Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Theology, Great Pumpkins, and Sincere Patches

Last week while I graded a threaded discussion for my online class, I watched/had on in the background It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  I've returned to this show periodically throughout my whole life.  It's interesting what leaps out at me each time.

When I was younger, I didn't think much about the theology behind the show.  But in my later years, as I watch Linus sit in the patch, a process which none of his peers understand, the theology leaps out at me.  I, too, go to my local pumpkin patch of a church, where we try to be sincere and to shape ourselves for the arrival of God.

I'm deeply uncomfortable with the theology of Linus.  I don't like the idea that the pumpkin patch must prove itself before the Great Pumpkin (God?) will arrive.

I recognize the fear that buzzes around the show:  what if all of this is a lie we tell ourselves?  What if there is no Great Pumpkin?  What if we have missed out on the candyfest because we were deluded?

Of course, as I watched the whole show, I saw the disappointment that the larger culture gives us.  Maybe we're not really invited to that party.  Maybe we'll go out hoping for treats in our bags but only get rocks.

The show was in some ways a lesson in scarcity thinking:  there's not enough to go around.  I've spent much of my adult life trying consciously to disrupt that kind of thinking.  If I can unclench my hands, the universe/God/life will fill my hands with goodness.

The later part of the show redeems itself a bit.  Lucy puts Linus, worn out from his night of waiting, into bed.  We are all assured that there will be a Halloween next year.  We haven't lost out on our only chance.
The show is full of other lessons too.  I wish more people would follow the advice of Linus when he said, "I've learned that there are three things you should never discuss:  religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."

But here's the larger lesson:  Sometimes we have to wait in our pumpkin patches while others get to have parties and treats.  Sometimes we sit in our patch, hoping its sincere enough for the Great Pumpkin.  Even if the Great Pumpkin (whatever that represents in your life) doesn't come or is delayed, you can still have interesting adventures along the way.  Some of your friends and family will understand your life in the pumpkin patch.  Many more will not. 

And here's an even bigger message:  even if we feel we're all alone in our pumpkin patches, we're not.  We have friends who will look out for us.  This year I was struck by the fact that Lucy asks for candy for her stupid brother who is wasting his life waiting in the pumpkin patch.  I was also struck by the fact that the characters think that Linus is a bit loopy, but they still love him.  They may not sit in the patch with him, but they won't reject him.

And yes, I'm troubled by this theology too--and yet, it seems quite realistic to me.  Most of the Christians I know are like Linus in the pumpkin patch:  we gather, we invite, we have customs, we have hope, we keep watch, but in the end, we're not sure whether or not we've been abandoned or not.  At least, that's the way it seems to me, here from my precarious perch at midlife.

No comments: