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Friday, February 12, 2010

To Mardi Gras or not to Mardi Gras, that is the Question

by Barbara Lovas, ThD

Someone asked me if the ritualistic significance of Mardi Gras is still relevant and in practice today's contemporary celebration of Mardi Gras. My answer to that question in short: Yes, I DO find that the practices are still for the most part represented and practiced in our modern day Mardi Gras celebrations today. Here is my explanation:

Here is a quick explanation of the origin of Mardi Gras: Mardi Gras is pagan celebration, that honors mythological gods, with ties to superstition and witchcraft. Mardi Gras was adopted by the Catholic church as a celebration of overindulgence. Mardi Gras is also called Fat Tuesday. It is followed by Ash Wednesday, then 40 days of Lent. Those who observe Lent, practice acts of penitence and selective fasting. Fasting from eating meats on Fridays is something many look forward to. Since they can't eat meat on Friday, they feast on seafood and fish instead.

Each parade is run by a krewe. The krewes are private organizations,that keep the parade's themes and floats in secret until the day of the parade. The floats, for the most part, are named after mythological gods or goddesses (if you run a quick search on the names of each of those parades, you will find that they range from gods/goddesses of revelry, drunkenness, lust, fertility, harvest to the god of one thousand eyes).

Deuteronomy 27:15 NIV
"Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an
idol--a thing detestable to the Lord, the work of the craftsman's hands--and
sets it up in secret." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"
Here is a quick snapshot of a typical French Quarter Mardi Gras ...

People start to line the streets of the parade route before the sun comes out. Many people are drunk before the parades even start. Uncensored music blares. Unbridled words are shouted. The crowd can get wild at times.

The krewe's king first blesses the event, and then uses a scepter to bless all the people who line the streets. The parade goers stand with raised hands, chanting, "Throw me something mister." In exchange, masked people on the floats throw to them: beads, doubloons (with images of gods), and various trinkets. Throws can also include thong underwear, cups and trinkets offered by sponsors such as beer and sometimes cigarette companies.

The parade goers are often in costumes or barely dressed (some costumes are too nasty for children to see). Sometimes the costume is nothing more than body paint. It is not out of the ordinary for people to openly engage in sexual activities in public. Woman 'flash' their breast to get beads, and recently men have started to flash their genitals for beads (and when caught, the men do get arrested). It is not uncommon for a crowd to gather as women are carried on others' shoulders or stand on balconies to be seen while they flash. Sometimes beads are exchanged for a kiss.

If you are in an area that is very crowded with revelers, the smell of alcohol, vomit and urine may become prominent. In some areas, the ground becomes literally so wet that muddy smelly puddles develop and the ground actually becomes sticky.

Isn't Mardi Gras more family friendly in the suburbs?

It is true, there are some areas that tend to have a more "family friendly" feel. In fact, many people look at Mardi Gras as a family event and a good opportunity to get to know your community. Families and friends sometimes stake out their piece of land to view the parades days in advance. The 'camping out,' tail-gating, barbecuing, the food and friends can be a great bonding experience.

My OPINION

There is nothing I love more than being with family. I absolutely love watching a New Orleans marching band ... but I am forced to weigh it out. What am I willing to trade-off for that one day of "family fun" and bonding?

Let's start with the Mardi Gras atmosphere. I have experienced both the pros and cons of Mardi Gras. I was raised in New Orleans, and attended Mardi Gras every year of my childhood ... and into my adult life. I experienced the good family friendly areas as well as the some of the nastiest areas of the parade routes. I found that I always came away from the experience a bit more worldly and more disillusioned than I came in to it. The family environment didn't protect me from the exposure to drunk obnoxious behaviors. Nor did it protect my ears from hearing or my eyes from seeing things I should have never seen. Understand, I was not raised in a Christian atmosphere. So, my parents weren't necessarily being cautious to shield me from those things. BUT, in all honesty, I don't think any parent can truly protect their child from experiencing things of that sort in that environment. You have no way to filter that kind of stuff.

Here is the biggest problem: once it is seen, heard or experienced; it can't be taken back. Innocence is stolen.

Now, let's talk about the intent and the spirit of the Mardi Gras celebration

When Moses went on the mountain to talk to God, the people of God got together and made a golden cow and worshiped it and joined in revelry. Not only was Moses angered, but God was too. God has said that He is a jealous God, and he will accept no other gods before Him (and rightfully so!). He also gave us direct instruction not to make images of heavenly things or idols, and definitely not to worship foreign gods or idols.

The bible also gives account of a situation where all the citizens were ordered to bow down in reverence to an idol and three men of God refused to bow down before any idol, even if it cost them their life.

Being that the whole idea of Mardi Gras is that people stand with raised hands, while floats in images of gods and goddesses pass by to receive valueless trinkets, being that the people in attendance, for the most part, indulge themselves in unbridled drunkenness, revelry and lewd behavior; I cannot find a good justification to join in the fellowship of this celebration. I fear I will offend God. I cannot reason my way out of the obvious: those floats fit into the category of making idols, that God states so clearly He despises.

Party Today: Repent Tomorrow

The philosophy behind the idea of 'partying it up' with total uninhibited indulgence for one day in, with the intent to "repent" the next day is in total conflict with our Christian walk. We are told to walk rightly, live above reproach and to be of sober mind. For us to even give the smallest hint of an inclination that we approve of purposing to sin for a day, knowing that tomorrow we can do penance not only is a disgrace, but can be a stumbling block to our children and to others watching us. In Paul's words, "Should we just sin more, that more grace abound? God forbid!!!" God tells us where there is no true repentance, there is no forgiveness. We know that! But does our neighbor know that? Certainly the mobster who regularly kills for a living and goes back to the priest for forgiveness the next day does not get it. What do kind of a philosophy do our actions proclaim?

1 Peter 2: 11.Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the
world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.12. Live such
good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they
may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Romans 13: 13.Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and
drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and
jealousy.14.Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not
think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Is there any possible reason that we as Christians should be at Mardi Gras?

The surprising answer to that is, YES. We might be called by God to be there as a witness."A light in the darkness!"

Some of us will be called to go to Mardi Gras, not to join in the revelry, but to carry the gospel!

You have to answer these questions: Have you been called by God to go? Are you REALLY going with a mission to reach the lost? OR are you going under the guise of being on a mission, but really going to have a fun time and to FELLOWSHIP with the world?

We are called to be a light in the darkness (a city on a hill). But we are not called to FELLOWSHIP with the world. We must recognize the difference, or we will suffer loss.

If you are not called to go, and your children are too young to process such a mission, you have no protection for what they will experience; NOR the impact it may have on their lives. We as adults must provide protection for our children. We are the gatekeepers to what enters into the gates of their senses until they are old enough to make those decisions for themselves.

I guess it all boils down to this: if God has called you and your family to do this, God will not only direct your paths to be where you are supposed to be, and see what you are supposed to see; but everyone in your family will be mature enough to understand the mission at hand and will be able to handle what they see and hear without being scarred.

"What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has
light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a
believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with
idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell
in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'
"Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not
touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and
you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.' Therefore, having
these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the
flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians
6:14–18; 7:1).

When we have children, we are accountable to God as to what we do with them. In a more real sense, our kids are not our own, but ultimately belong to God. We just have them "on-loan." The scriptures, "I will set no wicked thing before my eyes." and "Raise a child in the way of the Lord. When they get older, they will not depart." come to mind. In the old testament, God directed us to teach our children as we carry out our day to day activities, and to keep the word of God in our conversation to them all the time. We have to be sure that we don't cause more confusion to our children by saying one thing and doing another. When we read the bible to our children about how God despises idolatry and the casting of any idols or foreign Gods, and then bring them to a parade named after gods/goddesses; with floats cast in images of those gods/goddesses (with, in some cases, giant sized bare breasted goddesses), to share in the fellowship of an environment where there is such blatant drunkenness and indulgence, how can we expect them to come away from that any less than confused at the least OR scarred at the most?

Before I had children, I would go to Mardi Gras with the purpose to evangelize. I didn't go to join in the celebration. I didn't stand with the crowd and wait for floats to pass by to get beads. In fact, I didn't get any beads or trinkets. I spent the whole time talking to those as God directed me. I had opportunity to pray with many and lead some to salvation. In fact, some of those stories are some of the most memorable testimonies to me still today.

Do we act like we really believe that God is a jealous God? How many times did he tell us to not make idols??? I counted 172 references to His anger against the worship of idols.

OBEY what you know God is telling your heart,"to obey is better than sacrifice." "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways, and He will guide your steps."