Let's pretend you're a young mother, about 24, with a biracial one year old son. You've not had much of a good life, to include a stint with drug addiction. Almost all of your experiences with church people have come the salons where you've worked, and almost all have been negative. With the exception of a few Christian stylists with whom you've worked, the clientele has usually evaluated your dress, tattoos, piercings, hair color, comportment, language, etc., and found you oddly lacking in Christian character. Strange? Not really; you didn't grow up in church. Your family was a disaster, and your first marriage was abusive and drug-hazed. Now, you're trying to make things better for your son. You're working steadily, drinking a little with the girls, found a better man, and gotten clean of meth. What should you do on Halloween?
Turns out the church down the street from where you work is having a "Fall Festival." Why is it that Christians will celebrate Halloween but not call it by name, you wonder. This particular church advertises itself as one of those "come as you are" places. Casual dress. A facility that looks like an office building and not a church. A pond out front for their annual boat races. Even a community garden in front. They go to great lengths to not say they're Southern Baptist until you've actually visited a couple times. Everything they do and say lends itself to the idea that you might actually be welcome here. So you dress up junior in an adorable zebra costume and head for the church, exhibiting tremendous courage even to approach the place. You take your son through a couple of the booths. He's too young to really know what's going on, but he seems to be having a grand time, what with all the candy, music, bright colors, and Bible character costumes.
Apparently there is a costume contest. You know your child is beautiful (he really is), so you take him to the table to sign him up.
"I'm sorry, miss, the contest is only for Bible characters."
"But he's wearing a zebra costume."
"I'm sorry. Bible characters only."
"It's not like he's a demon or devil or witch or something."
Ah yes. The silly Christian insistence on following mindless rules. You put on a Fall Festival for the specific purpose of reaching people like this young woman, and then you dutifully shoot yourself in the foot and ruin your chances with her. All that was required was for one person (these folks are SBC, after all; they're supposed to be serious about that book that most of them never read) who had actually read their Bible to say, "There must have been zebras on the ark," and junior would have been in, mom would have been delighted, and the church would have had an opportunity to help in the redemption of a family. Alas...
A Sad Post-Halloween Church Story
This story from The Parish really got to me: