Halloween Costumes: Tropes for the 7 Deadly Sins

I’ve always wondered where the monsters of legend got their origin. Who thought up vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, animated skeletons, princesses, and ghost? They had to have some fun coming up with the ideas and definitely the costumes. I don’t know a lot of the history, so I’ll put in some speculation, and more importantly I want to use these costumes or ideas as representations of the seven deadly sins – mostly for Halloween and general amusement.

There are even places in scripture where there are witches, ghosts, zombies, animated skeletons, and princesses. You could make a case that vampires drinking blood may have come out of a misunderstanding of Eucharistic practice combined with tribes of peoples that did drink blood and eat flesh, and werewolves could easily be something originating from what every good teacher and ER nurse knows already, the full moon changes our behaviors!

Pride – Witch
This is the idea that a witch is someone who chooses their own power over the power of God. Human self sufficiency in all things, and human will put before all other things. Of course there are stories that feature witches that help people, and let’s face it some of those stories are pretty good. The witch of darkness and cruelty and selfishness born of pride, that’s the which we are talking about. Let’s face it, we too can fall into desiring our own way regardless of the consequences.

Lust – Vampire
The vampire’s taste in women comes out again in books like Twilight (although somewhat modified). If you aren’t a fan of Mrs. Meyers than Ann Rice also puts together some compelling stories of lust and the pleasures of the flesh. There are multiple ways to view lust. Here are two that come to mind: 1) is allowing your carnal desires to overwhelm your reason and functioning; 2) allowing practices in your life that originate in the belief that other human beings exist only for your pleasure. The first I think is more common in instances, but the later is the more deadly – when ever we find ourselves treating people as means to our own end we have found ourselves in the grip of lust.

Wrath – Werewolf
What can be seen as a more bestial representation of our anger our rage our indignation but a werewolf? It is a transformation that abandons reason and peace. In the depths of torment the werewolf takes on the nature of a wild animal. Most of us recognize the animal nature of cruelty and anger on a base level, but when reason takes over the werewolf is far more cruel and cunning than a simple animal. Wrath is not just the animal nature – animals aren’t really cruel or vindictive. They fight for what they need, but we take it too far. Our capacity to reason has opened up new avenues for cruelty and anger and rage. The werewolf brings this out by being the combination of man and beast.

Sloth – Zombie
The zombie could be an antithesis of sloth, a reanimated corpse certainly moves around other wise it would just be a festering pile on the ground. Yet for me zombies are ruled only by instinct and nothing higher, it is an utter satisfaction with the status quo and going through the motions that allows you to just continue functioning. Too many of us fall into the trap of living without passion or drive – utterly disconnect from community or God.

Gluttony – Skeleton
Gluttony seemed a funny label to put on a skeleton. But I find the skeleton the one who is off balance, the drives control them. As with all of these sins, you can look at it merely as someone who has allowed their appetite to take over their reason and pushed them out of balance, or you can look at it as something rational where there has been a breakdown in how their minds process their relationship with food. Overeating or under eating are both part of this gluttony – this never ending desire for more without any regard to the God that provides.

Greed – Princess
It’s an easy jab to make at a princess who can always want more power or money or popularity. Greed parallels gluttony nicely in it being a desire for more, but it isn’t just more. The greedy wants more at the expense of others. They do not mind hurting others or denying others their needs for the sake of their own interests. Greed warps peoples minds to want what they cannot use and don’t need while others go without, and there’s inherent cruelty in this. Greed seeks security by human means and flourishes where there is a lack of trust.

Jealousy – Ghost
The ghost wants life, it sees what the living posses and wants it for itself. We all go through periods where we are envious or advertisement agencies would have fallen on their faces. It’s such a prevalent part of our culture that we forget the ghost of advertisement’s effect on how we view ourselves and those around us, and people will do whatever they can to fake having to impress and draw the praise of others.

The fun part of this is just realizing that all of the different costumes and creatures could play on all of the different sins. But sin itself is a break down in our relationships with one another and with God. These sins when they take their course are destructive practices that truly sow seeds of death and strife in our hearts. Be wary, and have a happy halloween practicing hospitality, friendship, and trust to ward off any spirits trying to lure you away from God.

All Souls and All Saints: Halloween

Some people just don’t want to celebrate that pagan holiday Halloween, but from the name to the repurposing designed by the church, I think we’ve got some good things to celebrate for Halloween.

Of course, All Hallows Eve or all Souls Eve is on October 31st, and it can be a celebration of all those who came before us. When we forget we start thinking that the creator started in the 1960s Ex Nihilo and created the United States then and there. Tomorrow we could be remembering the people that carried our faith down through the ages to us, the people who the Holy Spirit empowered to make a stand for their faith and their love of God and neighbor.

Sure there are costumes (and I plan to post something about costumes tomorrow) and candy and fun, but there’s also memory of the ephemeral nature of live in the here and now and the eternal nature of our being which is at best bitter sweet without the promises of God. That is for every person we know and have known or have heard about is both an eternal being and a temporal being. Everyone of them has a life that will end and yet mysteriously continue. In that moment of reflection we can enjoy the good memories and maybe even enjoy the bad like that least favorite piece of candy.

Reflection on our mortality and the mortality of those around us can empower us to evangelize, but not evangelize in the sloppy and lazy way that is a dry attempt to convince someone of your correctness and righteousness. This is evangelism that recognizes that the work of Christ was to break down barriers between people – a ministry of reconciliation and provision. More than all, it was a ministry of friendship.

And when we start loving people living and passed on like that we can start asking questions, good solid questions.

Can we pray for the dead?

Is there purgatory? And what does it mean to be purged of all the broken relationships we’ve had?

Where do people wait for the resurrection?

All this leads to perhaps a greater deal of openness in our wrestling with scripture and relationships and understanding what Christ came here to do. It doesn’t happen through throwing the candy away or just dressing up, but when we faithfully engage with the holiday as a chance for reflection and humor, we can truly begin to wonder about loving those around us and praying for those arounds us.

Peace that Surpasses All Understanding

Do you want to be happy? Yes? Let go of all the conflicting attachments and drives that you have and be happy. Then you can pick them back up from another perspective.

Anthony de Mello gave a presentation a few years back (no idea how far back but the video was loaded up on youtube recently) to discuss this very idea of happiness through detachment. It’s simple and yet the practice of living it out in a meaningful way requires a different perspective on life than most of us are trained to take on from our culture. But you know that’s what sin can do when it allows people to assume that their culture is right and not forming a bent to sinning within us.

Happiness, for De Mello, comes from recognizing that we are broken. Not hard or perhaps too hard for most of us to admit as this is he asks a series of questions for those that would want to deny their own brokenness.

Are you angry?

Afraid?

Hurting?

Bitter?

If so, you are broken like the rest of us, and the cause? Anthony believes it is attachments.

De Mello uses the word happiness, and I am not sure whether I would agree with that usage or not. Conscientious and thorough through out his presentation, the Jesuit does not use the word lightly, but I would describe what he is saying as peace and would anchor it more in trust than in detachment as he does. Happiness is a state of being that cannot really be determined until someone has shuffled off their mortal coil. In retrospect the happy life finds it’s name. Our understanding of happiness stems at least partially from seeing those around us whom we think have lived a happy and true life.

Happiness presented as detachment looses something. The emotions and drives that we have are not alien to our sense of being nor are the universally sinful, it is the proper formation of attachment and the proper root of attachment and governance of attachment that leads to a peaceful life and ultimately to a happy state of being.

Yes, I am nit picking on the word choice, but peace makes more sense to me as a haven from anxiety and worry.

The other problem I have is that attachment to God and trust in God helps us to order our attachments with wisdom and courage. It is within our primary attachment to God that we cease to seek those attachments of desire and ambition that cause so much anxiety. It is in attachment and trust of God that we can grieve appropriately – blessed are those who mourn. It is in attachment and trust of God that our financial situation does not cause us undo anxiety – blessed are the poor.

When we start attaching ourselves to dreams and ambitions and goals and desires that disorder our being we cease to find God at the center.

God-centered we are able to have ambitions that God gives us, and ultimately trust him to make them come to pass. Our work is not meaningless, but as long as we have and share our daily bread let us be satisfied in the God who saves and not worry about anything but make everything known by prayer and petition that the peace of God which surpasses all understanding might guard our heart and minds in Christ. Even if it’s our understanding that it surpasses.

The Evolution of the Pope

“God is not a magician” – Pope Francis

Evolution and the big bang are compatible with Christian teaching. That’s pretty darn cool. I’m looking forward to the lovely responses from evangelicals and conservative catholics to this news. I’m sure the poison will be running hot in a lot of veins, and honestly, I can understand a little of why.

It’s the idea that we have to set up firm barriers between the world of science and the world of scripture to establish authority. Everyone wants to be right at least some of the time, and the last two hundred years people have been setting up a wonderful false dichotomy between science and religion. Creation vs evolution provides the dynamic spearhead thrust for this issues because in the minds of some to take up evolution is to deny a miraculous God.

And We Christians believe in an incarnate deity somehow killed and resurrected.

The Pope treaded carefully, and by that I mean he took time to be clear in his meaning. Anyone having ready anything by Pope Francis would quickly realize that he is an economical and gifted user of words. Here it was no different. Creation through evolution is still an awe inspiring worship inducing act, and creation through evolution shows an ongoing process of creation. That later bit allows us to wrap our heads around the idea of God’s continual involvement in the creative process.

For me it also opens up our part in the creative/redemptive process. Redeemed humanity has a place alongside the continued process of creation – art, architecture, poetry, engineering, research, exploration, and discovery. This way of wording our existence gives deeper meaning to resurrection and participatory understandings of salvation.

Of course some wont see it this way. Some will see it as questioning the very basis of our salvation, and indeed, Romans 5-8 does offer a picture of condemnation entering through one man and salvation entering in one man which is now a bit trickier to understand except as a allegory of the story of salvation. This questioning the very basis of salvation though is actually a questioning of the basis of what comprises condemnation: How did sin enter in, and what exactly was the garden?

This statement puts us back into reading Genesis and rethinking what it means to be human and sinful and broken. Early church fathers such as Origen and Augustine proposed ways of understanding the entry of sin and the enfleshing of human beings differently than the common mode of reading Genesis 1-3 now. I’m looking forward to a resurge in that conversation.

I’ll just have to wade through the swamps of anger to get there.

Doctors and Communication

Our youngest daughter is sick again, and we are back in the cycle of rotating family members who are down for the count. Although it was nice to spend the day with my youngest daughter, I’d rather she felt well while we were spending time together.

When we went to the doctor it got me thinking about the challenges of trying to diagnose and communicate with parents at the same time. Let’s be honest most of us don’t really listen most of the time, and when we are worried, anxious, or desperate our few remaining listening skills fly out the door. Add to that the difficulty of understanding what it is a doctor does and does not know and can know and you have a huge barrier to communication.

Yet Doctors are out there who still do a good job, God Bless Them!

Think about the way they have to think about things, there are thousands of strains of bacteria many of which resemble each other and most of which cannot be distinguished from one another without extensive tests. Each human being offers up a small army of nuances from diet to sleep patterns to places of exposure, and viruses make life even more complicated and difficult. Even if something from the outside isn’t attacking you, there are plenty of disorders coming from within.

And these disorders, the viruses, the fungi, the bacteria, the imbalance of nutrition, the lack of sleep – yeah, all of them can share similar or even in some cases near identical symptoms.

The treatments are as varied as the disease and sometimes even more diverse.

And all the treatments and diseases and conditions, everything we know about them comes from observation and statistics. Every prediction offered by a physician is based on stats, intuition, and experience.

Of course, people don’t always seem to get that partially because of the complexity, partially because of not really wanting to hear more, and partially because communicating anything like as complicated as human illness is nigh impossible. But our Doctors do their best, explain their best, and work hard to find ways to treat their patients. There are a few that might be better, but there are some amazing doctors working to break down the barriers of technical language and complexity to let people know what they can about their health.

Kudos ladies and gents!

Love: Orienting vs Taste

Most of the things we consider when we talk about love find their meaning in individual taste. The higher the love the more grand the taste or lofty it’s qualities. To be clear, this is a great way of looking at love, but perhaps should not be the primary way of looking at love.

What if Love was an orienting faculty? Of course the better question would probably be, what they heck do I mean by ‘orienting faculty’… So, what I am saying is that our tastes come secondary to our orientation in how we understand who and what we are. In other words love defines us in terms of the relationship that we’ve created.

Tastes become secondary primarily because they are individual and not corporate. Individualism in it’s rampant state that seems to seek identity outside of community get’s chipped away at by this notion of love. There cannot be individual identity outside of corporate (embodied or in-community) identity. It is the love of those around us that defines us as who and what we are.

When Jesus teaches in Matthew 22:34-40 that we are called to love God and love our neighbor, we immediately find ourselves seeing not a warm and fuzzy pleasurable feeling when we think about God or neighbor or a taste to enjoy God or our neighbor. No, if we take and orienting aspect as primary with love we see the enjoyment is secondary to finding our identity and purpose within those relationships.

October: Getting Ready to Write

A friend has posted a poem a day for the last 24 days which corresponds nicely with the beginning of October. Now I’m the sort of person that takes up challenges when ever it suits me. So, I saw nothing strange about challenging oneself to write a poem a day for a month.

And he’s done a good job from lyrics to haiku.

But all this seems to be a preparation for what he wants to do in November.

Poetry month is in April, and there are a slew of websites to help people write a poem a day for the month of April. Doing it in October is a bit esoteric but fun. Today, he started promoting national novel writing month – November. Now this is a bit beyond my scope for this year, but I may try it in the future. For now, I want to share this resource with people who might be interested:

National Novel Writing Month

Now if you are interested in poetry or the National Poetry Writing Month click the link.