Thursday, 2 March 2017

Vanity Fair, Bunyan and the chief lord of this fair.

What does Vanity Fair mean to you? Do you think of a glossy magazine, or a post Oscar party, or perhaps an allegorical place in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress?

This Friday the March issue of Vanity Fair, the glossy magazine, will feature Emma Watson, who is well known for her role as Hermione of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Miss Watson is on the front cover. Pictures of her posing virtually topless have already been released for tabloid consumption. Is it somewhat odd that her enthusiastic feminism and her previously expressed disdain for the fame game have now succumbed to the cash and carnal pleasures of appearing in Vanity Fair? Perhaps not, as it could be argued that Miss Watson is attempting to distance herself from the child star tag, and now she wants to be sexy and alluring. A beauty with brains.  A 21st century Emma Peel, combining intelligence with man appeal. (She graduated from the Ivy League prestigious Brown University, and her cosmetic choices are also establishing her adult image.)

After the Oscars in Hollywood and among the post ceremony parties, the Vanity Fair party, held in Beverly Hills, is considered to be an event for A list personalities, where the glamorous and the glowing movies stars, with the movers and shakers, gather. I imagine that some wannabees and fame seekers would sell their souls to attend. I wonder how much aspiring actors and actresses would be prepared to do and how far they would be prepared to go in order to gain fame.

John Bunyan, my Baptist hero, who brought Vanity Fair into the stream of literature, culture and theological reflection, had a totally different view. It was, for him, a place of temptation, but also degradation, declension, where its citizens were servants of Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, who were on their seductive broad way to destruction and damnation. The chief lord of Vanity Fair's friends would, no doubt be honoured (honored in the US) in Hollywood: Lord Carnal Delight, the Lord Luxurious, the Lord Desire of Vain Glory, Lord Lechery and Sir Having Greedy. At the Vanity Fair party we would probably have no trouble in finding the following contemporaries: Mr Love-lust, Mr Live-loose and Mr Liar.

Bunyan did not take the easy path of compromise and comfort. He refused to stop preaching the Gospel without a licence or the legal authority. He therefore broke the law, but his conscience and faith led him to obey a much higher law and follow a higher authority. Bunyan suffered imprisonment and financial hardship, though he was allowed to work and write in Bedford Jail.

Today he is famous, but his fame does not rest on vanity or ephemeral fancies. His writings are wonderful works of eternal quality. They would bring him a fortune today.

Jesus posed the vital questions, questions of eternal significance.

What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?
What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Who is the chief lord of your fair?
If you are going to the fair, then beware.

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