One of the joys of being a grandfather is to be able to take your grand kids on excursions that you enjoyed doing with your children.  We recently had the joy of taking our three grandsons to Disney World in Florida.  The whole experience was a joyous one, but also a learning experience.  We had taken our children to Disney World in the 1970s.  At that time we had no money, so we had driven down in a pop-up camper, set up camp outside the park in a KOA campground, and spent one whole day seeing everything Disney had to offer--starting at 9:00 in the morning and going until 11:00 that night.  I still remember vividly carrying my two daughters as the five of us staggered to our car around midnight, but it had been a wonderful day that none of us would forget.

Now I was back some 30 years later with a little more money and three little boys plus a son-in-law, none of whom had ever been to Disney.  We stayed in the least expensive facility on the Disney complex and got a special pass which enabled us to spend four days going to the theme parks.  One of the places that I especially wanted to take my grandsons was the Tiki Room.  My girls had been enthralled with the talking birds who bantered with each other.  The Tiki Room also offered singing flowers and a thunderstorm which was followed by friendly support to the audience from everything in the room to remove fear and hostility.  I was reluctant to take my young grandsons to the Haunted Mansion or Space Mountain because I was afraid it might scare them but the Tiki Room and Small World were two places I did not want them to miss.

We entered the pre-show area and were in the front row of the standing area when a waterfall facing us opened up and two animated parrots began talking with each other.  The tone of the voices and the volume indicated they were unhappy with each other and they turned out to be bickering over who "owned" the show.  It was brassy and loud, but I did not give much thought to it.  When we entered the show, the room was as I remembered it--benches for us to sit on and birds and flowers suspended from the ceiling.  The show started as I remembered it with the parrots talking to each other and birds and flowers singing.

Suddenly the show was stopped by a screaming brassy parrot who came down in the center and announced that he had taken over the show and now owned it, and it would no longer be a show of "silly singing birds and flowers."  He was opposed by another parrot who also claimed ownership.  They battled with the brassy parrot being beat up and excluded from the process.  Both parrots denigrated the "gods" of the Tiki Room, and the show ended with a scary Polynesian god rising in the center with glowing eyes and expressions of anger and hostility toward those who had violated his domain.  My two-year-old grandson buried his head, my four year old wanted to leave, and my six year old was somewhat bewildered by all that he had seen and did not want to see that show again.  The Tiki Room had become a battle for survival and a war over ownership and fitness.  It was no longer a happy, colorful, fun, positive fantasy about talking flowers and the beauty of the world in which we live.

Theme parks, television, movies, novels, and video games are a reflection of the values and beliefs of the culture in which they function.  I assume that the planners at Disney found that not enough people were visiting the Tiki Room as it was, so they changed it to attract more visitors.  To do that they had to present what the public finds attractive.  Survival of the fittest rules the entertainment industry.  In the old days amateur talent wanting to raise itself to professional levels participated in shows that helped them accomplish that.  Shows like The Ted Mack Amateur Hour were opportunities for people to show their talent, and they were helped and supported by the sponsors of the show and the public at large.  Now we have brutal reality competitions in which the fit survive and move up based upon their own superiority, and the less fit are brutalized and denigrated.  The public seems to take joy in the less fit being shown as humiliated and destroyed, with tears and sobbing being the objective.

Not only do we see survival of the fittest as the rule of law in the entertainment business, but also in the business world.  Donald Trump is the classic example of what our culture holds up as the ideal in the way in which monetary success is achieved.  If you are fit, you climb to the top of the corporate world, and if you are unfit you are doomed to be a failure and to function as a slave to those at the top.

All of this is in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and also to the success of America in the early days of this country.  The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 gives us a very different picture than what our culture portrays as the ideal.  Jesus begins by describing joyfulness and happiness in terms of meekness, a desire to do what is right, mercy, a pure heart, being a peacemaker.  He then talks about changing ones thinking so that hate, sexual impurity, and violence do not occur.  Jesus encourages people to love their enemies, to give to those less fortunate, to not judge others, and to build one's life on love and
service.  The contrast to the attitude of the reality show is stark and amazing.

In the early years of America when so much was accomplished, the teachings of Christ were held up as positives.  Everyone was part of a local community that looked after one another.  People had security, and abuse and neglect were things to be stopped and avoided.  This brought our culture to the highest standard of living the world has ever seen, and while there were imperfections and things that still needed to be changed and improved, the conditions were far superior to every other system in the world.   As we drift back into a Darwinian mind-set in which dominance and control and survival of the fittest are the basis of how people live and what they do, we find our culture unraveling--politically, socially, economically, and educationally.

It is sad that Americans cannot learn from the history of the past, and from looking at what other cultures have had to endure because of their belief systems.   The idea that one human or group of humans is more fit than another group is what led to the justification of slavery.   If it had been understood that every human is created in the image of God and is special and unique regardless of their "fitness," slavery would have never happened.  Hitler's belief in the superiority of the Aryan race was based on this same belief, and was expressed in the Nazi death camps.   Ethnic cleansing is always rooted in the belief that one group of people is more fit than another, and in modern times has been practiced by atheist states such as Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia.   When religious groups have instigated such processes, it has always been when a religious leader usurped the Bible and adopted a policy in diametric opposition to what Jesus taught.   The greatest problem with Islam has been the embracing of violence that Mohammed clearly taught in the Koran and which is expressed in Jihad.

Jesus clearly taught the separation of Church and State. Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's (Matthew 22:21) clearly tells us that Jesus did not want his teachings put into a political context.  By the same token, the religion and belief system of neo-Darwinism should not be the state religion.   Survival of the fittest is not the way to build a nation, and history has shown us how unworkable it is.   With all of the attacks being made on Christianity, it is wonderful that the Christian community continues to serve and to elevate the less fit of our culture.   Let us not become "weary in well doing" (Galatians 6:9), because Christianity is the only hope that America has--not in becoming the state religion, but in shining so brightly in the darkness "that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

--John N. Clayton

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