Vanity Fair “broke the internet” with a story of shock and shame. As the church reflects on the way in which the world has responded with glee, we must be mindful that we live in Vanity Fair. As Christians, we ought not to be surprised; we need to realize that we live in the midst of a world that is hostile to God and his glory.
The pretentious and wonderful Oxford English Dictionary defines Vanity Fair as “a place or scene where all is frivolity and empty show; the world or a section of it as a scene of idle amusement and unsubstantial display.”
As the world screams “wonderful” and the church groans in disgust, we must remember where Vanity Fair got its name.
Then I saw in my dream, that when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. It is kept all the year long. It beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity, and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity; as is the saying of the wise, “All that cometh is vanity.”
Sound familiar? This fair is no newly erected business but a thing of ancient standing.
The story continues:
Almost five thousand years ago there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons are: and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long. Therefore, at this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts, as harlots, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not.
And moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red color. …
Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town, where this lusty fair is kept; and he that will go to the city, and yet not go through this town, “must needs go out of the world.” The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair-day too; yea, and, as I think, it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities, yea, would have made him lord of the fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the town. Yea, because he was such a person of honor, Beelzebub had him from street to street, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that he might, if possible, allure that blessed One to cheapen and buy some of his vanities; but he had no mind to the merchandise, and therefore left the town, without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities. This fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair.
Now, these pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this fair. Well, so they did; but behold, even as they entered into the fair, all the people in the fair were moved; and the town itself, as it were, in a hubbub about them, and that for several reasons.
As we think of Vanity Fair from John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, we are reminded that this world is not our home. We are passing through as we seek a city whose builder and maker is God. May our cry be “Come Lord Jesus.”
The world and the church will never agree on what should go on the cover of Vanity Fair. Bunyan gives three reasons why those at the fair were in a “hubbub” due to the pilgrims crossing through the fair on their way to the Celestial City:
1. They did not look like the world. People looked at them and thought they were fools and crazies.
2. The pilgrims were unable to be understood. The pilgrims spoke the language of heaven, and the world was not able to hear.
3. The pilgrims had little use for the wares and merchandise of Vanity Fair, for their treasures were in heaven.
As you consider just how culturally important Vanity Fair and its cover is to your life, there are a few questions you must consider. Where are your treasures, Pilgrim? As you journey through this Vanity Fair and see the emptiness, are you willing to be considered foolish, to put the world around you into a “hubbub” so that some might see Jesus Christ and join the pilgrimage to the Celestial City? The noise of Vanity Fair, at times, is too much to bear. But we must pass through as we journey to the Celestial City. We must. Give thanks that Jesus passed through before us.