This past weekend I spent a couple days in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The term “Mardi Gras” is usually used to refer to the carnival festivities and parades in New Orleans prior to Lent. But the term is actually French for Fat Tuesday, the last day of the festivities before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Carnival is much more important throughout Europe than in general here in the United States. My hobby of photographing fiestas while living in Spain took me to Carnival celebrations all over Spain, and even as far away as to Copenhagen. Here are some photos of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.When I say Carnival is important in Europe, I mean it is a tradition which has been observed for hundreds of years. Carnival was a time when everyone was allowed to let loose and indulge. It was also rather strict that things that were accepted during that time, in public spaces, were forbidden at other times and in other places. The term “the world upside down” was sometimes used to describe this time. Mock kings and mayors, as well as mock clerical officials, were chosen and placed in authority over the others – including the real leaders and officials.
In his book Desire Against the Law, James F. Burke observes that in the Middle Ages it was accepted that “one must introduce the contrary of a concept in order to explain it fully.” This belief is much older than the Middle Ages, going back to Aristotle. Dr. Burke further observed that “Medieval people enjoyed the obscene and must have felt a thrill when presented with salacious material. Yet evidently they could at the same time see and appreciate moral or doctrinal messages encoded with the outrageous.” I observed a perhaps sacred versus profane contrast in Mardi Gras, with sometimes risqué costumes, with ridicule and parody contrasted with people attempting to share a religious or spiritual message. But the real contrast I observed was in what the message was and how it was “shared” when it pertained to God or Christ. Here are some pictures of several of those with a message.The message of those in the first photo is a message of hate and condemnation. Jesus didn’t direct His message to those who judged themselves better than others or who were part of organized religion. In fact, He condemned those. Instead, He directed a message of love to those who needed a relationship with someone who could help them face their struggles and recover from, overcome those struggles and regrets. The next picture is from someone with a message that Jesus is that person who can not only save you, but who wants a relationship with you that can lead to an abundant life in this life. The last picture is of a fellow who would follow the group with the message of condemnation and collect money to “absolve” sins. While tongue-in-cheek with no real absolution, he made $75 in a couple hours at Jackson Square with the hate group while only averaging $15 an hour otherwise.
I had printed some cards before going to Mardi Gras, and also shared my message with those who seemed receptive, with a possibility the message would resonate with them. On the front is a picture of a 1531 German painting of Adam and Eve from the Thyssen museum in Madrid. At the bottom I added some text: I thought I needed WINE, WOMEN, and SONG to be happy. Then on the back is a photo of a sunset and church silhouette I took on the Greek island of Santorini. I share my message there of the REAL GOOD NEWS that Jesus can save us from our struggles so we can have an abundant life, which follows the GOOD NEWS that He died for our sins and His grace is a free gift.
I believe that is a message of the Best Love, the love of God. Jesus said the most important command is to love God with all, and the second most important is to love our neighbor. We love our neighbor by sharing a message of Best Love.