My co-workers and I got this crazy idea into our heads recently that we needed to visit a Goth Bar. If you don’t know what “Goth
” is, it’s a whole movement of look/style/culture similar to punk, except that Goths are known for wearing all black, being really depressed and listening to The Cure
all the time. Why did we need to go? Don’t you think it’d be a fascinating cultural experience? And, of course leave it to Los Angeles to have a club for every manner of style and dress on the planet.
However, neither my co-workers nor myself live the Goth culture. We’re pretty much clean-cut middle class geeks. So we’d certainly stand out in their midst and weren’t sure that we’d be welcomed with open arms. Regardless, we dug out our darkest items of clothing and found a club advertising a safe sounding “Goth Karaoke Night” and visited one December Monday night for some Friday I’m in Love
Despite our juvenile fears we didn’t get turned away at the door. They didn’t bat an eye and simply handed us karaoke songbooks instead. The look of the club and clientele certainly lived up to our expectations, with plenty of black, spiked hair and dark eye-shadow. I channeled my inner teenage angst and picked “Sad But True” by Metallica. I think we all were expecting the night to be nothing but droning and tears into the microphone, but imagine my surprise when the first songs of the evening were CHRISTMAS CAROLS!
It was a reminder to me of just how ingrained Christmas customs and traditions are. In that club, nothing seemed further away than the thought of Christmas. Yet the patrons wanted to brighten it up a bit with some songs inspired by the incarnation of God-made-flesh. That probably wasn’t their exact motivating thought, but it’s significant no less. We often forget that the reason we do things like put up an evergreen tree is that it signifies the ever-lasting life we have in Christ. This openness to signs and symbols is an open door to share our faith with a culture normally deaf to theological truth.
Signs and symbols, “sacramentality”, are an ingenious invention of Christ, faithfully used by the Catholic Church. I’d go so far as to say that humans can’t live without some kind of sacramental reality. Sacraments are also a form in incarnation, as they make something a physical reality. There is so very much that can be said about incarnation, but suffice it to say that the greatest Incarnation was God made flesh in Jesus Christ, and we are called to incarnate in smaller ways too.
What exactly is the Hollywood connection here? Artists are incarnators, and Hollywood is full of artists. The primary job of an artist is to create concrete forms, images, objects, sights and sounds to communicate an idea or feeling. Because of this they are particularly sensitive to the incarnate works around them.
Something that has struck me since I moved to Hollywood is just how classy and beautifully-done Christmas is. All the décor is very well done in Hollywood – not gaudy or showy, but classical, simple and beautiful. Even the Scientologists get in on it and put together some very nice displays.
I’ve heard some fascinating conversion stories of people whose primary mode of conversion involved art. One walked into a beautiful renaissance church, was touched by it’s beauty, and ultimately became Catholic because of it. Wow, a conversion through incarnated beauty? I previously never thought it possible! For this reason, those who seek to evangelize artists should incarnate the faith around them.
My advice is to incarnate Christmas by putting up some beautiful decorations. Specifically, try to pick things reflective of our faith, like the crèche, a star, or wise-men. Maybe this will lead to some good conversations with your neighbors, and at the very least it lets people know subconsciously there is something more to Christmas. The benefit of this is ultimately two fold. These signs and symbols help us see the un-seeable spiritual reality. They remind us that our salvation is leading us to a much better place that “… no mind can comprehend”. Secondly, it will help others see this reality and truth too. We want to encourage this attraction to signs and symbols of our Lords birth – even in a Goth bar.