Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween -- some thoughts

I don't really have a lot to add to the Christian blogosphere's discussions about Halloween. There are two main camps that catch my attention: Halloween is evil (and thus should be shunned at all costs as a holiday belonging to Satan) and Halloween is a missional opportunity (while there are some disturbing elements, it is a great time to interact with neighbors in a friendly relaxed atmosphere).

I think Tim Challies nails it in his post:
Perhaps the greatest fallacy Christians believe about Halloween is that by refusing to participate in the day we are somehow taking a stand against Satan. And second to that, is that participation in the day is an endorsement of Satan and his evil holidays. The truth is that Halloween is not much different from any other day in this world where, at least for the time being, every day is Satan's day and a celebration of him and his power. A member of the discussion discussion list wrote the following last year around this time: "Yeah... I've heard all of the 'pagan' reasons Christians should avoid Halloween. The question is whether we are actually participating in Samhain when we participate in Halloween? Who or what makes the 'Witch's League of Public Awareness' the definers of what Halloween is, either now or historically? Such a connection between Samhain and my daughter as a ladybug or my son as a Bengals Boy is highly dubious." And it is highly dubious at best.

Rob Wilkerson has a thoughtful critique however of the horror element that has really creeped into Halloween celebration the past 20 years. He writes about contemporary horror/splatter films:
My son asked me yesterday as we were shopping together why we don't watch movies like that. As with me at his age, they produced a certain boyish fascination that comes with a beloved naievete whose bliss is most welcome at ten years old. I simply responded with one answer: "If you were watching someone torture your little brothers or sister would you want someone to pay to watch it and laugh at it and then walk away commenting to a newspaper that they enjoyed it?" He cringed with justifiable horror as he should have. It's all of the sudden different when it's someone you know.

I wrestled with this a little bit back in July in the A Call for Sanity Pleasepost.

I'm not sure that Halloween has such direct links to satanism as it does to consumerism. I've been reading cultural histories of Halloween -- written by real scholars who look at real primary sources. Most interesting has been Death Makes a Holiday by David Skal. Skal shows that the roots of Halloween are in many different holidays (such as Guy Fawkes day) -- the connections to Samhain in Ireland are tenuous at best. Ultimately, Skal suggests, Halloween is a uniquely American holiday. In some ways, Halloween becomes what we make of it.

I don't have a word from the Lord on this -- I don't have authoritative teaching. However, I see nothing wrong with children playing dress up in appropriate outfits and going door to door in a neighborly attempt to ask for candy. I am, however creeped out by haunted houses, glorification of the macabre, and fascination with the occult. I'm disturbed that adult Halloween parties are opportunities for grown women to parade themselves as tramps -- and I'm bothered that Halloween has become an excuse in some urban areas to indulge in yet another freewheeling party.

But I'm still passing out candy to kids tonight....
what about you?