The Ren Faire Exists and Other Musings on Reality

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I've been to Renaissance Festivals in two different states. It's typically hot and expensive and exhausting and little changes year to year. But my wife and friends love going, so I don my bed sheet monk costume and sometimes try to have fun. A vendor, in full regalia, once barked after me, "Forgive me, Father, for I will sin."

Friar Luke

NFQ from "No Forbidden Questions" has a post comparing being an atheist to being stuck inside a Renaissance Fair. I started writing a response and failed. Now, with a blank blog post staring me down, I'm going to try to create a coherent thought or two.

If I've got it right, her main point is that religious claims about reality are so far fetched and ridiculous that it's akin to thinking modernity does not exist. All religious nuts, like me, refuse to see beyond the walls of our made up Ren Faire. Living along side us is as frustrating and absurd as living in a world full of people who refuse to connect with reality.

My response to the post fell apart when I remembered that I have made similarly negative assumptions in the very recent past. I know the feeling. It's strange to encounter people who honestly believe things different from us.

But she is right: We, religious folks, do really, honestly, actually believe that Christianity teaches us what is true. I love how C.S. Lewis drives this point home in God in the Dock. It's a fact that I can easily forget: I don't believe in and follow Christ because it's nice, produces good in the world, or is more comfortable than alternatives. I believe in and follow Christ because it is true.

If living life as an atheist is like being stuck in a Ren Faire, I find philosophical naturalists to be like someone who claims there is no such festival because they've never been there.

"But I've been to them, multiple times," I say.

"You poor, duped person," they may reply. "You may have hung out with a bunch of people who dressed up and whatnot. But we now live in modern times. There is no such thing today."

I guess it depends on how you define reality. Ren Faires exist. The people who visit them and work in them know that there is more to life than the 1500s. We all know about technology. We're happy to talk about movies (though I've got nothing to say about basketball). But we also believe that less than a hour from my house is a place that transports us out of this modern life and into another time (sort of, but not really). In fact, ignoring these festivals and rejecting their place in reality cuts out a huge swath of experiences.

The analogy breaks down here. Christianity is not just some fun place of escapism. It's something that should dictate how we live. Orthodoxy is not something you dress up in once a year so you can eat a turkey leg and watch someone swallow swords. It is something that provides the words of eternal life and explains reality as it really is.

And if someone, even a blog friend like NFQ, finds my life as nonsensical as if I wore that brown bed sheet costume every day, it doesn't bother me. Because I believe, like her, that I live in the real world... virgin birth, Ren Faire, and all.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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