created in God's image makes it that Disney world is a place that so many people want to go? And what my friend and I have come to the conclusion of on our different trips is that Disney has intentionally crafted so many things in the parks and in the resort, in general, that they have intentionally crafted all of the architecture that everything in the parks is so carefully themed at all of the different resorts. Everything even from the trash cans are intentionally themed in the architecture, and then they're also very intentional in their gardening, in the different flowers and flora that is just all around the different resorts and all around the parks, and also their music is very intentionally themed. No matter what resort you're staying at, there's music that goes along with the theme of that resort. Whatever park you're at, whatever ride you're on, you're hearing music that is intentionally themed for that particular ride.

They also have this incredibly high standard of excellence in service that they train their cast members in a certain way to serve in a way that is very high level of service and it's also very efficient. And all of this intentional architecture and gardening and music and service, all of this really calls to our inherent desire for beauty because all of these things, these architectural designs, these flowers, this intentionally themed music, this excellence in craft, these are all things that are beautiful, and we as humans crave beauty because beauty ultimately stems from God because God is beautiful. And so when we find ourselves drawn to these things, we find ourselves drawn to this beautiful architecture and beautiful gardening and beautiful music and beautiful service. What we're being drawn to is God himself, that we long for beauty because God is beautiful and we were designed for our creator. So when we get excited, when we hear this music that is perfectly timed to the fountains or the firework show, what we're really longing for, what we're really drawn towards is God himself,. That what we're seeing at Disney World is just a very poor reflection in this fallen world of the beauty of our creator.

Then the second question, where do we see Disney attempting to temporarily hide the effects of sin? Then my friend and I were actually just texting back and forth after we got home. She and I have very different lives. I'm single. I am an entrepreneur, I run my own business. She is a homeschooling mom of three kids, been married for 15 years, so we have very different lives, but both of us, when we got home from Disney, we just felt so sad and we were just texting each other and I was thinking like, oh, it's probably because I'm single and I don't have anybody else that I'm waking up in the house with where I've just spent these four great days with a friend where here's my friend who has her wonderful husband and three children, and she's waking up sad too. And so I was thinking, oh, you know what? I bet this has to do with the fact that we were just in a place for four days where the effects of sin are temporarily hidden. And so we can talk with our kids, where do we see Disney attempting to temporarily hide the effects of sin? And one of the things that we see is Disney's cast, they call whether it's a server in a restaurant or the person who is sweeping up the trash or the person who's gardening or the concierge at the hotel or the person who's helping you get on rides, they're all called Disney Cast because they are acting, they were acting in a specific role and they are required to be friendly and courteous.

Now, some of these standards are dwindling over the years, but Disney has always had very high standards of even the type of makeup, the type of hairstyle, the type of nail polish, all that kind of stuff that their cast members can have so that they take on a certain persona that's very friendly and courteous and welcoming. And so that temporarily hides the effect of the fact of sin, of the fact that sometimes we are grumpy and we are not courteous towards others and we are rude. And so Disney also goes an extra mile for cleanliness. We live in a fallen world where things get dirty, they get dusty, they break down, and Disney is just really top of cleanliness that they have people walking around the parks at all time picking up trash. Same with the resorts. Every morning when my friend and I got up, we were like, did it rain last night? We didn't think it rained because all of the stones and the walkway at the resort we were staying at were wet. And what we realized on our final morning is that in the middle of the night, they actually have part of their crew, their cast members are out there hosing down all of the stones to get all of the dirt and grime and sand off them so that it's a perfectly cleaned walkway. Also, throughout the resort and throughout the parks, there is themed music that is intentionally designed to evoke happy and contented emotions. And so all of these things, the cast members, the extra mile to go for cleanliness, the themed music that's designed to help us feel a certain way or evoke certain emotions, all of this is temporarily masking the effects of sin. It's great, but it's temporary.

Not all of their cast members are a hundred percent courteous and friendly all the time. This time when my friend and I were at Disney, I came back to our room because we needed an extra bar of soap. So I went to find someone on the housekeeping staff, and I came back and I said, oh, that was actually really disappointing because the person was kind of just rude. And my friend was like, oh, that is disappointing because normally everyone is so happy and cheerful where the person who gave me my bar of soap made me feel like they were doing me a really huge favor. Also, all it takes is generally a half hour before you see a child somewhere have a temper tantrum. So Disney cannot completely mask the effects of sin, but that's something that draws humans to the parks is that what they're doing is they're temporarily masking the effects of sin.

Then the third question that we want to focus on is what parts of the story told in this show or on this ride are true and what parts are not? Because Disney has everything really themed to music, and it can make us feel like everything is true, but it's not all true. My friend and I at the hotel we were staying at, it was around the lake area outside of the Magic Kingdom. And so we were just sitting at the beach at our hotel one night and we were watching the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom, and they actually pipe in the music from the fireworks. And so as we were sitting on the beach watching the fireworks, we were like, wow, this music makes it feel like everything they're saying is true. But my friend and I were just talking about all of the lies that were being breathed out in this firework show, that it was all about look within yourself for the dream and for the magic and for the power. And we were like, this is just a complete lie that if we look within ourselves, what do we find? Yes, we find the image of God, but we're just a reflection of God. We are not God, and we also find that we are fallen and we are not to look in. We are to look up. And so throughout the whole firework show, she and I were having this conversation.

Also, one of the first times we went to Disney, my friend just kind of chuckled a little bit because we went on the frozen ride in Epcot, and as Elsa is singing, Let It Go. I was like, wow, could the postmodern ethics be any more clear on this ride? She was like, well, I don't think the term postmodern ethics has ever been used on this ride before, but we were just talking about Elsa Sings no right, no wrong, no rules for me, I am free, but that's just not true. Right and wrong do exist, whether or not we believe it, and when we throw off all hindrances to following our heart, that doesn't lead to freedom, that leads to bondage. And so these are the types of conversations we want to have with our kids. What are they saying in this firework show? What part is true? What part is not when we're on the frozen ride or maybe after we're on the frozen ride? What part of Elsa's song? What part represents truth, what part does not?

Another thing that I've seen recently is Pirates of the Caribbean. It's one of my favorite rides, and since the movies have come out, they've actually changed the ride. And there used to be a scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where the women in the town were being sold to the Pirates, and now that is a true and sad part of history that women were taken prisoners and they were sold as sex slaves to the pirates where now that has been changed because that's no longer politically correct, and now it's actually a female pirate who is having people rather than women being sold it's objects being sold. And so if we went on the ride with our kids when it used to be women being sold, we can talk about that. Was that right when that used to happen in history? Was what the pirate's doing? Is it right? No, it's wrong. Why is it wrong? How do we know that it's wrong? And then what did Disney change it to? They change it to something that's more politically correct, but is that a true part of history where women actually captured and sold as sex slaves? Yeah, they were. It's a terrible part of history.

Then other things at Hollywood Studios, when we watch something like the Indiana Jones Spectacular or go on the different rides in the Star Wars land like Rise of the Resistance and some of the other rides, we can talk about what is being portrayed as good versus evil, and how does this reflect the grand story that we are living in where we are living in this cosmic battle of good versus evil? So I hope that these three questions, what is it about the image of God in us that draws so many people to the parks? Where do we see Disney attempting to temporarily hide the effects of sin and what parts of the story told in the show or right are true and what parts are not?

It's my prayer that for those of you who are of the conviction that you can engage with Disney content, that if you choose to go on a Disney vacation, you'll use these questions to help make your time there very intentional so that it won't just be a time of entertainment and family memories, but it would also be a time of real clear and biblical thinking. For those of you who are not sure what your conviction should be, I'm hoping that this will give you some things to think through about whether or not it is right for you to take your kids to a Disney Park, and for those of you who are of the conviction that you are to not engage with Disney content, again, I would encourage you to stick with that conviction. I do not want to cause you to stumble in any way, but I hope that the content of this podcast has given you things to think through, to talk through with those in your sphere of influence who are of a different conviction.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode, but as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that no matter the situation in which you and the children God has placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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