A Christian View of Halloween (repeat)
So There I was...
...in the kitchen with daughter #1. She was four years old. It was a few days before Halloween. I had finished making her a blue gingham dress and found the required red sparkly shoes. She had a hand basket, and one of her stuffed dogs had volunteered to play Toto. I thought we were all set. But this was the child who from birth had done things all or nothing. She had one more request.
"Mommy, could you make me a cyclone?"
"Uh... no baby, I don't know how to make a cyclone."
"Why not? It shouldn't be hard - cyclones are made of air.
Stop laughing Mommy - cyclones are not funny!"
I never really have stopped laughing about that one. She was right, of course, cyclones are not funny - but four-year-olds are.
I have always loved Halloween, and not just for the candy. I love the imagination, the limitless possibilities. I had a very imaginative mother who was good with the sewing machine, and she worked hard to make our dreams come true. You went to school in costume, and the teachers didn't bother trying to teach - it was an all-day party.
Back in the day (pre-maternal paranoia) once you were old enough to walk to school alone, you were old enough to trick-or-treat alone, especially if your older brother was supposed to watch you. Of course, your older brother and his friends always ditched you because you couldn't keep up with their door-to-door capacity, but that was fine.
We were members, and multiple-times-a-week attenders, of a pretty conservative Christian church, but I don't remember anyone saying a word against the holiday. We dreaded that seven-year occurrence of Halloween on a Sunday, but those years most people would trick-or-treat on Saturday night, so we didn't suffer.
Which is why I have trouble with the segment of American Christendom that feels that they have to turn Halloween into a "biblical costume only - Harvest Party" event. It looks as if they are afraid of Halloween - which misses the whole point! Halloween is the day where WE laugh at darkness, death, and all things spooky. Halloween is a celebration of anti-fear.
As the year wanes, as darkness and leaves fall, we send our little children out to mock the unknown. They can be fairies or witches, ghosts or pirates and take no harm at all from it. We reward them with sweets for knocking on strange doors.
I love it when there is a three foot tall Darth Vader on my doorstep. Christendom should be proud of the fact that we send our most vulnerable out to deal with the dark side of the force. I do not for a minute fear that this will lead to a life of galaxy-wide domination.
I am not always thrilled with the levels of homicidal violence being portrayed. I do not like to see little girls being uber-sexy. Good parents can and do moderate these things well into adolescence. But these things reflect our greatest fears, and we conquer them by reducing them to manageable size.
I love the implication that fear, and the conquering of it, is child's work. The mature members of our spiritual community are busy turning the actual non-metaphorical Hell into a skating rink. We may not live up to this ideal, not often even close, but the model of it is there if we wish to participate in it.
The other despicable thing that is still in vogue in some parts of Christendom is turning the traditional haunted house into a "Hell House," where you attempt to scare teenagers straight by depicting hell in all it's torment. Intentionally scaring people into faith has been tried since the third century. The Spanish inquisition (while never expected) had a real specialty in it. It didn't work then and it doesn't work now. What these folks are doing is using the tools of darkness - fear, terror, revulsion - to try to control. Using the tools of the devil to attempt God's work, backfires every time. When, oh when, will we learn this lesson?
Hell Houses encourage the adolescent carnage fascination that adults should be moderating. Also encouraged is judgmentalism in all its forms. They only depict certain sins; usually the ones they think they themselves do not commit. Always the gory ones.
An honest Christian Hell House would have one room dedicated to gluttony; a portrayal of a typical American potluck would do. In another room would be the gossips and backstabbers. I suppose you could get some gore mileage about a beam protruding from the eyeball of the person calling others sinners. Unlike tiny witches, who only very rarely actually ride broomsticks as adults, youthful training in judgmentalism does often lead to a lifetime of sin.
Tomorrow is All Saints Day. Same deal — part two. Not only are we not afraid of darkness, but we know where our dead loved ones have gone - and they are not lost. They are right here with us, cheering for us from the stands. We know we will join them one day. Death where is thy sting? The Mexican people take Thursday to have Day of the Dead - not a scary zombie flick - but a day to take a picnic lunch out to the graveyard to visit with the old folks.
This is our week to celebrate our lack of fear in the face of death, sin and all its fellows. Pass the sugar!