It is probably a good thing we did not get grades for Sunday School, and a better thing still, if such grades existed, they were not counted into our scholastic average. I would have had a lot more detention, and a much lower grade point average, than the record shows. Because so much of what I remember of the years of Sunday School I attended required more rote memorization and blind acceptance than I could ever manage.
And I would probably have been expelled if I had been required to memorize or accept what has become a popular Christian-Pumpkin Equivalency Theory. Granted, we started Sunday School late in my family–I was about 10 before I was subjected to the horrors of indoctrinating young children inflicted at the church where we settled–but even before I was out of elementary school, I could spot most false equivalencies which crossed my radar screen.
And yet, it persists. It’s cute, it’s a nice way for churchy people to indulge in Halloween without worrying too much about satan and other nonsense (I’d rather see a proper instruction about All Saints’ and All Souls’ celebrations, but that is me).
However, it is theologically and spiritually wrong on just about every level. So I need to re-write it to show how a Christian should never, ever be like a pumkin. Or, more correctly, a Jack-O’-Lantern. Because a pumpkin could still have some value if it isn’t butchered into something with no purpose except to be decorative for a day. I would hope God does not take a lot of trouble to turn people into something decorative for only a day.
A bit of context: One of the few truly great sermons I’ve ever heard was in 2009 (I think) at Canterbury Cathedral. The occasion was the confluence of the feast of St. David, the First Sunday of Lent, and baptisms/confirmations for students of the King’s School. The preacher, appropriately, was Rowan Williams. The (then) Archbishop recounted his youth in Wales, when schools were in session only on the morning of St. David’s day, and the students used to bring leeks in (being a particular symbol of the saint), and (I am not sure whether this action was authorized or not) would strike walls, trees, and even each other with the aromatic vegetables. Dr. Williams suggested they may have had the afternoons off classes to allow the schools to air out and alleviate some of the smell. However, as time went on, the leek was eventually replaced by the daffodil–prettier, and certainly a less-smelly member of the allium family than the leek. He raised the question of whether it was necessarily a good thing to exchange something nourishing and life-giving for another thing just because it is more aesthetically pleasing.
The question has stuck with me, possibly more than any other message I’ve heard in a sermon. And it comes back to me frequently. I’m fond of things which are aesthetically pleasing, but I’m at a point in my life where function has to figure into the equation. And if I’m a Christian at all any more (some people probably will question whether I am; let them do so), I refuse to be a Pumpkin Christian.
Because here is what really happens when you take the useful (and really quite attractive) and venerable Curcubito Pepo and perform violent cosmetic surgery.
God pulls you out of the context in which you can grow, and severs the links you have to those most like you. He washes off what has nurtured you, rips into you, and yanks out everything that could possibly produce new life in new places. God then cuts holes into you which leave you incapable of all but an artificial expression which may not be appropriate for all situations. But that does not matter, because He will place something inside you which will destroy you in short order, collapsing the shell of your former self which is all God has left of you, and destroying your capacity to nourish others.
Seriously, that is what happens when you make a pumpkin into a Jack-o’-lantern. Is that what we believe happens to people when they become Christians? (Oops. Do I really want an answer to that?)
Please stop this ridiculousness, my Christian friends. You can’t seriously mean this.
At the very least, please stop treating pumpkin seeds as “yucky”, and something which would grow hatred, evil, selfishness. They’re really quite tasty and nutritious.
I mean, really, what did a pumpkin ever do to you?