Happy Halloween

As Halloween draws near, there are two things that are certain: that fundamentalists will go crazy over this pagan, Satanic holiday, and that sane Christians will attempt to refute fundy nonsense. This year has the added bonus of Halloween being on a Sunday, so I’m sure there’s extra craziness out there.

I really don’t have the time or inclination to check on these things, but experience tells me it’ll happen. I also don’t have the energy to write another post on why Halloween is fun, and fine, and worth handing out candy even if you are a fundamentalist. So, in lieu of an actual post, here’s a list of everything I’ve written on Halloween.

Enjoy Halloween this weekend by having fun, handing out good candy, and making friends with your neighbors.

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Halloween as a Ritual of Mockery

James Jordan has a great article on Halloween that I’ve linked to for a few years now. While I disagree with his premise that somehow 31 October has nothing to do with pre-Christian European pagan practices, the way in which he presents Halloween as an opportunity to mock Satan is fascinating.

What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.

I think this should be a part of how churches celebrate the day (if they choose to at all), instead of lame harvest parties. We should boldly stand up and mock the dark forces of the world, who vainly attempt to undo what Jesus Christ did so long ago. Frankly, most of us do not live in agricultural settings, so the idea that the harvest means anything to us is odd. But, we all live in a world that experiences constant conflict between the triumphant Light of the World, and the defeated, crushed forces of the serpent.

This would have the added benefit not only of making a great celebration, but also it would instruct the churches in real spiritual warfare. While I acknowledge the existence of demonic forces, and while I know it can certainly cause real harm in a believer’s life, the way evangelicalism is terrified of the enemy is quite absurd. Satan is done, finished, and we need no longer fear him. His head has been crushed and his arms chained; Jesus’ resurrection put an end to his reign of darkness. This can and should be celebrated.

On the Origins of Halloween

It would serve no purpose to pretend Halloween does not have at least some basis in pagan religious festivals. The ancient Scottish Gaelics did have a harvest/end of the year celebration that we as Christians would not be too keen to participate in. In this celebration there were, no doubt, a lot of themes of death and rebirth, of the end of the light world and beginning of the dark world and stories of the otherworld coming into contact with our own. It is doubtful there were human sacrifices, but some historians and anthropologists attempt to argue there were.

But that really doesn’t matter. Assigning evil to the modern pop culture celebration of Halloween because a long time ago there were pagan people who celebrated something similar around the same time makes no sense. In fact, it’s closer to the genetic fallacy than to any logical argument. Simply stated, just because the Gaelics celebrated Samhain does not mean when kids go trick-or-treating that they are worshiping the devil, or taking their eyes off of the glories of the cross of Christ.

Now, let me take the argument a bit further. While I would not equate Halloween (or even All Saints/Souls Day) with Christmas and Easter, it is true they all share common origins. The date we celebrate Christmas is closely related to multiple winter feasts of the ancient world. In fact, the word Yule, which is forever connected to Christmas, was originally a Germanic festival that may be connected to an even more ancient worship of Saturn in the Roman world.

Easter, as is well known, is connected not only to the Jewish celebration of Passover, but also to Anglo Saxon celebrations in honor of Eostre. In both of these cases, does the origin ruin the holiday? While the Puritans may have had problems with these holy days, and while there are modern fundamentalists who refuse to celebrate, most of the Christian world for the past 1200 years has celebrated Easter and Christmas at (roughly) the same time. The pagan origins do not denigrate what the celebration is actually all about.

And this brings me to my final point: that even though Halloween may be celebrated in a completely secular way, and even though it may owe some of its origins to pagan festivals, it owes at least as much or more to the Christian celebration of All Saints Day. The name Halloween, of course, comes from All Hallows Eve, the Western Christian holy day set apart to celebrate the victory of the Church in this world. On this day, which has connotations of darkness overcoming the light, we celebrate the triumph of light over darkness through Jesus Christ. This is no small matter.

Whether one celebrates this cultural holiday is up to the individual; I don’t mind either way. But if you choose not to celebrate, do it for reasons other than “pagan people a long time ago had something like this.”

What Kind of Person Are You?

This article purports to tell you what kind of person you are based on what candy you hand out on Halloween.  As far as I can tell, their analysis is spot on, although they had no entry for Peanut M&Ms and animal cookies.  My favorite is Bit-o-Honey:

 They have contradictory personalities, hoping to express generosity but also having the passive-aggressive desire to damage the fillings of trick-or-treaters.

I don’t think you need to say anything about greedy old misers who give kids pennies.  Those people get their reward in eggs and toilet paper.

A Halloween FAQ

Pumpkin Head Satan with a chainsaw

Since we’re upon the high holy day of Satanists around the world, I thought it would be good to provide you all with a Halloween FAQ.

Q. I heard that Halloween was a pagan holiday celebrated by the Druids, is that true?
A. While October 31st (edit: the evening of the 31st through the evening of 1 November) is known in Irish mythology as the day when the world of faerie is “closest” to our world, Halloween has its origins in the Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day.  There is no real correlation between the two.  In fact, some even claim the “Druids” never existed and were made up in the 20th century.

Q. Isn’t Halloween the same as Samhain, a satanist high holy day?
A. No, Samhain was a harvest festival marking the beginning of winter.  It has nothing to do with the devil.

Q. Isn’t Halloween the day when Satan and demons walk the earth in order to steal children’s souls?  Isn’t that why people used to dress up, in order to confuse them?
A. No, we dress up in order to mock the dark powers of this world.  James Jordan says:

“Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us, we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us. “

Q. Isn’t Halloween Satan’s birthday?
A. No, Lucifer was created before there was an October, therefore it would have been impossible for him to be born in that month.

Q.  Weren’t Jack-o-lanterns put in front of houses where a human (usually a virgin) was taken for sacrifice?
A. No, Jack Chick made that up.  Why would they have wasted a good pumpkin when they could have used for actual food.  (You do know that pumpkins are edible right?)

Q. Didn’t Martin Luther nail the 95 Thesis in Wittenburg on October 31st because the Roman Catholic Church had capitulated to Satan?
A. No.  In fact I had never heard that conspiracy theory until I read it in a comment thread on the TeamPyro blog.

Q. Doesn’t God hate Halloween?
A. Aside from what the Bible says about Him, I don’t know what God does or does not hate.  To say something like that without proof is kind of blasphemous.

Q. Isn’t Halloween, Harry Potter, and your blog contributing to the rise of paganism (or Wicca) in America.
A. No.  In fact, there seems to be no evidence that there is an increase at all.  Kids would flock to a real magical school, but Wiccans don’t have wands and can’t fly on brooms.

Q. Isn’t All Saint’s Day a celebration of Christ’s triumph over the powers of the devil, of the church triumphant?
A. Yes.  And that’s what we should be talking about instead of crazy fundamentalist conspiracy theories.

Obligatory Pre-Halloween Post

I was just watching a show on TBN (I know, I know) about spiritual warfare. It was implicitly about Halloween and how Christians who celebrate it are bringing Satan into their homes, much to their destruction. They had this one guy on who said before he was a Christian his kids read the Goosebumps books which almost ruined their family. He said that he would stay out late at night drinking because he couldn’t stand to go home and hear about the horrible stories his kids were reading. After he accepted Christ at work, the kids got rid of the evil books and he stopped drinking.

Without getting into the Halloween debate too much, I would like to say that blaming your problems on a book series is pretty bad. I know this guy was a new Christian and was obviously under some odd teaching, but come on, if you’re a drunk then it’s your fault and not some books. I think part of being a follower of Jesus means taking responsibility for what you were/are and not trying to pass the blame on something else. “The devil made me do it” might sound like a good argument when you’re five, but for an adult it sounds like bull crap.

As for Halloween, read this essay by James Jordan (ht: Travis, who had some good links last year). Whether or not a family has anything to do with this day (and I don’t care either way) it takes a lot of nerve to tell me that I’m actively inviting Satan into my home by letting my kids dress up and beg for candy. I just hope such a person holds other holidays to the same standard (Christ mass, Mr. Fundamentalist?).