Discussion Question: The End of the Carnival

What do you make of the fact that the local preachers band together to shut down the carnival at the end of “A Temple of the Holy Ghost”? It seems clear that the freak show (or, in any case, a second-hand account of the freak show) brings our young protagonist closer to a place where she is ready for the Eucharist to do its work on her. That being the case, there is a certain irony in the preachers shutting the thing down. On the other hand, if part of the preachers’ job is to raise the moral tone of a community, you can hardly blame them for taking a stand against freak shows in general and the hermaphrodite’s unseemly exhibit in particular.

I’ll just throw this little tidbit out there as a discussion starter: In one of her letters, Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I think most people come to the Church by means the Church does not allow, else there would be no need their getting to her at all.” I suspect that quotation has some bearing on this question. (Forgive me for wrenching that quotation entirely out of context; you can find it on p. 93 of Habit of Being if you prefer your quotations in context).

  • http://twitter.com/Brandywinebooks Philip Wade

    I noted in the last post my suspicion that the fair was described in terms similar to the church and that it mocked the church, posing as an anti-church in a sense, so when the preachers shut it down, I thought that could be validation of that insight or a proper reaction to the perverted side show.

    As for the quotation, I assume she means most of us come to the Church by way of our sin. Is she saying the Church doesn’t permit various vices, but it’s through the sickness of those vices that many of us surrender to Christ? All in all, freak shows are immoral. Did you happen to see the short movie of a man without arms or legs who left his job in a demeaning freak show to find hope in a traveling carnival of similarly abnormal people? It’s called “The Butterfly Circus.”

  • April Pickle

    It may not be relevant to the deeper idea of ”(coming) to the Church by means the Church does not allow,” but I think the hermaphordite is the reason the pastors shut down the carnival. I say this because there is no mention of the carnival being shut down in previous years. The girl had seen the fat man and on the afternoon for school children, “Certain tents were closed then because they contained things that would be known only to grown people.” And I say this also because the idea of someone being both male and female seems to go against nature and makes us uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit into our box. After all, God created THEM male and female, not HIM male and female. (We don’t even a have a pronoun for that! Well, we have IT, but that doesn’t work for people! See the predicament?)

    We tend to be more concerned about our own world view holding up than seeing God’s sovereignty and grace in the things we cannot explain.

    But back to the idea of people ”coming to the Church by means the Church does not allow,” I’m confident this happens all the time. I know someone who became a Christian after stealing a Bible. I know someone else who gave his life to Jesus while he was drunk. :)

    But what I love about this story is that I think it is more about Grace coming to the child.

    It comes when the cousins come over and start saying Temple 1 and Temple 2. It comes when her mother declares that the cousins are “Temples of the Holy Ghost,” and she applies it to herself: “It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.” It comes when the cooks says “God could strike you deaf dumb and blind.” It comes when she is lying in bed ”trying to picture the tent” and she hears “God done this to me and I praise Him,” which is not the exact words as relayed by the cousins, but it is what she understands. She understands! She finally understands that she doesn’t understand much, that God is God and she is not. And Grace comes again in the chapel when she realizes that she is in the presence of God, and AGAIN when the nun catches her off guard and swoops down and hugs her in such a way that her face is mashed into the crucifix.

    It is Grace that comes to me, Grace that instructs me, Grace that convicts me, Grace that humbles me, Grace that opens my eyes to the presence of God,  Grace that catches me off guard, Grace that swallows me up, and Grace that marks me with the sign of the cross.  

  • yankeegospelgirl

     No moral justification for freak shows of any type, for sure. I’ve seen that movie you’re talking about. Nick Vujicic played the limbless man. You should look up his story—very inspiring.

  • http://twitter.com/Brandywinebooks Philip Wade

    It’s chilling to think we can use the Internet to view and mock all manner of perversions, distortions, and disabilities any time we choose. The world has lost something huge and silent, something life affirming, over the last 20 years.

  • yankeegospelgirl

     A conscience, perhaps?