What Have I Learned at Vanity Fair?

Vanity Fair is a key setting in John Bunyan’s classic allegorical work, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” It is a bustling marketplace where worldly goods and pleasures are sold, and it represents the temptations and distractions that can lead pilgrims away from their spiritual journey.

Today, there is no shortage of worldly temptations and distractions that continue to pull us away from our devotion to God.  There are perhaps more ways now, than ever before, for us to be preoccupied with Vanity Fair and its allure.

In this practical blog post, I will explore three key points from Vanity Fair in “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and how they are relevant to our lives today.

1. The Dangers of Materialism

One of the most important lessons I have learned from Vanity Fair is the dangers of materialism. In the marketplace, Christian and Faithful are confronted with a dazzling array of goods and pleasures, from jewels and silks to wine and women. These temptations distract the pilgrims from their true purpose, and they are even imprisoned and put on trial for refusing to participate in the marketplace.

Look through the shop windows on any busy retail street and a similar display of worldly goods (now with electronic versions) continues to compete for our attention. The onslaught of virtual reality is perhaps the ultimate fantasy-generator extending the desire for the material into an imaginary landscape that is all too real.

In our own lives, it is easy to be seduced by material possessions and the pursuit of wealth. We can become so focused on accumulating more things that we lose sight of our spiritual journey and the deeper meaning of life. Like Christian and Faithful, we may face trials and obstacles as we try to resist the pull of materialism. But by staying true to our values and focusing on what truly matters, we can avoid the pitfalls of Vanity Fair and stay on the right path.

2. The Importance of Discernment

Another lesson from Vanity Fair is the importance of discernment. The marketplace is full of people selling all sorts of wares, and it can be difficult to tell what is genuine and what is fake. Christian and Faithful can avoid being deceived by relying on their faith and discernment, and they are able to see through the lies and temptations of Vanity Fair.

I noticed that social media has opened channels for many voices that may seem legitimate but do not adhere to the truth. Sifting through the noise without getting spiritually tone-deaf becomes harder to do as it is all too easy to become consumed by the self-serving narrative of the world.

Therefore, we need to be discerning in our choices and interactions in our own lives. We need to be able to distinguish between what is true and what is false, and to see through the many temptations that surround us. This requires a strong sense of self-awareness and an ability to listen to our inner voice of the Holy Spirit. By developing our discernment and staying true to our values, we can make wise choices and avoid being led astray by the false promises of Vanity Fair.

3. The Power of Community

Finally, Vanity Fair teaches us the power of community. Christian and Faithful face many challenges and trials in the marketplace, but they are able to find strength and support in their friendship and shared faith. They encourage each other to stay true to their beliefs and to resist the temptations of Vanity Fair, and their bond gives them the strength to persevere through their trials.

How many times have we given into peer pressure and purchased something that we do not need? How many times have faithful friends gone out of their way to get us out of a possible mess?  That is why the author of Ecclesiastes (4:10) writes If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”           

In our own lives, we also need a strong community to support us on our spiritual journey. Whether it’s through a Church community, a group of like-minded friends, or a support group, having people around us who share our values and beliefs can help us stay strong and overcome challenges. By building and nurturing these connections, we can find the support and strength we need to resist the temptations of Vanity Fair and stay on the right path.

In conclusion, Vanity Fair from “The Pilgrim’s Progress” has many lessons for us today. By understanding the dangers of materialism, developing our discernment, and building a strong community, we can stay true to our spiritual journey and avoid being led astray by the distractions and temptations of the world.