Standing in front of the rollercoaster, Goliath, at Six Flags

Why Theme Parks Matter

By shellicammenga
November 18, 2011

At first glance, a theme park might not appear a place for an intellectual or cultural excursion, but upon investigation, a trip like this exemplifies the purpose of the Avodah program. No matter where Christians work or play, they are constantly engaged in glorifying God and should evaluate and appreciate the subtle points of each experience. With the view that faith influences all aspects of life, visiting Six Flags shouldn’t be an exception.

Especially at a liberal arts college, students should be encouraged to learn about the world around them, including the many facets of the places in which they find themselves. Knowing the history of Six Flags gives a whole new appreciation for some of the rides which would ordinarily pale in comparison to the newer rides. Some of the old rides from the 70’s when the park opened are still standing, including a wooden coaster called “Colossus” which was the fastest, largest dual track roller coaster of its time. Magic Mountain was also the first park in the world to have a modern, 360 degree steel looping coaster called “Revolution.”

Six Flags Magic Mountain went through some financial hardships in 2006 which caused the park to consider closing. Since 2007 however, the park is no longer on the list to be sold, but the aftereffects of the economic woes can still be seen. Although Six Flags has always advertised, it now has even more creative advertisements available inside the park as well as outside businesses. Six Flags also shamelessly self promotes, as after each ride, the operator suggests other places to go inside the park. Six Flags has also increased their focus on selling annual passes. Whether it’s on billboards, the TVs in line for the rides, or announcements over the loudspeakers, every guest is bound to hear about the new deal for annual passes. Though the amount of advertisements can be overwhelming, it is still up to the customers to decide how to manage their money.

Seeing how the park has changed over the years reflects the constant progress and innovative ideas that keep the coaster experience exciting and new. This need to regularly add more thrilling elements says something about human nature. Men are easily bored and need to be constantly entertained. This creates the demand for new thrills to provide an adrenalin rush that enlivens the average man’s mundane daily life.  To the observing Calvinist, this makes perfect sense. It is human nature to always want more. In a fallen world, men are trying to fill something which is missing from their lives, giving them excitement and purpose. When the thrill of experiencing a day full of adrenalin wears off, it is still not enough. It will never be enough, but if there are improvements promised, riders will keep coming back.

This leads to the question of whether it is good stewardship of time and money to attend a theme park, or if there is something flawed about the concept of a theme park; it takes a massive amount of money and ingenuity to develop and run a park which could hypothetically be put to use in more humanitarian ways. However, upon further reflection, the incredible skills which allow engineers and other specialists to perfect the millions of elements which go into creating a rollercoaster are highly specialized. Not everyone can build a rollercoaster just like not everyone is good at managing a soup kitchen. By making use of the God-given talents they possess, these men and women are able to fulfill a different part of the cultural mandate to fill and subdue the earth by grasping the relationships of velocity, force, mass, and other laws with which God governs his universe in a way few others do. By building a rollercoaster, these designers are restoring a level of harmony and shalom as the elements come together to create a smooth ride.  Christians riding coasters cannot appreciate a rollercoaster without appreciating God and his good gifts, especially if they have taken the time to be aware of the effort put into each ride. Even for those who choose not to experience the rides, a trip to a theme park is a trip into the unique culture of a theme park. All different sorts of people attend, and the park is a low pressure environment in which to grow closer to one’s fellow man.

Of the many entertainments in this word which are often perverse, rollercoasters are as the cliché says, “good clean fun.” In their essential elements, they are not morally wrong; it is the motives of the riders which can ask them to fill a place in their life where roller coasters do not belong. As a Christian, it is refreshing to return to a simpler age, being entertained by simply moving fast up and down and sideways on a solid track, exercising trust in the laws of physics and God who put them in place. Though at first glance a trip to Six Flags may appear to be a frivolous amusement to be using Avodah funds on, through research, critical thinking and Biblical reflection, theme parks emerge as centers for clean entertainment, unique social interactions, observation of business practices, appreciation for God’s laws, room for sub creative imagination and a good source of adrenalin!

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