I recently listened to a podcast about ‘cos play’ where people dress up in the costume of a favourite character from film or TV – often science fiction – and attend conventions and other events in character so to speak. The costumes can be amazingly elaborate. The camaraderie and community infectious. The opportunity to interact with people in another persona – to be behind a mask so to speak – can be helpful for some people but the bottom line is that it is lots of fun. The stereotype of the shy nerdy male might have a veneer of truth but any looking carefully will see that cos play attracts both women and men, singles and families, people of all shapes and sizes (thank you science fiction!) who bond because of a character, a show, a film, a genre … something – that leads people to return again and again.
Like any community there can be issues – people upset over costume accuracy, body shaming, people attending for ulterior motives – but all communities have such issues (sadly) – and cos players will quickly tell you that they work very hard as a community to limit poor behaviour and negative experiences. Cos players also talk about the social benefits – confidence building, helping with being among people, and so on – that is part of the experience.
I am a strong believer in the performing arts – drama and theatre especially – and the world of cos play seems, to me, akin to a good theatre production. The world of the imagination – I’m thinking of the 1970s and 80s with fantasy role playing games all the rage (I wrote my thesis on it at seminary) – created a similar effect – cerebral before things went virtual – is a good place to go and explore aspects of life and one’s self and consider values and ethics. People might retort but you have to live in the ‘real world’ to which I nod but also say that our imagination is part of the real world.
Of course there are issues of identity and behaviour here. Who am I? What I say I am? What you say I am? One or the other or maybe somehow both?
The Bible talks about the priest putting on the holy linen, the people of God putting on righteousness, sinners needing to put on sackcloth, Jesus telling people not to worry about what they put on, and the disciples of Jesus putting on the armour of God. Some verses intrigue me …
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27 ESV)
But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV)
Cos players use costumes, characters, dialogue from film and TV and add their own imagination and take on things and go out into the world. I wonder if that is why Christianity can be such a problem – that I can’t be me (!) – I have to ‘be’ Jesus and either I don’t want to be Jesus for whatever reason or I know in myself I can’t be Jesus. Is this an issue for men more than women? (Or is it just me?) Is all this too airy-fairy and simply not ‘real’ – living in the real world?
A lot of people seem to think religion is just human imagination in an organised form. But what if it isn’t? What if that cross and empty tomb and the story around them – and the person they speak about – is true; is real? What then? Do we become assimilated into Jesus or do we become free in Christ? To be the unique individual I am – strengths and weaknesses included; sins faced and struggled with because of forgiveness; and having a joy and purpose in life that is based in love – God’s love for me – me! – and nothing can separate us from it? Who am I? Someone Jesus has rescued! Now that’s a life worth living! GS