The Little Skeptic by S. M. Hutchens


The Little Skeptic

A regular correspondent once commented:

More consistent than our Sunday school lessons, a message was driven deep into the hearts of my generation. Faithfully on Sunday evenings we would gather around our TV sets to watch the various Walt Disney programs. There an earnest little preacher would sing these enchanting lyrics:

When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are,
Anything your heart desires will come to you.
If your heart is in your dream,
No request is too extreme;
When you wish upon a star,
Your dreams come true.

It never bothered us that instead of God, the granter of our hearts' desires was a mysterious being called Fate. In the magical and perfect realm of Disney, it was easy to believe that this was somehow just a wonderful part of God's plan for our lives. Looking back across the decades, I now know we were lied to.

I, too, am of this generation, remember this very well, and remember reacting to it as a child. I thought Jiminy Cricket's sermon so absurd that it could only be thought of as a fantasy with as little basis in reality as any cartoon had—for cartoons were depictions of things that didn't and couldn't exist. Early on I developed a rockbound—and I think necessary—"fantasy quarantine," inside of which one might enjoy a good story, but out of which one could not import to reality without a license.

It wasn't hard for me to keep the preaching Cricket—very different, by the way, from Carlo Collodi's—in his cage, first of all because I just didn't like him. He struck me as something subtly but truly foul: an adult who lied to children about the most important thing in the world.

What he was pronouncing upon could only come from the highest authority, and who the hell (although my mother wouldn't have let me voice the thought this way) was this Hollywood cricket? I thank the good Baptists who raised me for having instilled very early on a concept of authority which made it immediately evident even to a small boy that the sort of things Jiminy was saying could only be said by those who spoke for God—and those who did said nothing about wishing on stars. (Good) dreams came true in heaven, and to get there one had to follow Jesus, not a flim-flamming cricket.

—S. M. Hutchens

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.