Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sitting in My Sincere Pumpkin Patch with Linus

As Halloween draws ever nearer, I am reminded that soon one of the great American traditions of the holiday will be upon us. I'm speaking, of course, of the yearly broadcast/watching of "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"! (ABC's running it this Friday, I think)
The Great Pumpkin, as you no doubt already know, is a sort of conflation of Santa Claus & whoever it is that stands in for the spirit of Halloween--a jack-o-lantern, I guess. Linus believes that the Great Pumpkin will arise out of the "most sincere" pumpkin patch on Halloween night and deliver toys to all the true believing children. Furthermore, he insists on sitting out all night in what he believes is the sincerest patch to spot the G.P. as he ascends!
Linus is not only a devotee, he is an evangelist for the benevolent giver of Halloween toys. He patiently explains his beliefs to the other children, and is mocked for his efforts. Only Sally Brown, madly infatuated with her "sweet baboo," joins Linus for his vigil. When the only thing to rise from the pumpkin patch is Snoopy, dressed as a flying ace, Sally blows up at Linus, feeling she's been cheated out of all the candy she could have had trick-or-treating. Yet Linus remains undeterred, and we know that he'll be back out in the pumpkin patch next year!
Charles Schultz reportedly intended nothing other than humor from the Peanuts strips upon which the Great Pumpkin TV special is based. He just found it amusing that a kid would get Christmas & Halloween mixed up. However, I feel for Linus. He believes so strongly in something that--as far as any of us know--isn't true. Yet, despite lack of evidence, he continues unwaveringly to believe and to proclaim the Gourdian Gospel (not a Peanuts term.)
Charlie Brown: Oh brother. When are you going to stop believing in something that isn't true?
Linus: When YOU stop believing in that fat guy in a red suit and the white beard who goes, "Ho, ho, ho!"

In a perfectly relative, postmodern world, Linus' sincerity ought to count for something. We ought to respect his obviously looney beliefs, because, for all we know, he's got it right. But of course, he doesn't. And we all know that he doesn't. He's just a kid who got things a little mixed up--and has made full-fledged doctrine out of that mix-up: doctrine to which he hangs on with the tenacity of a beagle flying a Sopwith Camel in pursuit of the Red Baron (another delusion presented in the cartoon. Incidentally, one year, in the original Peanuts strips, Snoopy joins Linus in the pumpkin patch for his Halloween vigil.) This brings to mind certain other deceived folks who, like Linus, are exceedingly passionate about spreading their skewed belief systems door-to-door. In a perfectly relative world, those beliefs are just as valid as my own. This is not a perfectly relative world, however, popular culture notwithstanding.
Perhaps I'm pulling for Linus so much because he is the obvious Biblical conscience in the Peanuts Christmas TV special, and his same adherence to such a phony doctrine as the Great Pumpkin makes me want to believe in that as well. We Christians know what it is to hold on to beliefs that many may see as foolish and unfounded, but we have at least more evidence for our faith than Linus has for the Great Pumpkin. Yet Linus shames me, because he's more passionate about actively spreading his beliefs than I generally am. Perhaps we fear the rejection that Linus receives. Perhaps we fear that a Sally Brown will join us in our experience and not find it sufficiently to her liking, or will ask questions that we cannot answer, and leave us sitting, humiliated in our pumpkin patch. Or maybe, like any of us feel while viewing the cartoon, we think it might go a lot easier for Linus if he would just keep quiet about his beliefs, pull his security blanket over his head, and go along with the other kids trick-or-treating. "Sure, you may have some odd beliefs, Linus," we might say, "but must you practice them so publicly, where people can ridicule you? Can't you believe in the Great Pumpkin without going and sitting in a pumpkin patch?" No, for Linus, belief that is not practiced wholeheartedly is not--like a good pumpkin patch--sincere. The practice stems from the beliefs in the heart, and the two cannot be separated.

So, my friends and true believers, come join me in this pumpkin patch most-sincere, as we keep watch for the glorious arrival of Jesu--er, The Great Pumpkin!

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