Post Author: Askie
Dear Ask a YCW,
I found this great sexy pope costume online. Is it ok for me to wear it to the Halloween Party at my church tonight?
Ok, maybe not an outright no. But there are a few questions you should ask yourself about appropriateness before wearing this costume, and the chances of you ending with a yes are very slim. From Askie’s perspective way off in the internet, the idea of you dressing up as a sexy pope is HILARIOUS, precisely because it is about six different kinds of wrong, but the reality could leave you with a pretty big mess when the Feast of All Saints rolls around. So let’s do some discernment.
First- Sexy? We are all created by God and our bodies are wonderfully and marvelously made. No one has the right to shame us about our choices of how to dress that body, use that body, cary that body in our daily lives- but a whole lot of folks have opinions. Once you become an ordained leader of a church, you are a public person and for better and for worse, that means you will become a topic of conversations. It isn’t all in your control, but as much as it is- do you want that conversation to be about the amazing work you are doing at St. Swithin’s, or about that time you wore a garter belt and a papal tiara to a church function? Because human nature says the latter is going to get shared with a whole lot more relish.
Also, if you will indulge Askie for a moment, if it is sexy you want, you have a whole book of inspiration at your fingertips. You want a sexy costume? Throw on a purple sheet, make yourself a crown, and go as Queen Vashti. Depending on the midrash you read, she refused her husband’s request to strip naked so that his courtiers could admire her beauty. Strong and beautiful is pretty sexy. Or you could scroll down a few verses and dress up as Esther- she seized the chance to marry a king in order to save her people from annihilation. Rahab, Bathsheba, Jezebel, Delilah, Salome, Jael, Deborah- all of these women are pretty great costume material. Euodia and Syntache were so strong that Paul called them out by name in a letter to Philippi – and no one has a clue what they looked like. And then we have the original sexy lady- Eve.
Of course, none of these figures is defined by her looks alone, or her sexual attractiveness to powerful men, but you can have fun with a costume and do some Christian Ed. at the same time.
Second- Pope? Here we have to deal with the offensiveness factor. You are probably not going to offend the pontiff himself with this costume (the current one seems like he might laugh loudest), but for those Roman Catholics who are doing their best to be faithful, devoted followers of Christ within the Church, parodying the pope is going to hurt. And to what end? If it helps, think of this as one more type of cultural appropriation that just isn’t okay. And if that doesn’t work, practice this tried and true trick to making good decisions: imagine yourself being called into a meeting with your board of directors/bishop/executive presbyter/supervisor, and explaining why you did what you did. If you don’t have a good answer before you do it, you really won’t after.
Third- Why? Ultimately, the decision you have to make requires you to check out your motivations. Do you want folks in your congregation to know you have a sense of humor? Tell some jokes. Do you have serious theological issue with the doctrine and dogma of the Roman Catholic Church? This isn’t going to convince anyone that you are right. Are you feeling like you stopped being physically attractive at the moment of ordination, and want to remind yourself that you can be sexy?
This one is tougher, and familiar, and there is an answer- close the church office on Nov. 1, get yourself a sexy mouse/toothbrush/whatever costume, and take yourself to the next largest metropolitan area where there is a sizable population of young adults. Have a blast. It is hard to be a public person all of the time, and you deserve a break. Be safe, enjoy yourself, and make sure you get all the glitter off before Sunday morning. Halloween is one the most popular holidays in this country because it is all about stepping outside of ourselves and trying on another’s life- with the safety net of returning to our old selves as soon as the masks come off.
Dear Ask a YCW-
I see Halloween as a great opportunity for meeting the wider community- hundreds of children and their parents will be coming to my door. Any tips?
There are tons of ways to celebrate Halloween and also do a little good. Let’s start with candy. Did you know that many of the farms that produce raw materials for the chocolate industry use child labor, often keeping children as young as 7 in conditions that are effectively slavery? Now you do. Go get yourself some certified Fair Trade chocolate to fill your goodie bowl. Yes, it will cost more. If the cost of fair trade chocolate is prohibitive for you, buy a different sort of candy after researching its provenance. The wonder of living in the internet age is that you can google fair trade organic Halloween candy and immediately get 943,000 results. More kids these days struggle with allergies, so try to have a choice of treats on hand for those who can’t have peanuts or gluten.
Adding a postcard about your awesome youth program to your treat bowl might seem shameless, and it is, but do it anyway if you are comfortable with it.
Maybe candy isn’t your thing, and you think this holiday is an aberration and to let everyone else know that you are going to hand out religious tracts designed to scare the hell out of little kids. When I was growing up, there was a house in my neighborhood that did just this.
It did not make me want to go to church.
That happened years later when I was introduced to a community of kind, humble, welcoming Christians who gave me a safe space to ask questions and struggle with answers. If you are absolutely opposed to the celebration of Halloween on a theological or ethical basis, turn your lights off and pretend like you aren’t home. Kids have enough to be afraid of these days without adding God to the list.
Do you have a question for a Young Clergy Woman? Do you think our YCW was completely off in her answers? Comment below, or submit your own question- or answer- to ask.ycw(at)gmail(dot)com.