Nostalgia of Joseph Ostrander
Many, many, many years ago, I used to participate in the great American tradition of Halloween with impunity. Jack-O-Lanterns. Cotton spider webs. Inexpensive, cheesy costumes. Hoards of candy. Sugar induced semi-comas. Cheesy, Grade-B Scary movies. Other worldly Trick-or-Treat wanderings in the neighborhoods where my well-to-do relatives lived…
Ah yes, healthy fun from what seems like a bygone era…
What happened to such an innocuous American tradition?
Well, I think Halloween became just another victim of the overly zealous Christian culture war…
But don’t thank Jesus for that…
Regardless of your personal viewpoint about Halloween’s origins or traditions, I think the InternetMonk, a.k.a. Michael Spencer, put it best:
No, this wasn’t “Judgment House” or “Hell House” or whatever else evangelicals have done with a similar skill set today. It was fun. Simple, old-fashioned, fun. No one tried to fly a broom or talk to the dead. Everyone tried to have fun. Innocent play in the name of an American custom.
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.
Evangelical parents decided that their own harmless and fun Halloween experiences were a fluke, and if their kid dressed up as a vampire, he’d probably try to become one. If there was a pumpkin on the porch, you were inviting demons into your home, just like it says in Hezekiah.
A general fear of the occult, manifesting itself in Satanic ritual abuse mythology, crept into evangelicalism and took a deep hold on many churches.
Occult ministries exploited these fears, and ministries like Bob Larson found it was profitable and powerful to make rock music, drug use, occult worship and Halloween one big package.
Today, if you want to split your church, divide your singles group, get a fight started with parents or see the youth minister fired, just find some way to have an old-fashioned Halloween event in your church.
In the ministry where I serve, we can’t have fall festivals. Putting out a pumpkin is risky. Any costume other than dressing up like Billy Graham is taboo.
Halloween experts have proliferated in evangelicalism. Where did these people learn all this stuff? Oh yes, The Onion. That’s right.
Those great, fun, harmless, safe, nostalgic, exciting, slightly scary and completely un-demonic Halloweens of the past? Gone, gone, gone with the evangelical hot air.
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.)
It bothers me that such a wonderful part of my childhood and of American life has been turned into an example of evangelical paranoia and gullibility. We ruined something good, and everyone knows it but us.
I know all about the sophisticated responses thoughtful Christians have about Reformation day and All Saints Day. That’s fine, but it’s not the same. I just want my grandkids to be able to dress up in cute outfits and trick or treat without the local church designating them for exorcism.
Shame on those of us–evangelicals–who allowed Halloween to be taken away from families and many communities, all because we prefer to believe that life is a Frank Peretti novel.
Boo. I hope I scared you.
Think about it…