During the last few weeks of the winter holidays, Pope Benedict VXI and several of his delegates, including Illinois Cardinal Francis George and the United Kingdom's Archbishop Vincent Nichols, delivered lumps of coal to the world's LGBTQ communities. It was gift giving Mr.-Grinch- or unrepentant-Ebeneezer-Scrooge-style.
Like the "Three Anti-gay Kings," Archbishop Nichols shut down gay-inclusive religious services in London's Soho district, Cardinal George declared same-sex marriages "legal fiction," and Pope Benedict agreed, calling gay marriage a "manipulation of nature" and gay people "abstract human beings." The pope stated that gay families pose a "crisis" in which "the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child -- essential elements of the experience of being human are lost."
Meanwhile I was taking my family on a trip to Disneyland. I was there with my partner, Jim, and my two 10-year-old sons. My sons have been mine since their infancy. They were adopted from heterosexual birth parents who would have fit the acceptable image of "family" as promoted by the pope. However, each of the four birth parents was chemically addicted and certain to create devastating damage had my sons remained in their care.
The day we went to Disneyland, so did 40,000 other people. I thought about what the pope could see if he had been there with us. We were like any other family in the park: We were photographed together, kissed and hugged each other when moved to do so, held hands and laughed a lot. Here is what he would have seen.
1. Romance: Despite gay marriage being legal in more and more countries around the globe, Disneyland is filled only with heteronormative princess story lines, proving that heterosexual romance is alive, well and not going anywhere. There was not even a hint of same-sex romance among Disneyland's characters, although some interspecies romance has crept in (see Ariel, Belle). No change is evident in the human romantic blueprint.
2. Crowds: Further evidence that heterosexuality is not experiencing a threat, let alone a "crisis," is the massive amount of opposite-sex families and their progeny in attendance. Not only did the presence of our family, my partner's and my kiss at the base of Tarzan's Tree House, and our posing with iconic Disney characters fail to create a wave of heterosexual defection, but everyone around us completely ignored these things. The pope would sleep well after witnessing how uncomfortably well humans are populating the Earth.
3. Joy: We saw people in frail health at the end of their lives sharing experiences with kids who are new to the planet. Excitement and wonder exuded from all directions. The love within my family did not threaten them; there was no "crisis." Instead, there was deep, inspired joy that I think the pope would envy.
4. The diversity of real families: We rubbed elbows with many families. These were real families, and almost no two looked identical. It was impossible to tell if parents were biological ones, adopted ones or temporary guardians. It was impossible to see exactly how each had come together. However, love obviously held each together. If the pope had seen it, he would have had to reconsider in his limited, one-size-fits-all perspective.
5. Imagination: From fresh perspectives on histories and cultures to real innovations that will have human impacts, Disneyland has made imagination a pervasive theme. The pope needs a little of the stuff. Seriously.
6. Popularity and relevance: Disney characters turn parents and kids into ravenous paparazzi. In the minds of the families there, the first Mary to come to mind bears the last name Poppins. Children can recognize and name every chipmunk, duck, mouse and dog character that hits the street, but they would not know any Catholic saints except St. Nicholas. This lack of relevance of Catholic lore in modern life might give the pope a moment's pause if he really wants to stay important to future generations.
7. Parenting Finding-Nemo-style: My son Jason loved the Finding Nemo ride, in which a solo dad shows what real parental love is all about, a love that it has nothing to do with having different genitalia from the other parent or not. The pope should have gone on the ride with Jason.
8. Nature vs. the world of Mickey Mouse: Cardinal George wrote, "Marriage comes to us from nature." Team Pope harps on this theme a lot, but their concept of "nature" does not seem to reflect real nature at all. If Mickey and Minnie were actual rodents, Minnie would go into heat, and all able male mice in the vicinity would attempt to breed with her. This would make for a very different Disneyland. In the civilized world, Mickey and Minnie are monogamous and committed. Humanity, not nature, is the origin of societal stability, morality, equality and higher values. If the pope and his team hung out at the House of Mouse, perhaps they would come to understand that.
9. Great words from Mr. Lincoln: The pope has decried "a false understanding of freedom," suggesting that only heterosexuals have family rights. He needs to visit Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. In the attraction, an animatronic Lincoln says:
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.
What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? ... Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.
10. Captain EO: The pope needs to see Michael Jackson's work in the Captain EO attraction in Tomorrowland. As Michael confronts a cold, heartless tyrant who demands a colorless world in accordance with her own suppression-laden blueprint, he transforms the environment with dance, music, rhythm and style. He literally gays up the place with beauty and love and leaves the now-transformed monarch with these words:
We're takin' over; we have the truth.
This is the mission: to see it through.
Don't point your finger -- not dangerous.
This is our planet; you're one of us.
We're sendin' out a major love,
And this is our message to you.
We're bringin' brighter days.
Fulfill the truth.
I hope the pope would have taken some of this truth home to the Vatican with him.
The pope is wrong to denigrate gay families and is on the wrong side of history. In Disney stories there are great transformations and awakenings. It is my sincere prayer that the pope gets one of these as a gift for himself this year.