(RNS) “Bubble living” might be delusional, but it expresses deep and serious yearnings.
Take “Champagne music” maker Lawrence Welk. His music variety show on ABC was built on perpetuating the squareness of a prewar world being challenged by postwar change.
My father was still watching Welk reruns 40 years after it ceased production in 1971. They reminded him of a world long supplanted.
Megyn Kelly, of Fox News, got thoroughly trounced for her inane on-air dream of a “white Christmas” replete with a white Santa and a white Jesus. History disagrees, but Kelly spoke for many Fox viewers who yearn for a more settled era when times were good inside the bubble of white privilege, if not so good outside it.
Ever-hip tech firms in Silicon Valley are moving some operations to San Francisco in order to enjoy its gritty urban tang.
Once they arrive, however, according to a report in The New York Times, they quickly create a bubble of self-catered meals, self-sufficient socializing centered on work, while ignoring urban neighbors and driving them out of business.
It’s the latest incarnation of the “company town,” long treasured by industrial magnates who wanted workers under their control. Indeed, it probably harks back to the feudal village itself, where everyone served the manor.
Bubbles aren’t necessarily toxic, but we need to see them as yearning-based, not reality-based.
My wife and I attended the Radio City “Christmas Spectacular” last week, for example. Disney couldn’t have done it better. High-kicking Rockettes harked back to 1930s cinema musicals. “Santa” (yes, Megyn, he was white) had a Burl Ives voice from 1964. Other than two numbers in 3-D, the show had a timeless appeal, as if nothing in America had changed since the first Radio City Christmas show in 1933.
The Christmas story it told, of course, was the “bubble” version seen in church pageants and children’s books — nothing remotely close to the radical disruption of the original, but pleasing to the troubled 2013 soul.
More than pleasing, in fact. Reassuring, I’d say. Conveying the needed message that not everything is Syrian atrocities, unrestrained greed at home and cheating in high places. God is still good, and God is still nudging creation closer to glory.
When live camels and elaborately costumed magi gathered for the final tableau at Radio City, I saw through the kitsch to the essential message: God did it once, and God will do it again. God will save humanity from itself.
When “Mary and Joseph” waved to the audience from their high perch on a massive theater’s stage, I didn’t see a Disneyland “Mickey” waving to tourists. I saw a word of hope inviting us to take heart.
Maybe that’s what I wanted to see. That’s the point. We have these yearnings. Not for an all-white Christmas, surely, but for a Christmas season that touches heart and soul, not just wallet.
I don’t think we yearn for company towns, but for villages, places where people know and support each other.
Same with “champagne music.” I used to watch Lawrence Welk with my dad at his retirement center. I cared little for the Lennon Sisters. But I treasured the moment with dad. It signified his life, born several eras ago, lived faithfully and now handed down to me.
It wasn’t a bubble of nostalgic unreality. It was a bubble of gratitude.
(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus,” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)
YS/MG END EHRICH