Fright Night 2010

It’s that time of year again. It’s time for my annual rant at Halloween. It’s good to get it off my chest. It makes me feel better.

I hate Halloween with a passion. And it was worse than ever this year.

It’s got nothing to do with the colours. I’m alright with orange and black. I wouldn’t choose to wear them now. But I did once. As a child, I was led astray by a Scottish Godfather who convinced me to support Dundee United. I was the only one in our Northamptonshire village! No one else at school had a shiny tangerine and black football kit. But it wasn’t all bad; the 80s were good years and we frequently qualified for Europe. It’s got nothing to do with the colours.

It’s got very little to do with the habit of ‘trick or treating’, though I detest that in its’ own right. Quite why we think that extortion is an appropriate thing to teach our children is beyond me! Mercifully all this is going on whilst I was at church, which is good for the ‘trick or treaters’ of Streatham Hill. They normally get more than they bargained for when they knock on our door. They get fruit and a sermon about Jesus’ mastery over evil spirits, neither of which they were expecting.

It’s got nothing to do with the rampant materialism that stands behind the recent upsurge in interest in this pagan festival, though it’s worth saying that the figures are staggering.  We’re some way off spending what the Americans do. But the trajectory is astonishing. It may well have something to do with the American firm, Walmart’s acquisition of Asda and the subsequent supermarket battle over merchandise. But not even the vast amounts of money wasted on the event are what irritates me most.

I hate Halloween because of what it is. I hate it because of what we’re doing by holding it every year. I hate it because of what it does. And what it does is mainstream the morbid, trivialise wickedness and domesticate evil.

I don’t think for a moment that many who participate in this festival are intending to do these things. Our motives have little, if anything, to do with promoting these effects. But these are the effects. And our willing participation in this festival merely serves to oil the wheels of commerce and ungodliness.

But let me have a go at justifying my claims. They’re not watertight arguments, I know. But they’re my gut reactions and some initial reflections. I hope that they might be useful in helping you form an opinion.

1. We mainstream the morbid

I think the Bible allows a place for imagination. I think it has a place for pretence. And I don’t think it has an issue with fantasy. But Halloween encourages elements from the dark side of spirituality to be accepted in mainstream culture. And the Bible’s less keen on that. Halloween has become a holiday of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. It’s not alone in doing that; Buffy was Slaying Vampires a decade ago and Robert Pattinson is doing something in these ‘Twilight’ years.

Usually we’re very careful to keep the stuff of death and dying out of the public eye. And often that’s a good thing. There are some things that it would be best not to parade.

For example, a curtain passes in front of the coffin as it’s wheeled away. The body is burnt in a furnace out of sight. The morgue is in a distant, inaccessible part of the hospital. It’s not in reception or on the main thoroughfare. We put distressing scenes of death and decay on our screens once the nine o’clock watershed has passed. And we give horror films an 18 certificate. There’s a reason that we do those things. We don’t normally mainstream the morbid. And yet at Halloween, all bets are off. It’s open season on the morbid.

Surely we want to protect children from things that will terrify them. And the things that the supermarkets display in their aisles do. We get zombies, spiders, ghosts, witches, vampires, Satan and so on. Any parent who’s tried to comfort a child that’s suffered a nightmare does not want frightening images etched indelibly onto their child’s imagination. They don’t want them to be the things their kids see when the lights go out. There’s wisdom in keeping those things out of the public eye.

2. We trivialise wickedness

Halloween is a celebration. We get excited by its’ arrival. We have parties. Friends of mine at the rugby club were off to Halloween themed dinner parties. We encourage others to join in the festivities. We mock those who refuse. We stigmatise them as killjoys. But what are we celebrating? We’re celebrating wickedness, whether we mean to or not. If we stop for a moment and think, we’re delighting in things that otherwise we’d have nothing to do with.

What’s remotely appropriate about going to a party dressed as Satan or one of his minions? Whilst a woman dressed provocatively as a witch might be physically alluring, the truth is that were we to meet the devil himself, one of his demons or one of his devotees there’d be nothing that we’d find attractive about them.

When we celebrate wickedness, evil is portrayed as innocent and fun. And it’s neither. We trivialise it. The devil and his demons are real. We have a real spiritual adversary who seeks our destruction. If we belong to Christ then we have nothing to fear from a defeated enemy. Colossians 2:15 is very clear; he triumphed over Satan by the cross. But nevertheless wickedness and evil ought to be something that we detest not something that we celebrate.

3. We domesticate evil

The place for a lion is in the wild. That’s because, to state the obvious, it’s a wild animal. It has no place in the home. And yet some people might decide that they want one as a pet and so they bring it under their roof. For a while it’s small and cuddly. But then it grows up. There are just some things that can’t be domesticated. No doubt the lion may look as though he’s playing ball. But do you really trust it? Would you leave it alone in a room with a toddler?

Evil, I would suggest is one of those things that ought not to be domesticated. We may say that Halloween is a bit of harmless fun. But that’s like saying that a lion cub isn’t dangerous.It’s ona  trajectory to being terrifying and destructive.

We need to remember the wickedness of evil. We bring the demonic under our roof in the guise of Halloween. And in so doing we may encourage in ourselves and especially in our vulnerable children an unhealthy interest in the dark side of spirituality. I want no part of anything that stimulates fascination with something that’s enslaving and ultimately damaging.

Like a lion, we ought to keep evil at arms’ length. We have nothing to fear from him so long as we treat him as he deserves to be treated. According to 1 Peter 5:8&9, he will always prowl around looking for someone to devour. But he has no power over us except that which is given to him by God. But God does not expect us to entertain him and domesticate him. He expects us to resist him, standing firm on the gospel promises that he has nothing of good to offer us.

Rather than celebrate wickedness, let’s encourage one another to celebrate Jesus’ victory over wickedness.

So what do we do?

I advocate a ‘both and approach’. I’m not naive. It’s not going to go away in a hurry. But nevertheless we ought to campaign for its’ demise. Whilst we do that, we can provide an alternative and claim the day for Christ and his glorious gospel of light. After all, there are elements of the event that we want to applaud. We love parties. Celebrations are a good thing. Kids love dressing up. That’s why we have a Pumpkin Party at CCB. It’s the best of Halloween without the worst! Genius. And popular amongst parents of younger children.

8 thoughts on “Fright Night 2010

  1. Phil C November 2, 2010 / 1:33 pm

    Perks, thanks for this. I came across an interesting idea last week – what do you think of the idea that Halloween can be used to mock evil, and therefore celebrate Jesus’s victory over it? I can imagine telling children: “Look at that person dressed in a silly outfit! There’s no need to be scared of evil things, because of Jesus.”

  2. Mark November 2, 2010 / 2:38 pm

    Hmm – Google clearly has its own ideas of what you were talking about! This is what it ‘generated’ as the ad response to your post!

    “Ads by Google
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  3. Andy B November 2, 2010 / 3:06 pm

    I think one of the most common views I face from friends is the worldview that Christianity as not relevant any more. I mean, who believes is heaven and hell when everyone has their own views of right and wrong? The devil..he doesn’t exist! I am my own god, I will do what I want and live as long as I can.

    So to them, dressing up as the devil or the grim reaper on halloween is no different to dressing up as Robin Hood for a fancy dress party. A frustrating situation when you want to try and convince them of the seriousness of what they are portraying.

    However I wonder if we have to be careful that we don’t just jump up and down and bang our drum about the wrongs of halloween and instead explain our convictions in a relevant way that they understand. Because people don’t realise the significance of what they are dressing up as they also don’t understand why we get so worked up about it and like white noise they simply block out our protestations and relegate us to out of touch and not worth listening to.

    I’m not advocating watering down what the Bible says and our convictions on the issue but I am saying we need to work out how to engage people beyond standing on the corner of the street and saying what you’re doing is evil/of the devil/is wicked because your average Joe on the street just doesn’t get that I think.

  4. Lauri Moyle November 2, 2010 / 5:26 pm

    Happy Refromation day.

    What do you think of the Carnival Period that is often celebrated on the continent which includes the “ball season”.

    And how about the St Nicholas day on December 6th which sometimes includes a demon type character (very heary walking goat esscencially) as part of the narrative.

    What about getting dressed up? Some of the roots of Halloween is actually about dressing up so as to elude demons and trick them, something which is actually I would argue, quite Christian. Tricking the Devil that is.

  5. Anna November 2, 2010 / 5:56 pm

    Yes, let’s not forget about Reformation Day!

    I am no fan of Halloween, but I do think we need to be careful about singling it out as Christians and realise that we domesticate evil in lots of ways that are a lot more insidious than Halloween. You pointed out the rampant materialism behind the holiday – that is something that is much more of an everyday evil that just gets multiplied during holidays like Halloween. How do we “domesticate” that in ways we don’t realise? I feel like we sometimes pick on Halloween because it is an easy target, when in fact I think in the vast majority of cases it is pretty harmless compared to other things that are much more everyday.

    Having said that, I do think that having parties on Halloween for kids is a great idea and I was encouraged to discover all the different churches who did something this year. Helps to counteract the “killjoy” mentality quite a bit.

  6. thevicarswife November 4, 2010 / 1:41 pm

    Since this festival is all over us like a rash, I do think it’s best that Christians redeem it again, like we did with Yule!

    We had a great time on Sunday night. We carved a pumpkin with a cross, a Star of David & a dove. Then we had it in our window as the kids came trick or treating and talked about how God can put his light in us, once he’s dealt with the icky sin inside (like clearing out the pumpkin), and how he does that though the cross. See my blog for photos of Christian pumpkins and other Halloween discussions (I held a poll to get some ideas of alternatives).

  7. Lauri Moyle November 4, 2010 / 1:59 pm

    I like that imagery a lot Vicars Wife. The pics on your blog are encouraging.

  8. Tom Stanbury November 4, 2010 / 6:01 pm

    I blame the supermarkets.
    They have massively influenced our social habits over the last 20 years. And they are the biggest promoters of Halloween or frankly anything that will make them money.

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