Steve Bell has written a thoughtful post about Halloween, concluding with this:

Personally, it makes me sad that the Church (in part) seems to have retreated into the very fear-based isolation St. Patrick’s lively faith contradicted. So sadly ironic. And we have done this in so many areas of common life.  It seems to me that we could  be out  participating in the wider culture;  joyfully, cheerfully, confidently handing out ’sweets’ in the various cultural arenas: politics, arts, education, science, festivals etc.  We need not do this in the defensive, combative spirit we’ve become famous for, but with a caring neighborliness befitting the character of the Christ whom we worship. And we need not be concerned that we will be tainted in our efforts. For we do not draw from a shallow well,  but the inexhaustible Christ who gave himself entirely so that all would know that the organizing and redeeming principle of the cosmos is not self-securing fear, but  self-donating love. (Link)

iMonk has an annual rant about Halloween (or, more specifically, the Christian response to Halloween), in which he describes his upbringing in a fundamentalist baptist church–the “KJV-only, women can’t wear pants, twenty verses of “Just As I Am,” Jerry Falwell, Jack Chick, twice a year revival” kind, who were “serious about the Bible, Sunday School, suits and ties, and walking the aisle to get saved” and “big time into Halloween,” they were “all over Halloween like ants on jam…The kids loved it. The parents loved it. The pastors approved. The church paid for it!”

And then, things changed.

Mike Warnke convinced evangelicals that participating in Halloween was worshiping the devil. Later, when we learned that Warnke may have been one of the most skillful of evangelical con-artists, lying about his entire Satanic high priest schtick, the faithful still believed his stories.

Evangelical media began to latch onto Halloween as some form of Satanism or witchcraft, and good Christians were warned that nothing made the other team happier than all those kids going door to door collecting M&Ms.

[…]Does it bother me? You bet it does. It bothers me that we fall for such lame, ridiculous manipulators as the crowd that made all of those Halloweens past into satanic events.

It bothers me that any lie, exaggeration or fiction will find thousands of eager believers to pass it along.

It bothers me that the Biblical message about Satan would be co-opted by the fear-mongering and manipulation of the hucksters. (Read The Screwtape Letters for some real Satanism.) (Link)

Interesting stuff.

It’s difficult to sort out the origins of Halloween, but whatever its origins I have difficulty understanding how letting our kids dress up as cowboys or skeletons or ghosts or even witches and then getting a bunch of candy is somehow colluding with the powers of evil.  “Perfect love casts out fear” the Bible says somewhere, and yet many Christians tend to spend much of their time fear-mongering: fear of culture, fear of the occult, fear of heretical translations of the Bible, fear of hell, fear of education, fear of “the other” (whatever it may be).

I don’t “believe” in Halloween, either, because I think it’s just a fun (and cute) thing for the kids to do, nothing more, nothing less. The truth is, I’m much more likely to cancel Halloween in our household for the sake of dental hygiene.

7 thoughts on “Halloween

  1. Ian H.

    Pat Robertson would not be happy with you: http://www.cbn.com/special/halloween/

    Seriously, though… Mandi pointed out to me today that the holidays that Christians typically have the biggest problem with are Hallowe’en and Mardi Gras, which were both started as liturgical celebrations (All Hallow’s Eve, and the beginning of Lent, respectively), but the ones that we celebrate most are those with a pagan origin (Christmas & Easter).

    Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the plot.

  2. Toni

    Peasants: We have found a witch! (A witch! a witch!)
    Burn her burn her!

    Peasant 1: We have found a witch, may we burn her?
    Vladimir: How do you known she is a witch?
    P2: She looks like one!
    V: Bring her forward
    Woman: I’m not a witch! I’m not a witch!
    V: ehh… but you are dressed like one.
    W: They dressed me up like this!
    All: naah no we didn’t… no.
    W: And this isn’t my nose, it’s a false one.
    (V lifts up carrot)
    V: Well?
    P1: Well we did do the nose
    V: The nose?
    P1: …And the hat, but she is a witch!
    (all: yeah, burn her burn her!)
    V: Did you dress her up like this?
    P1: No! (no no… no) Yes. (yes yeah) a bit (a bit bit a bit) But she has got a wart!
    (P3 points at wart)
    V: What makes you think she is a witch?
    P2: Well, she turned me into a newt!
    V: A newt?!
    (P2 pause & look around)
    P2: I got better.
    P3: Burn her anyway! (burn her burn her burn!)
    (king walks in)
    V: There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
    P1: Are there? Well then tell us! (tell us)
    V: Tell me… what do you do with witches?
    P3: Burn’em! Burn them up! (burn burn burn)
    V: What do you burn apart from witches?
    P1: More witches! (P2 nudge P1)
    P3: Wood!
    V: So, why do witches burn?
    (long pause)
    P2: Cuz they’re made of… wood?
    V: Gooood.
    (crowd congratulates P2)
    V: So, how do we tell if she is made of wood?
    P1: Build a bridge out of her!
    V: Ahh, but can you not also make bridges out of stone?
    P1: Oh yeah…
    V: Does wood sink in water?
    P1: No
    P3: No. It floats!
    P1: Let’s throw her into the bog! (yeah yeah ya!)
    V: What also floats in water?
    P1: Bread
    P3: Apples
    P2: Very small rocks
    (V looks annoyed)
    P1: Cider
    P3: Grape gravy
    P1: Cherries
    P3: Mud
    King: A Duck!
    (all look and stare at king)
    V: Exactly! So, logically…
    P1(thinking): If she ways the same as a duck… she’s made of wood!
    V: And therefore,
    (pause & think)
    P3: A witch! (P1: a witch)(P2: a witch)(all: a witch!)
    V: We shall use my largest scales.
    (V jumps down)
    (walk over while cheering)
    (push her into scale)
    V: Right, remove the stops!
    (wait while scales remains still)
    All: A witch! burn her burn her!!

  3. Marc Post author

    Pilcrow to Toni for quoting one of my favourite scenes in The Holy Grail!

    (But which scene isn’t a favourite?)

  4. Chris

    I find it sad when not only do Christian homes not send their kids out into the neighborhood on Halloween, but they also shut their doors and turn off their lights and pretend to not be home – or worse, just don’t answer the doorbell or call of ‘Trick or Treat.’

    I took my 2.5 yr old son out for a walk up and down the block just in an attempt to meet some folks in our neighborhood.

    And to get more candy because nobody would give candy to a 33 year old guy dressed up as a Winnipeg Jets fan. 🙂

  5. Collette

    I am pretty proud of myself that I actually got Toni’s quote immediately 🙂 I can rarely quote things, and just as rarely figure out where they’re from!

  6. Kellie Huffman

    Found your post from Steve Bell’s blog. I whole heartily agree! We need more Christians talking like this and reclaim civility, not to mention love thy neighbour and all that.

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