Thursday, October 11, 2007

Haunted Thoughts

This week I went to Knott's Scary Farm with Adam and some friends from work. I've never been a big haunted house fan (I'm a total wuss about scary movies too) but I was willing to try it. Adam said he'd protect me from any monsters, so I felt adequately brave.

I started to wonder about the wisdom of this plan as we stood in a mob of people for nearly an hour waiting to get in the park. No one said "Excuse me" or stepped to the side, no one had anything pleasant to say. A thousand lost souls awaited impatiently to get tickets, every man for himself as we fought to get in and sufficiently terrified.

When we finally got inside the park, I realized that the cute name of "Knott's Scary Farm" was hiding something very different - but I couldn't put my finger on it.

"The actors can't touch you," Adam assured me as a bloody corpse growled at me menacingly. I laughed nervously and just grabbed his strong hand tighter, telling myself it was all just for fun, so what was I getting so worked up about?

Our friends wanted to go to a Haunted House, and I held on to Adam even tighter as we entered "Axe Murderer's Mansion". Typical Haunted House stuff leered from the darkened corners, and I squealed at every boogey man who jumped out at me.

"It's just a guy in a mask," Adam gently assured me, but he couldn't help laughing at my inability to walk more than a step without a shudder. I started to feel rather foolish for my anxiety, but I couldn't shake the feeling. It just wasn't right - and the little voice in my head was begging me to listen. We snuck past a silent banquet table of mutilated manikins, through a bloody child's room, all the while peeking with morbid curiosity into corners filled with traces of violence.

By the time we came out the other side, my skin was clammy and I was feeling foolish for being so adversely affected; by an event treated trivially by literally thousands of people. It was all fake, right? Just people in masks and make-up having innocent fun at our expense - right?

The little voice in my head was screaming by this point. No, it was not innocent. No, it was not fake. In this imitation blood and plastic gore, there was a sinister reality that I couldn't shake. At the time, I couldn't explain why I felt so strongly. When our friends went toward another Haunted House, I just stood and shook my head, feeling foolish but resolute. Adam gently tried to coax me, but I stood my ground. I think he was vaguely surprised that his normally easy-going girlfriend was suddenly so unyielding, but after a second of indecision he told our friends we were going on a roller-coaster and would meet them after.

We went on the ride, and all the while I was warring with myself. Why was this so disturbing to me? I'd like to think that I'm not a complete wuss, but this was one area where even my typically competitive nature was not overriding the voice in my head. It didn't matter what anyone thought or how I was perceived. My spirit was not letting me rest, and it was battling my ego for every inch of ground.

"Just try to be brave," Adam advised. "It's all just for fun - it's fake."

I couldn't explain then, so I just stayed quiet and thought about it. What was getting to me, was not the lack of spiritual things - the fakeness of it all - rather it was from the presence of something deeply spiritual. For why are we drawn to these things anyway? Why do normal people - grocery store clerks, software engineers and steakhouse waitresses - paint their faces and come out in black for a night in celebration of death and dismemberment?

My argument is that people are drawn by the thousands because it speaks to the deepest, darkest parts of our souls. We are spiritual beings, drawn to either darkness or light. We come out in droves to see carefully engineered depictions of death and torture because there is an evil side to us that craves it.

But, Dani. Seriously? You're taking this a little far. It's Halloween. You're just too chicken to enjoy a good scare and understand that it's strictly for entertainment. What's the matter with Knott's Scary Farm? Sounds innocent and fun and a little frightening - but everybody needs to get their blood pumping now and then. Lighten up.

OK. Granted. And I don't take issue with a decent "boo!" or even pranks pulled on us more timid types. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Here's what really scared me: there is something inherently wrong with the celebration of evil. The combined efforts to get every actor in makeup to appear like a tortured ghoul, every stagecoach in the park to appear as a hearse, every place we turned to be filled with the fog and cold of an unholy fear, took hours upon hours. Innumerable talents and skills - God-given gifts - used for creating representations of violence and dark forces at work.

In Phillipians 4:8 it says:

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." -NASB

The King James version tells us to "think on these things," and Webster's translation calls it "cherishing the thought".

The Tyndale New Testament puts it: "Furthermore brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things pertain to love, whatsoever things are of honest report, if there be any virtuous thing, if there be any laudable thing, those same have ye in your mind."

These words are powerful descriptors. We are told to dwell on, cherish the thought of, and have on our mind anything "pertaining to love, beautiful, true, honest, just, of good report..."

The only thing at Knott's that even came close to being a part of this list was Adam's arms around me when I jumped and his graceful attitude when I announced I was not stepping foot in another haunted house.

A couple of weeks ago our pastor gave a sermon on calling bad things by cute names. He talked about how we rationalize the dark parts of ourselves - simplistically accepting our vices as "perfectionism", "exaggeration" and "shopping a little more than some, but less than others..." rather than a lack of Grace and Love, lying and greed.

In God's Law, however, I have yet to see any "cute-ifying" of sin and ugliness. It is hard for us to see such awful hatred of evil coupled with such beautiful love. We are not accustomed to a power equally given to two opposing passions - so we ignore His anger in favor of the warm fuzzies granted by a loving Savior. While His grace is beyond what any us of deserve; His hatred of sin is also far past our imaginations.

So we flirt with our dark sides, calling them by cute names (Knott's Scary Farm, anyone?) and under-estimating their grip on our spirits, while He cries from heaven, begging us to see the evil around us for what it is and not wallow in our own complacency.

Hebrews 10:19-24 says:
"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds..."

It's hard to seem like a wimp at Halloween. It's hard to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2) It's hard to live in the "new and living way" when the old, dead one is so titillating and widely accepted.

But we are called to "hold fast". To "cherish" the noble thoughts. These would not be commands if they came easily. It takes courage to call bad things bad, and I am as guilty as any of wanting to fit in - to shut off the voice in my head and just throw myself into the moment. It's hard when these words come up: "perfect," "honorable," "praise-worthy" and those uncomfortable ones: "evil" and "sin".

However, I think it's worth it to abstain. I think it's OK to seem a little wimpy and get a couple of weird looks for the reward of obeying the little voice in my head. Besides, when I get scared, I squeal too loud anyway.


Katie said...

Well said, Dani Lin. Good on you for standing up when your spirit told you to go no further.

I love you. (And I hate scary movies and the like just as much as you do.)

ShesThatOneGirl said...

doncha wish your girlfriend squeeled at scary movies like dani...?? doncha babe
i'm with a lady... I think there are enough scary things that happen in this world... fake scary things need not apply.

Adam said...

Wow, much more understandable than just , "Its scary!"

Excellent points.

I can totally get behind you on this. Besides, I'd much rather get scared flying through the air on roller coasters than in a haunted house.