The Internet Monk Annual Halloween Rant

Originally published at the Steve Brown, Etc. Guest Room Blog. You also might enjoy “The Great Pumpkin Proposes a Toast,” from deep in the IM archives. Here’s a good post on “How to have a great Catholic Halloween.” No Protestants are harmed. It’s OK.

As October 31st looms, it’s time for true confessions.

I grew up among Southern Baptist fundamentalist Baptists. The KJV-only, women can’t wear pants, twenty verses of “Just As I Am,” Jerry Falwell, Jack Chick, twice a year revival kind of fundamentalist Baptists.

We were serious about things like beer. By sheer quantity of attention in sermons, drinking beer was the most evil act one could describe. We were serious about movies, cards, and something called “mixed bathing,” which normal people would call “swimming.”

We were serious about the Bible, Sunday School, suits and ties, and walking the aisle to get saved.

And we were big time into Halloween.

No, that’s not a typo. I said we were big time into Halloween.

From the late sixties into the early seventies, the churches I attended and worked for–all fundamentalist Baptists–were all over Halloween like ants on jam. It was a major social activity time in every youth group I was part of from elementary school through high school graduation in 1974.

We had haunted houses. Haunted hikes. Scary movies. (All the old Vincent Price duds.) As a youth minister in the mid to late seventies and early eighties, I created some haunted houses in church education buildings that would win stagecraft awards.

The kids loved it. The parents loved it. The pastors approved. The church paid for it!

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 Paretti novel.

Boo. I hope I scared you.
___________________

Michael Spencer, aka The Internet Monk (www.internetmonk.com), is a campus minister, communicator and inexplicably successful blogger living in Kentucky. When he was a kid, he would go trick or treating as a scarecrow, but now he wants to dress up like Steve Brown.

70 thoughts on “The Internet Monk Annual Halloween Rant

  1. Evangelicals are more than willing to use the world to make money and accumulate stuff, but beyond that it severs all relationships in horror of dangers of mixing with the wicked and unwashed. — Dumb Ox

    Thus sending the message of “We hate your guts, but we’ll take your money!”

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  2. Wow, how refreshing to hear that someone else shares your same feeling about a taboo subject within Christendom. As a younger Christian in the 70’s, I too looked upon Halloween as evil and of the devil. But I always remembered the years of fun I had as a kid and young teenager during Halloween. But I was pumped with all the input from other christians about Halloween so I also bought into it as most of us did. Now some 34 plus years later, I am so much more relaxed about this holiday. I think it falls within the whole Christian liberty issue that Romans 14 talks about. I actually don’t mind Halloween anymore. I think it’s funny and down right hysterical when I see the different displays in my neighborhood. I think all this has come with maturity and not making a mountain out of a mole hill. We Christians can be way too superstitious and read into things and not enjoy our culture.

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  3. What is sad about the whole debate is that we need festivals. The Old Testament had seven festivals that culminated in the fall festival of Zukkot. It was a powerful and joyous experiences. Many times we forget God wants joy in our lives. Your nostalgia for Halloween reminds me that God wants us to have joy.

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  4. Nathan,

    Originally, All Hallow’s Eve is to celebrate the Christians who died before us. Some of them died some pretty gruesome deaths, like being burned as torches at Caesar’s party.

    I think that we should celebrate their bravery in the face of certain death. (and hope that we never have to face that kind ourselves.)

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  5. Hi Erin 🙂 Have you been talking about me?!

    Halloween as celebrated by you is not Halloween as celebrated by others!

    In reality, I don’t even think you celebrate Halloween–you celebrate God’s triumph over the laws of sin and death, and I applaud you 🙂

    @Monk

    What is worldliness, and are we to flee it? Let us never ever celebrate death, darkness, or fear!

    Here is why this Christian doesn’t celebrate Halloween.

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  6. I have never shunned halloween cuz I thought it would pull my children into satanism but because I don’t know the people in my small town well enough to take my children house to house. I have in the past taken them to the mall or other community get togethers in place of the house to house T0rT’ing. I remember as child trick or treating but I have come to relize there are sick people out there who think nothing of harming children on just such an occasion.

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  7. I love iMonk’s annual Halloween rants!

    I hear what atruefaith.com is saying about the way it’s celebrated today in our culture. And I say “AMEN!!” to Bob Sacremento when he says “See, this is what happens to a thing when all the Christians pull out.” As Nathan Briscoe wrote on his blog [http://nathanbriscoe.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/i-hate-halloween/], Halloween is a celebration of darkness, death, and fear. Darkness, death and fear are realities in this world and, yes, the world does seem to celebrate them in unChristian ways. But, a more appropriate response than turning the lights off and hiding in our living rooms is to ask ourselves, “What does Scripture teach us about death and evil?”, “What does Christ’s Kingdom have to offer to the world in relation to death and evil?”, and, “Is this something to celebrate?” I say, “Yes it is!” As a follower of Christ who believes in the realities of sin, evil, and satan, I choose to celebrate Halloween as an opportunity to teach important scriptural truths to my children (and remind myself, as well). To avoid it makes kids think we’re afraid of something, when the truth is that that “something” is afraid of us!

    All Hallows’ Eve: On this day we celebrate the fact that Christ is the Light that overcomes the darkness of sin, death and evil. We observe the reality of the enemies, sin and death, and look to the promise of our resurrection and new life in Christ. We also observe the reality of evil and rejoice that God is more powerful and has already overcome it. ~ “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” ~ I Corinthians 15:55

    All Hallows’ (Saints’) Day: On this day we observe that God’s people are to reflect the Light of Christ in our lives. We celebrate and honor the lives and works of our spiritual forbearers–church fathers, martyrs and saints, known and unknown, living and dead–and recognize that only by the grace of God we too might have the faith to live holy lives as Christ commands. ~ “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.” ~Heb. 13:7~

    All Souls’ Day: On this day we observe that, God’s people are called to be lampstands, sharing the Light of Christ in both word and deed with those in the world who are still walking in darkness. We remember all souls living by proclaiming the Kingdom of God and working to bring peace into our world, to establish justice among us, to lift the burdens of those who are oppressed, to care for the sick, and to assist the poor. ~ “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:16 ~

    It is a wonderful opportunity of witness if we can craft our decorations to emphasize these truths, as well. I have done this and my daughter loves it. Who would have thought reapers and bible verses could go together?! Also, from a spiritual perspective, I created liturgies for our family to use to worship together on each of the three days, discussing the themes mentioned above. We listen to Christian “Halloween” music (Selah’s “Ain’t No Grave” and “All My Sins (Be Washed Away)” are my newest favorites, but I have a huge list), and we read about the saints. So, I have no qualm with Believers who choose not to celebrate, and understand and respect their reasons for not doing so. But, it is not the only appropriate Christian response.

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  8. One of the biggest reasons I dont like Halloween is what others are doing that night. We used to live in San Diego and would hear about all the street kids in TJ that were missing the next day and the deaths reported that night. We lived next to a lady and her teen who was, she said, involved in a coven for many years. The teen said every year at Halloween, she felt the coven “calling her back”. She had regressed and had the mind of a 5 year old. That Halloween morning, my husband and I woke up to what sounded like an animal in the neighboring condo (the lady and her teens), it was the girl – going berserk, tearing the sink off the wall, saying they were calling again….

    I just couldn’t see having a fun time when its life and death for others, you know.

    That said, we do try to make it fun for our kids anyway, lots of candy, a movie, or a harvest festival with friends.

    Last year I tried something different, I invited 2 other Christian families to go to a corn maze. They are now no longer my friends, I guess I was a heathen to have even had that crazy idea…

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  9. I was a child “trick or treating” in the late 60s. I hated it. I loved the candy but I hated costumes. My mom would tell my brother to take off his mask in the car because it would always freak me out.

    As the parent of three children (all are now adults), I did not allow them to participate in the festivities of the neighborhood. They now tell me they did “not” feel left out. They do not think they have missed anything.

    One of my co-workers is Wiccan. Halloween is her favorite holiday. She really likes that Celtic music. IM, do you think my co-worker has been caught up in all the hoopla of the Celtic history of the holiday? That is to say, are the Wiccans just as wrapped up in the false demonization of Halloween?

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  10. I loved Halloween as a kid. My mom’s only rule was that we couldn’t dress as either witches or devils.

    And my Catholic parish encourages kids to wear their costumes to All Saints’ Eve mass before they go out knocking on doors. That oughta stir up the folks who go looking for the devil wherever they can find him.

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  11. This has never really been a hill for me to die on one way or the other. I too have some rather fond memories of the good old days. Ultimately, though, I have always tried to respect the convictions of others on this issue.

    On the other hand I am convicted about the pious nose-in-the-air attitude that is often perceived of Christians by the nonbelieving community when it comes to cultural issues such as this. It just seems to me that there ought to be some area of middle ground here in which believers can engage the culture without compromising their convictions. It’s one thing to curse the darkness. It’s quite another to turn on the Light.

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  12. Warnke finds evil in things other than Halloween. Some years ago he spoke at a Baptist church my son attended. Warnke spent most of his message damning the Democrats to hell. Afterwards, my son took his turn moving past Warnke at the door and said to him, “You don’t want to shake my hand since I’m one of those hell-bound democrats you spoke about.” Nothing was ever spoken by the pastor as to the right or wrong of Warnke’s presentation. A lesson to be learned is that when mostly judgement and fear spews from the mouth of a so-called evangelical……whether about Halloween or any other subject, one should let the words float away and just melt into the universe.

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  13. It may be no surprise that positive-thinking guru’s have become so popular at a time when the overall evangelical outlook upon the world has become so dark, cynical, and pessimistic. It could be that deep down inside no one can be so negative all the time. I think people are screaming on the inside for someone to save them from themselves. — Dumb Ox

    That explains Obama and Messiah Politics…

    You can walk in total darkness and pessimism only so long before you go crazy, nihilistic, suicidal, or all three. Before that, self-preservation usually kicks in and you grab for a Savior. Any Savior. Just to make the Darkness stop.

    Have the kids dress up like Bible characters. Have them learn about the person who they are dressing up as. — Sue Kephart

    Now that’s getting into Christian Bizarro World country. That’s the same mentality that gave us “Harvest Festivals” — “Just like Halloween, except CHRISTIAN (TM)!”

    And like Bizarro World from DC Comics, it usually results in an imperfect, inferior copy of the original. To the point that “Christian = Shoddy and Lame”. See the last paragraph of Dumb Ox’s comment above.

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  14. Have the kids dress up like Bible characters. Have them learn about the person who they are dressing up as.

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  15. My small, central urban neighborhood is populated by parents who, like me, were tired of wishing Halloween were like it used to be, and we re-made it the way it was. Halloween here is now a big multi-block neighborhood party, where parents and over-12 siblings escort small children around for candy. By virtue of peer pressure, yard decorations are creative but non-scary, and older kids dare not get too rambunctious, because we know where they live. We all communicate, in person and via e-mail and newsletter, so we’re all on the same page on this.

    Stop whining about Halloween not being like it used to be (I don’t mean you, Michael); start talking to your neighbors, and take it *back*.

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  16. I grew up with trick-or-treating. When my kids were young (up to just a couple years ago), I took them trick-or-treating. There were no razors in apples. No LSD. What we did found was a unique opportunity to knock on some neighbors’ doors and have them gladly opened, because of the kids. Our older neighbors seemed particularly appreciative.

    It may be no surprise that positive-thinking guru’s have become so popular at a time when the overall evangelical outlook upon the world has become so dark, cynical, and pessimistic. It could be that deep down inside no one can be so negative all the time. I think people are screaming on the inside for someone to save them from themselves.

    Evangelicals are more than willing to use the world to make money and accumulate stuff, but beyond that it severs all relationships in horror of dangers of mixing with the wicked and unwashed. It’s no wonder we herd our children into church harvest festivals to protect them from our neighbors. We are teaching them at an early age that the church is a gnostic, other-worldly place, totally detached from real life. The result are children who dump church when they grow up and find their way into that real life. A view of the world which avoids relationships within it is completely antithetical to a gospel which proclaims that the Son of God left heaven to seek and save the lost.

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  17. My son is going to be a dinosaur this year. So I’m just curious, would a New Earth culture warrior type be more concerned about us for allowing him to celebrate Halloween, or for his costume itself? — kcillini77

    Both. Your dino-kid is what’s called a “twofer”.

    Two! Two! Two stonings in one!

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  18. A couple of things: First, Michael is right. Halloween was great fun, and nothing but, until some time in the ’70s or ’80s. This last, final, great American neighborhood tradition was ruined by a weird and unwitting conspiracy of Pagans, American sales executives, professional fear mongers, yuppies (who thought it would make a great holiday for “adult” costume parties), and evangelicals and fundamentalists. We evangelicals weren’t the only ones to blame, but we were the ones who should have known better.

    Second, everything you know about its origins is bunk. No one has more than the foggiest idea of how it relates to other ancient festivals. Please take a look at http://www.new-life.net/halowen1.htm and http://www.featherlessbiped.com/halloween/hallows.htm

    Third, most of the horror stories associated with it are isolated incidents happening in one place and time, but getting national attention through our overly-efficient and undiscerning national news media.

    And fourth, all that being said, Halloween has indeed become something I am not comfortable having my kids take part in. Between the yuppie “adult” Halloween costumes for sale and the horrid decorations you can now find at Target and the slasher movies that regularly come out this time of year, it’s just not the Halloween I grew up with. At this point, my fundamentalist brethren might want to tell me, “See, we told you that’s what it was all along.” But it’s just as easy (and, I say, more accurate) to say, “See, this is what happens to a thing when all the Christians pull out.”

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  19. Growing up, my Christian school/church had a harvest festival every year. We dressed up in costumes that didn’t include ghosts, witches, etc., and played games for candy.

    Then once we had our own house, my husband and I left a bowl of candy out for the kids who came by, and then went to the neighbors’ & sat, talked, and had a wonderful time meeting people from the whole neighborhood as they brought their kids by.

    The harvest festival wasn’t a bad time, but now that we have kids of our own there’s no way we’re missing out on the neighborhood fun!

    (ah yes, the urban myths–total hoaxes…but we do check the candy, just to make sure :))

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  20. NOTE: Those of you who want to say “the innocent holiday is long gone, can consider your point made. I’m turning moderation back on and I’m not posting that redundant point without some other relevant discussion.

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  21. Alex:

    >Does no one remember the spate of razorblades in apples, and Mom & Dad having to scrutinize every candy piece for tampering because some wicked sole was injecting substances into snickers bars?

    Alex, that was an urban myth, spread primarily by Christians. It never happened.

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  22. Does no one remember the spate of razorblades in apples, and Mom & Dad having to scrutinize every candy piece for tampering because some wicked sole was injecting substances into snickers bars? I lived in a college town during my childhood in the 80’s and college students would threaten to TP our home if we didn’t give them candy. The innocent holiday you remember is long gone.

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  23. That sort of thing was never mentioned, probably because fundamentalists of our sort never assumed that gothic literature was some kind of Satanic alternative to/attack upon Christianity. Which it generally wasn’t and only is today because of the evangelical reaction.

    You have to remember that Protestants thought Catholics were superstitious in those days, and that meant you didn’t get hung up on a lot of that kind of thing.

    Those of you turning the lights out: Why aren’t you having the biggest candy giveaway on the block? Jesus did that with the water/wine miracle. Right?

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  24. Imonk, in the “old” days was there this phobia of demons everywhere? I admit that phony, Michael Warnke, had me going. My memories included bobbing for apples and “It’s The Great Pumpkin,Charlie Brown” when first aired.

    Some blame has to go to society who now has never heard of Vincent Price.

    How did the Baptist church of yesteryear react to the old TV series “Dark Shadows”?

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  25. Well, since I was an MK and grew up overseas, we didn’t really have Halloween most years, except in a very small but enjoyable mini sub-culture context. But when we were on furlough in the US I sure enjoyed it in a big way and am with Michael on this one. Some Christians just get way too wound up over stuff that really doesn’t matter.

    Our kids have always participated and loved it (though they’re a bit big now at 15 and 16, so are on the giving end more than the receiving). And fortunately we still get a lot of trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood.

    I wonder if the commenters who decry the pop culture extremes of the holiday have considered the consequences of withdrawing themselves from the larger culture and its celebration entirely. Better to be in the world and participating, but not of it by going to extremes, I think. Salt and light and all that.

    Time to go shopping for gobs of candy — the good stuff cuz God loves a cheerful giver.

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  26. Many of us continue to lament how our faith should be making a real, visible difference in how we live. Monk’s previous posting on “Arrested by the Word” included:

    “Many of them believe that if the Word does speak, and if it does have power- if we really do have God’s truth, then its claim on us should be utterly life-shaping and thoroughly life-shaking”.

    But I wonder if we really know what kind of shaping the Word should be doing in our lives. Earnest evangelicals trying to live differently seem to end up attacking things like Halloween, rainbows, owls, and Tele-Tubbies in an effort to weed out evil and live holy in an unholy world. This is our modern version of Phariseeism – defining Godliness in terms of rigid boundaries around externals that separate us socially, without addressing things like loving your neighbor and like dumb ox pointed out “neglecting “justice, mercy and faithfulness””.

    Even though I’m now conviced we reacted for the wrong reasons and made fools of ourselves once again, I cannot go back to where I was as a kid in the 70’s. Like many above, the sheer ugliness, horror, and evil that is integral to Halloween today keep me away. So once again I’ll turn off the lights in the house around dark on October 31st and wait for morning.

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  27. Great post! I grew up in the Southern Baptist church and was a youth pastor for 6 years. I laughed all the way through this post. Nothing like a provocative blog to stir Christians out of their legalism and ridiculous fear mongering.

    Peace,
    David D. Flowers
    free-lance writer & blogger
    The Woodlands, TX

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  28. I tend to go with Michael on this one. Some of my best childhood memories are of Halloween. BTW the razor blades and LSD are urban legends; as of maybe 10 years ago there were no documented cases of it actually happening. Except one. Let me tell the story:

    About 1969 or so, one Halloween night as we were emptying our pillowcases full of processed sugar onto the dining room table, my brother comes running in and exclaims, “Mom! I just bit into an apple, and look what happened!” Whereupon he proceeds to display a sewing pin lodged between his upper front teeth. Mom, of course, is on the phone to the police in two shakes of a dead lamb’s tail (remember, it’s Halloween?). Shortly, Boulder’s Finest are in the living room interviewing my brother.

    “Where’d the apple come from, son?”

    “Uh, I traded it from my sister, and she got it somewhere over near Endicott or Julliard street, not sure”.

    “You positive? Well, if you figure it out, call us with the information.”

    “Yes sir, Officer.”

    So the event entered into family lore as the time that my brother got the pin in the apple.

    Fast forward about thirty years. I was trying to challenge the aforementioned assertion about there being no documented sabotage cases, and called my brother for the details. The response was not what I expected. Turns out, the whole thing was a prank he played on my mom. Unfortunately, when she overreacted and called the cops, he was in a pickle, and had little choice but to ride out the bluff. To this day he has never confessed to Mom what he did, and has threatened me with banishment to the nether regions if I ever reveal the secret! Or death. Not sure which.

    Meanwhile, poor Mom continues to tell the story to all her credulous peers, thereby perpetuating the myth that Halloween is dangerous…

    Oh, and in 1981 we were in the Taco Bell in Boulder, and three guys come into the restaurant dressed as a huge taco. I cast the demons out of them.

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  29. I’ve always suspected Jack Chick of being a Satanic plant sent to confuse the well-meaning but stupid, and to make all the rest look crazy by association.

    What Saw has to do with Halloween is that it ALWAYS comes out on or about Halloween. Pop culture associates that kind of horror with Halloween. One of the cable channels (Sci-Fi maybe) is running 31-days of Halloween Horror, and it’s almost all psycho killer movies.

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  30. I’m in the middle on this one. I grew up in Detroit and on the night before Hallowe’en “Devils Night” vandalism was common and in some years abandoned houses were burned all over the city. It was an excuse for the worst behavior. I’ve seen college Hallowe’en parties with the most bizarre costumes and heavy drug use excused and even endorsed as part of the day. There are actual Satanists and neo-pagans, although many are acting out of a rebellion rather than out of belief in the supernatural. Further when my eldest son was 4 years old he was terrified of going into Kroger’s because of the excessive ugliness of the ghouls they were selling (way too early) as decorations. There’s a measure of excess in the faux “holiday” that is truly unwelcome.

    That said there is an innocent playful quality of dressing up My eldest (now 5) loves his iron man costume. We’ll be touring the neighborhood next Friday and he will be wearing his costume in the schools (that is the Catholic School) annual Hallowe’en parade. There is a place for a light treatment of the day.

    So I’d suggest there’s an analogy to drinking alcohol in this example. Just like a drink or two with dinner or friends is perfectly fine as long as you don’t drive or go over board, an innocent child’s dress up party is also a fine way of acknowledging the traditions of the day, as long as it doesn’t become an excuse to take drugs or vandalize a house. The Baptist response in both these cases is an absolutist rejection rather than an endorsement of moderation.

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  31. Wells said, willoh. I too am of an age to remember the innocent fun of dressing up like a witch and only thinking it was fun and spooky.

    But the fact is, those day are long gone and not likley to return. So I particpate in church Fall Festivals and focus on the fun! I refuse to allow my joy to be stolen by either side of the argument.

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  32. Many of you would be happy with a time machine, but you can’t go back. A truefaith.com has it. The sixties were fun monk, but there is a whole list of things degraded by society and social force since them. I remember the home made costumes and fun times, but I remember churches with no locks on the door, schools without metal detectors, and cars I could fix myself. Where I am Halloween is an excuse for girls to dress slutty [way bad, I’m not that prudish] and guys to act out gross horror movies like “Texas chain saw”, sorry, they lost me. It ain’t what it used to be. Now it really does lift up a lot of things I would like to put down.

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  33. Steve Scott…that’s hilarious. I wish I had thought of that in college. Probably now though, I’d be wrestled to the floor because I was selling beer without a license. But if it were O’Douls…hmmm…I could probably get away with it even now!

    Would a 40-something year old male selling O’Douls door-to-door with his kids invite a visit from the law? I still have a week to ponder….

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  34. “We were serious about things like beer.”

    My best Halloween costume ever was as a baseball game beer vendor. I came to a Halloween party with a metal box strapped to my back with a case of Bud, plastic cups, a bottle opener, and yelled, “cold beer!”, sold them at ballpark prices, everybody loved it, and I made a lot of money. This year my kids are going to be 1) nothing, 2) a penguin and 3) Superman.

    Yeah, we’re Satan worshippers, fer shure.

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  35. Regarding the idea that something that happened once is now a news story everywhere – I have noticed this trend too. Every car chase, natural disaster, or crime that would at one time have been strictly considered local news is now “BREAKING NEWS” on all the cable news channels. This is why I sometime question that things are worse now than they used to be – is that really the case, or is it just that we can get the same bad news shoved in our faces multiple times a day via the internet, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines? Since OJ Simpson, and especially since 9-11, it has increased tenfold.

    When I was growing up in the 80s the whole scare about Halloween candy being tainted or poisoned became big. (This was another reason that was given me why I could not trick-or-treat. Never mind that we knew nearly all our neighbors.)Somehow now every neighborhood in America believed there was a serial killer in their midst waiting to harm little Johnny. Where were all those killers in prior years?

    Destroying community life. So true.

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  36. Michael,

    I hear you, and if we were transported back 30 years to those days I was running around the neighborhood in a Darth Vader get-up, I might be able to go along with your rant. But times have changed, or maybe it’s just my geography. In 1978 a Casper the Ghost cardboard cut out in the window and three or four jack-o-lanterns on the front porch were all that greeted you. But now, at least in my subdivision in S.W. WA, we’ve got whole grave yards filled with angry, violent imagery that greet the kids. Each year we ratchet another rung up with “decorations” that become more base, more crude and more vividly representative of what corpse really do look like. Dead bodies strewn about yards, grave stones, 8 ft. demons hanging from roof-lines that look like the last shot of a villain in an Indiana Jones’ movie. Yeah, we both got the same tracks 20 years ago telling us the evils of Halloween, but it simply isn’t the same – and the last thing my kid needs is more night terrors and further desensitization to all things relating to death. It just isn’t Vincent Price, it isn’t even Freddie Krugger. And though I’ve only seen the previews, it seems much more like Saw 5 than anything else.

    Brad

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  37. We had those same rumors in the 60’s. The proliferation of negative information through negative media has ruined all kinds of things. Suddenly anything that happened once is a news story everywhere. It’s been part of the ruination of community life.

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  38. Yeah we had fun on Halloween and it didn’t hurt my family one bit. My Ma once rubbed the burnt end of a cork on our faces to create moustaches and beards,
    added a man’s hat, jacket and tie from Goodwill, and we looked like the local drunk – or Red Skelton !

    Indeed Evangelicals are playing right into the snare with their hysteria.

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  39. Asking for goodies and showing off your sweet little costumes may have been de rigeur in a more innocent time, was fine in an area where 90% of the residents looked, thought, and acted just like you and your family (Southern, Baptist, etc.). Today it seems like a nostalgic and even irrational longing the good old days that, for many of us, never were.

    By the time my children were the right age for trick or treating (the 70;s), there were annual scares about razors in apples and needles in the candy and LSD in the lollipops. Gives one a slightly different perspective on things.

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  40. Oh, the exquisite horror of walking barefooted (blindfolded, of course) down a flight of stairs covered with the cold, slippery guts of a dozen pumpkins, then shaking hands with a playtex glove filled with ice water, eating skinned grape “eyeballs” and finally walking the long plank raised about 6″ off the floor til we fell off at the end. All of this was concocted by the 7th & 8th graders in our one-room country school in the mid-50’s. Iced pumpkin cookies and blood-red unsugared Kool-Aid for all the scared little kids before we went back home. It was just scary, not demonic.

    I fell for Mike Warnke in the 70’s, and my own kids handed out tracts and sugar dressed as nursery rhyme characters. Then we ate all the left-over candy. Somehow, I think the 50’s were healthier.

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  41. IMONK: I’m with you. We always had such great fun on Halloween night…in the 50s and 60s.

    Another sad aspect of the current view of Halloween is that we teachers were instructed…years ago…to celebrate Halloween as “harvest time” rather than bulletin boards of black cats, witches, bats, and so forth. Blah!

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  42. Amen. I don’t know which is worse: liberals claiming that the devil doesn’t exist or folks like Warnke/Chick/Larson/Peter’s Brothers portraying caricatures of him jumping out of pumpkins, pope mobiles, and Led Zeppelin lyrics. It fits with the earlier IM post concerning the fall of Babylon in Revelation; these conspiratorial views of the devil only aid in his end-game. When we think we are experts on the dark arts of the occult (is that what Jesus meant by being wise as serpents?), we become oblivious to the lures of “flesh, devil, and the world” (Luther); the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life” (I John 2:16); neglecting “justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).

    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” – Matthew 23:15

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  43. No discussion of Halloween would be complete without me saying that Halloween really creeps me out and I can’t wait until November because I *dislike* costumes. Eep.

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  44. Coming from a different part of Kentucky, but still about the same time frame, and Southern Baptist, I share memories with Michael.

    I remember dressing up, going to neighbors, all along the street. I was limited, because it wasn’t considered polite to go too far out of your neighborhood.

    I even remember my last trick or treat night. I didn’t dress up, being 13 I believe. I was going out for Unicef, and many of the people were nice enough to give both money and candy.

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  45. Bob,

    People can and do find ways to ruin any good thing, especially things that are supposed to be about simple fun. The destruction by unruly teens shouldn’t be classified as what’s wrong with Halloween itself. It goes on the long list, compiled of things mentioned by iMonk and commentors, that people have done to destroy it.

    I am only 21, and I wish I could remember a time when my mother didn’t have hesitations about letting me dress up as a princess and go door to door requesting good ol’ tooth-rotting deliciousness. She felt pressured by my grandma to let me trick-or-treat, but I know she still had the sneaking suspicion that my participation would bring about demon possession (or at least cavities.) I feel nostalgic for a Halloween like iMonk had growing up. Maybe things could be better if people could let innocent things be innocent.

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  46. My son is going to be a dinosaur this year. So I’m just curious, would a New Earth culture warrior type be more concerned about us for allowing him to celebrate Halloween, or for his costume itself?

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  47. It is odd to find myself disagreeing with the Internet Monk, but come on, Michael. “Halloween is a simple American neighborhood holiday”??? No way. However you viewed it as a kid in rural Kentucky, Halloween has *never* been a simple American neighborhood holiday. It has always been, except for the smallest of children, an opportunity for teen-aged rowdyism and destruction by local hooligans or hooligan-wannabe’s (turned over outhouses, anyone? rolls of toilet paper in the trees?) and not just about dressing up in costumes and getting candy from the neighbors. Today, unfortunately, it has become all about selling the candy to the sheeple.

    Full disclosure: My mother was a non-practicing Jew (Conservative), my father was a lapsed Methodist, I’m a Jewish-Metho-Bapti-charis-costal who was a member of a Southern Baptist Church as an adult for two whole years. My credentials pale in comparison to yours, but was a part of your beloved SBC. I’m not meaning to sound snarky; I just don’t think you have to be SBC to have a valid opinion. I’ve also been GARBC Regular Baptist (super-fundamenalistic-expialidocious) and Conservative Baptist on my journey. But I’ve been in one local church past 30 years. Bloom where you’re planted, that’s the ticket. But I digress.

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  48. I don’t care much about the history of the holiday, it is a hot mess now. People put blow up decorations of Satan in their yard and decorate with bloody implements of torture and execution. wheee. It would be hard to clean this up to go back to the days of Imonk’s childhood. Those Vincent Price movies that scared little monksters back in the day are not the fare offered these days. Ever hear about “Saw”? Years ago I was at a church that tried a Christian Halloween. Nice costumes only. Most people came as the witch of Endor, some as Daniel in Roman toga [oh well]. Spiritual convictions aside, I don’t like Halloween, never did, but I’ll tell you Monk, there was a time I was real serious about beer.

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  49. I LOVE Halloween. It’s my second-favorite holiday, has been since I was a wee child and my mother made costumes and dressed me up and took me to the volunteer fire station’s annual spook house and Halloween party every year before going trick-or-treating. Now my mother gives me a sermon and prays for me every year when I put out Halloween decorations. Sigh.

    Also, my favorite King of the Hill episode is about this very subject.

    On a related note, the other day on Christian radio they were talking about puzzle cards that churches are distributing that start with (paraphrasing, but close) “Forget candy! Nothing is as sweet as God’s love.” and end with contact info for 1-800-NEED-HIM. Why not just hand out cards that say “Please toilet paper my house!”?

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  50. When I was growing up, we did some awesome haunted houses, both in the basement of our home AND at our SBC church. We had a lot of fun with it, and it was totally harmless. Shucks, we would even take the whole youth group to the local hip haunted houses of that time…outer limits and inner sanctum. What a blast!

    ps. I hope no one who knows me now reads this…they very well might try the exorcism thing on my whole family. I admit right here and now that I miss the old days when we had genuine fun with the 31st without fear of being accused of conjuring up demonic forces.

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  51. In Santa Cruz, Ca. it is a huge holiday… for rowdy college students who like to dress up and act inappropriately. The neo-Pagans also like to hold their main events that day. Both groups have paganized the holiday.

    The ironic bit is that Halloween was, originally, the Christianization of pagan harvest festivals. Nowadays, what you hear from Christians is, “We’re Christians. We don’t celebrate Halloween. But our church is holding a harvest festival, if your kids want to dress up and eat candy…” It’s obnoxious how few Christians know the Church’s history.

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  52. Whatever Halloween used to be, or started as, today it is the realm of children’s holiday. Disney Channel might as well claim it as their own. Halloween is still more about selling candy than anything else. All of our holidays in America have been taken over by commercialism, but this day in particular is about commercialism aimed at age 12 and under. It’s kids stuff, and I agree with Michael, should still be innocent, clean fun. I once listened to a fellow co-worker in full time ministry explain why reading Harry Potter was not the same as reading Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings may have had wizards and magic, but Harry Potter actually teaches kids how to perform spells. I normally respect this brother’s opinion, but perhaps his perception is skewed by having read Rings when he was a child, and not seeing Potter as the same thing; fiction meant for children. In the words of Charlie Brown, “Good grief.”

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  53. We have to continue to insist that Halloween is a simple American neighborhood holiday. The “spiritual” takeover is the problem. When the evangelical experts began to spin an entire mythology about this they made it impossible for many parents to consider this apart from what it meant to be a “good” parent. We need to reclaim it as what it is. It may be dozens of things to various groups, but ordinary people have to say its about fun with and for kids. Neighborhood. Hospitality. Etc.

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  54. I find this very interesting, since Hallowe’en was in origin a festival brought to America by Irish (and to a lesser extent Scottish) immigrants, and the irony is that now the Americanized version has made it back over the Atlantic and is now becoming a big deal.

    I really don’t know what to say about the “Satanic” elements. I rather think (and this is only my own impression) that the Wiccans, neo-pagans, et al have adopted Hallowe’en as a ‘pre-Christian festival’ of their own due to the fuss about it stirred up by the kinds of things you instance; traditionally, Walpurgisnacht (the Eve of St. Walburga, April 30th) was the big night for covens, witches, and devilry in folklore, not Hallowe’en. Then again, I consider a *lot* of things in modern Wicca, neopaganism, druidism, etc. to be made up out of whole cloth.

    There certainly were elements in the traditional celebration of Hallowe’en as I knew it that were pre-Christian survivals hanging on in changed forms; I suppose the major example of this (apart from the divinatory games) was the expectation that the dead would return to visit their old homes.

    I think mine is the last generation that ever knew that pishogue; my grandmother certainly believed it, my mother not so much, and nowadays it’s not even widely known, if at all. But yes, it was the custom (dying out when I was a child back in the 1970s) amongst the country people to leave bread and water out on the jkitchen table, and the fire made up, for the dead souls of the family who would come back when the living were asleep.

    Probably not the kind of thing good Southern Baptists would encourage? 😉

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