Juxtapositions

We made it to Anaheim in more or less one piece. The most exciting part of the trip was watching the temperature drop from about 113 F as we crossed the desert between Phoenix and Los Angeles to about 84 F as we descended down to sea level and arrived in Anaheim. (For those of us who have grown accustomed to the summer heat of Phoenix, that’s a pretty big shift.) My wife and daughter are now snuggled under double blankets in our hotel room.

We met up with my sister-in-law who lives here in California last night and went on a walking tour of the Convention Center complex. We walked down the long promenade in front of the building and suddenly saw the entrance to Disneyland across the street. A quick confab and a tram ride later and there we were in Downtown Disney.

I’ve been in Downtown Disney in Florida before. (We spent a week in Disney World three years ago as one of our few big vacation trips.) I was surprised at how similar this one was here in Anaheim, though it was admittedly smaller and more intimate. The crowd density was about the same.

What struck me though was the contrast between what I’m here to do and what the setting is that we’re attempting to do it in.

The single largest issue according to the people of Arizona that is facing the Episcopal Church is our lack of obvious commitment to the world’s poor. The lack of commitment is seen by most in the Episcopal Church’s budgetary change for the coming three years to remove the agreed upon 0.7% of the total budget to be spent in support of the Millenium Development Goals. I’ve gotten an endless stream of mail asking me and others from the Arizona deputation to work to restore that funding.

(To be fair, the Executive Council and the Presiding Bishop’s staff are arguing that the funding is still in the budget and always has been, it’s just not being broken out explicitly. I and others are responding that the point of the MDG’s is to increase the level of funding not to identify funding that’s already being spent…)

So there I was walking down a street filled with expensive disposable commercial trademark characters thinking about that controversy. I was wondering what it would be like to take the intellectual enterprise and obvious project management skills that created this street full of temples to world commerce and consumerism and use those powers for good.

I don’t know that the Disney imagineers and marketers would be able to solve the world’s problems, but gosh, I imagine they’d find it a much more fulfilling task to try to do that rather than to sell another character-branded widget.

Sort of shame that we as a church have lost the bully pulpit we once had to say that in a compelling way to the community.

Maybe the Episcopal Church (and other churches) might think less about accounting issues and more on how to regain the moral voice and suasion that we once had in society.

Young people from the finest universities in England used to catch the vision of traveling to the poorest parts of the world in hopes of serving the poor. Maybe the foot-soldiers of coroporation motivated consumerism might convinced to do the same thing.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

4 thoughts on “Juxtapositions”

  1. Here here!! And in reference to the MDGs Disney did put it so succintly “It’s a small world afterall”.

  2. Indeed! I think we lost the moral authority when we lost our doctrinal authority and our commitment to evangelism and youth ministry (but … that’s just me).

  3. Hi Nicholas,
    For the sake of discussion, especially as the General Convention gets under way, let me pose one possible explanation (and implicit challenge) to us Episcopalians. Did we lose our Moral Voice/Authority to challenge society because of our own propensity to talk matters to death and get around to action far to slowly?
    One of the questions you all will be dealing with is the full inclusion of the LGBT community in our church. This matter, like the matter you brought up about the MGDs, are actually related. The full inclusion is simply and easier example because of its current prominence. For the past six years, we have been in the middle of this question and are still being told, go slow, be patient, don’t fracture the Communion. Are we not allowing the reactive elements of the church to hold the rest hostage. Protracting the talk and indefinitely postponing the action. In my mind this is a prime example of why our collective moral voice has grown week. We talk about the gospel imperatives, we collect monies and donate to causes but…. how much time does the average Episcopalian spend actually ministering with people who are suffering deprivation or prejudges? Collectively, we are better known for talking and spending than for rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. We have been talking about inclusion, and diversity, for many years. But we are still one of the whitest churches in America – we still don’t bless same gender unions or genuinely embrace our gay/lesbian clergy.
    This reflection is clearly over simplified. However I hope I have opened the door for a conversation around the fact that the gospels are about action. Theologizing, praying, seeking Divine guidance are a spiritual “Paper Chase” if they never lead us to action.
    Victor
    (Sierra Vista)

  4. In this context, it is notable that Pope Benedict XVI, no fiery left-wing revolutionary, has just published an encyclical calling for a new world economic order based on social equity rather than profits.
    CJS

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