By Patrick Scriven
Over the next week, millions of Americans will throw on a costume and pretend to be someone they are not. I, for one, will be an inflatable pink unicorn, which will be a delight to my children (I have no shame). It wasn’t my first choice for a costume, but the commander-in-chief of my home vetoed my first selection as “too political.”
I bought tickets yesterday for the Emerald City Comic Con in March. While I don’t dress up, hundreds of visitors will, participating in something known as Cosplay, incarnating their favorite character from comics, fantasy, or gaming. It’s always fascinating to see the fantastic costumes and creativity on display and to consider the motivation underneath.
I suspect that many of us enjoy costuming up for Halloween or more regularly because life can be something of a burden. By throwing on a different skin, we escape the day-to-day tasks we all have, the stress we carry, and perhaps even our regrets.
In the spirit of the season, let me suggest that putting on a costume can be a spiritual practice, if done in the right way. While I’d never recommended putting on our “Sunday’s best” and pretending to be something we are not, permitting ourselves to let go of unhealthy parts of our identity while trying on new possibilities can be.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) Paul continues to name that this new identity preempts all the forms of labeling common in the world of his first readers.
Like the Galatians, we can experience liberation in taking on the identity we receive as a beloved child of God with many co-equal siblings. Clothing ourselves with Christ doesn’t mean that we no longer have gender or ethnicity, or that other forms of identity have no meaning. Instead, it means that our inherent worth and mutuality ought not to be contingent upon these things.
As United Methodists in these days of continued infighting over what it means to claim that identity, perhaps it would be an opportune time to practice a little Cosplay. Are there narratives about ourselves that we could let go to allow for some generative grace? Are there ways we identify others that box them in and limit our relationships with them?
If we truly were to clothe ourselves with Christ, as Paul intends the phrase, how would that transform the Church; what freedom would it breathe into our lives? This Halloween, one inflatable pink unicorn is still pondering that question.
Patrick Scriven is a husband who married well, a father of three amazing girls, and a seminary educated layperson working professionally in the church. Scriven serves the Pacific Northwest Conference as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries.