Wishcraft: the Culture of Fantasy and Unbelief in America
Does Wishing Make it So? Disney
and the Magic Kingdom
Jefferis Kent Peterson
Didache Paper #104
When you wish upon a star
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.
When you wish upon a star
An entire generation has been raised upon the Disney adage; "Wishing makes it so." But this attitude towards the power of imagination betrays a value system at war with the Christian faith. The Disney Company, before its most recent releases, was touted by many Christians and moralists as a benign kingdom in the midst of an entertainment industry gone awry. Christian parents plopped their kids in front of the VCR with Disney titles, trusting that their children were watching something good, or at least something harmless. In contrast to the violence, sexuality, and mayhem of prime time, Disneys offerings seemed like appropriate childrens fare. And because of its reputation for wholesomeness, Disneys influence encircled the globe. Indeed, much of their material has been excellent by todays standards. Swiss Family Robinson is fairly harmless entertainment, and the Anne of Green Gables series teaches positive moral values. So not all that Disney has done is bad, but that makes the danger that it poses all the more insidious: because poison has been mixed in with the sweetness of the sugar. And naive Christians have ingested both. What is this poison that is so deadly? It is a New Age philosophy of Wishcraft promoted under the spell of those who declare; "wishing makes it so." The power of wishing has extended everywhere through the influence of the entertainment media like Disney. But why is this philosophy so inimical to Christian beliefs? After all, isn't using the imagination something good and isn't creativity something we should admire? What is so bad about Disney? What is so bad about believing that if you wish hard enough, your dreams really will come true?
It is not without reason that Disney is called the Magic Kingdom. It is a place where anything can happen. The power of imagination is unleashed and creativity is exalted. If it can be envisioned, Disney has the power to make it a reality, even if that reality is only an illusion built upon special effects and animatronics. Disney is the place where wishing does makes it so and dreams do come true. Wishing opens up a world of possibilities where good always triumphs and where things always work out in the end. But the problem with all this hope and desire, wedded to the imagination, is that the line between what is real and unreal becomes indistinct. If wishing were only confined to the silver screen or to the Disney theme parks, then it would not be such a threat. But through constant involvement in the distraction of entertainment, we as a people begin to live in the unreal world of imagination. The images created within our minds through the constant viewing of television and movies are so powerful, that the memories of pleasant and frightening imagery become a backdrop for our lives. For example, if I mention the words, "Star Wars," a flood of images will fill the minds of everyone who has seen the trilogy. Like a storehouse, where images have been collected in the mind, they now fuel the imagination. While the scripture tells us to "meditate on the Law of God both day and night," (Joshua 1:8) so that our minds will become a storehouse of Gods truth, we, of this television generation, have yielded our minds to the unreal world of imagination. If meditating on Gods truth will bring us success, as God said to Joshua, then what will happen if we meditate on a constant diet of fantasy instead?
As a television generation, we have been trained to crave the constant stimulation of our senses. But now, as we are saturated by the entertainment media, it becomes easier and easier for us to retreat from the discomforts and difficulties of this world into the fantasy world that exists within our own minds. Fantasy can become a means of escape from a real world where our desires are denied or delayed. And those who have been brought up on a constant diet of magic and fantasy are not prepared to deal with the challenges they will face in life. Rather, they are trained to run into a fantasy world of their own creation where they can escape from the pain, sorrow, and disappointment that real life often brings. Instead of facing the obstacles of this life with faith and trust in God, they run to sanctuary of their own minds, and finding refuge there, they escape both the demands of God and the challenges of this world. In the end, they have turned from faith to fantasy and unbelief. They have turned from faith and relationship to God to the consolation of the images that exist solely within their own minds.
Disneys philosophy is only representative of a widespread New Age value structure that infects every part of our world. The tragedy is that Christian parents unwittingly are training their children to adopt this philosophy from a very early age. They have accepted into their homes the gospel of magic, which is, at heart, diametrically opposed to Gods ways. Why is magic a counterfeit to true faith? Because magic, as presented by the Disney philosophy, is a means for the self to be in control of the world through the use of wishing. And this Magic Kingdom is at war with the Kingdom of God because it exalts the use of selfish power without requiring us to submit to the will of God.
When we can wish upon a star, we can do whatever we want. So wishing gives us the freedom and license to follow our every impulsive desire through the use of our imagination. Like pornography which creates an imaginary satisfaction for lustful desire, magic is a form of control over the world, not through faith, but through the exertion of the human will. Magic allows us to get what we want through the use of power. So, as pornography is a means of satisfying physical desire, magic is a means of satisfying our greed and desire for absolute control. It is a recapitulation of Adams rebellious transgression. It is saying, however subtly, "I want to be in control of my own life and of the world as it affects me. I want to be the god of my own destiny, and I will control my world through my mind."
In Deuteronomy, God warned the children of Israel, that the reason God was giving them Canaan was because of the exceedingly great wickedness of its current inhabitants. Chief among the great evils of the Canaanites was magic.
When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no-one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12, NIV).
God detests magic, casting spells, and witchcraft. He hates it, and he condemned the inhabitants of Canaan because of it. Indeed, even after the warning, Israel was later exiled for returning to the practices of witchcraft, child sacrifice, and idolatry. Yet Christian parents regularly feed their children on the Disney fare of witches, poison apples, spells, and spooks. They see no contrast between worshipping God and inviting into their homes, and into their childrens hearts, the very evils which God condemned and rejected so long ago. Yet much of todays cartoon and television fare is based upon magic. This magics greatest seduction is wishcraft: the power to make things happen merely by wishing it to be so. What is this practice but magic in a new set of clothes?
This seduction is everywhere, and parents subject their children to it unawares. Cartoons as seemingly harmless as the Smurfs, a cute and cuddly, elfish people, are harassed by their adversary, Gargamel, who casts spells and incantations around a pentagram. Even the Muppets are not immune. In the original Muppet Movie finale, the scene is the Magic Store where they sing "The Rainbow Connection:"
Why are there so many songs about rainbows?
That's part of what rainbows do.
Jim Henson, the Muppets creator, expressed a philosophy very similar to that of Disneys: pretend and your dreams will come true.
| From the Disney Movie Pinocchio
- When You Wish Upon a Star 1940 Bourne Co., Copyright renewed.
Words by Ned Washington; Music by Leigh Harline.