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Monday, November 8, 2004

Mickey Mouse, secular humanist?

And now for something completely different: "The Gospel According to Disney." Mark I. Pinsky asks if there is "a consistent canon that constitutes a 'Disney gospel.'" Yup!

It is deceptively simple. Good is rewarded and evil punished. Faith is an essential element — faith in yourself and, even more, faith in something greater than yourself, some nonspecific higher power. That is, faith in faith. Optimism, combined with the Calvinist paradigm of hard work, is unfailingly rewarded with upward mobility.

Hmm, that's certainly not my faith — but I also don't have children, and haven't yet figured out how I would try to convey the "critical faith" of liberal Christianity to my kids through, say, animated films. But Pinsky says this Disney gospel does reflect another American religious perspective:

To some, the Disney gospel sounds a lot like secular humanism, a term that has become a pejorative in America's recent decades of culture war. For good reason. A 1954 Time magazine cover story on Walt Disney described him as "the poet of the new American humanism." Since 1937, viewers of the studio's animated features have been receiving a message with recognizable, if watered down, values. I call this Disney gospel "secular 'toonism."

Ironically, Walt's "godless" theology is conveyed through a manifestly theological vocabulary: words such as faith, believe, miracle, blessing, sacrifice, and divine. Evangelist Tony Campolo sees in Mickey Mouse an almost biblical presence, "a purely innocent creature. And he's never done anything sinful in his life. He's Adam before the fall."

("The Gospel According to Disney," Mark I. Pinsky, Boston Globe 11.8.04)

So, my Humanist readers, how does this presentation of "secular humanism" comport with your life philosophy?

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 8 November 2004 at 7:33 PM

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