December 18, 2017

Another Look: Writers Roundtable on Halloween

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Note from CM: In 2010, Jeff Dunn solicited responses from our IM writers on the subject of Halloween. We had a great discussion, and I thought it worthy of repeating this week.

• • •

Boo!

Ok, so that didn’t scare you. Maybe this will. I have five of the six iMonk writers sitting around a table right now, and they all look very scary. And Adam hasn’t even put on his mask yet.

We wanted to have some fun with this roundtable, but also touch on some serious issues. If you are new round these parts, or have forgotten who is who, allow me to introduce to you the greatest group of blog writers on the entire internet. Starting on my right, there is our editorial director, Chaplain Mike. Then there is Lisa Dye, Mike Bell, Damaris Zehner, and Adam Palmer. We excused Joe Spann as he and the Mrs. have a newborn baby that seems to be more important to him than participating in our roundtable.

Snacks today include one of my favorites this time of year: A bowl with salted peanuts and candy corn mixed together. Grab a handful, pop it in your mouth, and you’ll swear you’re eating a PayDay candy bar. We also have some apples, some popcorn, and what’s this? Mulled cider? Now we’re talking!

creepy_halloween_costumes_006_10282013Jeff Dunn: So let me start this off by asking if you think Halloween might be the most Christian of all holidays. Or is it totally evil and to be avoided by followers of Jesus? Lisa?

Lisa Dye: I’ve never viewed Halloween as a Christian holiday. As a kid, I just enjoyed it. I looked forward to it for a variety of reasons – getting more candy than I was allowed to have any other time of year, the opportunity to dress up, the fun of meeting neighbors or going door-to-door with a group of friends and the fact that fall, with its crisp air and beautiful foliage, is my favorite time of year.

It wasn’t until I became a Christian that I began to view Halloween with the seemingly required suspicion, bordering on revulsion, that most churches advocated. So, I reigned in my overt enthusiasm, kept my children’s costumes decidedly unghoulish and visited only immediate neighbors and family for the candy haul. Later on, I read bits and pieces about the history of Halloween and realized that some aspects of it is rooted in Christian tradition. By no means have I made an in-depth study, but generally I think Halloween, as we see it today, is a conglomeration of customs from around the world combining pagan and Christian traditions.

Chaplain Mike: James Jordan’s article on Halloween helped me understand the Christian history and background of the holiday. If we would emphasize these traditions of mocking the devil by dressing up and celebrating his defeat through joy and laughter, it could go a long way toward helping today’s believers grasp a purpose for celebrating it.

But to me, the big change in the U.S. with regard to Christians and Halloween has been the creation of the evangelical subculture in the last forty years. This has paralleled the development of suburban culture, the loss of neighborhoods and communities, and the radical division of America through the culture wars. Churches have been transformed into the spiritual equivalent of walled communities –activity centers where Christians engage in a full program of “ministries” just for them. This keeps them separated from the world that they see as harmful to the life of faith.

LD: If Christians want a stake in the holiday and to be a force for change in how Halloween is viewed and celebrated, we should avoid perpetuating the negative campaign of the last few decades. Whatever is true and good and beautiful will attract and not repel. That we as Christ followers have authority over Satan and his domain is true and good. That the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church and that saints have inherited victory in union with Jesus Christ is something to celebrate.

Mike Bell: I have never really viewed Halloween as a Christian holiday, despite the evidence to the contrary. Growing up we lived in a rural neighbourhood of 100 houses. Halloween was understood to be a fun time to dress up, get candy, and visit with neighbours. We always stayed away from the really scary stuff, and we have encouraged our children in the same way. Incidentally, now living in a city, Halloween is one of the few times we get to interact with our neighbours. Have we abdicated it to the world and should we fight to take it back? Abdication I think is a good word, as I don’t think it is/was a Christian holiday worth fighting for. I am disappointed with how it has been changing from being associated with fun to being associated with evil.

CM: When I grew up in small Midwest America, people were much more integrated into a community. We knew our neighbors and participated with them in a common culture that included holidays like Halloween. In fact, I live in a town that still values community. Our neighborhood has the most robust Halloween and trick-or-treat traditions I have ever seen. We have so many children and families come by that the police direct traffic.

I could go to church on Halloween and miss that; turn my lights out, get in my car and drive to some church, to participate in activities at a family-friendly Christian activity center. But why would I want to do that, when I can light the pumpkins, sit out on the porch, meet and greet my neighbors, smile at their kids’ creative costumes, hand out candy, and enjoy an evening when so many people are out on the sidewalks having fun and feeling part of the community?

JD: Adam?

Adam Palmer: The only holidays I see as explicitly Christian are Easter and Christmas, and that probably has to do with my non-denominational, evangelical background. I didn’t grow up in any sort of organized denomination, so while I understand that All Souls Day and All Saints Day exist, they are not a point of emphasis for me. To my Bible-belted mind, those are “church” holidays, not “Christian” holidays.

If we’re going to defend Halloween in modern times by trotting out its origin(s), do we then have to nix Christmas because it has the musty smell of pagan ritual in its origin story? That would make the most logical sense, but I don’t think we should do it. It comes down to culture. Our North American culture has decided what Halloween is now. I can have my kids go along with the fun stuff (dressing up! candy! dressing up as candy!) and use the other stuff (scary monsters! blood and guts! haunted houses!) as a means of teaching them about our history and our faith.

Damaris Zehner: I don’t see it as a Christian holiday. If we’re going to redeem lost Christian holidays, I’d vote for All Saints Day anyway. Vaughn Williams’ hymn “For All the Saints” is one of the masterpieces of Christian hymnody and should have a day all to itself. Although Halloween is related to All Saints Day, I don’t think it counts as a legitimate Christian celebration but is more of a superstition, a syncretic reaction to the genuine Christian doctrine of eternal life.

Old Timey Frankenstein and Devil Halloween CostumeJD: Let’s assume that all of agree that Satan is a real person, or force, or however you want to refer to him. Are demons real as well? Are they active in our world today? Damaris, you look like you are ready to answer that.

DZ: Yes, demons are real. I don’t know specifically how, but I suspect that Satan’s nicknames give us the hint: father of lies and the accuser.

AP: Are demons real? I would have to say yes. Now, I’m not the type of guy who sees demons ’round every corner or thinks that all little boys who can’t sit still need to have a demon cast out of them. I used to be, but not anymore.

However! I spent almost a year living in Uganda, a place where witchcraft is a real thing. Children were regularly abducted to be used in ritual sacrifices. Every night at ten and midnight, when the witch doctors offered those sacrifices, all the dogs in our city would start barking exactly together, and stop together. People sought out witch doctors to cast spells for healing, spells for financial blessing, spells to have some hated person blow a tire on a dangerous stretch of road. This actually happened to a friend of mine.

Having lived in a spiritually heavy country, I have to say that yes, demons are real and have power to affect the lives of human beings.

JD: Wow. I remember one night getting a request for urgent prayer from your wife on Facebook. When I asked her what was going on, she told me about the abductions that occurred almost nightly. You can believe I did some time before God after hearing that.

MB: I believe that demons are real. I feel that we are so engrossed in our affluent North American society, that Satan has not had to worry much about us. We have already sold out to the gods of consumerism and self-indulgence, so that the spiritual realm has very little meaning to us. In other parts of the world where I have lived, or in the poorest neighborhoods of Canada, I have experienced quite a different story.

CM: I believe in a spiritual realm that is present, though mostly invisible to us. Ephesians calls this “the heavenly places,” and affirms that there are “powers,” both good and evil that are active in this realm. I don’t understand much about that realm, and the Bible gives us glimpses that whet our curiosity, but don’t allow us a detailed understanding.

I do know that Jesus has defeated the powers through his death and resurrection. I also know that there is a continuing battle in which believers play a part. I think C.S. Lewis was wise when he said that there are two dangerous approaches when we think about these powers: (1) to say they don’t exist, (2) to give undue attention to them. If for some reason, I would be in a situation of having to deal with one of these powers openly, I would claim Christ’s victory, quote Scripture, and sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

LD: Anyone who reads my posts can discern that I take Scripture fairly literally. That’s not to say I don’t see metaphor and other literary devices in it, but I do believe Satan is real, as are demons. At first, I believed in their existence as a matter of faith. Later, a few experiences solidified my belief, however I don’t think satanic or demonic activity should be blamed every time something bad happens. Bad happenings are part and parcel of living in a fallen world. We all suffer the consequences of our own actions and the actions of others.

The gospels provide examples of how Satan and his demons worked then and, no doubt, work now. Satan is an accuser, deceiver and tempter — a destroyer of men’s souls. Demons possess, oppress and afflict humans and animals with disease, mental illness, outrageous behaviors and may even facilitate accidents or influence people to harm themselves. They speak. They have personality and they sometimes manifest physically. From the book of Daniel, we can see that demons hindered angelic messengers from reaching Daniel. Demonic and angelic activity in unseen dimensions affects circumstances on earth.

HalloweenCostume1950'sJD: Very good points, Lisa. The story in Daniel of how the archangel Michael fought the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” for 21 days always keeps me humble when I think I can command Satan to do this or that, or not do this or that as the case may be. We have all heard preachers who seemingly want to cast demons out of anyone who is slightly ill, or anything that may cause them an inconvenience. When is the right time to cast out demons? How do we know it is a demon and not just the flu?

MB: I wrote two posts on this issue, one about my experiences with mental illness, published at Internet Monk, and one about my very limited experiences posted at EclecticChristian.com [note: no longer available: CM].

I would recommend reading them as they really help to clarify the differences. In the first post I gave an example from personal experience about mental illness where I felt that it could be shown that there was no spiritual component. Just to set the record straight, in 46 years in the church I have had just one experience with the demonic. Only one. I am not the type to see a demon behind every bush. But I have had one experience that I think can help us understand how Jesus knew when people needed healing or needed a demon cast out of them. In short, a spiritual issue is spiritually discerned.

AP: Thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit, because He is our informant. Wondering what to do with this person who is acting abnormally? Pray about it. Seek God. He’ll let you know how to proceed. Maybe you need to put on your vomit-proof poncho and get exorcising, or maybe you need to put on your vomit-proof poncho and reach for the antibiotics (I have four kids, one on the way–I know all about vomit-proof ponchos).

JD: Thanks, Adam. No more peanuts and candy corn for me. Lisa?

LD: Knowing when demonic activity is occurring requires discernment and discernment comes from the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:1, 2 gives instructions for testing spirits to learn their origin. Many years ago when I was suffering a depression, I realized that the ‘self-talk’ I was engaging in was not from me and it wasn’t from the Lord. When I finally tested the spirit behind what I was thinking, I realized I was being influenced by a false spirit. From there I could apply the truth of what God said in his word to refute these things, much as Jesus did during his time of testing in the wilderness. Renewing my mind that way ultimately led to overcoming what could have destroyed me, but it was a long, slow process.

It seems there would be some gifted and more suited to a ministry of exorcism than others, but that doesn’t allow us to abdicate our responsibility to maintain the culture of heaven on earth. If we encounter demonic spirits , we should subdue them and, if necessary, find help in doing it. If we have the person of Jesus Christ alive in us, we have his authority. His Spirit guides us into truth and empowers us.

Jesus also said that some kinds of demonic spirits only come out of people by intercessory prayer and fasting, so that would indicate the believer involving himself in an exorcism needs to be willing to pay a price spiritually. I have heard of a few cases where the process took a long time and was grueling hard work.

DZ: How do we know if it’s a demon or the flu? Wait three to five days, and if symptoms don’t improve, call your . . . Exorcist? I think mostly the family doctor will do. The Catholic church has only twelve certified exorcists in America, while there are hugely more medical doctors. I think that distribution reflects the reality of stubborn demonic possession pretty well.

JD: Chaplain, your thoughts?

CM: I don’t know. What I know is that Jesus cares about the person, no matter the source of the problem, and that the Word and Spirit will minister to him or her regardless. So I pray, and love, and serve.

JD: Excellent. Can’t do any better than that. Next question. The term “spiritual warfare” has been misused to the point I’m not sure what real spiritual warfare should look like today. Where is the war, and do I need to enlist?

CM: You enlisted when Jesus brought you into his family. In our tradition (Lutheran), the baptism liturgy includes renouncing the devil and his works. As to what “spiritual warfare” looks like, I think the Book of Acts pictures it as well as anything. For the most part, it appears to be about proclaiming the Good News of Jesus and the opposition that provokes. It’s not usually about my tummy ache or ingrown toenail. It’s not about politics or the culture war. It’s about spreading light through the darkness, and the darkness fighting its demise.

trickortreatkidsDZ: The first step of spiritual warfare is to keep your eyes on the Prince of Peace. And the last step, too. I think the phrase “spiritual warfare” is best used to describe the feelings of struggle Christians have as they mature spiritually. Once people try to develop spiritual warfare into a blow-by-blow account of a supernatural Waterloo or Midway, they’re going to descend into silliness, a la Frank Peretti.

AP: Oh, don’t get Jeff going on Peretti. We’ll be here all night listening to how bad of a writer he is.

JD: Just five minutes, Adam?

AP: You asked if we have to enlist in the spiritual war. If you’re a Christian, you’ve enlisted. Man, I’ve fallen into just about every possible ditch when it comes to Christian-ish stuff. I’ve made tons of things the focus of my faith: end times, prosperity, demonology, numerology, healing… you name it. When it comes to spiritual warfare, it’s really easy to start seeing demons influencing everything, but I think that probably gives the devil far too much credit. These days, I prefer to do my best to keep my focus on Jesus and trust that, if I need to give any of that other stuff my attention (say, when a child of mine gets sick inexplicably), he will guide my prayers to that area. Other than that, I’m doing good just getting through the day.

LD: The term ‘spiritual warfare’ is a reference to 2 Corinthians 10:4,5: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This speaks to the personal experience I wrote about in question three. If there is a primary inroad that Satan or demons have into our lives, it’s through our minds.

A particular stronghold in me that keeps getting rebuilt and torn down and rebuilt is fear. Succumbing to fearful thoughts and the remembrance of past fear-inducing experiences can paralyze me and make me ineffective. If I analyze my thought processes, I can see that stubbornly clinging to beliefs that defy God’s word is pretension setting itself up against the knowledge of God. Wars are won one battle at a time. For me, spiritual warfare is usually dealing with my errant thoughts and taking them captive one at a time. After a long time of relatively fear free living, its something I’m once again encountering. I can’t say I’m having an easier time of it even with all my past experience.

CM: Lisa, thanks for being willing to be vulnerable and share your experiences with us.

JD: Luther, Lewis and others have said the best way to drive the devil away is to laugh at him. Still good advice? (Well, Luther had another method, one that involved burrito abuse…)

LD: Frivolity and flatulence, hmmm Jeff? Well, I’m willing to give those a try.

DZ: Yes, being laughed at is effective against him and good for us.

AP: Yeah, I remember that quote from Thomas More at the beginning of The Screwtape Letters, about “the devil, the prowde spirite, cannot endure to be mocked.” And I do love that book. But I also think of what Lewis wrote in the introduction to “Screwtape proposes a toast,” about how writing it was such an endurance test to him, that it wasn’t a joy, that it was all “dust, grit, thirst, and itch.” And I think that I should really just do my best to focus on Jesus. If I’m going to fall into a ditch, that’s the one to fall into.

Can I tell a story? When we lived in Uganda, we traveled to do some ministry with a short-term missions team, and while we were gone we picked up some bug (I think it was in the passion fruit juice at the hotel–we should’ve known better). Anyway, we were on our way back, and my entire family started getting vomitous and weak. We went to the doctor and started getting on medication, and in the meantime I spoke to the missions team leader on the phone. “Well,” she said, “God must really have something big planned for you guys. Otherwise, why would the devil attack you so hard?”

Now this is not the first time I’ve heard this. I’ve heard it from friends and family. I’ve heard it from my own mouth. Explaining some out-of-the-blue hardship with the words, “God must have something big in store for you.”

But doesn’t this give the devil far more credit than he deserves? Is he omniscient like God? Can he see ahead in my life? Does he know what’s coming up? Is he trying to get all Terminator in my life, to kill the John Connor in me before it grows up to defeat him? I’m not sure, but I think that isn’t the case. I think he’s full of himself, that he’s crafty, and he gets far more of a kick in leading mass groups astray by offering up some slightly twisted faith than he does out of making my family sick.

Maybe I’m wrong. In fact, I’m sure I don’t see the big picture here. Which is why I say again: I’m probably going to fall into a ditch, so I’m going to focus on Jesus and let Him be the ditch I fall into.

CM: Laughter, and the holy hand grenade, “that by it, Thou mayest blow thine enemies to bits. In thy mercy.”

Yes, I really liked James Jordan’s emphasis on mocking the devil and celebrating Christ’s victory over the powers of evil through joy and laughter.

JD: Well, now you know I will have to post that Monty Python clip at the end of this essay. One … Two … Five!

AP: Three.

JD: Three! Should Christians avoid watching horror movies, reading Stephen King novels, listening to groups like Marilyn Manson and Slipknot because we might be influenced by Satan? Can a Christian be led astray by Satan if he is truly seeking after the Lord?

DZ: I don’t know if horror movies, etc., influence us satanically, but I am suspicious of our motivations for watching or listening to a lot of those things. Why do we want to see horrible things? Why do we slow down to check out a car accident site? Why do we read gruesome stories in newspapers that have nothing to do with us? I won’t say anything about others’ motivations, but I know that my own in these cases are not godly. The creepy curiosity that I feel is much more like the temptation to participate in juicy gossip than it is pity or concern.

I think we can always be led astray but at the same time we can always trust Jesus to answer us when we call on him.

LD: Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” I think the decision to watch or not to watch, to read or not to read, to listen or not to listen needs to happen on an individual basis. Some people will be disturbed or influenced negatively by doing these things. Others won’t be. The two questions we can answer to help us determine if something is a good choice are, “Will this help me in some way?  and Is there a chance I’ll be captivated or enslaved by this activity?

I’m looking for a book by Stephen King called On Writing right now because I think he’s good at what he does even if his work isn’t always my taste. As a kid I was enthralled with stories of King Arthur and Merlin — magical things that Christians frowned upon. I can’t see that it hurt me in any way or led me away from pursuing Christ. At the same time, I can’t see any benefit for me in watching, reading or listening to gratuitous horror so I don’t, but I don’t think it should be censored. I’m also aware that my thoughts have changed over the years on lots of different subjects, so there’s always the possibility.

phone-headCM: I don’t care for anything that celebrates evil or advocates its practices, so I would avoid things like that. But I agree with Michael Spencer, who said, “Whether they be fairy tales or silly horror movies, the imaginative realm is a reflection of human beings’ ability to create their own worlds, with realities that reflect the depth of nature and the realities of good, evil, hope and redemption.” I would not be a separatist when it comes to literature or other expressions of creativity and imagination, even though they might include elements some would consider objectionable.

AP: The media you consume is a choice you make between you and God, unless you are under your parents’ authority, in which case you should respect them enough to play by their rules. I will say this, though: the moment I start justifying media decisions to myself or to someone else is usually the moment I realize I’m making the wrong decision and shouldn’t be partaking of that particular piece of media. But I’m all for self-monitoring, and it works. My two oldest kids, ages 11 and 9, are good at this. They have been in the midst of reading books they liked and have set them aside because they felt like it wasn’t right for them at that time.

MB: Garbage in, garbage out. I do enjoy scary movies that are not too gruesome, but my wife does not. So I tend not to watch them anymore.

JD: That is the best motive, Mike–making your choice so that it will not influence another in a negative way. Ok, let’s wrap this up with one last question. What are you dressing up as for this year? And what is the best costume you have ever donned for Halloween? (Ok, that was two questions…)

CM: If I were dressing up, I’d love to have the costume Adam Braverman (actor Peter Krause) wore in the most recent episode of the TV show, Parenthood. He wore one of the old “Black Sox” uniforms and went trick-or-treating as Shoeless Joe Jackson. It was sharp.

As a kid I went through a phase when I loved horror movies, subscribed to horror magazines, and built monster models. I decided to be “The Mummy” for Halloween. Only trouble was we had to walk to school, and by the time I got there, I was mostly unwrapped and carrying a bundle of cloth strips. I must have looked a little like Lazarus, post-resuscitation.

JD: I would have liked to have seen that!

DZ: I don’t know that we’ll dress up this year. My favorite Halloween costume was a spur-of-the-moment one. I was in graduate school and went to a party with the rest of the literature department. It was only when I arrived at the apartment where the party was held that I realized it was a costume party. I got a big mixing bowl, put it on my head, and said I was Virginia Woolf. (In A Room of One’s Own, she describes herself as a thought in the cranium of the British Museum’s stately dome.) I realize you had to be there — and you had to have been spending all day and night with literature. Well, THEY liked it . . .

AP: I get it, Damaris. And it kind of scares me that I do get it.

I usually don’t know what I’m dressing up as until hours before I have to wear a costume. The best costume I’ve ever seen was on my friend David, when he wore his normal clothes (black t-shirt, jeans, sneakers) and a fake mustache. “Who are you dressed up as, David?” I asked. His response: “My own evil twin.”

LD: I’m not sure I will dress up. My grown kids have all moved back in state after a few years of living away. My three grandchildren will come dressed for me to see them. Four year old Eva will be a Disney princess. Her twin brother will be Iron Man and two week old Annabelle hasn’t told me what she is planning to wear.

MB: Dressing up is pretty much mandatory where I work. I haven’t figured out my costume this year yet, but last year I went as an aging rockstar.

The best costume I ever donned was a giant pumpkin. A word of warning to all of you. Never try square dancing when dressed as a giant pumpkin. That, however, is a story for another day.

JD: You know, Mike, somehow I believe you that that is not a good idea.

Thanks to each of you for your ideas and insights. Let’s open it up to the iMonks for the topic of our next roundtable. If we don’t get any good ones, we can go with my fallback: Explain to me the meaning of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Happy Halloween, everyone! As Orson Welles said at the end of the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, “So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and there’s no one there, that was no Martian…it’s Halloween.”

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    ‘libera nos a malo’

    this works for me

  2. Prayer and fasting…… Fasting was added to the word. Although prayer and fasting are closely related in drawing close to God and listening to what that drawing close provides.

    My own opinion is that in our society these things don’t manifest like they do in other countries because here we just wouldn’t put up with it. So they hide and camouflage what they are. It is why porn addiction twists our men. Why women are believing that their worth has something to do with what all the images of what the twisting is always portraying to them. This is only one aspect. We have the prejudice of what a war on slavery has done. It was 100’s of 1000 lives that were lost and wounds that haven’t healed because we refuse to be healed by the one who loves us and why wouldn’t something that isn’t from God want to continue it. We rarely speak over our people that it is impossible to be a son or daughter of God and be a victim. These are just examples. Jesus said you can’t worship God and Mammon. He was calling one by name. We sometime call it idolatry but fail to realize where that takes us. Of course there are the voices of which we call all kinds of mental illness and I am sure that there are chemical imbalances going on. After all when the Holy Spirit falls on me I feel many things and I am sure it releases chemicals in me. It doesn’t always happen that way but I was made to experience emotion. At least in the old testament I see God getting angry and loving and jealous and all the things I have. I see Jesus doing these things as well. Grieving,crying and rejoicing greatly were all activities he indulged in.

    In short I know many people don’t want to believe in these things. We say we haven’t encountered them. We believe science has an explanation and refuse to look at the times it doesn’t. Especially when someone is healed without any explanation. Understandable when a doctor’s next patient is in need but from a researcher’s point of view. What if a researcher started to believe Jesus and walked on water. Jesus freed us from laws not just the law as we see it but all laws even the one of death. Miguel is right we need to look at things thru the lens of the resurrected Christ and what that means. Paul didn’t tell us things because they weren’t true. He was a man that truly loved especially after his own encounter with the demon that had him persecuting innocent people. What you think darkness cannot hide. Paul was a bright man and extremely intelligent before and after meeting Christ. I did not want to start the science debate again here.

    : I don’t know. What I know is that Jesus cares about the person, no matter the source of the problem, and that the Word and Spirit will minister to him or her regardless. So I pray, and love, and serve………… This

    • Jesus freed us from laws not just the law as we see it but all laws even the one of death.

      I did not want to start the science debate again here.

      Yet that is where my mind goes with the above statement, having spend too much time around those who believe in manifestations and essentially teleportation. Too many stories of some pastor seeing an apostle or evangelist walking around town and having a conversation with him, when in reality that guy was hundreds of miles away somewhere else.

      I want to make a joke about Jesus freeing us from the law of gravity…but I think this is too serious of a topic. Yes, it’s a rabbit trail, but…it’s right there.

      w, everyone, can I put forth a thesis?

      God, Jesus, did NOT free us from all laws. Period. Jesus freed us from THE law that HE gave us. The Law and Commandments. He did not set us free from any law of nature he established. He did not give us the power to walk on water, through walls, raise the dead, change the weather, any of it. Period. Call them myths, call them legends, call them miracles, but it’s not something Jesus gave us the power to do, especially not after the original apostles. If and when those things occur, it’s 100% coming from God and solely at his discretion and pleasure, not a normative experience.

      Jesus did not free us from the scientific world he created and it’s laws that govern. That goes against everything the scriptures teach, from Genesis on to the end. The earth is the lord’s but was created for man. If he wanted to set us free from the laws of nature, the earth wouldn’t exist anymore.

      w, I love your comments and insights here, but please tell me you don’t really believe this.

      • Stuart I didn’t say that we should go chasing after walking on water or teleporting ourselves anywhere. I know people that chase after such things kind of. I don’t read anywhere in the Bible that I should. If the Holy Spirit said to me to walk across this river out here to do something He had in mind I would do it. Let me see did that happen today….. nope. Yes there are too many rabbit trails. I was speaking as a researcher which I am not. I am a tile and marble setter and there are many people way more talented than I.

        150 years ago if you said to someone about a bomb that could kill millions in one blast they would have thought you alittle daff. I can take the testimony of Jesus walking on water as true and Peter actually did it for a very short time. When I look thru the lense of the resurrected Christ I see things that are possible when no one thought them to be. It just might be thru research on this that there could be a type of propulsion we haven’t imagined yet. I don’t think we should limit ourselves because someone had an apple fall on their head. Even though anyone could have that happen. I didn’t want to argue the science thing again. String theory talks about dimensions we can’t see into. I already can take someone’s word on that and he was in love with Jesus and loved in the same way. I could just make fun of such things I am sure such people did when they thought the world was flat.

        I will be free of all the laws someday Stuart but I have enough trouble trying to love like Jesus so today isn’t going to be it in all likelihood. On another note though, you were on my mind all day even before I read your response. I have a word for you………Boo… no just kidding I really do. I know how you have been hurt and I know what you are being called into and I know what you must do to be healed. Now I love you like the one who died for us and is living and seated on the throne. You know what you must do He is speaking it to you in your heart. I will pray with you and have been all morning. So let’s get to it. Father I forgive those that have hurt me. I repent and I need You. I can’t do this myself. I need Your help. Please teach me how to love like you. I need to know. I look to You because You are the only one who can help me and I love You. I tell You the truth. I let them go they are free. Thank You for helping me. That was for me too Stuart and I love you so go be that bold person you were meant to be and love like the Lion of Judah because that is who you are.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’m from SoCal, currently the Woo-Woo Capital of North America, and you’re dancing real close to the edge of Woo-Woo.

  3. Richard Hershberger says:

    “It wasn’t until I became a Christian that I began to view Halloween with the seemingly required suspicion, bordering on revulsion, that most churches advocated.”

    I very much doubt that most churches ever advocated this. It may well be that most white American Evangelical Protestant churches did, but this isn’t the same thing.

    Yes, this one of my standard observations/kvetches, but it is particularly on point in this discussion. Most versions of American Protestantism come, however indirectly, from the Reformed tradition, often by way of the Church of England: from Geneva by way of Canterbury, as it were. One feature of the Reformation, and the Reformed tradition in particular, was a vast simplification of the old Roman Catholic festival calendar. In the more extreme versions it was nearly entirely swept away, leaving only Easter. The Church of England, however, was (and is) a peculiar hybrid, combining (to a greater or lesser degree, depending on when and precisely who) Calvinist theology with Roman ecclesiology. There was never any systematic rooting out of traditional customs, and many–even suspiciously Popish ones–remained in place for centuries. Some are still there, and others were killed off by the rise of urban industrialization and modernism in general rather than by the efforts of Puritan preachers.

    How this plays out for the present discussion is that the American Halloween celebration is a mutation of an older survival. White American Evangelical Protestant churches, being the descendants, however, indirectly, of those Geneva divines, are primed to be suspicious of it. It is in their DNA, even if this didn’t manifest itself for many years. Once this predilection did manifest itself, many churches from other traditions looked on with bemusement.

    • My history on the matter may be a little fuzzy, but I seem to recall that Halloween customs didn’t really reach America until the influx of Irish immigrants and the resulting influx of Roman Catholic customs, though I’m certain the Lutherans and Episcopalians would have retained some sort of celebration for All Saints Day before this.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Which meant for all the Respectable WASP “Native Americans(TM)”, it was something Romish and Papist. And the Reformation Wars flared anew — “Whatever They Do, I’M AGAINST IT!”

        Remember Irish, Spaniards, Greeks, Italians, Poles, and others weren’t considered Real White Men back then. Who was White(TM) and who wasn’t broke down roughly on Reformation Wars alignments of Prot or Papist countries.

    • My history is fuzzy too. My sense is that both these posts are on mark.

      It would be safe to note that groups like the Puritans, which eagerly purged most liturgical holidays – and any popular practices spun off from them – would have looked askance at our current Halloween. The “DNA” for this suspicion is still very much in American evangelicalism, which is at least half Reformed in its ideas and instincts. When someone finds cause to question the healthfulness of any particular holiday, the argument that manifests is usually some variant on, ‘oh, this goes beyond the Biblical slate of holidays, and is populated by all kinds of errors and vanities, so we had best abstain and find more pious and productive things to do.’

      There’s a deep piety behind the approach; there is also a little of that severity that led H.L. Menchen to define Puritanism derisively as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” A good church-going capitalist, if he did not stand to profit so well from selling things for holiday fun, might nod in approval, noting that too many people appear to be wasting energy. We must account for everything in our ledgers, you know.

      Being a practically-minded person, and a believer in efficiency, and having no way to quite justify the actual good of face paint, I honestly identify with the argument, even though I do not hold to it and actively push back against it.

      And even now, in our house, my husband and I quibble just a bit over just what indulge in Christmas festivities are appropriate. I’m rather more inclined toward them than is he, and only reluctantly agreed not to fib about the antics of “Santa;” a point I granted only in exchange for establishing family rituals to mark the entire season of advent, and for a reintroduction of Santa by means of celebrating the actual Saint Nicholas.

      Our ad hoc negotiations probably testify to presence of different cultural instincts and traditions. My husband’s reservations ultimately stem from his fundamentalist upbringing, which was severe toward Santa and any aspect of Christmas that did not involve reflecting on sermon content; he’s rejected this mindset in theory, but become the kind of liberal who worries that Santa represents “consumerism.” The objections are basically analogs. I, meanwhile, grew up with Christmas festivities being rather a big deal, and have aimed to overthrow my husband’s latent Puritanism by promising to defeat the consumerism of Christmas by means of a whole alternative set of rituals, which I am desperately trying to learn from non-puritan traditions to which I am new.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It would be safe to note that groups like the Puritans, which eagerly purged most liturgical holidays – and any popular practices spun off from them – would have looked askance at our current Halloween. The “DNA” for this suspicion is still very much in American evangelicalism…

        In many ways, Massachusetts Puritans and Geneva Calvinists resembled the extreme forms of Islam you find all over today’s news (and not in a good way). Maybe there’s tropes common to X-Treme Religions centered around a Holy Book.

        There’s a deep piety behind the approach; there is also a little of that severity that led H.L. Menchen to define Puritanism derisively as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

        “There can be no humor in Islam.”
        — Ayatollah Khomeini, founder and dictator of the Islamic Republic of Iran
        (and apparently quite a pious sourpuss)

        My husband’s reservations ultimately stem from his fundamentalist upbringing, which was severe toward Santa and any aspect of Christmas that did not involve reflecting on sermon content; he’s rejected this mindset in theory, but become the kind of liberal who worries that Santa represents “consumerism.” The objections are basically analogs.

        “You can take the boy out of the Baptists, but you can’t take the Baptist completely out of the boy.”

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        Well as long as we insist on only following biblical holidays, how about Purim?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I very much doubt that most churches ever advocated this.

      This. The meme of Evangelicalism subtly expressing itself as being “Christianity”.

      > Most versions of American Protestantism come, however indirectly,
      > from the Reformed tradition,

      ALL protestant congregations alive in America have experienced immense cultural cross-pollination. Cultural movements, authors, media, etc… do not at all respect denominational lines. I believe the “theological” histories of these sects generally have little bearing; they are all in the same subcultural cloud, nearer or father from the darkest – most exclusive – center, but that position has more to do with region, general socio-economic strata, and local leadership than the sect’s doctrinal pedigree.

      No doubt that cross-pollination spreads even beyond the Protestants.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s the churn of a very dynamic culture, absorbing outside “cultural movements, authors, media, etc”.

        When you have Multicultural Diversity(TM), the most dynamic of the cultures tends to absorb the others.

  4. Halloween used to be (when I was a kid) largely for the children.

    It amazes me these days how many adults dress up in costumes and put so much effort into it.

    Just an observation. Not a judgement.

    • “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

      ? C.S. Lewis

      You see it in the cosplay scene. My youngest brother now dresses up and goes to conventions to cosplay. He’s got the physique to be a very good Superman, and he’s working on various versions of the costume from different eras of the comics or shows. His latest is a variation on Captain America, one of the more classic designs Steve Rogers wore back in the 40s, so more tactical and military than spandex. And he looks good doing it.

      Why? Community. Fun. A chance to roleplay, to become someone else for a few hours. A small amount of it may be the admiration from others it brings, but it’s almost always a mutual, “oh wow you spent hours on that how cool!” kind of thing.

      Halloween is where that started. For a church that largely hates fiction, the supernatural, the unseen realms…one day of the year is absolutely necessary. Many more days would probably be healthy too.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The form of cosplay I’ve encountered most often is Fursuiting. If you’re cosplaying a visibly non-human character, Fursuit (called “Fullsuit” in Bronydom) is much more honest.

        And then there’s the dark side of cosplay. Remember Doug Phiilips ESQUIRE? Used to cosplay General Patton or 18th Century Nobleman from the pulpit?

        Halloween is where that started. For a church that largely hates fiction, the supernatural, the unseen realms…one day of the year is absolutely necessary. Many more days would probably be healthy too.

        And “a church that largely hates fiction, the supernatural, the unseen realms” will also drive off its creative, “offbeat” artist types. And there are lotsa other subcultures who WILL accept them.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          You’re all a bunch of FREAKS !!!

          • So, are you trying to identify with the bullies in school who used to push “nerds” around?

            Perhaps you did not receive the memo: This is the information age. The nerds are now in power.

            All your bases are belong to us. Make your time.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            My main writing partner (the burned-out preacher-man) does a lot of counseling in fandom. He confirms my observation that most first-generation fannish types came out of abusive backgrounds, either family or school. They went Furry as a survival mechanism, taking field trips to their frontal lobes to escape the abuse. His exact words were “Obsessing over upright talking animals beats sucking a load out of your dad’s shotgun.”

            My other writing partner (the self-educated son of a steelworker and one of the hottest raw writing talents I’ve ever come across) shows signs of Asperger’s and PTSD, the latter probably from a one-two-three punch of High School Hell (worse than mine) and losing both his parents to (unrelated) cancer in relatively-quick succession.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “It amazes me these days how many adults dress up in costumes and put so much effort into it.”

      No surprise. Most adults live in a cultural vacuum; with no explicit rituals. All festivals denuded of history or tradition. So people make up their own based upon what they have.

      You have more adults, more affluent, with fewer obligation and smaller [or no] families – – and thus more available time. Absent biological families what is more human than to create a family? You create family my establishing rituals and roles, which enable familiarity. [Like I can strike up a conversation ad-hoc with someone in line at the coffee shop, but at the transit station or doctors office doing the same thing merits only suspicious stares – it is about the rules, different places and events have different roles].

      I am not neutral about this, I think it is an expression of health. It begins, as it has to, with apparently foolishness and superficiality – that is what creates the space where relationships are possible.

      As the American *norm* trends relentlessly towards The Single Household the rise of [or return of] adult holidays is inevitable. The Norman Rockwellian Family Around The Christmas Tree already applies to a minority of Americans.

      What bothers/irritates me is how (a) stubbornly oblivious religious writers and leaders seem to be to this *fact* which leads to (b) “the church” [very very generally speaking] seeming to have no response, and thus no role for or interest in the majority of citizens. All the while tossing about the word “relevant” like confetti at a wedding. Mostly “the church” seems to just double down on marketing to its model demographic.

      A bit of a rant, sorry; some local ‘promotions’ and choices have expressed a ghastly degree of dense.

    • This seems true.

      And I wonder if this is the reason for some push-back from churches in general. Halloween has become sexed-up and violenced-up through the catering to the adults. It does seem a lot less innocent than when I went trick-or-treating. I remember taking my daughter out a few years ago, when she was maybe 7, and a kid walked by her wearing a Scream mask. Freaked her out.

  5. I had pretty much stopped celebrating Halloween in high school when my family got into some of the sillier ends of Evangelicalism, and didn’t pick it up again until my late 20’s when I started down the Canterbury Trail.

    Truth is, though, I can’t really recall what we’ve done in the last few years. Last year my fiance (now wife) and I went out for her birthday (which is Halloween). This year, since it falls on a Friday, we’ll be at church for our weekly prayer and praise service.

    This is also the first year of being in a neighborhood rather than an apartment. My wife said that sometimes kids trick or treat in the early evening, so we got some candy to pass out before we go to church. We’ll probably bring the leftovers there for any kids. Considering the church is in a neighborhood, we may have folks stop by ‘cuz of the music.

    Truth is, I’d *like* to have a late afternoon/early evening mass (likely simple a capella chant) on Halloween as a way to kick off letting the kids go out trick or treating. Maybe next year.

  6. Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

    When I grew up in small Midwest America, people were much more integrated into a community. We knew our neighbors and participated with them in a common culture that included holidays like Halloween. In fact, I live in a town that still values community. Our neighborhood has the most robust Halloween and trick-or-treat traditions I have ever seen. We have so many children and families come by that the police direct traffic.

    I could go to church on Halloween and miss that; turn my lights out, get in my car and drive to some church, to participate in activities at a family-friendly Christian activity center. But why would I want to do that, when I can light the pumpkins, sit out on the porch, meet and greet my neighbors, smile at their kids’ creative costumes, hand out candy, and enjoy an evening when so many people are out on the sidewalks having fun and feeling part of the community?

    I had a knock-down, drag out this week with my wife about Halloween. We have it every year. My wife lives in the whole 700 Club-Frank Peretti-Raptureland fun house. Most of the time I can ignore it and concentrate on what we have in common, which is considerable. For some reason, though, at Halloween, all the differences between her Christianity and mine come to the surface, Add to this the fact that I have been laid off five times since the attacks on the Twin Towers – always in October. My wife blames all of this on Satan, who she sees as governing the month of October as ruthlessly as Idi Amin governed Uganda.

    To be fair to her, she blames a lot of it on the Peruvian festival of Nuestro Señor de los Milagros, which is celebrated on October 28th. Last year, she took me to a local procession for el Señor de los Milagros at a local Catholic parish, and I could kind of see her aversion to it. I did point out to her that no clergy participated in the celebration, which had far more of the trappings of a civic holiday than a religious feast.

    Anyway, my wife told me in no uncertain terms that she would not celebrate Halloween, and that she would go to a “vigil” in her Spanish Pentecostal church. I was furious, and I couldn’t figure out why. Usually, I’m pretty sanguine towards Evangelicals, but I don’t care for Spanish evangelicals much, despite that I married one. I have only met a handful of Hispanics who have been in any way improved by departing from the Catholic church. For some reason they appear to be attracted to the most objectionable elements in American Evangelicalism, with the additional trait of being rabidly anti-Catholic. That night, I had a dream that I was the Lord High Inquisitor sending Spanish Lutherans to the plaza for their autos da fe, and I enjoyed it.

    Chaplain Mike said it very eloquently:

    But to me, the big change in the U.S. with regard to Christians and Halloween has been the creation of the evangelical subculture in the last forty years. This has paralleled the development of suburban culture, the loss of neighborhoods and communities, and the radical division of America through the culture wars. Churches have been transformed into the spiritual equivalent of walled communities –activity centers where Christians engage in a full program of “ministries” just for them. This keeps them separated from the world that they see as harmful to the life of faith.

    I am pretty close to the average Stultifex americanus , and I can see where we would see Evangelicals as “bad neighbors”. They aren’t concerned about me or my family. They see me as a source of corruption, and they see my children as threats to their children. They don’t want to have anything to do with me. They’re just bad neighbors.

    • Mule, your recounting of your annual tug-of-war over Halloween is hilarious! Have you considered short story writing?

      On this neighborliness: I honestly don’t want to shame anyone into participation in community events they find objectionable. However, I still wish they did not object – at least not so vehemently, or with reference to such dark accusations.

      I still remember vividly the couple or three years my folks, my brothers, and I–when new converts to evangelical churches–abstained from Halloween. The first year, it felt like we were so principled. After that, though, we had the creeping suspicion that we just being weird, bad neighbors: one time, we turned off all the lights to the house and watched a movie in the basement, after years of having handed out treats. Could we have any more literally have been hiding, or shutting people out? The next year, some nervous laughter about this behavior, we got over trying to be particularly religious about Halloween and turned the lights back on.

      Ultimately, it is not abstention from the festivities per se, but the disposition others that strikes me as problematic. You got this perfectly:

      “They aren’t concerned about me or my family. They see me as a source of corruption, and they see my children as threats to their children.”

      I’ll echo a line I heard this morning in an essay by Marianne Robinson: ‘This is the death of community and the rise of tribalism.’

      • Ugh. Sorry about the typos.

        *On this neighborliness: = On neighborliness:
        *the disposition others = the disposition TOWARDS others
        *The next year, AFTER some nervous laughter about this behavior

      • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

        Danielle –

        I would love to read that essay.

        Unlike literally everybody else here, I don’t see the emerging tribalism as a negative thing. Apart from Christendom in general, and from the Orthodox Church specifically as the best in-corpor-ation of Trinitarian theology, I don’t see any possibility for loving people who are significantly different from me. Having squandered Christendom on intramural conflict, we no longer have the spiritual resources to maintain the tent as wide as we have had it pegged out in the past.

        We are overdue for a reversal of Isaiah 54:2-3

        I certainly don’t see any benefits accruing from the much-touted “diversity” so widely lauded by the mandarins. Apart from Christendom as an incarnation of Trinitarianism, tribalism is our default setting and genocide just plain makes good business sense. I hope we can avoid having to learn that lesson again.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Multicultural Diversity(TM) is by nature an unstable situation. It usually lasts only until the most dynamic culture in the mix absorbs all the others (“America! Whisky! Sexy!”) or the most aggressive culture destroys all the others (“Al”lah’u Akbar! Jihad!”).

          Look at what happened to Yugoslavia in the Third Balkans War for Multicultural Diversity(TM).

        • “Unlike literally everybody else here, I don’t see the emerging tribalism as a negative thing…”

          I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘tribalism.’ Perhaps I’ve opened a can of worms by using the word.

          To have a community, you are inside some kind of a unity with an outer boundary. And to even have a tribe, you must have more than one person, and so some level of difference, within the group. So the distinction between them is perhaps fuzzy.

          In that specific quote, I think Marilynne Robinson (whose name I mistyped above as ‘Marianne’) was trying to contrast the tendency to assert the possibility of a common community in the face of difference, with an instinct of tribalism, whose impulse is define the community more and more narrowly.

          Robinson does prefer a larger sense of ‘community’ and asserts that heterogeneity in a society is not a weakness. Based on your more contrary comments, I suspect you might disagree. But you believe in charity across difference, too. So I am not sure.

          In any case, the book I’m partway through is, “When I was a Child I Read Books: Essays.” The audiobook has made for a couple of pleasurable commutes so far.

          • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

            Heterogeneity in a culture is not a strength, per se. What it is is an opportunity.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            An opportunity that includes its own dangers. Just ask Yugoslavia.

          • Well, that’s the interesting thing, right? Sometimes it ends badly and sometimes it doesn’t.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Mule, your recounting of your annual tug-of-war over Halloween is hilarious! Have you considered short story writing?

        I second that. It might be one of those “you laugh or you scream” situations.

        There’s a lot of potential weird humor in church situations, just most of the attempts of doing it as fiction (whether text or screen) have been pretty lame.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      To be fair to her, she blames a lot of it on the Peruvian festival of Nuestro Señor de los Milagros, which is celebrated on October 28th.

      “Our Lord of the Miracles”?

  7. I want in on the Pink Floyd discussion!

  8. After leaving that cult church a few years back, I started celebrating Halloween. Years of family that would turn the lights off and hide in the basement on Halloween, churches that would be sure to preach a whole month long series on spiritual warfare or more accurately “everything the kids are into is demonic witchcraft nowadays so parents be vigilant”, and then a few years of alternatives like “harvest festivals” at the cc…I had had enough. I’d always been attracted to the gothic side of things, loving Dracula, Mummy, Castlevania, all that stuff for years…and having to hide it from everyone, friends, family, because it was wrong and demonic and evil and occult and we’ll pray for you you should repent you opened a door and invited satan into your life.

    A secret appreciation and love for Hallloween…mixed with fear of others, fear of the unknown, fear of “what if they are right”…I had had enough. The fall after I left the cc was one of the best times of my life. The air was electric, the mood was magical…I ended up going to three haunted houses/hay rides, and at one of them ended up meeting a christian couple who loved halloween who have become two of my closest friends (we just got together last weekend for movies and pizza). I discovered Doctor Who through that great episode Blink. I read the original Dracula finally, and then Frankenstein shortly after. And I didn’t have to listen to (well-meaning) person after person preach or “speak in the spirit” about the evils of halloween or demonic warfare or whatever.

    And I didn’t have to be afraid.

    Embracing Halloween and being honest that I love it has been one of the most liberating, freeing experiences of my life. The cc leader would probably say I’m “deceived”. Well…fck it. Welcome Year Zero.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Years of family that would turn the lights off and hide in the basement on Halloween…

      Thus teaching you that the Devil is Omnipotent and Omnipresent and all we can do is hide in the basement peeing our pants.

      Do you remember the legends of St Christopher? How he was originally a knight or warrior determined to serve the strongest lord? How he cast his lot with the Devil because the Devil was so powertul, only to discover that the Devil was terrified and repelled by the Cross? At which point Christopher switched his alliegance to the Cross, since the Cross was obviously stronger.

      How would Chris the Dog-Head have reacted to those of the Cross hiding in their basements from the Devil?

    • “I didn’t have to be afraid.”

      I regret deeply that the strain of Christian thinking to which I was first exposed was so deeply dependent on fear. There were good elements of it too, for example: earnestness about truth. The problem is that when fear and love are so thoroughly intertwined, it takes a lot of effort to disentangle them.

      It is a good thing to be able to say when you find enjoyment or beauty in people or in things. Faith ought to claim these things as its own, just as it needs to be able to see and account for all facets of reality. Plus, it seems to me that we need all the light we can get.

      You missed one obvious point of rebellion btw: you haven’t yet played D&D.

      • Because I couldn’t find anyone to play D&D with, and nowadays, don’t know if I care enough to get involved, lol

        I did buy a copy of Baldur’s Gate and literally murdered billions of people by playing violent video games, so that counts, right?

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    LD: LD: The term ‘spiritual warfare’ is a reference to 2 Corinthians 10:4,5…

    But it has been redefined to mean Wannabe Demon-Hunters running around in circles screaming, pointing fingers at everyone and everything outside their little clique and seeing DEMONS under every teacup.

    “DEMONS! DEMONS! DEMONS! SHEEKA-BOOM-BAH! BAM!”

    CM: I think C.S. Lewis was wise when he said that there are two dangerous approaches when we think about these powers: (1) to say they don’t exist, (2) to give undue attention to them.

    And a lot of these Culture Warriors and Spiritual Warfare Types have gone whole-hog into the second, “attributing too much power to the Devil.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      My response to Spiritual Warfare talk – when I really just cannot avoid it is simple – “Ok, I lose. Because really fragile flabby me verses an immortal entity as old as the planet who once walked in the councils and libraries of The Creator? In that contest I don’t have a whelp’s chance in a supernova; I’m just so much meat at the massacre. So I prefer to pick fights to which I can make a substantive contribution. ”

      So far that seems to get people to move on; either in the conversation or often physically.

      • I just like to say I’ll bring it up with Satan when next we grab drinks. The smart ones laugh. The others leave.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Good one. Sadly I can imagine a wide eyed response – “Oh, my! You drink?!?!”

          • “Yeah but only Christian alcohol, like Guinness and Strong Bow.”

            Used that line too…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Stuart, you’d have fit right in with some fannish types I knew who used to live in Tucson. Two of them were infamous for outrageous one-liners and comeback lines.

          • turnsalso says:

            “Yeah but only Christian alcohol, like Guinness and Strong Bow.”

            “Sanguis Christi, inebria me.”

  10. Randy Thompson says:

    One of the things that intrigues me is the relationship between origins of Halloween and Christmas. In short, both grow out of the same cultural roots. To be sure, Christmas is officially the celebration of the birth of Christ (whenever it actually was), and so it is. However, Christmas represents the Christianization of numerous European customs and traditions that trace back to pre-Christian times. These practices and customs, unaffected by the Church’s attempts to Christianize them, are the roots of Halloween. The current commercialized spend-fest Christmas is a `9th century attempt to tame what was a rowdy, hard-drinking festival. Before it’s taming, the celebration of Christmas was sort of a combination of New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras, and California beach-town, which is why the Puritans took a dim view of it.

    Given the pagan origins of at least some of the activities surrounding Christmas, I’ve wondered why there hasn’t been more of a hue and cry about Christmas among many of the Christians who have issues with Halloween, which, for the record, is a holiday I always have enjoyed.

    (I’m not sure I spelled “hue” correctly, but it will have to do as I’m too lazy to look it up at the moment.)

    If anyone is interested in the historical and/or anthropological links between Halloween and Christmas, find a copy of “Christmas Customs and Traditions” by Clement A. Miles (Dover Reprints). It’s an early 20th century look at end of the year celebrations in Europe which were then dying out. While I’m on the subject, take a look at “The Battle for Christmas,” if this subject interests you.

    • Randy Thompson says:

      I meant 19th Century above, not 9th century. Sorry!

      • “Given the pagan origins of at least some of the activities surrounding Christmas, I’ve wondered why there hasn’t been more of a hue and cry about Christmas among many of the Christians who have issues with Halloween, which, for the record, is a holiday I always have enjoyed.”

        Actually, there are a number of Christians who do not celebrate Christmas for that or similar reasons. I worked with a woman who did not celebrate Christmas as Christ’s birthday — but she was deep into the “Santa cult”, embracing all the sentimental trappings of the season. I couldn’t figure that out at all.

        • Faulty O-Ring says:

          Isn’t that a JW thing? They don’t believe in religious holidays, but secular ones are okay?

        • Randy Thompson says:

          The “Santa Cult”?

          Is it anything like the “Easter Bunny” cult?

          I suspect they’re similar, with peppermint candy canes the sacrament of the former, and chocolate eggs the sacrament of the latter.

        • The celebration of Christmas was outlawed both in England and some places here in the US in that not too distant past. I don’t know if it was because of a concern about pagan origins, or the fact that Christmas celebrations tended to involve a lot of hooliganism.

  11. That kid in the middle wearing a Robin Hood outfit and no mask and a long-suffering look lurking underneath his face? That’s me. All I remember from Halloween as a kid was bobbing for apples in someone’s basement, but then I did a lot of dumb things as a kid, and some woman saying to me the last time I went door to door, “Aren’t you a little old to be doing this?” I’m guessing I was twelve, maybe thirteen. Too old indeed.

    That kid is saying, Okay, I have to dress up and act stupid in order to be tolerated as part of this village? I’m Robin Hood and Robin Hood robbed the rich to give to the poor and didn’t wear no stupid mask. I am who I am. If I’m required to wear a mask, I’ll be the Lone Ranger, fighting injustice and oppression on the side of right. Or Batman. Or Spiderman, if a full mask is mandatory.

    Those other people appear to be mostly adults. I have an idea that they pretty much looked just like that to the kid the other 364 days of the year. A day when you can dress up to disguise yourself and get away with stuff that would get you arrested or excommunicated the rest of the year, sort of like Mardi Gras. College students have refined this with spring break so you don’t have to dress up, you take your clothes off and it lasts a lot longer. Our European ancestors would approve of it all.

    Don’t mind me, I’m the Halloween Grinch. I did buy a bag of candy this year because I’m new to the area and don’t want to offend if anyone actually makes it out here in the sticks. Took me a long time to find a candy I would eat myself if no one shows up. Candy is one of the addictions I have managed to give up along the way and I really don’t like toying with it. Toss it in the trash? Hey, that cost me five bucks.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A day when you can dress up to disguise yourself and get away with stuff that would get you arrested or excommunicated the rest of the year, sort of like Mardi Gras. College students have refined this with spring break so you don’t have to dress up, you take your clothes off and it lasts a lot longer.

      “IT’S THE RED HOUR! FESTIVAL! FESTIVAL!”

    • I feel your pain, Charles, and I’m with you all the way. I didn’t enjoy wearing a Halloween costume when I was a kid, because I felt like I was in costume all the time anyway, and this to me was a burden, not a release. If I scratch myself to just below the surface, I find that I still feel the same way today, all these decades later.

  12. I remember years ago reading iMonk’s annual Halloween rant. Since then I’ve thought a lot about Halloween from the various perspectives Christians take. Just last week my 10 year old son was accused of “worshiping evil” because he answered, “Yes, I go trick or treating.” We can’t seem to get away from this mentality. I put my thoughts on Christians and Halloween in three posts at my blog Dangitbill! It includes links back to Michael Spencer’s Halloween articles, just to share the love. 🙂

    • Brian~ Just wanted you to know that I read all three of your posts on Halloween. That was a lot of work you put into it. Don’t know that it left me feeling any different than I already did. I don’t understand the attraction but it is obvious that the attraction is there, for kids and for adults. Personally I could do without it altogether, but don’t want to spoil others’ fun. If I had my druthers it seems like a good time to celebrate Thanksgiving and Harvest combined. If the Puritans and their Indians guests (or was it the other way around?) set up their Thanksgiving picnic table at the end of November in New England, that would seem to be right in line with a group of people that decided to set up shop there in the middle of winter.

      You didn’t mention the danger of poison candy in all your discussions. I would say that folks who voluntarily imbibe large quantities of candy containing the slow acting poison High Fructose Corn Syrup, not to mention chemical dyes and preservatives, are probably direct descendants of those who thought Christmas time would be a good time to tackle the wilderness.

      • Hi Charles,

        Thanks so much for reading my stuff on Halloween. I don’t mind if I didn’t change your viewpoint. I’m just glad I got you and others thinking from a different perspective. BTW, good observation about the slow acting “poison” in the candy. I’m sure there are dentists out there who will trade candy for something less bad for us. As for me, I’ll ration the sweets to avoid cavities, gluttony and diabetes. 😉

  13. OldProphet says:

    It’s interesting that about 80% of today’s topic is about demons and spiritual warfare but only around 10% of the replies do. Of course, we all know that demons are terrorized by intellectual discourse and debate. Maybe that’s why they don’t go to college.////

    • Sigh.

      What do you want to discuss, OP. All the demons and spiritual warfare I’ve had to fight were inside the church from believers. Most of the current problems in america stem from the same demons and spiritual warfare. Satan is the “prince of the air” and radio ministries do his business. Satan established Black Friday and tied capitalism and material prosperity to “conservative christianity”, and established a red herring on the day before the saints are remembered.

      What do you want to discuss, OP. Seems like plenty of discussion about demons and spiritual warfare occurs on this blog. Or is it the wrong flavor and doesn’t fit your narrative?

      • I won’t be humbled by your anti-intellectualism jab.

        We can do better.

        • OldProphet says:

          I am not anti intellectual Every tool against ignorance and darkness has its place. I’m not sure how this is biblically but the Devil is probably smarter than all of us put together on Imonk. He’s guite the formidable adversary you know.

          • Of course, we all know that demons are terrorized by intellectual discourse and debate.

            • I am sorry if you think I was throwing a jab. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I am amazed at the intellectual mind and I see its beauty. I think Einstein was one of the most beautiful minds and people to have ever walked the earth. The places that I believe science will lead us is to the truth. I am not nor would ever be afraid of that.

              I am not going to throw aside those things so easily as a Kingdom divided with itself cannot stand. Jesus said this in answer to Pharisee ways of thinking. A kingdom is a government. That particular Kingdom will have it’s own place. Jesus never chastised without lifting and teaching out of love. Never. His mission was that of a Lion and there never stood a tougher man. Not ever. Or Satan is roaming like a lion looking for who he can devour and destroy.

              I tell You the truth I am hurt too. My sister who was the best friend I ever had in this world including my wife died of lung cancer this year on her birthday. She wouldn’t let go of being healed so much so that her and her husband never said goodbye to each other. Her prayers raised this Lazarus. For real and If you would look me in the eyes you would see I am sincere. I know of dark things and my testimony is true. I know Of this love and my testimony is true. The man I walked the street with exaggerated so badly about things I became disillusioned and the word I gave him ended in us screaming at each other and he said if my faith was that weak than that was my problem. I have seen the things you speak of and you won’t find me defending them. I need to love and I need to forgive too……too…..too. Do you think I’m playing. If you want we can scream at each other but that prayer I wrote was from my heart and I need it too.

              Do you think that this hurting is good for us. Do you think holding on to it is a helpful thing. I can’t change my heart. I’ve tried only He can do this for us. I have to let go somehow and let Him. Words are not always for others alone you know. My desk is always wet.

              If I am rough I apologize. I said I get words I didn’t say I was good at it. I am a construction worker and sometimes in the most serious of things we joke and it is how we cope. If it isn’t your way I am sorry.

        • I’m sorry did I say there was an option here. If we can do better let’s do it and you lead.

      • OldProphet says:

        Satan and demons are only in the church. Everything on radio or TV is controlled by Satan. The Devil created a shopping day! Further discussion on these comments is a waste of time, in my opinion. Satin is NOT coequal with God. The created thing logically cannot be greater than the creator. Sometimes debate and rhetoric about real issues is just another form of fiddling while Rome burns

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Count me among the rationalists who rolls his eyes whenever such talk comes up. If there is a devil, we humans owe him an apology for blaming our faults on him.

  14. Dana Ames says:

    Sigh. We fell into the “Halloween is evil – or at least has non-Christian roots” thinking. It was hard not to take seriously “eyewitness and first-person accounts” of ritual sacrifice. We limited our kids’ participation: they could go downtown to the merchants’ trick-or-treat, but not in the neighborhood; no scary costumes (we encouraged them not to dress up for that day, but never otherwise limited what they dressed up as in their play times); when they were really small we threw a party in a friend’s garage, and allowed them to go to a church “harvest festival” once or twice; most of the time, if it was a school day we took them out of school because the whole school day was devoted to Halloween activities – instead, we took a trip to The City, saw a cool museum exhibit and went out to eat. When we were home, we did hand out candy. When the kids got into Jr High we let them go trick-or-treating with their friends, but again no scary costumes. One year my older daughter went Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF, for which I was very proud of her. When they were in high school, they actually enjoyed staying home and handing out candy to the little kids. We didn’t want them to not have fun; we just wanted their fun to be centered in “light” rather than “darkness” – if that make sense.

    We did not explain the Christmas morning stocking treats as being left by Santa Claus. When our kids asked if Santa was real, we took the opportunity to explain about the very kind 4th century bishop and the history of how “Santa Claus” came to be. They did not seem disappointed; they had gifts and candy and fun just like the other kids.

    I’m not sure at this point if I would have done anything differently for Halloween, because even without the misinformation/sensationalist accounts, I’m more inclined to ignore the devil than to laugh at him. I’ve never enjoyed horror movies, because I think there are enough horrible and scary things that happen in ordinary life without purposely setting myself up for even more fear, even for transference and temporary relief. I get the psychology of it, I’m just not there. I’m also the child of funeral directors (yes, my mom too) and grew up on the premises of a mortuary, so the attraction to creatures that were formerly corpses doesn’t do anything for me, leaves me cold… 😉 I guess I just have a more sanguine attitude 😉 about death…

    Dana

    • ” I’ve never enjoyed horror movies, because I think there are enough horrible and scary things that happen in ordinary life without purposely setting myself up for even more fear, even for transference and temporary relief. I get the psychology of it, I’m just not there.”

      Fully agree, Dana. Last Spring my wife uncharacteristically borrowed “World War Z” from the library (when the librarian handed the DVD to me, I did a head-shaking double-take, so nonplussed was I by my wife’s out of the ordinary selection). Anyway, from the moment the film started until its conclusion I was filled with a palpable, chilling dread in the pit of my stomach, a dread which shadowed me for a good many days, and even weeks, after watching the movie. Maybe I’m just too impressionable, but whatever the reason, it’s just not for me.

  15. I was rather put out this year to find a contingency of the other parents at my Orthodox parish rather proudly tut-tuting about how they didn’t ‘celebrate’ Halloween, citing the same mostly-sensationalized anti-Halloween produced from the Evangelical world during the 70’s and 80’s (granted, a good number of them are converts who may just be continuing on in whatever fashion they began). Additionally, I’ve seen a lot of stuff written by Russians and other Orthodox clergy who are either staunchly anti-West and anti-American, or simply have no understanding of American/Western culture and history speaking very passionately against Halloween.

    The funny thing is, a couple of years ago, before I had a kid, I didn’t give two hoots about Halloween anymore — it seemed like another cultural excuse to show off one’s boobies in public and get drunk. But my daughter LOVES Halloween: the silly, “spooky” aspect of it, the costumes, the candy… And in that regard, I don’t see it as much more than a cultural activity for children, though I am not a fan of the truly disgusting (and adult generated) manifestations of the holiday, though interesting as they may be as a way that our death-whitewashed culture attempts to give some service to its reality.

    It’s not that I don’t feel conflicted, but I guess if I’m going to eschew Halloween, I should get rid of my christmas tree, my chicks and bunnies at Easter, and maybe just join an Old Calendar parish. It’s a deep hole to go down if one wishes to, and I guess I’m just not ready to be *that* person… And even when I was an Evangelical, I tried to see that Halloween, somewhere in its conception, as a lampooning of death and darkness — that even though these things can be scary, Christ has ultimately triumphed over them.

  16. OldProphet says:

    I wasn’t referring to you W. I was responding to Stuart. Maybe I’m confused, but that’s normal. Is Jack Skellington an intellectual?

    • No I think I am confused now…… wouldn’t of happened over coffee and doughnuts and eye to eye,,,geesh do I feel stupid.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Skellington had a cross-cultural encounter cum mystical experience which he struggled to articulate
      (in song–I believe he was a tenor) to members of his community, although he and they lacked the necessary conceptual framework to make sense of it. He even flirted with conversion, but ultimately remained within his own community, albeit with a more pluralist understanding.

  17. Christiane says:

    what DO fundamentalists celebrate?
    it can’t all be so very dark and negative with them?

    I remember one time commenting on one of their blogs about the Franciscan practice of the Blessing of the Animals in October and sharing a link to a video that showed a number of animals being taken in procession into a Church to be blessed . . . among them a baby raccoon.
    Well, the response was for me a culture shock akin to horror . . . much hubris and gun-hunter talk and even talk of something called ‘coon-hunts’ which to me sounded more like the barbaric torment of innocent animals . . .

    when Catholic encounters hard-core fundamentalism on a blog, even the fates of little baby raccoons can be a revelation . . . and one faith’s child carries a baby raccoon to be blessed, . . . and another faith’s child is taken on a hunt to witness the unspeakable suffering of a dying animal as ‘sport’ . . . and still, fundamentalists worry about Halloween?

    ?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      what DO fundamentalists celebrate?

      God casting all those Heathen and Apostates and Heretics and False Christians and Lukewarms (i.e. everyone except their own clique) into Eternal Hell? While they watch from Fluffy Cloud Heaven?

      “BEGONE FROM ME, YE CURSED, INTO EVERLASTING FIRE! JOIN THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS!”
      — Jack Chick tract Great White Throne scene, same in every tract

  18. I would like to thank all of the contributors to this post for your insights, thoughts, and observations. I have almost never commented here. I am an ex-evangelical who has been wandering deep in the wilderness for a while and without a church. I always liked Mr. Spencer’s writings. I miss his thoughts. I admit to having not been here for a few months recently. I found the increasing political tone disturbing. I am not a teacher, college professor, writer, preacher, software engineer etc… I am a construction worker with a second job as a cook. There is seldom time to read, much less blog for hours. But as I said, I am wandering lost in the wilderness. I am thankful that I stopped by today. Again, thank you to all the writers. I did need this.

    • Robert, thanks for the breath of fresh air. I too find the political tone disturbing, tho it comes and goes. If you haven’t been here for a couple of months, you might want to hang out and get acquainted with “W”. He is blue collar to the core and balances out a lot of the theological wrangling. Thanks for speaking up.

    • Christiane says:

      ” I am a construction worker with a second job as a cook”

      Our Lord Himself was once a construction worker (a carpenter) in His youth, and it is written that He once fed five thousand.
      So you are on the right blog . . . here, we can appreciate your honest work background, ROBERT . . . it sounds strangely familiar to us, yes. 🙂

    • Robert, I really am not aware that we have become more “political.” If you have specific concerns, please drop me an email. I realize we all have blindspots, and your honest critique would be welcome.

  19. OldProphet says:

    W: Just to be clear. I have no issues with you. I hope you weren’t apologizing to me for there is nothing to apologize for. Your posts are excellent and annointed. The ministry I do is prophetic, in words and deeds. I know by the Spirit what you’re saying, I get you

  20. I’m not interested in Halloween. I never was really interested in Halloween as a kid, either, though I put on the costumes and went door to door collecting the treats. This Halloween, the light above our stoop will remain off. Wake me up when October ends.

  21. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    But to me, the big change in the U.S. with regard to Christians and Halloween has been the creation of the evangelical subculture in the last forty years. This has paralleled the development of suburban culture, the loss of neighborhoods and communities, and the radical division of America through the culture wars. Churches have been transformed into the spiritual equivalent of walled communities –activity centers where Christians engage in a full program of “ministries” just for them. This keeps them separated from the world that they see as harmful to the life of faith.

    That’s the root problem of all of this. The Christianese Bubble/Evangelical Circus, pinched off from reality behind its Thomas Kincade-decorated Event Horizon. To where it’s possible to go from birth or Altar Call to Rapture or Homegoing(TM) without ever having to encounter an actual Heathen(TM) from outside the bubble except for drive-by prosletyzing sallies. Including “Just like fill-in-the-blank, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” pop-culture knockoffs so you can enjoy a parallel ersatz pop culture while keeping your nose squeaky-clean to pass the Rapture or Great White Throne Litmus Test.

    Many years ago, talk-show host Rich Buhler had a comment on this whole sort of thing:
    “GOD LIVES IN THE REAL WORLD.”
    And while you’re in the Evangelical Circus/Christianese Bubble, you’re not.