Matters of Opinion: Hallowing Halloween
I'm not suggesting fir trees and Yule logs be banned from Christmas; I'm only demonstrating what has happened time and again in history. For our pagan ancestors, the holidays that marked the great seasonal changes were often fearful, terrible, and dark. But with the coming of Christ came a great light that reclaimed not only individuals but also the holidays they celebrated. In the case of Midvinterblot and Yule, the holidays that once marked the terrible price required to provide light instead began to express the joyous arrival of God's true light.
Laughing away our fears and foes
What would a reclaimed Halloween express? In our culture, Halloween traditionally has allowed us to look at what frightens us—to experience it, to laugh at it, and to come through it. So at the end of October, we are visited by cute Caspers, laughing pumpkin heads, and goofy ghouls.
Should the forces of evil be mocked? Should Satan be laughed at? He most certainly should be. At the beginning of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis includes two telling quotations, the first from Martin Luther: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."
The second comes from Thomas More: "The devil … the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked."
The one thing Satan cannot bear is to be a source of laughter. His pride is undermined by his own knowledge that his infernal rebellion against God is in reality an absurd farce. Hating laughter, he demands to be taken seriously. Indeed, I would say that those Christians who spend the night of October 31 filled with concern over what evils might be (and sometimes are) taking place are doing the very thing Lucifer wants them to do. By giving him this respect, such believers are giving his authority credence.
Not all believers should celebrate Halloween. For those who have been redeemed from the occult, Halloween in its foolishness may contain what was for them deadly seriousness. While their souls were in deadly peril, however, what they experienced were lies and illusions.
It is understandable that they look with horror upon what once enslaved them. Such sensitivity may be appropriate for them, but it is not appropriate for the majority of Christians. Holding their opinions as appropriate for most believers is like having a former bulimic dictate how Christians should regard church hot-plate socials.
Christians should instead celebrate Halloween with gusto. If we follow the traditional formula of having a good time at his expense, Satan flees.
In any event, I doubt the anti-Halloween party will prevail. This tactic was tried before—with Christmas. In the 17th century, because of its pagan ancestry and because it was a Roman Catholic holiday (Christ-mass!), many Protestants decided that true believers should not recognize Christmas. In 1620 our pilgrim forefathers purposely started unloading the Mayflower on Christmas Day to make the point to the crew that they were not going to observe such an evil day.
I'm glad those believers—however well-intended—failed. How bleak and desolate would a winter's December be without Christmas! We could have lost our chance to celebrate Christ's first coming and a chance to witness to the world, as I fear those pilgrims lost a chance to witness to those sailors.
If we give up All Hallows Eve, we lose the delight of God's gift of imagination and we condemn the rest of society to a darker Halloween because our laughter will not be there to make the devil run.
Anderson M. Rearick III is assistant professor of English at Mount Vernon Nazarene College in Ohio.
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