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Dumber Than A Squirrel
Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister at Covenant Community Church on Feb 1, 2000, 17:49

The headline was one that was just interesting enough to catch your eye. "Young Man Killed as He Imitates Scene from a Disney Movie."

Since it caught my eye I read on. The story revolved around the movie, The Program, which was produced by Walt Disney Productions. As the story continued it seems that some people after seeing this movie, copied one of the scenes and the end result was tragic. In the aftermath, Walt Disney Productions had decided to edit the scene in question from the movie and stop using it in the trailer advertisement. It is really serious business.

For years people have debated the influence of the media on people and the dramatic effect it has in an individualís life. It is true and safe to say that the motion picture industry has a lot of influence in creating the trends and fads that impact our culture.

The greatest example of this is in the person of John Travolta. I have joked for years that John Travolta was the greatest cultural influence in America over the past 25 years. Before you disagree, think about it. Some of you will remember a few years ago he starred in a movie with Olivia Newton-John called GREASE. As a result of this movie America was plunged into a nostalgia craze where going back to the fifties was a fad. This paved the way for the success of the TV series HAPPY DAYS and America was reliving the fifties.

A few years later Mr. Travolta hit the big screen and big time again. The new movie was Saturday Night Fever, the new fad: DISCO! The music of the Bee Gees and the dancing of

John Travolta ushered in the beginning of a fad that would infiltrate the dance steps of a nation as well as the music. To give you an example of the impact of Disco, remember that even the King of the Middle of the Road, Barry Manilow released his own tribute to disco with his mega-hit COPACABANA. America was caught in boogie-mania and disco was here.

Then as the craze ended here came Mr. Travolta again, this time with the entry of Urban Cowboy which led the resurgence of country music into mainstream America. A trend which at the time of this writing still continues. So while a nation rediscovered country music and two-stepped, Mr. Travolta had once again ushered in a new fad.

But just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theaters, the TRAVOLTA MAN made yet another impact film. The new entry was called Perfect. It focused on the health club craze that has swept across our nation. So everyone headed for their local health clubs to get into shape.

You probably thought I was kidding about John Travolta, didn't you? Trust me, I have given this a lot of thought (no comments about me having far too much time on my hands...). I guess Iím just grateful that he didnít choose to star in something warped like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now hopefully my statement earlier in this chapter about the influence of motion pictures on our society makes a little more sense.

The scene in question in The Program involved some of the players of the football team lying in the middle (on the striped lines) of the road. As they reclined on their backs in the street, with cars zooming by on all sides, they read the newspaper which contained an article on how the quarterback was cool under pressure with ice water in his veins. And as he casually read the article out loud the players didnít seem to notice the danger they were in. In reality,

when you think about it, it has all the making of a very humorous scene. Then tragedy strikes...

The tragedy didnít strike in the movie, but rather in real life. It appears that someone decided to live the movie for themselves. As the story unfolds they were struck and killed by a car as they were lying in the middle of the busy city street. As tragic as that is, it gets worse. The family of the young man who died filed suit against the Walt Disney Company because of the "images and thoughts" that their film placed in the mind of the victim. As Disney reacted, they issued an apology, re-edited their film, changed their trailer, and are destined to settle out of court for some amount of money in the days ahead. As the tragedy continued, Disneyís reaction is what bothered me the most. (Donít start thinking that I am hard-hearted and donít care, because I do care.)

You may or may not agree with me, but the whole situation, although tragic, seems incredibly dumb. I saw the scene and I was not overcome with a desire to run out into the street and lay down in the middle of the road. It doesnít appear to me that Disney Pictures is responsible because someone who saw their movie was dumber than a squirrel and couldnít get themselves out of the street (some of you more intellectual types will add at this point, squirrels donít always act real bright when it comes to getting out of the street, but HEY, at least they TRY! The guy that got hit just wandered out there and said, "I think Iíll lay down here" and well we know how the story ends). To me, it just doesnít seem that Disney should take the blame because someone doesnít have a coherent thought running through their head. It does remind us though that we live in a world where we are always looking to blame someone else for our mistakes or that things we do.

The religious community is not exempt from this type of thinking either. Recently the members of a religious group were on a retreat. In the midst of a canoe trip they decided to test

their faith by attempting to walk on the water. (Iím not kidding!) So when they got to the designated spot, one of the members got out of the boat and attempted to take a stroll across the lake. The attempt failed and the situation was complicated because the person who was testing their faith neglected to mention to his comrades that he didnít know how to swim. The end result, he drowned. Thatís right, HE IS DEADER THAN A HAMMER (or anchor). He died because he made a dumb choice.

I believe that God EXPECTS us to think and put some brains into matters of our faith especially as our faith meets the real world. Please donít miss what I am saying, I believe that we are to be a faith living people. We should look for and expect God to do the miraculous, but I donít believe that we are to wander into a spiritual fog and grow ODD FOR GOD and make every event in life a dramatic test of God and His miraculous ability to bail you out of trouble. Every now and then we should recognize that God HAS taken care of us by giving us the ability to think and allowed us to use a little common sense.

I have tried to think of the most spiritual people I know. It didnít surprise me to find that the people I have found that have the closest walk with God are also some of the most "earthy" or "salty" people I know. They are free thinking, practical, dynamic, spiritual, and out of their minds for Jesus and their faith collides with and makes radical change in the everyday world that they live in.

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