Amusement and Awe: John Muir and Walt Disney

In a recent issue of Orange Coast magazine, Bob Sipchen of the Sierra Club contrasts John Muir, the naturalist, and Walt Disney:

Walt Disney, who also shares a place in California’s Hall of Fame, appreciated the natural world Muir loved, honoring it in his movies and theme parks.  But the great amusement magician probably understood that his best efforts would fall short.  Yodeling bears entertain.  Bobsleds running down concrete mountains thrill.  But shudder under a perfumed waterfall in Sequoia National Park, or watch a rising moon light Yosemite’s Half Dome, and you just may be transformed.  (Orange Coast, May 2014, p. 91)

Several things to be said here. First, God intended the natural world to be awesome, and as Romans 1 assures us, partly to impress on us His character.  Second, both awe of the natural world and amusement can turn to idolatry, “worshiping the created thing rather than the Creator,” very easily.  Third, Sipchen’s issue can be applied not only to nature, but to the arts, and more to the point, to the liturgy of the church.  The church can center its liturgy on the awe of God, or it can make its liturgy [and every church has a liturgy of some sort] a thing of amusement and entertainment and lessen God’s glory.  While there is much to be said for the ancient liturgies of the church, a liturgy does not need to be ancient to inspire the awe of the Glory of God.  The church has to continually resist the temptation of ‘entertainment’.  I do not like it, for example, when a church building looks too much like a place of entertainment.

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