This is an “off topic” post, which I don’t do anymore but, because it is Halloween, I am making an exception, ignore it if you please. Halloween is hands down my favorite holiday and has always been so. It is the one time of the year when I’m considered “festive” and “in the holiday spirit” rather than just being “creepy”. My immediate family always celebrated Halloween but, going to a private, religious school most of the time as a boy, I became aware that some Christians have a problem with it. Not everyone does and no group seemed to be entirely consistent on the subject. At my school, when I was very small, Halloween was okay, to an extent, then later it was banned as being completely evil. There were Protestants who were okay with it, some who opposed it and I can remember one Catholic priest saying it was completely evil only to be replaced by another priest who said it was good and only anti-Catholics thought it was evil. Take your pick. My late mother always said, “it is what you make of it” and whether it was good or bad was entirely up to you.
What always bothered me though was the idea some Christian fundamentalist types have that Halloween is too “dark” to be compatible with Christianity. This bothers me because I want to be Christian but the Christianity of sunshine, light and happiness seemed to exclude me. According to my parents I’ve had my days and nights mixed up since the day I was born, the light hurts my eyes and, well, “happiness” is just a word that no one has ever associated with me. It also struck me as extremely bizarre given my understanding of Christianity. Here you have a religion that has as its symbol a method of execution, a religion based on God becoming man, being killed, having people poke their fingers in his gaping wounds and who commands you to eat His flesh and drink His blood. All of this, and you think **I’M** too “creepy”!? I wonder sometimes if people are reading the same Bible I have because, as I have often said, Christianity is a Lovecraftian death-match, not a hippy religion.
Some of this I have touched on before so I will not go through it all again but it seems to me that authentic Christianity is, to put it mildly, not for the faint of heart. The Bible describes eternal, celestial beings of another plain of existence locked in a cosmic struggle for domination, giant monsters, a witch summoning a ghost, dragons, people and animals being possessed by demons, people being raised from the dead and I could go on at length about the angels, as I have somewhat before on these pages. Some of them do or can look like us, sure, but the description of them in their own habitat is terrifying. Some have bestial bodies, three heads, lots of wings, others are constantly engulfed in flames, some are giant wheels covered with eyeballs and so on, real nightmare fuel. They kill children, slaughter armies by the thousands and, you will notice, even when appearing on a happy occasion, always start by telling the person they are appearing before to stop being afraid. They are not chubby, flying babies folks. If you ever see an angel that is not ‘under cover’ you will most likely drop to your knees in mind-melting terror.
It does not stop with the scriptures either, then you get into the traditions of the early Church and there are plenty of horrifying stories to choose from there. Ever heard the story of St Margaret of Antioch? She was eaten alive by a dragon, used a cross to tear her way out of its stomach, was drowned, survived, burned alive, survived and then finally beheaded. The apostle St Bartholomew was skinned alive, St Christopher became a sort of godly wolf-man, St Denis had his head chopped off and just went on preaching, carrying his cranium around with him and I know someone is thinking, ‘well those are just stories, they cannot possibly be true’. To which I say, is any of it any more impossible to believe than Jesus spitting in the dirt and curing blindness with the mud, raising a man from the dead who was already half rotted away or there being a colossal sea serpent at the bottom of the ocean that God is going to come down and kill with a giant sword at the end of the world? Because all of that stuff is in the Bible and I should think any Christian would have to believe that.
Authentic Christianity, as I understand it, has nothing to do with this modern day collection of churches full of “nice” people who are all about sunshine and social justice, who think demons are just metaphors and God is so loving that He would never actually condemn anybody. Yes, God does love everyone but in a way that is far beyond our understanding. As far as being so loving as to never punish anyone, ever, all I can say is to tell that to the population that drowned in the flood or the parents of all the dead Egyptian children wiped out by an angel because their Pharaoh would not release the Israelites from bondage. God is not your BFF in the sky, God is not your “copilot” and God is not your ‘buddy’. God is beyond our comprehension, God is unfathomable to us and His ways are not our ways. God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-seeing) and omnipresent which, to put it in an unusual way but one which I prefer, is to say that God is so huge that He fills the entire universe and is everywhere at once. God is fair, God is just but if you think he’s too nice to punish you, just remember that when Jesus Christ died on the cross the sun was blacked out because God the Father turned His back on His own Son because he had just taken on the sin of every person to ever exist.
Yet, people who presumably believe in all of that, people who will walk around every day with a tiny image of a dead man nailed to a cross hanging around their neck, will tell me I’m “creepy” or “morbid” or some such thing. It really is incomprehensible to me other than that the vast majority of people do not really believe what they claim to. Perhaps I am totally wrong and it really is just me that does not fit and cannot accept it, however I cannot help but think we must be reading from two completely different playbooks when it comes to the Christian religion. They are in the Christianity of Joel Osteen and I’m in the Christianity of church buildings made out of dead people.
This surely must sound like a rant at this point but, I promise, I am not going off-topic today merely to vent my frustrations. I do have a story to tell which, I have found out lately, does not seem to be very well known even among life-long Christians. Yet, to explain how we get there, I did want to put this background in place and also call to mind a previous explanation I have given on these pages. My late grandfather was in the habit of giving people very distinct nicknames and these nicknames, in my immediate family anyway, tended to impose on us a certain “theme” if you like. My oldest sister, for example, had a nickname which caused the cartoon character of Tweety Bird to become her sort of mascot and over the years she accumulated as gifts just about every imaginable collectible featuring the sharp-tongued yellow canary. My nickname, on the other hand, caused me to accumulate over the years a similar assortment of things like skulls and skeletons and this also came to include items of a religious nature.
Although rare today, once upon a time it was fairly common to see crucifixes with a skull and bones at the bottom of the cross. Eventually, these were, I think, most often used only to place on the coffins of the deceased prior to burial but I doubt they are even used for that anymore. In any event, I have about four or five crucifixes like this and anytime anyone sees one it usually prompts a reaction such as a comment about it seeming morbid or macabre (which, again, I would think the dead deity hanging above it would take the prize for but, apparently that is just me). Today, I admit, it does stand out but this was not always the case but because it has effectively fallen out of use, people do not seem to understand the symbolism of it and the story behind it which, I think, is a beautiful one. There is, of course, the general symbolism of the skull and bones being a symbol of death and being shown at the bottom of a crucifix because the sacrifice of Christ defeated death, He triumphed over death and gave to all the chance of eternal life. That is simple enough to understand but it actually goes deeper than that.
Those of you who have read the Bible will likely be aware that the hill upon which Christ was crucified was called Golgotha and you might also be aware that this name translates as, ‘the place of the skull’. What you may not know, however, is how that hill got such a name. It was called that because the people of that time believed that beneath that hill was buried the skull of Adam, the originator of the human race, the man crafted by God’s own hand. Is this story true? Certainly, I cannot say for sure but I like to believe it as not only do I find it beautiful but I also think it makes a sort of sense. The beauty is that Christ, the perfect man who redeemed humanity, was sacrificed at or near the spot where Adam, the fallen man who condemned humanity, met his ultimate end. There is a sort of completion and perfection in that which I find impossible to resist. Whether the skull of Adam was actually down there or not, I have no idea but I do think the belief that it was is something not ridiculous to believe. After all, it was obviously called that before Christ was crucified there and so it had to have been the Jews who named the hill “the place of the skull” and the Jews would certainly not have invented such a story which would fit so perfectly with Jesus being the Son of God, something which goes against their entire being as they are. If anything, they would have had every reason to re-name the place and suppress such a story.
That is my story for today and I will leave you with this; God is beyond our comprehension and we cannot put the Almighty in a box, we cannot have borderlines around the infinite. Much of what scares us usually comes down to death and as someone who has had to say goodbye to most of my family by now, I can tell you that it is sad but the whole point of Christianity is that it should not be frightening in and of itself. The dark things that so many ‘sunshine and lollipop’ Christians would shun are things which are at least not bad, sometimes quite beneficial and important up to a point to at least teach us that evil exists because the real harm from demonic forces comes when people no longer believe they are real. I would ask you to think on that and, if you ever happen across one of us who prefers candle light and chanting in dead languages to guitars and clapping, be tolerant of the “creepy” Christians that are still out there.
Happy Halloween from
The Mad Monarchist
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Mad Rant: God Ain't Fuzzy!
A hippy era tribute to creepiness:ReplyDelete
The Addams Family Origional Theme Music
The Addams family is *so* behind the times; a married husband and wife who love each other, have children and take care of their grandma, that's what scares the modern crowd.Delete
Must be it!Delete
Your theology sounds very Catholic. And a Latin Mass Catholic at that "prefers candle light and chanting in dead languages".ReplyDelete
Where I live "Catholic" means mariachi bands at mass and someone handing pamphlets at the door to vote for the Democrats. Nearest Latin mass I've heard of is about 100 miles away.Delete
Do you want sth really creepy?ReplyDelete
You could check this!
Not to be too personal but reading this I'm surprised you're not an Orthodox Christian. It fits pretty much exactly with Orthodox thinking on things. We also try not to put God in a box which is why our theology doesn't emphasize rationalism that much.ReplyDelete
But the tone of it, at least in my church, is also "creepy" to use you word for it. I remember a homily in my church about Mark 5:9. The priest explained that the demons answered that they were called legion because at the time a legion was understood to be 5,000 men, so the meaning of that statement was that the guy was possessed by 5,000 demons, which I recall finding pretty terrifying.
Anyway I couldn't agree more with your post. Righteous dread does me way more good as Christian than any of the feel-good stuff.
What I would like to be is the sort of Christian that existed when Catholic and Orthodox were the same thing. There's plenty of things I think the Orthodox get right that everyone else gets wrong. As an example, they've kept up their standards & traditions while also taking a more medicinal as opposed to juridical approach to sin.Delete
I am not so sure this last thing is a totally good thing.Delete
As for keeping up their standards, I think the Russians who are not evolutionist are a minority.
I agree with much of what you said. I am a believer in Christ, but I find myself alienated from much of the mainstream Christian community. Its kinda like this. I don't think the music they play on Christian radio stations is bad, but that I don't think it can give me any sense of catharsis because the music ALWAYS has to be upbeat and hopeful. Real life and the real life of real Christians isn't all upbeat and happy. Things like sadness, anger, melancholy are all apart of human experience and to pretend these things don't exist or to act like it is a sin to experience them is insane. I also feel that many churches focus on being happy all the time leads them to not reflect on the real state of the world and themselves. I believe this may be in some small part why so many churches have taken on the moral values of the mainstream culture instead of holding fast to the traditional values of the church. Just my rambling thoughts.ReplyDelete
Indeed, and it gets to the point where "pastors" become glorified self-help gurus and God, Christ, etc are not even mentioned much less believed in and adhered to.Delete
What do you think about the doctrine of Apocatastasis which was teached by Origen and, in a minor way, by Saint Maximus the Confessor and Saint Gregorius of Nyssa ? This teaching was similar to those of other sources of Primodial Tradition like the jewish Kabbalah.ReplyDelete
Couldn't say, I think I might know what you're talking about but I don't remember the names so I could be thinking of something else entirely.Delete
It means universal salvation of all Creation, men and spirits or, at least, the final destruction of Hell and of the few last damned men and spirits.Delete
No, that's not how I see it. As I see it, your soul is immortal and will go on forever no matter where you go. If you go to Hell, you're soul won't die but your dearest wish for the rest of eternity will be that it had.Delete
I agree. Mainstream Christianity is like the family bastard: he’s just there, pretending to be the real thing, but those in the family know he’s not. In a sense this type of Christianity is heresy.ReplyDelete
Once again you've written a beautiful piece. It is unfortunate that people think you're morbid and creepy, but perhaps a part of you likes it that way. The deeper things of the faith aren't so happy clappy as the present culture seems to prefer. I think we have become so accustomed to images of the crucified Christ that we tend to forget how gruesome and shocking the actual event was.ReplyDelete
I had never heard that tradition about Golgotha before, but it is beautiful. Considering that Jesus Christ is theologically the second Adam (Romans 5) it is quite conceivable that God aligned it.
One factor may be that I'm from an area with Spanish roots and if you've seen much Spanish religious art, you know it tends to be rather graphic. However, most people just ignore it. I've told people who said the image of Christ they prefer is the "Lamb of God". That's nice, lambs are cute and soft and all that but, then I remind them what that symbolism meant. It doesn't mean God's little pet lamb who follows Mary to school, it means sacrificial lamb like the sacrificial lambs of the OT that were slit open with a knife, bled out on the altar and then eaten. And then get a sick/horrified look on their face and run away.Delete
Maybe it is just me...
You had me at "...Christianity is a Lovecraftian death-match, not a hippy religion."ReplyDelete
You have a very interesting point of view. I fear you will go far, as Tilney said to John Webster in "Shakespeare in Love."