Resurrect Our Holy Fools

You might have heard of the protest movement Buy Nothing Day (BND).

BND is an international protest against consumerism and it's held the Friday after Thanksgiving, what is commonly known as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.

The basic thing to do on BND is just opt out, don't shop on Black Friday. But BND protests can take on all sorts of forms.

A strange and public form of BND protest is the Zombie Walk. Here's a video link to a 2012 Zombie Walk in a Portland mall. During a Zombie Walk you dress like a zombie and go shuffling through a mall, making a comment about how consumerism has robbed us of life, personality and moral agency. We're just dead, obedient zombies when we rush to the malls on Black Friday.

I expect that people might find the Zombie Walk ridiculous. But there's huge biblical precedent for prophetic rebuke taking the form of performance art. The biblical prophets did things like the Zombie Walk.

Consider this example, one of many, from Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 4.1-6
“And now, son of man, take a large clay brick and set it down in front of you. Then draw a map of the city of Jerusalem on it. Show the city under siege. Build a wall around it so no one can escape. Set up the enemy camp, and surround the city with siege ramps and battering rams. Then take an iron griddle and place it between you and the city. Turn toward the city and demonstrate how harsh the siege will be against Jerusalem. This will be a warning to the people of Israel.

“Now lie on your left side and place the sins of Israel on yourself. You are to bear their sins for the number of days you lie there on your side. I am requiring you to bear Israel’s sins for 390 days—one day for each year of their sin. After that, turn over and lie on your right side for 40 days—one day for each year of Judah’s sin."
The Zombie Walk seems tame by comparison. But some prophets did extreme things like this.

This sort of performance art-as-protest is not limited to the biblical prophets, it has a long history in the Christian tradition. The "holy fools" in the Orthodox tradition routinely used performance art to rebuke a wayward or spiritually dead populace. In the Western tradition St. Francis is the most famous example of a holy fool.

And given what time of year it is, remember how it was St. Francis who created our modern Nativity sets by inviting the town of Greccio to come out and see a living Nativity he created in a cave. Performance art.

I bring all this up because I wonder if performance art is what evangelism should look like in the year 2016. I think churches are struggling with evangelism, how to proclaim the good news to a society that is increasingly disinterested in church and faith.

Maybe we should preform the admonition in 1 Corinthians 4: We are fools for Christ!

Maybe churches should, in fun and creative ways, take to public spaces the way the biblical prophets did, to create a message and spectacle that speaks to, pricks and fascinates our culture. I think street performers and minstrels are the sorts of evangelists we need today.

Maybe it's time to resurrect our holy fools.

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