This blog is written just after Halloween. I was struck by the contrast between the controversy this Halloween on university and college campuses regarding costumes that might be offensive and the fun I had in my last church with over 40 senior members of my church, who came to our retreat house dressed in some very outlandish outfits for Halloween. We all laughed and joked till some of us began to cry. But it is a different story on campuses.
There actually were costume-consultants available to help students to find outfits that were culturally sensitive. Using the new yardstick of “cultural appropriation” there was the attempt to stop the practice of pretending to have fun at the expense of members of ethnic, racial or gender groups to which one does not belong. One poster asked, “Unsure if your costume might be offensive? Don’t be afraid to ask questions?” As one observer put it, the message was “it is dangerous to pretend.” It is hard to imagine those students having any fun on Halloween. No freedom to celebrate, but the burden of having to be culturally sensitive. Remember it is just about pretending.
What a contrast from my wife’s party for the seniors. We had a great time pretending to be someone else. My favorites was a lady who wanted to be a nun and another lady who wanted to be an opera singer. What would have happened to our party if one of the costume consultants had dropped in on us wild seniors up in the north woods. I still remember marveling at how much fun a group of Christians can have when we have freedom in Christ.
Men, my concern is that we do not become so burdened down by the political correct culture that we lose our freedom. Remember in Christ you have been set free. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” When the seniors got together, there was a freedom from all the “shoulds” and “oughts” of the cultural sensitivity concerns that were like a “harness of slavery” for those college kids. Instead of freedom to just have fun pretending on Halloween, the campuses became a thicket of”shoulds” and “oughts” taking all the fun out of Halloween
How could those seniors have so much fun up in the north woods? Because they have been freed from the tyranny of their false self, which is more concerned about approval and doing the right thing according to the norms of the culture. We could just be ourselves, while laughing at one another and even ourselves. There was no PC police evaluating our party. My memory of the day with the seniors still brings a smile as I think of the great time we had.
But we need to be mindful that our freedom is to be always expressed in love, that is, in being sensitive to others, but not burdened by their demands. Later in the chapter 5 of Galatians Paul reminds us of why we are free. “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others, as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom” (Gal 5:13-15 – The Message). Men, be sensitive, but don’t become burdened.