Thursday, October 8, 2015

It Was the Weeks before Halloween…

And folks were lamenting the pending “demonween” and how the holiday was a testament to how far the culture had fallen from its Christian roots…

I’ve seriously been seeing and hearing these kinds of complaints, and they’re not uncommon in the circles I’ve grown up in (which has included more than just reformed presbyterianism).

I’m reminded of the looks and discouraging comments I would get when I first started admitting that I like gothic things, before I wised up to the facts that 1. folks often conflate gothic, Goth, and emo, and a brief history about the historical origins of gothic can clear that up (short version: rationalism said everything could be explained and discovered via human reason; the gothic arose as response to that, insisting "Um, no"); and 2. many Christians don’t seem to notice how someone who thinks about what happens after death is a bit easy to communicate with about such things than someone who doesn’t want to so much as think about how they’ll die someday.

But then, most people—Christians included—aren’t all that great with communication…but that’s something to discuss in another post.

For this post, my concern is that many Christians get caught up in the surface of Halloween and ignore the substance and the opportunities in it.

I can’t speak for much of the world, but in the US, Halloween is pretty much a celebration of creepy and candy, just as Easter is pretty much a celebration of cute and candy. The celebrations are about 6 months apart, too, so from a business marketing standpoint, the "candy!" push on both of them makes sense.

As for the “creepy”, the culture at large (and even inside the church) tends to avoid discussing or thinking about death and the supernatural, so of course it all gets turned into a joke for Halloween. That’s a basic defense mechanism. If something scares you, mock it and laugh at it (and, ideally, get others to laugh at it, too).

If something's silly and/or stupid, it isn’t dangerous—or so the illogic goes. And not infrequently ends up being “famous last words”.

Look, I get that people don’t want to be frightened or to think about demons and the witch of Endor and how Jesus had no issue with His disciples believing in (and being afraid of) ghosts [Matthew 14:25–27, Mark 6:47–50, Luke 24:36–43—and in that last case, He even gave explicit reasons He couldn’t be a ghost]. I get that people want to protect their children from fear.

But the Bible is freaking scary, y’all. You got everyone killed in a giant flood, people spontaneously being unable to understand their loved ones, and all sorts of murder and mayhem and spontaneously talking animals that the audiences respond to without apparently finding it weird that the animal is actually talking. (Don't ask me why, but I remember the story of Balaam’s ass being my favorite when I was about nine.)

And that’s just in the first few books! We haven’t even touched the torture or the suddenly-destroyed cities or the spontaneous deaths or the afterlife or the fact that there’s this fallen angel & co. out to get back at God, seeking to use us as tools.

Seriously, I can’t be the only one who gets creeped out by Job 1. As reassuring that it is that Satan had to ask God for permission for what he did to Job, there’s still the fact that there’s this manipulator out there actively trying to outmaneuver God. Doesn’t matter if God sees through it and can outmaneuver Satan each time. Satan’s still out there doing it!

So I really don’t get this Christian aversion to stuff that makes us uncomfortable. The aversion itself makes me uncomfortable, because if somebody can’t handle the world's sanitized, trussed-up, silly-fied version of reality, what does that say about how they treat the version of reality found in Scripture?

Some folks protest on the grounds of being bothered by the sanitization, trussing up, and silly-fication. But in my experience, that isn’t the argument that the vast majority of Christians make. Most protest because of the demons and witches and spirits and zombies.

Now, let’s back up a little. I don’t know much about how the rest of the world celebrates Halloween, but I do know that at least some cultures treat it as a day (or three) remembrance of those who have passed on. Loved ones, friends, people we respect, whatever. A time of remembrance.

Okay, and mockery to counter the fear of death, but Christians as a whole seem to miss the not-so-little point, there, of why people fear death.

You know, the entire life-to-come thing?

Halloween is the one time of year when the culture as a whole is consistently willing to think about and discuss death and what comes after it. They turn it into a joke, but that doesn’t mean we have to do the same. We can use that willingness to broach the topic and witness from there.

I’m familiar with four Christian responses to Halloween: embracing the current cultural rendition of it, ignoring it altogether, Reformation Day (which I’ve seen churches celebrate with costumes and candy) and Hell Houses like the Judgement House program.

Those who celebrate Reformation Day would generally claim more knowledge of Scripture and church history, yet it’s those who do the Hell Houses (and potentially break the second commandment in doing so) who are reaching out and actually witnessing effectively.

Those with “less” knowledge are responding to what’s actually going on better than those with “more” knowledge.

Those with “less” knowledge are communicating better (more effectively) than those with “more” knowledge.

That in itself suggests that something is fishy with one of those responses, if not both.

We’re human. Something will pretty much always be “off” about all exclusionary sides in a position. There are people for Christ, against Christ, and lukewarm about Him (who count against him [Revelation 3:16])…but start defining what makes folks qualify as which type of person, and things fast get messy, because folks like defining their practice of Christianity as the right way. [Watch the “wrong” movies? Read the “wrong” books? Have the “wrong” stance on a theological nonessential? (And which specific items are nonessential, anyway?) No matter what you watch, read, or believe, there are people out there who will use something in there to consider you for Christ, people who will consider you against Him, and people who will consider you lukewarm.]

It’s the weeks before Halloween, and maybe we Christians should be using that to remind ourselves that there’s more to life than the material…and that we should be speaking to others accordingly.

What are other Christian responses to Halloween that you’re familiar with? What are your thoughts on the holiday, how it’s celebrated, how it’s responded to?


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