So there we were sitting in a Land Rover in the middle of South Luangwe National Park on a safari in Zambia. There were impala by the hundreds, hippos in the rivers, giraffes and zebra, crocodiles and lions. One of my friends turns to me and says, “You know what is really amazing? How much this reminds me of Disneyland.”
He was right. Here we were in a place that none of us had visited before and we were experiencing déjà vu. Thousands of miles away from Anaheim and our first thoughts were of Adventureland and the Indiana Jones Ride. I am almost ashamed to admit that I have had that thought over and over again lately. When walking through the rainforest in Belize, my mind wandered back to the Rainforest Café at Downtown Disney, when floating down a river, I thought of the “Jungle Cruise.”
As someone who has grown up in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom, it is downright impressive to me how realistic the Disney designers have been at re-creating the real world. And I believe for some of us, this is now a “real” problem.
Disney has “re-created” creation so well that we now live in a world with a preference for the artificial. You see, Disney’s jungle is not wild, the hippos are computerized. Disney’s rainforest doesn’t have mosquitoes or snakes. Disney's "re-creation" can actually keep us from "real" creation. Las Vegas hotels offer artificial beaches with wave machines, more and more people are rock-climbing in indoor gyms rather than on actual rocks.
In his book Remember Creation, Scott Hoezee considers what it means that so many now prefer “artificial” nature to real nature. Hoezee muses, “God has placed us in a world of wonders. It is our job to as self-conscious image bearers (of God) to transcend ourselves in order to notice these wonders. Isn’t it also our job to raise our children in such a way that they learn to see the world with God’s eyes, to appreciate the wonders God made? As the authors of the book Redeeming Creation put it, “[I]t is hypocrisy for a Christian to willfully live separated from God’s creation and the joy of it.” (Hoezee, p. 28)