Wednesday, October 24, 2007,12:56 AM
Trappings of a World in Which We Do Not Believe
So this month's Synchroblog is on Halloween, or more precisely about people sharing their thoughts, their experiences, and their expertise on the subject of "A Christian Response to Halloween" (or at least something remotely connected to that idea.) When I first heard about it I was excited to take the time to do research and pull together my ideas on reclaiming the roots of Halloween for Christians as a continuation of my post last month. But honestly I hit a wall. Nothing inspired me. Nothing grabbed my attention. The only thing I kept coming back to was a scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In this scene Voldemort has arrived in Godric's Hollow with the intention of murdering Harry. It is Halloween and he passes houses decorated for the evening and children masquerading as pumpkins. Voldemort refers to such things as "all the tawdry Muggle trappings of a world in which they did not believe."

At Halloween our modern cultural rituals are a dim reflection of the historical practice of connecting with and honoring those who have come before. We lost the true meaning, but keep the trappings in hopes that we can connect in some way to something bigger than ourselves. We bring out the ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, and black cats not understanding what they mean, but longing nonetheless to grasp hold of a fleeting glimpse of the mysterious. We watch horror movies in hopes that fear, as raw and intense of an emotion as it is, will at least make us feel something beyond ourselves. But these things still remain trappings of a world in which we don't fully believe.

Trappings of a world in which we do not believe. To what extent does that statement reflect the entire edifice of this thing we call Christianity? How much of our faith experience involves decorating our lives with symbols of that which we think might be fun if it were real but which is obviously not real enough to make a difference in our lives? Are all the trappings of church just forgotten symbols of a deeper reality? Do we desperately seek the next worship high in order to convince ourselves that we actually do feel something?

I don't have the answers, but there are times when I take a look at what we do at church and wonder why the hell are we doing these things. I'm sure those rituals held some real meaning for some people once upon a time, but I just don't get it now. It seems like the rituals, the trappings of faith, have become the only cultural artifact of faith. Much like plastic pumpkins and ghoulish blow-up lawn ornaments have replaced the historical roots of Halloween which are now only an echo, has this production we call church replaced the life Jesus called us to live? Is what we are doing at church just a hollow cultural echo of what we were meant to be?

Halloween and Christianity are safe because they are no longer connected to their roots. We can play around with them and only occasionally be reminded of the bigger mystery they represent. I do not fear Halloween because I only see a hollow artifice without roots (not that I fear those roots, but that's another story). But I do fear Christianity when it is a hollow artifice. Trapping of a world in which we do not believe can be dangerous. Ignoring the wild and deep power of God as we engage in rituals of worship doesn't sit well with me. I think we need to start lifting the veil and start believing again.


If you want to read other more coherent contributions to this Synchroblog (that maybe actually address the topic...) check out -
The Christians and the Pagans Meet for Samhain at Phil Wyman's Square No More
Our Own Private Zombie: Death and the Spirit of Fear by Lainie Petersen
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
John Morehead at John Morehead's Musings
Vampire Protection by Sonja Andrews
What's So Bad About Halloween? at Igneous Quill
H-A-double-L-O-double-U-double-E-N Erin Word
Halloween....why all the madness? by Reba Baskett
Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent
Hallmark Halloween by John Smulo
Mike Bursell at Mike's Musings
Sam Norton at Elizaphanian
Removing Christendom from Halloween at On Earth as in Heaven
Vampires or Leeches: A conversation about making the Day of the Dead
meaningful by David Fisher
Encountering hallow-tide creatively by Sally Coleman
Kay at Chaotic Spirit
Apples and Razorblades at Johnny Beloved
Steve Hayes at Notes from the Underground
Fall Festivals and Scary Masks at The Assembling of the Church
Why Christians don't like Zombies at Hollow Again
Peering through the negatives of mission Paul Walker
Sea Raven at Gaia Rising
Halloween: My experiences by Lew A
Timothy Victor at Tim Victor's Musings
Making Space for Halloween by Nic Paton

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posted by Julie at 12:56 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


31 Comments:


  • At 10/23/2007 11:44:00 PM, Blogger David

    Actually Julie,
    I thought yours was very coherent!

     
  • At 10/23/2007 11:44:00 PM, Blogger Sally

    well said Julie- a hollow Christianity is something to fear...for it says a lot about nothing!

     
  • At 10/24/2007 07:36:00 AM, Blogger Dan

    julie. great post. i have started feeling that way about so many of the things that used to have meanings but are now just done for tradition's sake. thanks.
    -dan

     
  • At 10/24/2007 07:44:00 AM, Anonymous nic paton

    "Ignoring the wild and deep power of God as we engage in rituals of worship doesn't sit well with me. I think we need to start lifting the veil and start believing again."

    That thought is wonderful Julie. It is implying (like so many other writers joined here) that the Thin and Awefilled Places are not optional extras in a liberalised faith, but a necessity in transcending the sad state of the Hollow Tradition we accept a normal.

    I've been meaning to tell you that I have used your ideas in both my Halloween article as well as something I wrote last week:
    http://soundandsilence.wordpress.com/2007/10/12/a-pagan-conversation/

    Thank you.

     
  • At 10/24/2007 08:21:00 AM, Blogger Alan Knox

    Julie,

    You asked: "Are all the trappings of church just forgotten symbols of a deeper reality?" This is a great question! For a while I've wondered if "church" is nothing more than a weekly ritual for many... like a weekly Halloween in which we put on our costumes and run through the motions. I long for the deeper reality, and I've noticed that many others do as well. Thank you for this post!

    -Alan

     
  • At 10/24/2007 08:44:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle

    Very well put, Julie. Hollow Halloween and hollow christianity are both, well, just hollow. And if Harry Potter passes through the Deathly Hallows on Halloween in the context of Christian scriptures, then we Christians might look at and listen to J. K. Rowling just a bit more closely. An number of bloggers are on to this, such as BabyBlue and AnnieWoo. There's much to reclaim. (and I love my kids candy corn after trick or treating with friends in our neighborhood).

     
  • At 10/24/2007 09:49:00 AM, Anonymous Tim Victor

    You really touch on a note that I feel when you speak of the "deeper reality" behind our faith. I often feel that the substance of our faith is superstition and philosophy rather than linking to the reality of who God/-ess is and what God/-ess means.

    Thanks for your insightful post.

     
  • At 10/24/2007 10:26:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

    The experience of worship as empty ritual is something experienced by so many, and I join with Julie in longing for more lifting of the veil.

    It's interesting to observe many children of liturgical faiths (Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Episcopal) encounter an "aliveness" in Christ through contact with various expressions of evangelicalism (perhaps through an evangelical campus Christian group, or a local contemporary/seeker church) and feel such joy at leaving what for them was dead ritual behind in exchange for "the real thing" . . . and as they walk down that path they frequently pass an equal number of children of evangelicalism headed in the other direction, who are encountering an "aliveness" in the rich symbolism, sense of sacred awe and mystery in the liturgical service, and who are overjoyed at leaving behind what they have experienced as the dull, vapid and culturally bound rituals of evangelical worship.

    That phenomenon suggests to me that the "lifting of the veil" has more to do with the spirit and heart than the form. We long for something real, not the hollow echo. But hollow echoes, as well as the real spirit, can be found in just about any branch of the Christian family tree, IMO.

     
  • At 10/24/2007 12:34:00 PM, Blogger Adam Gonnerman

    "Ignoring the wild and deep power of God as we engage in rituals of worship doesn't sit well with me."

    I loved that. This is similar to how I describe that indescribable something behind fantasy and walks in the woods that provides and inkling of the greater Reality. The same blindingly out-of-my-control feel that the story of Abraham being called to offer up Isaac gives me.

    Very nice contribution to the Synchroblog.

     
  • At 10/24/2007 03:33:00 PM, Blogger Lainie Petersen

    Wow Julie...thanks for this. Sometimes I need reminding that yes, this is all real.

     
  • At 10/24/2007 06:37:00 PM, Anonymous Jonathan Brink

    Very nicely put Julie. You actually captured my feelings really well.

     
  • At 10/24/2007 10:27:00 PM, Blogger K.W. Leslie

    Very good point.

    My roommate is a newbie (which is what I call new Christians) and he's just started seeing visions. It was interesting timing; he had his first vision about a week after I casually commented to him, "It's nice that you're taking Christianity seriously, but wait till the weird stuff starts to happen."

    The weird stuff started later that week. He had to wake me up as soon as he got off work (which was way too early for me, but one has to be patient with newbies) and tell me all about it. He was given a vision of the sort of things that were tempting one of his customers. It scared the stuffing out of him, but it confirmed the spiritual world for him in a way that years of Buddhism and neopaganism never had -- and it reminded him that God was with him, which is the sort of comforting thing that indicates this was of the Holy Spirit.

    "I had no idea these things were out there," he said. "I mean, I knew, but I didn't really know."

    "Welcome to Christianity," I commented. "That's what you get for taking the red pill."

     
  • At 10/25/2007 08:24:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Thanks all.

    Karl - you made a good point with, "That phenomenon suggests to me that the "lifting of the veil" has more to do with the spirit and heart than the form" The hollowness can be found in all the traditions. Have too many of us focused more on form than the reason those forms came into being in the first place?

     
  • At 10/25/2007 08:46:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

    Julie, my own short answer to your question would be "yes."

    You say "The hollowness can be found in all the traditions." I agree. No one tradition or form guarantees a lack of hollowness. Nor would any new one that we invent offer such a guarantee.

    But I'd also add that while hollowness can be found in any tradition, so can the spirit and the experience of the veil being lifted, of finding oneself in a thin place between Heaven and earth because, maybe even in spite of the form, the focus is on "the reason those forms came into being in the first place." If I have eyes to see. C.S. Lewis is helpful to me here:

    My own experience is that when I first became a Christian, about fourteen years ago, I thought that I could do it on my own, by retiring to my rooms and reading theology, and I wouldn't go to the churches and Gospel Halls . . . I disliked very much their hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were just sixth-rate music) were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren't fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit."

    - C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock

     
  • At 10/25/2007 09:07:00 AM, Anonymous Bryan Riley

    Wow. This is fantastic. Yes, we are gilded. We put on all the trappings of what we imagine the Christian life being but neglect the most important part - the heart. And things that we don't understand we fear and we run from, rather than letting the light of Christ shine on them. Great post.

     
  • At 10/27/2007 10:31:00 AM, Anonymous Robin@heartofwisdom

    The Bible holds the answer to pagan holiday questions. I posted an article about Halloween on my blog and received several interesting comments. See http://tinyurl.com/ypd2ck

     
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