Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween, Emperor Palpatine, Electric Eyeballs, and Getting a Grip

Halloween's coming this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing kids from around this part of Sauk Centre come by, dressed up as princesses, spooks - or, if it doesn't warm up by then, layers of winter outerwear.

Where's the Religious Sound and Fury?

I haven't stopped being a practicing Catholic: and I'm quite well aware that October 31st is the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time. We've got the The Solemnity of All Saints and The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls), on November 1 and 2. Same as last year.

I'll be there, God willing, celebrating Mass with the rest of the parish at Our Lady of the Angels church.

But I also expect to be here, near the front door of my house, helping kids enjoy an autumn holiday: and having some fun, myself.

I don't see a contradiction there: partly because I don't think knowing, loving, and serving God requires grim disapproval of electric eyeballs. I'll get back to that.

Catholic, Living in America

I don't mind being born in America. I even think this country is okay. I also think Finland, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Tokelau are okay.

Growing up in America, I've absorbed quite a bit of the local culture. Which is a sort of good news/bad news proposition. Same, I suspect, as growing up anywhere else.

I'm also a practicing Catholic, and a convert. Which puts me outside both the American secular culture and the American Protestant culture(s).

I grew up in a nice, mainstream Protestant household about a block away from a college campus, in a place where a great many people were convinced that the Catholic Church was evil, Satanic, and un-American.

My parents didn't share that notion, but it was hard to not notice what the 'first church of holy hate' had to say.

I also learned about the Puritans. Mostly in school, and from folks who were anything but puritanical.

Definition time. "Puritanism" is:
  • The beliefs and practices characteristic of Puritans
    • Most of whom were Calvinists who wished to purify the Church of England of its Catholic aspects
  • Strictness and austerity in conduct and religion
    (Princeton's WordNet)
There's a time and place for austerity and strictness - and I suspect that the Puritans weren't quite as bad as some feel they were. And those are other topics.

A Report from the Department of Unintended Consequences

The painfully Biblical folks who ranted on radio and railed against the evils of the Commies and the Catholics weren't, I'm pretty sure, Puritans. But they shared the passion for "strictness and austerity."

They also painted a - colorful - picture of the Catholic Church and the Commies. To their credit, they didn't confuse the two.

When it came to the Whore of Babylon, these terribly religious ranters seemed convinced that the very personification of evil threatened America, motherhood, and apple pie. Think Star Wars' evil Emperor Palpatine, without his good looks and winsome charm.

As a teen, I wondered how such utterly vile people could exist - and endure.

So, being the sort of person I am, I started learning about the origins of Catholicism. Including the claim that God had personally set up their outfit, and had been maintaining it for the last couple millennia.

There were several possible explanations. Catholics could all be crazy. They could all be liars. Or they could be telling the truth.

There was a paper trail leading back to the early years of the Roman Empire - and beyond. The Catholic Church had endured catastrophes which could reasonably be expected to destroy a large organization.

There had been times when it was profitable to be Pope, but the idea that the whole 'Jesus' thing was made up for personal gain wouldn't wash. Only one of Jesus' 12 apostles hadn't been messily executed for standing by their beliefs. I figured the least-unlikely explanation was that the Catholic Church was simply what it said it was.

So I became a Catholic. I've written about that before.

Electric Eyeballs and Getting a Grip

I can't remember a time when I didn't take God and Jesus seriously - and the Holy Spirit, of course. That's why, as a teen, I made it a habit to tune in the 'religious' radio stations. I learned quite a bit that way.

Remember: I take God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seriously. Folks with a knack for numerology and possible emotional issues - not so much.
Loud Taste and Numbers
I was picking up toothpaste in a grocery down the street the other day, and walked by the shelves where they keep seasonal items. Which this week is Halloween-related stuff.


Halloween's coming, which means lots of orange and black on store shelves. October 25, 2010.


And, this year, electric eyeballs. October 25, 2010.

I've been told that my aesthetic tastes are a bit on the loud side. When I saw that box of electric eyeball-lights, I had an impulse to get them and string them up around my desk.

I didn't, but not because I think they're Satanic. I'm married - and my wife's aesthetic sense isn't loud-bordering-on-tasteless.

On the other hand, I remember the radio preachers. Given a running start, I could whip up a rant about ten electric eyeballs and seven heads and ten horns and all that. (Revelation 17:3)

You'll notice that there are ten electric eyeballs in the box, and that seven are arranged in a hexagonal pattern - and no, I don't take that weird fusion of numerology, American culture and marketing very seriously.

I'm not going to buy those eyeball lights. But I'm not going to rant about Halloween, either.

Around here Halloween is a time when kids and their parents and/or older siblings go around, trick-or-treating. And the grocery has some wonderfully tacky decorations on the shelves.

Maybe, if all of America was just simply perfect and utterly in solidarity with the Magisterium, and cholera wasn't afflicting anybody anywhere, and the only problem in the whole wide world was a dissonance involving the The Solemnity of All Saints and kids dressed up as spooks - maybe then I'd rant about Halloween.

As it is, I'm glad to have a break from the political campaigns. And that's yet another topic.

Almost-related posts:

2 comments:

Left-Footer said...

Go on! I'd love a pair of electric eyeball lights!

You're right about having fun. Catholic does not equal grim.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Left-Footer,

:D Thanks for the support - I'll use the money for something else, though.

About having fun? Indeed! I plan to get back to that idea, maybe Monday.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.