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Welcome to the first episode of this new podcast!

In this podcast, you’ll learn about the name of the show and what it means. Then we’ll dive into an exploration of story telling, and talk about why it’s so import that for us who tell stories (spoiler alert: that’s a broader category than you might think) need to let our faith inform our stories.


This podcast references and quotes from an article from the Atlantic. The full version is HERE.

Roger Ebert’s beautiful essay about Casablanca can be read HERE.

As a side note: This first episode was actually recorded a few months ago. Here now in April of 2022, Disney has been in the news a lot. It involves what we like to call “culture wars”. This episode has nothing to do with any of that whatsoever.





This is computer generated. Expect a few errors.

The Disney-fication of Our Lives – S01E01

Start Time End Time Transcript
00;00;00;26 00;00;40;24 Hello, friends. My name is Rob Webster. Thank you for listening. Today, you are here to witness the birth of a brand new podcast. Yes, folks, this is episode one of the story that writes us welcome to this podcast and thank you so much for tuning in. I want to tell you a little bit before we get into the meat of episode one about this podcast how it came to be and how we came to find the name for it, which I think is rather entertaining.
00;00;40;24 00;01;11;13 It may be the only podcast with not just double entendre, but yay, verily triple entendre. I shall explain. This podcast was created. I got to give a shout out to Reverend Danielle Kim and Elise Pope, two colleagues that I work with, and they have been such advocates of this and Encouragers and who have have sat in through numerous brainstorming sessions, as we have said, what can we craft in the audio space that talks about how we as Christians engage in the world, how we engage with stories, and how we engage with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
00;01;11;13 00;01;27;24 And as we came up with these different ideas, we realized this theme of story just kept coming up and and story. It’s it’s part and parcel to who we are as human beings. Children, if left alone, they’re going to eventually make a play. They’re going to want to act something out they’re going to have a storyline. My kids used to love playing school.
00;01;27;24 00;01;48;28 One would be the teacher and one would be the student, and they’d have to do homework and get graded and all that other stuff. I don’t know why kids would want to play that at home, but but they do and there’s something so human, and it’s just inherent in being human to want to tell stories. But we are all part of a much bigger story, and it’s a story of God in his working in our lives and in in this world.
00;01;48;28 00;02;25;19 And so that’s where we came up with this idea of a name called The Story that writes us you see, we can write stories, but there is a story that we are characters in and and it writes us it transforms us and it changes us and it gives us purpose and meaning. And so as we explore in this podcast, some ideas of storytelling and stories and what they mean to us, it’s ultimately done under this big umbrella of the fact that there is a story that is constantly writing us by this author God, who gives us the great privilege of being a part of bringing his kingdom to earth.
00;02;25;19 00;02;52;21 And so that’s where it comes from now. I said it’s triple entendre, right? So, W-R-I-T-E-S is how it’s spelled officially in the podcast world. So the story that writes us could be spelled R-I-G-H-T, right? So in that sense, if you think of a ship that is listing, perhaps it’s got a load that’s out of balance, it’s a cargo ship or something and it’s leaning from one side to another, the ship needs to be righted.
00;02;52;21 00;03;11;12 Things need to be evened out so that can sail true. So that it can sail straight and get to its destination safely. And so in that sense too, there is a story that writes us, there’s a story that makes us balanced. It helps us sail straight. So there’s that sense of it. Now, finally, the third one, you could still spell it all R-I-G-H-T.
00;03;12;00 00;03;32;26 And so the story that writes us only in this sense, right, is used for makes righteous, which means that’s something that is granted to us. We are seen as righteous no matter what our state is as human beings, we are made right because of what Jesus Christ has done for us and because of who he is. We are made right in the eyes of God.
00;03;32;26 00;03;52;05 So in that sense, too, there is a story that writes us. It makes us righteous. So there you have it. It’s a podcast with a name that is three different meanings. Pick whichever one means the most to you, but we really meant it W-R-I-T-E-S: the story that writes us. So here we go with Episode One.
00;04;01;19 00;04;20;22 So like I said, this is a podcast that really has to do with stories and the stories that that we create, the stories that we tell, and how we fit into this bigger and broader story. This is a tough one to talk about here. Episode one I want to call the Disney-fication of Our Lives. I love Disney World I absolutely love it.
00;04;20;22 00;04;43;17 It is so incredible. And the stories that have been told by the Disney Company over the years are some of the most incredible stories. You could go anywhere in the world and you could find Nemo. The spread of Disney stories and of the characters has just gone so far. Disney World again. I absolutely love it. I love going with my family.
00;04;43;26 00;05;01;08 I went as a kid, didn’t remember a whole lot, and then I didn’t go again until I was an adult and my wife and I were were dating and she was going with some extended family and they invited me to come along on the trip. And I just got to tell you, I was blown away. I realized this is not a normal amusement park.
00;05;01;08 00;05;22;22 It just it just isn’t. They are so much more concerned there about telling a story than they are about a thrill ride. It is all encompassing it. It is in the way that people dress. It is in the music that is played. It is all of these things that all work together to make Disney World an incredible storytelling experience.
00;05;22;27 00;05;53;04 Everything I mean, everything is rooted in story. It’s rooted in nostalgia. Walt Disney himself, he said. Now, of course, Disney World’s Main Street, USA, is based on Disney lands, which is based on the small town in Missouri where Walt Disney grew up, and he wanted something that reminded him of home. And so you’ve got barbershop quartets just going down the street it’s really this throwback time in Main Street, USA that taps into this nostalgia.
00;05;53;05 00;06;12;14 You’ve got Liberty Square and you’ve got the Hall of Presidents, the patriotic stuff there it even has this throwback feel to it that I can’t quite put my finger on it, just something about it that feels like a throwback. And you’ve got Tom Sawyer Island, so you’ve got some cultural references to things that might not quite be as cultural today.
00;06;13;03 00;06;34;26 They might not quite be at the forefront as they were in an earlier time. And Disney is constantly working with that and against it. You’ve got this stuff that definitely feels like Walt Disney growing up, and then you’ve got Star Wars land over at Hollywood studios so I think Disney realized we’ve got to tell new stories for a new audience in a new way.
00;06;35;09 00;06;57;09 And so they have these lands that are incredibly futuristic and have stories that really have come about in my lifetime, the entire creation of George Lucas to make an entire universe that they call the Star Wars universe, and then to be able to recreate some of what I saw in movies as a young kid, to be able to recreate a space that has all of that is really, really amazing.
00;06;57;18 00;07;17;22 And the first time I went to Star Wars Land, y’all, I’m not it. I’m not a nerd. I don’t geek out on it. Some people are totally into and Star Wars, but I appreciate it. But I found myself strangely emotional the first time I saw the Millennium Falcon. It was incredible because I had this big giant Millennium Falcon toy as a kid.
00;07;18;07 00;07;43;02 I saw Star Wars when I was five years old, and that movie came out and we went to see it, went to see the matinee and went back that night and brought my mom and saw it two times on opening day because we were so floored by what we just witnessed on the screen. And so to be able to stand at the Millennium Falcon I remember texting my brother and I said, “I just walked into our childhood.
00;07;44;02 00;08;04;03 I just walked into our childhood.” What an incredible and neat experience that was to be able to do that. But as we look at Disney, I also remember that first time I went as an adult, I was so impressed by so many things, but on a certain level, something something was nine at me. And I think the more times I’ve been back that knowing has has diminished and gone away.
00;08;04;03 00;08;26;11 But I kind of want to hang on to it and remember it. And I think here’s what here’s what was nine at me. It was this sense that this is all manufactured. And you say, Well, of course, of course it’s manufactured. You’re in an amusement park, duh. But there’s a there’s a there’s a value. So Walt Disney said he wanted a place where a parent and child could go and have fun together.
00;08;26;11 00;08;42;21 And, man, he certainly did that. But there are things where there’s a ride now, Mount Everest ride. And so you can ride a roller coaster. And going through the line, you get a sense that there have been expeditions that have gone before and you can see their artifacts and you can see these news articles and you can see their climbing gear and all this stuff as you’re waiting in line.
00;08;42;21 00;09;03;17 They tell the story of Everest and that you’re going in search of the Yeti on Mt. Everest. And it’s really amazing how they do this storytelling. And then you ride this roller coaster. But you you haven’t been to Everest, right? It’s really nothing like climbing Mount Everest. I’m sure climbing to the peak of Mt. Everest is a bit more daunting and challenging and a little colder.
00;09;03;17 00;09;18;06 But you get to ride this ride in Florida and pretend like you’ve been to the top of Mt. Everest. And it’s such a great opportunity to use your imagination and to feel like you’ve been somewhere. And then you can go over to the World Showcase at Epcot and you can visit France and have real French people there serving you.
00;09;18;06 00;09;33;07 You’re you’re you’re French onion soup. And which is, by the way, really good. I love the French onion soup at the at the French cafe there. And you can go to Japan you can go to all these places and you just get a glimpse of a little bit of the culture of these nations. But you haven’t really visited Japan.
00;09;33;08 00;09;54;19 You haven’t been to Mexico, you haven’t been to Norway. You haven’t been to these places. This is all this artificial reality. Now, I get it. I know what you’re probably thinking, which is that I’m probably overthinking this. And I definitely am. So I’m going to just own that. I don’t mean to overthink it. And this is just a little question that was in the very back recesses of my brain.
00;09;54;19 00;10;13;21 And the question was, instead of visiting a recreation, would it be great to be able to visit the creation and to know that the nice thing about Disney is it’s customer oriented, it’s family friendly, it’s safe. You have it all in one place where you can see and do all these things. But I had this constant awareness that this was all a sanitized recreation.
00;10;14;04 00;10;32;24 And I think part of maybe why it resonates to me as being a little bit artificial is the values in it don’t necessarily ring true. I mean, they do, but it’s but it’s just kind of forced. So they call it the happiest place on earth. And, you know, when we have friends who are going and they get rained on, it’s like, well, at least you’re being rained on in the happiest place on Earth.
00;10;32;24 00;10;57;09 There worst places you could get rained on when you’re on vacation, at least you’re in Disney World. And so that that’s just one of these taglines that they have that just encourages happiness. The the employees there, the cast members, they are happy people and they are graded on their performance in that it has such amazing customer service. What they do for the people who visit the parks is really just above and beyond.
00;10;57;09 00;11;20;12 And that’s one of the things that really sets it apart from, say, a day at Six Flags, definitely sets it apart from a day at Six Flags. The level of customer service and interaction that you get is just is just through the roof, but in a sense is like people aren’t really like that. In real life. We’ve manufactured the world here in Disney World, where employees are paid to be super kind to you and to make your experience magical.
00;11;20;12 00;11;42;16 Don’t you wish life was just like that, that everybody just had this notion, How can I make your life more magical today? What can I do to delight and surprise you today? And what an incredible world it would be? And there’s this notion and I’m using Disney as an example. It isn’t. It isn’t Disney. It’s a popular notion in our culture today, this notion that if you dream it, you can become it.
00;11;43;17 00;12;17;16 When you wish upon a star makes no difference who you are. Your dreams can come true if you just believe and that is a theme that is pervasive through Disney storytelling. It’s pervasive in their parks, it’s pervasive in our culture. But Disney really leans into it hard, especially at their parks. And so on a certain level, as much as I love Disney storytelling and as much as I love the experience, I think we also need to recognize that ultimately it’s very humanistic and it says you can be whatever you want to be, you can dream and it can happen.
00;12;18;05 00;12;47;04 And that’s great for instilling confidence and vision and, and whatever. It’s wonderful, great value. But we also need to hold it up to the sense that we as Christians serve a God who died, who died for us, and who calls us not to dream whatever we dream and see it come to fruition. But to die. We are called to die.
00;12;48;08 00;13;09;29 We are called to be a living sacrifice and that is 180 degrees different from the values that are taught so much in our culture and through storytelling. It just is and that’s a hard thing to teach. I don’t I don’t live in I don’t wake up every morning thinking, how can I die to myself today? I get worried.
00;13;09;29 00;13;25;06 I’ve got dreams, I’ve got visions. I’ve got ambitions, I’ve got goals, I’ve got financial concerns. I want to take care of my kids. You know, there are all these things that I want to do. And so I don’t necessarily wake up thinking, how can I die to myself today? And yet this is what the gospel calls us to do.
00;13;25;18 00;13;56;08 If we want to make the happiest place on earth, we serve other people. We sacrifice for other people. That’s what the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches. And yet our lives have become this Disney-fied thing. What I really mean is it’s a values shift to say that my dreams are most important you know, Disney World shut down for a while because of the global pandemic.
00;13;56;23 00;14;16;17 And when they reopened, my wife and I and my kids, we had a trip schedule for Disney before the pandemic ever started, and it never got canceled. We kept waiting for it to get canceled and it never did. And we decided to go ahead and go anyway. And we went. It was actually the day that Epcot reopened, and I think we were in the Magic Kingdom the second day after it opened.
00;14;16;18 00;14;46;27 It was a very strange time to be there. And all eyes were on Disney to see, OK, what are they going to do about safety, about mask wearing, about social distancing? What kind of barriers are they going to have in place? And so it was a really surreal experience to go there. Graham Wood is a writer for The Atlantic, and he went to Disney World and he’d never been before He wrote, I guess what you could call a pretty negative article about the kind of cultish following that Disney World has among some people.
00;14;47;08 00;15;10;19 But as I read it, there were a couple of things, and I was like, yeah, I can kind of see that He talked about seeing a mom and dad that had crucifix tattoos on them. And he looked online to see if Disney had any kind of chapels or any kind of religious services. The website said an unofficial site said there are no religious services that are ever held on on Disney property.
00;15;10;19 00;15;32;10 It is it is secular, but Graeme Wood notices he says Disney is a religion and going to Disney World is a pilgrimage. And I really appreciated that. And I’m going to read a paragraph from his article in The Atlantic. He said, “Of course, few visitors to the park describe it that way. And I’m confident that the family with the cross tattoos believe that Jesus and not Donald Duck is their redeemer.
00;15;32;26 00;16;02;10 But if you ask them about love, will they tell you about Beauty and the beast? If you asked him about growing old, will they tell you about up? If you want to know about overcoming adversity, they will ask if you’ve heard the good news about Aladdin. If enough of your imagination consists of stories like these authored by or filtered through the Disney Corporation, then what else is Disney World where these narratives are ubiquitous and glorified but a place to nourish your soul in a time of famine?”
00;16;04;20 00;16;26;25 Wow. That’s a that’s a gut punch is what that is. Only because it is interesting. All of these stories have become so pervasive even for those of us who are believers, that the first thing that may come to mind is going to be a Disney story rather than a story from the Bible. And the Bible contains all of all of these things, all of these emotions, all of these struggles.
00;16;27;04 00;16;54;00 The Bible is surprisingly good, bad and ugly. It has violence. It has awful people doing awful things. And yet throughout the whole thing, you get this overarching sense thing that God is building his kingdom, that that He is at work in the world. And we have replaced the stories that I don’t know, 50 years ago, certainly a hundred years ago, we’ve replaced the stories that everyone would know with new stories, with different values.
00;16;54;15 00;17;19;03 I don’t mean to say that these stories are in every sense, anti-God, so please hear me when I say that, because good stories that resonate with this, they do for a reason. C.S. Lewis notes that you find Christ even in pre-Christian literature. Let me say that again. You find Christ even in pre-Christian literature. And what that means is that Jesus is there, even though you may not recognize him and he may not be called Jesus.
00;17;19;17 00;17;39;00 And the reason that Jesus shows up in places where you least expect Him to show up is because God has somehow wired us to respond to a certain message. The film critic Roger Ebert wrote a beautiful essay for the 50th anniversary of the film Casablanca. And spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen the movie, I’m about to give something away here.
00;17;39;01 00;17;56;24 He said it’s one of the few movies. It’s actually better the second time you see it. And he said the reason is there’s a scene at the end where Humphrey Bogart puts the woman that he loves on a plane with another man because he feels that she’s going to be better off with him. And it’s this moment of self-sacrifice.
00;17;57;04 00;18;19;16 And because, you know, that’s coming, that’s why the movie is even better the second time coming, because you see how heartbreaking this this whole romance and all these emotions are knowing how it’s going to end. Ebert wrote the great break between Casablanca and almost all Hollywood love stories, even wartime romances, is that it does not believe love can or should conquer all.
00;18;19;25 00;18;42;17 He’s probably jaded, too, right? Because Roger Ebert saw so many movies, and he could he could smell a plot twist coming a mile away. And and he kind of knew the device is right that filmmakers would use and writers would use. But he said, as I analyze my own feelings about the small handful of movies that affect me emotionally, I find that I’m hardly ever moved by love, but often moved by self-sacrifice.
00;18;43;09 00;19;09;27 Now, I. I don’t know anything about Roger Ebert shift. I don’t. I don’t think he was a Christian. I don’t. I don’t know. I think he was an atheist or agnostic. I might be wrong on that. But something in him responded to the message of self-sacrifice. And I believe that’s because he is created in the very image of God who wired us to respond to this message of self-sacrifice, because he wanted us to respond to this message of Jesus, of a God who sacrifices himself.
00;19;10;15 00;19;33;03 The very best of stories, I believe, get their goodness from the gospel, whether they recognize it or not. The movie Tangled, I think, is an amazing movie, a full of Christian allegory about a young woman who is trapped in a tower. And you can call that tower legalism. You can call that tower sin, whatever it is, she finds freedom and she ultimately finds love.
00;19;33;03 00;19;59;28 And this new life in this embrace and a father who is always searching for her And so it is an amazing Christian allegory. So as I say all that, I want you to also hear me say that there are things in Disney stories that can really, really resonate. But the fact of the matter is, if it’s never pointed out that, hey, this is the real truth that we’re looking towards, if that’s never pointed out, then I’m not sure we ever connect those dots and that we ever connect to the true to the one true God and to the story that writes us.
00;20;00;12 00;20;17;28 Lest you think I’m being too hard on the house of mouse, I do have to say for the record that I think The Lion King is the best Christian film of the past three decades. So I think as we as Christians engage with our world, if we look for those points to say, where does this connect to this story that writes us how does that connect?
00;20;17;29 00;20;37;15 And and I got to say, I’ve wondered sometimes I’ve struggled with this. I’ve been at churches that have done great. You know, a fun summer series is always the gospel at the movies. The gospel on Broadway and the gospel according to Disney. I’ve been at churches that have all done series like these, and they’re great to do. Why don’t we just teach the story of Joseph and his brothers, right?
00;20;37;25 00;21;15;02 We could we could just do that, you know, whatever it is, they’re all these great stories and characters in the Bible. And if we’re not bringing it back to that, I think we’re missing something. And also, this is just a side note, just a plug for biblical literacy in general. It’s really, really hard to read any Western literature of the past 20 years to really understand it all without a degree of biblical literacy, because there are so many allusions to the Bible and to these epic stories that are in the Bible that just come out in books and in stories throughout the ages that are just there, because it was just commonly assumed that everybody
00;21;15;02 00;21;30;29 gets this reference. Everybody knows this story. If I was telling you a story today and I made a reference to Radiator Springs, he’d know, Oh, he’s talking about cars. And I don’t have to say anything else because the movie Cars is set and Radiator Springs and you’ve probably seen it, and you know about a tow truck named Mater.
00;21;32;16 00;21;52;07 These have become the cultural touchstones that we can just make a passing reference to without explaining everything else throughout the past couple thousand years. It hasn’t been Disney stories, though. The Bible has been that common touchstone, at least in Western literature. And so when you know the Bible, you understand so much more of Western literature and what’s really being said in it.
00;21;52;07 00;22;20;01 So that’s just a plug for for biblical literacy. Anyway, this has been probably way too long to talk about it, but this is the idea of the Disney ification of our lives where we are replacing. I don’t want to go so far as to say we’re replacing truth with a lie, that that would be overstating it, except that this value that your dreams are the most important thing on earth and your personal fulfillment is what you should hope for and long for above and beyond all else.
00;22;21;08 00;22;44;29 That’s a lie can we call it that? And then can we take stories and say, Hey, there are stories? The point is toward a deeper truth and towards a deeper meaning and points towards Jesus Christ. And it’s not really just about knowing how to understand or critique the cultural messages around us. Really. God has uniquely called us to speak into the culture around us and to be storytellers.
00;22;45;17 00;23;05;28 And, you know, a lot of us don’t even really see ourselves in that regard. We don’t see ourselves as storytellers. And we we see it. We we narrowly define what it means to be a storyteller. And I hope that this podcast expands that definition of what it means, because we’re all creative, whether you feel it or not. We are all creative, we are all storytellers.
00;23;06;15 00;23;25;13 And so we all get to be a part of bringing about heaven on earth when we can tell the story of the gospel in our lives. And then we could also see that there’s a story that writes us That’s it for episode one. We’re going to talk a lot more about stories about how we are writers and creators ourselves.
00;23;26;06 00;23;41;18 I’m hoping in future episodes I’ve got some friends who I can’t wait for you guys to meet, and I’m going to have a chance to sit down and interview them. A lot of them are creators and writers and musicians and storytellers, and I think they some of the coolest people in the world. And so we’re going to have a lot of fun with this.
00;23;41;18 00;23;59;03 But thanks for tuning in and I hope you’ll tune into episode two before I get going with interviews with all of my friends, I want to take one more episode just to lay the foundation for what this podcast is going to be all about. Hope you’re listening. the story that writes us is produced at Custer Road United Methodist Church.
00;23;59;03 00;24;06;04 It’s a part of our discipleship ministry here in Plano, Texas. All of the music, by the way, for today’s episode was licensed through Sound Stripe.