Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Beyond Tomorrowland

Entrance Sign to Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World
I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13
Apart from me (Christ) you can do nothing. - John 15:5
As a young man these two biblical versus had the most profound effect on me. They became a constant reminder of hope, reminding me that anything is possible, but without him I can do nothing. Of course I'm talking about God here, but more specifically Jesus Christ.  I call this a level-headed hope; because as a young man, it helped me reach for the stars, but at the same time kept my feet planted firmly on the ground. It was a way to accomplish great things, but at the same time not get trapped in the vanity of pride.

Recently I saw a movie called Tomorrowland.  It was a Walt Disney picture. I enjoyed it immensely. It reminded me of something I had nearly forgotten, but not entirely. When I was a young man I used to live in Southern California. Trips to Disneyland were an annual event. As a teenager I went more often. Unless you live in Southern California you can't appreciate how much Disneyland is part of the Southern California culture. It has become a place for locals to go for any occasion, or just no particular reason at all. Living in Southern California as long as I did, I happen to be fortunate enough to make some connections. I won't go into details about that, because it's not important. What is important is what happened to me on one particular trip. The person I was with had a connection to the Disney family, and this connection got me access to a place I would never ordinarily be able to go. I found myself standing in the living room of Mr. Walt Disney's private apartment at Disneyland. This was back in the 1980s! I believe it has since been renovated into something else. I'm not sure because I haven't been there in over 15 years. At the time however the apartment was restricted. Only certain people were allowed to go in there. At that time the apartment was a museum of sorts. It contained all of his artwork spanning the decades of his life. Yes, there were plenty of cartoon figures to be seen, but what many people don't know is that Walt Disney was a realist artist too. Of the many works he drew, one of his favourite subjects was futuristic cities. He drew pictures of future cities on the earth, on the moon, and on different worlds. Disney was in every sense a dreamer, and his dreams were filled with hope. Like Tomorrowland at the Walt Disney theme parks, the movie which bears the same name, carries a similar message. If you haven't seen the movie, I suggest you do. It's worth it. I know that some Christians will not, because of Disney's support for homosexuality and other modern perversions, but honestly, unless you live like the Amish, I don't know how it is possible to boycott all the major companies that support these things. I personally believe the way you get a company to create more wholesome family entertainment is to support them when they do create it.

As a child, my mind was filled with Disney-like hopes and dreams for the future. When I became an adult however, much of those hopes and dreams were dashed. As I learned of the horrors of the 20th century, I came to see man's progress as a source of much pain and suffering, and not so much the bright star that men of the 19th century hoped it would become. It's a familiar story really, one that echoes through history. However, when I consider the intense optimism of the late 19th and early 20th century, countered with the bleak hopelessness that seems to pervade the late 20th to early 21st century, I can't help but wonder what happened? How could the hopes and dreams of humanity rise so unnaturally high, only to plummet to such depths not known since the fall of the ancient Roman Empire? The movie Tomorrowland explores this topic, and of course gives us a science fiction explanation, couched in a moral message that is generally positive and helpful. However, I personally find it only to be helpful when that moral is put in its proper historical-Christian context, which is something that Disney obviously doesn't do, nor would I expect them to. That's my job.

Driving my children home from the movie theatre, I began asking them what they thought of the film, and the message it conveyed. They liked it, and thought it was a good message. Then one of them said, 'I can't wait until we get to the future!' At that point, I knew I had them right were I wanted them. I had them look around at the large buildings we were passing. Then I asked them to consider the highway we were driving on, and the massive flying overpass we were just about to use. There was a long pause.

'Dad?' I heard from the back seat.

'Yes' I replied.

'Is this Tomorrowland?' my son asked.

I grinned with satisfaction, turning the wheel gently as we rounded the top of the overpass. I responded; 'Yes son, this is Tomorrowland, the real Tomorrowland. Look around you. It's magnificent! Isn't it?'

The blue sky caressed the green tree-clad hills of the lush Ozark Mountains, as the peaks of buildings pierced between them. All around us, rooftops of houses, surrounded by trees peppered the landscape. Below us, the streaming traffic of horseless carriages raced at speeds unheard of a hundred years ago, all of this commonplace now. I reminded my children; 'You know, a hundred years ago, it would have taken us practically all day to get to Springfield in a horse and buggy.' My children had seen many Amish carriages in and around the Springfield area before. They were quite familiar with the sight. 'We'll be home in 20 minutes,' I informed them, as I then proceeded to remind them of the small chores they needed to complete upon arriving there. After that, I continued the exercise. I told them about the advances in technology made just in my lifetime. The iPods they held in their hands opened the world to them in ways I couldn't even imagine when I was their age. (Yes, I use child safety features to protect them from the filth out there.) However, when we consider the advances made in the last 100 years, it's staggering. A century ago, unless you lived nearby me, and I happened to be a paid columnist in a local newspaper, there would be no way for you to read my thoughts and random musings. This essay would never exist. Most of us would be farmers, or living in rural small towns. Some of us might have jobs in sweat shops in the big city. A tiny few of us would have money, and the comfort that comes along with it. Travel would be slow. If you had to go anywhere, just figure that it's going to take you at least an hour to travel 10 miles by horse. For this reason, suburbs were kept close to urban areas, so as to cut down on commute time. A few modern cities might have some slow rail systems. Fortunately, the telephone existed a hundred years ago. So if you had enough money to put one in your home, you could give it a few cranks, and nearly yell at somebody a few miles away. Anything beyond that was 'long distance' and would have cost you quite a bit to place a call. Some of us remember how bad the sound quality was on interstate calls even during the 1970s. I can't even imagine how poor such calls must have been a hundred years ago, that is, if such calls were even possible. Washing your clothes was an afternoon event. Drying them took longer. Washing dishes took some time as well, and as for preparing a meal? Well, let's just say that people slaved for hours doing that. The most reliable source of communication was the written letter, or what we call today 'snail mail'. It took days to weeks for one to travel in just one direction. The most advanced form of public transportation was the ship. As for higher education, that was reserved for the wealthy, those who could afford to set aside several years to accomplish it.

In contrast, in the Tomorrowland of today, we place international calls with crystal clarity, and relatively cheaply. We use Skype and other Internet services to conference with people visually. Video-phones seem antiquated now. In today's Tomorrowland, I can talk to a group of people, each one in different states, and see them all on my computer screen. In today's Tomorrowland I drive at speeds of 60 to 70 miles per hour, in my horseless carriage and commute to a job 20 miles away in just 20 minutes or less. If I want to go on a vacation, I can hop on a jet-liner, visit a location a thousand miles away, and be back home in time for work within a week. In today's Tomorrowland, all of my food is kept cold in a freezer, and I can cook a whole meal in just minutes with a microwave oven.  Dirty dishes are no longer a chore, as I simply rinse them off and throw them in the dishwasher, leaving them sparkly clean and dry for me to take out the next morning. Washing clothes, a chore that would take hours in the home of Yesterland some 100 years ago, is no problem any more. I just throw them in the washing machine, drop in some detergent, press a button and walk away. The most tiresome thing about it now is just folding them after they're clean and dry. In today's Tomorrowland I can watch astronauts on the Internet, orbiting the earth hundreds of miles above my head. I can look at images taken from Mars, and using that same Internet, I can peer into the vastness of space to gaze upon distant galaxies seen by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Today's Tomorrowland is virtually limitless in the amount of knowledge I can acquire as a common working man. As I write this essay, I have enrolled in college courses that I'll be taking in the comfort of my own home. As for this essay itself, half of it was verbally dictated to my iPhone and faithfully translated into text by the microprocessor. In fact, the computing power I hold in my hand surpasses all the computing power in the world -- combined -- just 40 years ago. Where is Tomorrowland? Look around you. It's magnificent!

'But there is something missing from today's Tomorrowland,' I asked my children 'what is it?'

They thought for a moment. Then from the back seat, I heard my nine-year old daughter say three words: 'faith, hope, love'.

'YES!' I responded, then I asked the follow-up question. 'But faith in who?'

'GOD!' they shouted, 'Jesus Christ!' and the 'Holy Trinity!'

Out of the mouths of babes came the answer to my entire life experience. I had grown up in Tomorrowland. All of us had. We witnessed in our lifetime the greatest technological accomplishments the human race had ever achieved. However, we did it without God. Or at least we tried to. As a result, our world became cold, and the instruments of our progress, became for us over the 20th century, the very tools of our demise, and the stuff of our nightmares. Perhaps the reason why most of us never think of our modern world as Tomorrowland is because it lacks the hope we once knew in Walt Disney's version. Of course, Disney was just an entertainer, and the corporation he created is really nothing more than that. Neither he nor his business could ever give us real hope. That's not the kind of business he started. Disney hoped to capture our imagination, and help us dream of a better world, but he couldn't guide those dreams morally. It wasn't his job. It never will be.

That job belongs to the Catholic Church, and herein lies the secret of the hopes and failures of the 20th century. Nearly 100 years ago, three shepherd children in Fatima Portugal saw a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Now personally, I am very sceptical of such things, unless I have good reason to believe. However, their vision was verified by a miracle witnessed by some seventy-thousand people, more than all the people who witnessed the resurrection of Christ. Then it was confirmed by the Catholic Church, not only by the local bishop, but also by the Vatican itself, and many popes. We have just as much reason to believe this vision as we do any other religious event. So for that reason, because of the HISTORICAL FACTS, I believe in Fatima.

The message is given in great detail in many places on the Internet, and in Church archives, so I will instead just summarise it here.

The message of Fatima did not define a specific number of years, though many believe the span to be about 100 give or take. Of course the question remains to be asked, if that is so, when do you start counting? Is it in 1917 when the vision was given? Or is it 1938 when the vision warned that the chastisement of God would begin? I don't know, and I suppose that's not all that important really. Because the overarching theme of the message of Fatima is about the loss of faith in the world during the 20th century. From the communists in Russia and the Soviet Union, to the advancing Secularism and Relativism in Western nations, the Christian faith of millions would be lost. Immorality would increase, and this would bring about the rise of great World Wars and persecutions of the Church. The greatest calamity of all would be the loss of souls to hell. Millions of them would fall into the grasp of Satan and spend eternity with him. The message of Fatima, or at least the one I understand, is that mankind would attempt to build his Tomorrowland without God, and because of that, his dreamy vision of utopia would become a nightmare dystopia. The industrial progress of the 20th century promised man the hope of long and comfortable life, with wonders beyond imagination. Indeed, lifespans were increased. Comfort became commonplace. Yet with it became visions of Nazi gas chambers, the threat of atomic war with the communists, gas shortages, rising inflation, increased immorality, drug wars, and now the constant threat of terrorism. Our own government spies on us; listening in on our phone calls, and reading our emails. Sadly, it seems it's only just begun. Now, as immorality receives government protected status, those who dare speak truth are coming under the persecution of politically-correct thought police. They will soon fine us, and jail us, as being 'haters' because we dare to love people enough to tell them the truth of their sin and of God's mercy to those who repent. Yes, the Tomorrowland of today is coming to an end, but it will not go out quietly, not before it attempts to eliminate all that is good and wholesome in the world.

The environment my wife and I create for our children, indeed the environment most modern parents try to create, is one that is very much like the Tomorrowland many of us remember from our 1980s Disney experience. Though my own children take it for granted, the filtered and sanitised environment my wife and I created for them is a Tomorrowland wonder world. They whiz around on highways and overpasses at speeds in excess of a mile a minute. They fly to our vacation resorts a thousand miles away in just a couple hours. The television I used to have to go home to watch, my kids carry with them now in the form of an iPad. Video games are a daily experience. The Internet has made all the knowledge of man accessible to them at their fingertips. Their father goes to work in a ten-story tower, which is tiny in comparison to the skyscrapers some fathers and mothers go to work in. Their world is ideal, because we (their parents) have made it that way. They are growing up in the Tomorrowland Walt Disney could only dream of. As they mature however, they are gradually being exposed to the real world, and having been trained in the Christian faith, they see it for what it really is -- a cold dystopia filled with fear and perversion.

At the dawn of the 20th century, in the Yesterland of some 100 years ago, men set out with their industrial might to create a new world filled with hope and anticipation. God was no longer necessary in their minds. Instead of creating their utopia, they created a dystopia, and the hope their generation was filled with, has now been replaced with the hopelessness of our generation.

When I was a young man, in the late 1980s, my admiration of Walt Disney and his dreams of Tomorrowland was dashed by the realities of this modern world. I found myself overwhelmed by it, and prone to depression. So I turned to my faith in Jesus Christ as a source for comfort and answers. I was an Evangelical at the time, and so these answers were accompanied by apocalyptic visions of impending doom for our modern world. We were taught that the end of the world was upon us, and soon the Antichrist would come to finish us off. Our hope was in the Rapture of the Church, and that we would escape the fire that was about to descend. It wasn't a very pretty picture. Indeed, apocalyptic visions like this have been part of Christian teaching for two millennia. So there is nothing new here. However, one of the many reasons why I eventually became Catholic was the hope Catholicism offered in the face of this new modern world. The Tomorrowland of today need not be a scary place, and indeed, Christianity gives us the tools we need make it a better place -- a much better place. Yes, the end of the world will come -- someday.  Yes, much of the world will be totally deceived by the Antichrist and be led into perdition -- someday.  Yet, if we believe that this day has to be now, and there is nothing we can do to change it, than we are no different than the Pagans of old, who believed their destiny was governed by the fates, and nothing could change it.

Christianity has undergone a shock by the modern world. Even the Catholic Church is still reeling from this. Yet, I believe part of my purpose in this life is to assure my children, and anyone else who will listen to me, that it's not over yet. There are still many Christians left in this world, and as long as there is till breath in our lungs, it's not over yet. We may have to endure the wrath of our Secularist masters, and perhaps even the chastisement of God himself for the sins of our time, but so long as we are still around, it's not over yet. We are here for a reason. We live for a reason. We keep our faith for a reason. It's not over yet.

It's time to move beyond Tomorrowland. Just imagine what wonders the future could hold, if man's technological and cultural progress were only governed by the moral responsibility of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. That my friends is something that hasn't been tried yet. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, God was put aside, and so the modern world has never known a society governed by Christ and his Church. That is the stuff of medieval history. The modern world has no idea what a modern Christian society would look like. IT'S NEVER BEEN TRIED!!! Atheists baulk at the idea, pulling up in their imagination a warped image of what they believe medieval society must have looked like. I tell you it is impossible to go back to that, for two reasons. First, the warped atheist image of the Middle Ages never existed. Second, even the real historical Middle Ages were just a transition period between the ancient world and the modern world. A modern Christian society simply wouldn't look like that at all.

What would a modern Christian society actually look like? Well, I don't know for sure, because I've never seen it in my lifetime, but I can say I've seen glimpses of it. As the main heroine in the movie Tomorrowland saw glimpses of a fictional world with fantastic technological developments, so too I have seen glimpses of what a Christian Beyond Tomorrowland might look like. Yet there is nothing mysterious a magical about my visions. They are every day visions really. I see those visions in my church, and in the families that attend there. I've witnessed it in the Latin Mass community at the local cathedral, and in the growing homeschool community in the Springfield area. I've seen it in the budding Christian businesses cropping up in the Ozarks, and in the larger corporations that are now seeking ways to accommodate the conservative Christian population. There is money to be made in Christendom, and only now, a hundred years after the 20th century began, are big businesses starting to understand this. I remember when I first became Catholic, the local McDonald's couldn't understand why so many people were ordering fish sandwiches on Friday's. They literally ran out of patties. Now they advertise it on their billboards, carefully keeping track of when Lent begins and ends, so as to capitalise on the growing Catholic culture in the area. Some might see this as shallow. I personally don't care. It's business recognising a need in the culture and accommodating it. Whether it's McDonald's providing fish sandwiches during Lent, or Disney providing wholesome family entertainment with a positive message, it's all the same. What we are witnessing are the green shoots of a budding Christian culture just starting to break forth from beneath the earth.

Don't expect the old Secular/Modernist/Relativist culture to just roll over and let it rise in peace. We are just now beginning to see the final rebellion take place. These dinosaurs will not go extinct without a fight. They see what is coming, and they would rather die (or better yet kill) before letting it happen. So just as people here in the Ozarks know that with every spring comes a myriad of thunderstorms, some of them packing deadly tornadoes, so too this revival of Christendom will not come without trial, tribulation and persecution. Nevertheless, when these thunderstorms pass, the grass is always green and the trees always bud forth their leaves. So too, in spite of all their efforts to the contrary, the land beyond Tomorrowland will bring forth a new world of Christian evangelism and revival.

Beyond Tomorrowland will by no means be a utopia. I think a century of hell on earth has taught my generation to be more realistic than the generation of Yesterland a century ago. We know that beyond Tomorrowland there will still be natural disasters, and man-made dangers as well. We can reasonably hope however, that if we return to Christ and his Catholic Church, a new and better world can be created. It can be a world with all the technological and industrial wonders we enjoy today, balanced by wholesome living in moral simplicity and environmental responsibility. Beyond Tomorrowland can be a place where going to mass is the central focus of every week, children are primarily educated by their parents while they are aided by the Church, the state supports the good work of religion, and public decency is the norm rather than the exception. Beyond Tomorrowland can be a place where wars between nations are extremely rare, and terrorism is no longer a significant problem. While crime will never be eliminated, it can be reduced beyond Tomorrowland, not by the brute force of the state, nor by micromanaging people's lives, but rather by distributing property in such a way so that poverty is reduced, and backing religion in such a way that less people think of evil as a necessity. Beyond Tomorrowland can become not a utopia, nor a dystopia, but rather simply a nice place to live. It is possible. If the 20th century has taught us anything, it has taught us that technology alone is no substitute for good religion and virtue.

Our Lady told those three shepherd children at Fatima that in the end, her Immaculate Heart would prevail. I believe this, and I believe we are just now at the precipice of this. It is coming within our lifetime. We will have to endure some thunderstorms along the way, and those will not be pleasant. Such storms will sweep away false religion, as well as those who promote it. Beyond that, Christendom will rise from where it is now, beneath the surface. It is progress -- real progress. It is God's will. Nothing can stop it, and only the wise will embrace it. So let us take up our crosses, carry our burdens, brave the unknown, and boldly go into the revived Christendom beyond Tomorrowland.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Catholicism for Protestants

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