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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Taking the Mickey?

Last week I shared an incident which took place in Downtown Los Angeles whilst backpacking the USA in 1978, back then as a 25 year old. This week I like to open on that same trip, when I arrived into Los Angeles after an overnight Greyhound Bus journey from Flagstaff in Arizona, the base station for the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and the start of the hiking trail to the Colorado River which flows through the bottom of this fascinating natural ravine. So here I was, having alighted from this cross-country coach and exited the Terminal, to find myself looking at Hotel Cecil, literally across the road. I managed to book a room at this hotel, and afterwards noticed whilst going up in the elevator that there was no 13th floor - a 12th floor with the 14th being the next one up - on which my room was awaiting my arrival. Then, having settled in, I made my way back to the bus station across the road to catch a local service to Disneyland. 

Everything was very straightforward back in the 1970's, when the Los Angeles Bus Station was within the Downtown area, with just a short walk to Broadway and Pershing Square. When I returned to Los Angeles seventeen years later in 1995, I had discovered to my dismay that the Greyhound Bus Station had moved a couple of miles away from the city centre along East 7th Street, making the walk through a dodgy residential estate a challenging experience.

Disneyland! After securing a room at the hotel that morning in 1978, I felt like an excited schoolboy as I sat in the bus heading south-east towards Santa Ana. Once within the park turnstiles, I would meet up with Mickey Mouse and his pal, Pluto the bloodhound.

Whenever I think about Disneyland California, I have discovered that it wasn't all fantasy and make-believe. After all, a species of Rodentia does exist in real life. I recall primary school where we kept two mice in a cage in our classroom. Unlike Mickey, whose humorous conversation with Pluto constantly flowed from the cinema loudspeakers, neither of the mice at our school had ever talked - as far as I recall, neither to us or even to each other. And even as a boy, each of the rodents fitted well on the palm of my hand. In turn, Mickey, when compared in size whilst standing next to Pluto, is so huge that without a doubt, any pussy-cat out on a rodent hunt would have sprinted away in terror of such a sight of an enormous mouse!

There is a true story of a mother who took her son on a day out to Disneyland. On one occasion the boy tripped and hurt himself. Mickey Mouse, who was standing nearby, took off his headgear to assist, only for the youngster to discover that Mickey wasn't a real mouse at all, but a man in a costume. And yes, the mother sued Disneyland in Court for distressing her son with the awful truth of reality, and I believe, had won the case. It was the start of the dreadful compensation culture with the growth of political correctness and health-and-safety regulations, which didn't hesitate to cross the Atlantic to hit our shores.

Whilst I was spending the day there, I was impressed on how Walt Disney had designed a roller-coaster ride that was meant to educate as well as enjoy. Well, why not? As I saw it, this method of learning had a far greater impact on dispensing knowledge than a dusty school textbook. I'm referring to a ride at Tomorrow-land, the Inner Space roller coaster. Whilst waiting at the queue, I was able to see a glass tube with a row of seated riders inside, all of them shrinking to microscopic size. And that was the point. The ride was to take us into the world of the water molecule and then further into the oxygen atom and the two hydrogen atoms, all making up a freshly-fallen snowflake. Just after the start of the ride we did pass through a glass tunnel as I allowed my imagination dwell on those at the queue gasp in amazement. Eventually the ride had to end in time before the snowflake started to melt.

Where Tomorrow-land taught us a thing or two about Science, New Orleans Square touched on History. Sure, it featured the Mississippi Steamer, the Haunted Mansion - where another adult standing right in front of me let out a yelp of fright - also featured was the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride, an attraction from which the movie of the same name was made, starring Johnny Depp as fantasy pirate Jack Sparrow. Fantasy as it might be, it does touch on real history. There were pirates in the Caribbean during the 17th Century, with French pirate Jean Lafitte, whose name featured at the attraction, being a real historical figure along with his older brother Pierre, based in New Orleans during the thick of the slave era.

I sat at the front row of the boat, and as it slid down a ramp and splashed into the canal which would voyage us through history, I too got a little wet, just as the others in the front row did as well. But far more intriguing was further along the ride, where we passed a slave auction, with the banner reading: AUCTION - Take a wench for a bride. Although romanticised, this is real history. Although it was set at a Caribbean port with loud singing, guffawing and laughter, with cellars of rum barrels in abundance, it was based on a war which broke out in 1812, The War of New Orleans, which was an historical conflict between Britain and the United States which lasted more than two years when American general Andrew Jackson defeated the British forces early in 1815.

It is adventures such as this which prompted me to think back on history - the stories of piracy for example, personalities such as Jean Lafitte, Edward Teach - also known as Captain Blackbeard - Calico Jack, Henry Morgan, and Captain Kidd, to name a few who plied the Atlantic Ocean in their day. If the scenes of the Disneyland attraction did reflect life in 17th Century Caribbean, together with life in the Deep South, albeit with a good dollop of romanticism thrown in to enhance fantasy for the enjoyment for the modern family, it has made me wonder how such a society could have possibly existed under the banner of Christianity, where Negro slavery was the backbone of the economy. 

Considering that in the Caribbean, Roman Catholicism held full sway, with its soteriology on works being the means for salvation, instead of faith in Jesus Christ alone as Saviour. Really, the Pirates of the Caribbean can be regarded as the end fruit of salvation by works. Coming to think of it, such a lifestyle is only a portion of the disastrous consequence of false doctrine. Other horrors include the Spanish Inquisition lasting the 350-plus years from 1478, when "heretics" were tortured at the Rack and other punishing instruments. Then to add to this, there are legions of stories about Popes, Archbishops and the rest of the clergy becoming involved in adultery and prostitution, particularly during the Middle Ages. Indeed, a quick glimpse into history has convinced me that nothing can be more harmful and destructive as when false doctrine percolates into a church.

And false doctrine has always to do with three main issues of the faith: Denial of the Trinity, other books equal in authority to the Bible, and salvation by works, or more subtly, partially by faith with the need for good works to help us along to Heaven. There seem to be various examples of works-aided faith going around, some so subtle that these are often passed off as orthodox and Biblical, and not given any serious consideration. Arminianism is one of these. This is the belief that a born-again Christian can still lose his salvation if he departs from the faith, accumulate unconfessed sin, or become discouraged. Every non-Christian religion, along with every Christian based heresy such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, and Christian Science, along with Seventh Day Adventists, as well as those who teach Baptismal Regeneration - all have Arminian leanings in their theology.

The subtleness of works-assisted salvation, as I have blogged about in December of last year, can be as little as semantics - the usage of words - which is to my mind is as dangerous as it can get. It has to do with the words Repent, Repentance. The Greek for Repentance is Metaneo - a change of mind. But in 386 AD St Jerome inserted another word when he translated the New Testament into Latin, the words Paenitentiam Agite were used instead, which simply means Do Penance, a Roman Catholic teaching meaning to perform works proving that you have turned from sin in order to be saved.* I find it rather hard to believe - even fantastical really - that such a mistranslation would eventually lead to such a godless culture depicted in the Pirates of the Caribbean, under the banner of Christianity.

Another form of false doctrine, and one which appears so Biblical in its orthodoxy, that it takes good knowledge and discernment to figure it out, and that is Lordship Salvation. Let's take an example: Colossians 2:6, which reads:
So then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Lordship salvation is about making Jesus Christ your boss in order to be saved, or to prove that you are saved. To receive Jesus Christ as Lord does not mean merely to make him your boss. Rather it is to believe in your heart who Jesus of Nazareth really is: The Risen Christ. This is what the apostle has so emphasised in the whole of the first chapter of his letter, that Jesus is the supreme Head of all Creation, and in Him all things hold together, and He is the Head of the Church, and through Him we live. For a sinner to change his mind (metaneo) from thinking that Jesus was an imposter who was deservingly executed for his crimes of blasphemy, to that of Jesus being the Christ, risen physically from the dead after atoning for sinful mankind, is repentance. Paul exhorts us to be rooted in faith who Jesus is, and not to be swayed from such a heart-felt conviction, and such faith in this triune Godhead is what our daily living is built on. To receive Jesus as Lord is to accept him as God, the risen Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead. To receive him merely as boss in a sense of an employer, at least to my mind, is lowering his status to someone on the level of aristocrat or successful businessman and moralist.

Jean Lafitte, a historical figure featured in Disneyland 

It's not to be confused with intellectual belief. Atheist Richard Dawkins, for one, is fully aware about the Resurrection of Christ, he knows all about it fully. He also knows the Bible very well. He knows fully well what Easter is all about. He knows what Christmas is all about, as he does Whit Sunday. But he does not believe in his heart. Instead he treats such testimony with utter contempt, pushing the truth away to his own detriment. Richard Dawkins, although he knows the Bible well, is not a regenerated believer.

No doubt, Jean Lafitte, Edward Teach, Calico Jack, along with all other pirates who plundered other ships sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, all these men knew about the Christian faith, and may even profess to be nominally Christian in religious outlook. But I doubt very much that they believed in their hearts that this risen Jesus is the Christ, and that salvation is believing in him entirely without works. Instead, they were under the grip and deception of false doctrine.

Yet despite of that, I still thoroughly enjoyed the voyage along that underground canal.


*You can read more of this by Clicking here. 


  1. Dear Frank,
    Amen and Amen! Just this morning I explained to the ladies in the Bible study that I teach that repentance means turning away, or changing your mind, now believing that Jesus Christ is God, Lord, Son of God, the fullness of the Triune God, Who died to pay for our sins and rose again to conquer death for those who trust Him. It is true that we need to repent, using this definition, to be saved, but the notion that we need to stop sinning, "clean up our act," etc. in order to be saved is heresy. Salvation is only by His grace through our faith in His Son.
    My husband and I celebrated our 28th anniversary last month at Epcot, one of the Disney theme parks in Florida, and enjoyed the futuristic rides as well as the Disney characters. Several of the Disney princesses (who actually are permitted to converse and do not have their heads immersed in giant masks) chatted with us as we enjoyed our royal Norwegian banquet lunch!
    Thanks as always for the great post and God bless,

  2. Great post, Frank. As you pointed out, the greatest danger comes from mixing in just a little false doctring witht eh truth, kind of like mixing a little poison with good food. People would spot the poison by itself but they don't notice it mixed in with the good. As you pointed out those seemingly small false doctrines have led to som horrible actions on the part of those who claimed to be Christians.