In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Faithful come to Vanity Fair, where they are discovered, rejected, abused & tried. Faithful is even killed at the fair. The fair is to be a picture of the “world” and its rejection of those who seek another world to come.
Now, much of what passes for Christianity has grown well accustomed to this world (just take a look at the popular books and programs which claim the title “Christian” — as if Christ were interested in material personal ease as an end in itself. Satan offered him such things and Christ rejected it. Now, the average “Christian” would at best negotiate the deal before he dropped his knee to Satan).
Cheever, in his lectures on Pilgrim’s Progress, writes this bit of parody for the culture:
The town was much altered since Christian and Faithful passed through it, and principally for the reason that a great multitude of pilgrims who had set out on the pilgrimage had concluded, finding the air of the city much improved, and that, by reason of the increase of refinement and knowledge among the inhabitants, the city itself was very profitable and pleasant to dwell in, to remain there for an indefinite season, and many of them for the residue of their lives. This began by some of them being allured to take part in the purchase and sale of the merchandise of the place, till at length a great part of the business came to be transacted by those who at first came to the place in the character of strangers and travellers to the Celestial City. They formed partnership with the natives and original owners of Vanity Fair, so that now no small part of the French Row, the German Row, and especially the English Row, was carried on under the profession of those who had thus settled in the place as pilgrims.
In process of time they had also appointed as lord mayor of the place a professor of the religion of the pilgrims, my Lord Know-the-world, whose grand entertainments and dinners, together with courtly and affable manners, did much to render the name of the pilgrims respectable, and to put the whole place on good terms with them. Nay, it was a pleasant thing to the citizens, that they could have so many of the pilgrims to stay with them, still preserving the profession of their pilgrimage; insomuch that at length it became fashionable among many of the native inhabitants of the city to take the same name and profession, without having ever once set out on their travels towards the Celestial City.
There were also in various parts of the city places of worship erected, where the music was so fine, and the seats were so softly and beautifully prepared, and all the ceremonies were so pleasant, that most of the inhabitants attended. In some of these places I was told that great care was taken to smooth down the rough places in the gospel, and that no alarms were ever suffered to be
given to the consciences of the people who came there, and also that all those fiends, by which Christian had been so much vexed and alarmed, were considered as only imaginary beings, even Apollyon himself, and that the hell which had frightened so many pilgrims was regarded as a mere creation of the fancy.
Moreover, Mr. Legality, from the town of Carnal Policy, had established a colony in this place, and, by the aid of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, had gained no small number of the pilgrims who had concluded to settle in Vanity Fair. I also observed that the pilgrims had thrived greatly in their business, and that their houses were among the most tasteful and costly buildings in the better parts of the city. When they first began to stop in Vanity Fair, they were of very small means, and of an humble exterior; but by degrees they acquired property, and moved up into the more airy and fashionable parts of the place, where they thought it important to make the name and profession of pilgrim respectable in the eyes of the inhabitants. Some of them had great share in the various stocks in Vanity Pair, and were appointed directors and presidents of its banks, and had built themselves fine houses, and kept up large establishments, such as formerly none but the native men of Vanity Fair could build or reside in.