September 19, 2014

The Internet Monk Annual Halloween Rant

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
From October 23, 2008

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 Peretti novel.

Boo. I hope I scared you.

Comments

  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Ah, that time of year. Harvest Festival (TM), Reformation Day (TM), JESUSween (TM), Hell Houses, Trunk-or-Treats, Christian talk show phone-ins, the legacy of Mike Warnke denouncing a folk festival that actually started out as a Christian holiday.

    To commemorate, little mash-up of Nightmare Before Christmas and My Little Pony, using footage solely from the recent MLP Halloween episode. Enjoy!

  2. It all makes me, protestant that I am, want to return to All Saints Day…. Please don’t tell the protestent popes we stocked up on trick or treat candy…

  3. pyrotechnic says:

    Maybe this year instead of grumbling about how irritating it is to have the doorbell ringing randomly for 4 or 5 hours on Halloween, I should break out my demon locust costume (Burger King crown included) and give the chill’uns some real fright. It’s Biblical…

  4. We are handing out tracks and telling children about the dangers of demons possessing them at Halloween.

    NOT!

    Giving out candy and enjoying all the great costumes and fun (scary) stuff that goes along with it.

    As a kid I dressed up and went trick or treating. It hasn’t affected me any.

    (I think I’ve just convinced many to give it up)

  5. conanthepunctual says:

    We will be taking our kids to ring some doorbells. We will be leading a glow in the dark stick figure, a ghostbuster, and scooby doo from door to door and I hope we don’t have to throw away too many tracks after the fact.

    The only thing that scares me about Halloween is how many Christian friends and family I have to avoid the subject with.

    • The only thing that scares me is the amount of candy they will be bringing home…..

      • conanthepunctual says:

        Yeah, but we get the parents’ commission of candy for facilitating the evening so it balances it out a bit.

  6. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..Halloween and fundgelcials. I remember when the church and Cru used to have a “Harvest Party” as a way to keep people from engaging in Halloween activities. The fundagelical mega church I attended had kind of a hell house that recruited volunteers. The hell house was aimed at teenagers. And then I’ve driven past a couple of churches in the Washington, D.C. area which advertise a hell house. Oh the fun!! (rolls eyes)

    But if we were to flip the tables to create a “hell” house from an agnostic perspective…what would it include?

    Perhaps something like this…?

    1. Being a fundgelical in a university biology course that is taught by Richard Dawkins.
    2. Have a scene of some villagers in Wuhan, China in 234 BCE. And ask the fundys this question. “The gospel doesn’t even exist..what is to become of the soul and salvation of Ling Xhe when he dies tomorrow?”
    3. Tie a fundy in a chair and have them watch re-runs of some of the greatest comments by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and their replacement John Piper. Then tell them…”This is your spokeman…when your co-worker thinks of Christinaity this is what they think of…..”
    4. Have a picture of the burning World Trade Center and ask them to reflect upon what faith does to people and the harm it can inflict on society at large.
    5. Have another scene where they are the minister at a gay wedding.
    6. Have a picture of their dying relative who perhaps could be saved if fundys didn’t hold back on stem cell research and other forms of science.
    7. Have them attend a Catholic mass on November 1st All Saints Day :-P

    Anyone up for pulling this off in the Washington, D.C. area? Maybe we could do it across the street from McLean Bible? :-P

    • David Cornwell says:

      You are scaring me!

    • Margaret Catherine says:

      Not just any Catholic Mass, but Mass at St. John the Beloved in McLean! Smells, bells, candles all over the place, chant, nary a girl altar server among the six of them…and that’s just on an “ordinary” Sunday…

    • Thought of this while being in bed last night…

      8. Have a scene with someone in the final stages of cancer before death. Total pain, moaning, showing a nurse administering morphine, etc… And in the background have an audio of John Piper teaching that cancer is a gift from God.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Piper really put both feet in his mouth with that “teaching”, huh?

        • I’m assuming he hasn’t had it before, but that’s just a guess. Survivors might put it a tad differently…

          • Here’s the story…a couple of years back John Piper was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He wrote and publsihed a piece describing how his cancer was a gift from God. In it he described how it helped get his priorities straight, to take God much more seriously, and how he looked forward during the cancer treatment to draw close to God. He wrote about cancer in this really twisted way.

            Now I was in a Bible study 4 years ago and this guy who is a cancer survivor passed out this John Piper pamphlet from Bethlehem Baptist talking about how cancer is a gift from God. He encouraged us to give it to those who were dealing with cancer. So here’s how the ugly story plays out.

            My Mom is a pancreatic cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 2005 when I was getting ready to move from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C. In happened so quickly but the doctors caught it early. My Mom went through radiation and a number of treatments after having surgery. My Dad told me recently that she had the same surgery that Steve Jobs had. After my Mom was told that she was cancer free she still had to go back on a semi-regular basis to get MRI’s performed to make sure the cancer did not return.

            Well along comes Eagle who has digested the fundgelical kool-aide and while my Mom was going thorugh the MRI follow up and I give her the John Piper pamphlet. My Mom was silent as she looked at it. 2 years later we were talking and she stops me and tells me that the pamphlet I gave her was one of the most disgusting things she had read. My Mom told me that cancer was not a gift. Instead she talked about how frightened she was during the ordeal and how much she appreciated everyone’s love and prayers. But she wanted me to know that the John Piper pamphlet was twisted and that I should think twice before giving that to someone.

          • BTW…Let me also state that I am grateful that John Piper survived cancer. I’m grateful that he beat it and is around today. I have my disagreements with him; but I could never wish malice on someone in such a way. When i consider what my Mom went through and the other stories of individuals I have known who lost family members to cancer…I get chills.

    • I heard somebody’s idea of hell is being tied to a chair and forced to watch every Veggie Tales video ever made. Without a break.

      Fundagelicals condemn Halloween because it’s scary, then on that night, put together Hell Houses. And that’s better?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s Saving Souls (TM), and that justifies pretty much anything.

        “If you can’t love ‘em into the Kingdom, SCARE ‘EM INTO THE KINGDOM!”
        – some Christian radio host in the Seventies or Eighties

    • Make it a mass for All Souls at a splinter Catholic church that still shrouds the statues and does it all in Latin.

    • Eagle:
      I had to control myself so people in the cubicles around me could not hear my laughing!
      Like in the Lord of The Rings – you have been labelled a Disturber of the peace!

      LOL

  7. It is so refreshing to find some like minded folks here. Like Michael Spencer I remember having a great time on Halloween as a child. Mom made my sister and I a “pair of dice” costume out of matching cardboard boxes once, the only problem being we couldn’t see our feet therefore navigating stairs was comically hard. It was great fun going around our neighborhood. I can’t remember anything bad ever happening. We always had such fun carving pumpkins with my workaholic dad. He really got artistic.
    By the time I had children and was attending an evangelical church everything had changed and Halloween was totally evil and there were Halloween alternative events at churches (still are) where the kids dressed in costumes and got candy. I never understood how that was any different really than going house to house. We always politely continued letting our children trick or treat in the neighborhood under our supervision despite the stance our church took. I have never once participated in the Halloween alternative event at the church. I will send in a bag of candy but that is it. I still think that Halloween can promote neighborhood unity and friendliness as you meet and talk to the kids at your front door and wave to the parents on the sidewalk.

  8. I can remember my parents and other youth workers putting together those great scary haunted house/walks type events for the church youth group. There was stuff all over our house for a month before, and we even got ‘scared’ when my mom would accidently leave stuff lying around! It was all pretty funny:)
    I didn’t know until now how Halloween got hijacked. I just remember dressing up my kids and getting into Halloween and all my Christian friends were all over my case….I wondered what had happened–now I can blame Warnke! (kind of like the Santa Claus thing, too) I remember thinking, it’s just dress-up for heavens sake!!
    Anyway, my husband and I let our kids trick-or-treat every year, dress-up in the costumes of choice, hand out candy, etc….it made for some fun and good memories.
    So now, with no one to dress-up anymore, we usually invite friends over, I make Witches’ Brew (Taco soup) and watch Arsenic and Old Lace…yes, I know, pretty tame, but it’s surprising how many people have never seen the movie:)
    Oh yes….and we hand out candy to all the trick-or-treaters who come knocking–too fun!

  9. I would like to know…why are evangelicals so gullible? When it comes to Mike Warnke…why can’t they admit a mistake and return to the old days? Is this due to pride?

    • Glenn A Bolas says:

      More likely most people don’t remember where it all came from in the first place. Once an idea grips the collective consciousness, the source doesn’t really matter anymore.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        At which point, the Urban Legend dynamic takes over and “Everybody Knows That”.

    • Most evangelicals under the age of 30 won’t even know who Mike Warnke is nowadays. His heyday was the 70s, 80s, and very early 90s. As a kid our family was big time into his stuff, but became kind of disenchanted the last few years on our own, before any of the “scandalous” stuff really rolled out. Nothing definite, just an unsettled feeling. I remember also reading The Satan Seller, and thinking that the stories told in the book about his life didn’t seem to jibe with stories he told elsewhere. And it’s not just evangelicals who were gullible; I seem to recall that even many “secular” hosts had him on their shows as an “expert” on Satanism.

      • And it’s also worth remembering that it was a Christian magazine, Cornerstone, published by Jesus People USA in Chicago, that rolled out the expose on him in their June, 1992 issue. This was the beginning of the end for his credibility as an expert on these topics. This was one time at least when the church cleaned up one of its own messes and didn’t wait for the “secular” press to do it.

        • humanslug says:

          I miss C-Stone. That was a great magazine.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Cornerstone’s expose on Warnke (and its aftermath) was later published in book form under the title “Selling Satan”. I have a copy.

          Though Warnke’s fanboys are still around. My writing partner had to sever relations with another church years ago when other church’s pastor invited Warnke as special guest speaker/evangelist KNOWING the guy was a fraud.

      • All that being said, I do think Halloween is an overrated holiday these days. When people start putting up decorations more than a month before the event, that’s when it’s crossed the line into the overrated category.

        • Of course, now Halloween is just the day stores put up their Christmas stuff.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            One day I just KNOW I’m going to walk into a store on December 26th and see an “ONLY 364 SHOPPING DAYS TIL XMAS!” banner…

      • It has been a few years, but I vaguely seem to remember some noise about how bad Halloween was before I heard of Warnke. Was he a pivotal figure, or was there a constellation of movers?

        • There were a number of individuals pushing this theme, but at least in my awareness, Warnke was one of the most pivotal.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            More like there was always a small fringe in American Christianity carrying on “about how bad Halloween was”. (Extreme Holiness churches?)

            Warnke and the Satanic Panic Activists who rode his coattails (like Constance Cumby & Johanna Michaelson) became enough of a “constellation of movers” for the “Devil’s Holiday” meme to achieve critical mass and “go Evangelical mainstream”. Since then, it’s been part of the package.

            “How bad Halloween was” was only a part of a Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory of a Vast Satanic Conspiracy Out To Get Our Children — Ritual Sexual Abuse, Dungeons & Dragons, Recovered Memories, etc. A lot of this Conspiracy theory came directly from Warnke’s fraudulent “testimony” and like all such theories became a closed-loop system. The Dwarfs were for The Dwarfs, and wouldn’t be taken in. And we’re still seeing the fallout; the current Culture War mentality is just a shift of targets, but the Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory (with SATAN pulling all the strings) remains.

  10. Just the other day, I was explaining to a colleague the Harlequin “Steeple Hill” (that’s their Christian romance line) style guide which prohibits–among many other, more predictable vices–any mention of Halloween. He looked at me as though I had said something bizarre and incomprehensible.

    • I guess it must be an American thing. I can’t see any sense it it at all – getting your kids to dress up in scary costumes and pester the neighbours for hours. It appears to have lost any connection to the original All Hallows Eve – which is a debatable part of church history anyway. In Australia, we are valiantly trying to resist the foisting of another Americanisation on our culture by the big stores trying to entice children with their Halloween costumes, etc. I hope we win!!

  11. Steve Newell says:

    Silly me. I thought that Oct 31 is Reformation Day which precedes All Saints Day.

  12. My 3-year-old has been prepping for weeks to dress up as a paleontologist (she loves all things dinosaur). And so we’ve been celebrating Halloween (by wearing costumes and eating candy) non-stop since Saturday morning. It just occurred to me that we’ve managed to actively promote Halloween AND Evolution in the same weekend. Score!

    • Glenn A Bolas says:

      How do paleontologists dress? I must have missed an archetype somewhere.

      • Pith helmet, magnifying glass, and a lasso in case they find a live one.

      • Margaret Catherine says:

        Alan Grant. Or Indiana Jones, who’s checking specialties? ;)

      • Jack Heron says:

        Permanent hangover. Palaeontologists debate whether this is ‘absolutely essential’ or merely ‘very useful’ for fieldwork, but so far nobody has come to a conclusion due to the difficulty of finding a sober palaeontologist.

        (Source: first hand experience)

    • If you are talking human evolution, you have the wrong science – that would be a physical anthropologist.

      Indian Jones was an archaeologist (a people person, even if the people were long gone, but still).

      When I was in grad school, I was asked one night at a church I was visiting what I was studying. When I said archaeology the guy got a confused look on his face and said ‘well, you don’t look like Indian Jones’. My resonse was ‘and my boyfriend likes it that way’ and just made a hasty exit.

  13. Another reason to love being Catholic…beer (and stronger) as long as it is not a personal sin for you, crazy Hallowen parties, and we can even read our horoscope in the morning paper and have a laugh over it.

    We can accept sorrow and sin and “unfairness” in life, but we can also through a party for anything. Infact, we think the Lord get annoyed when he hands us an earthly pleasure (marital sex, the beauty of turning leaves and art, the giggles of a band of six year old girls, a warm brandy in front of a fire on a cold, wet day, and the adoration we get from our pets) and we IGNORE or DISPARAGE it!

  14. I am happy to report that my current church is having a regular old halloween party, costumes and all. My CLB had a sermon on the evils of halloween. Personally, I will be handing out candy to the neighborhood little people. And that’s all I have to say about that. Well, not really . . .

    This is another one of those things that evangelicalism in the US has taken up as an ISSUE, not unlike homosexuality or mosques in small towns. I’m convinced that these issues are more about identity of evangelical churches in a certain framework than they are about biblical teaching . . . but don’t tell them that.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Lots of these issues are fear based. And they can be used to raise a lot of money, mobilize people, and get in the news. Just wait till the Christmas issues start up again.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        As we segue from Important Christian Culture War Cause # 16835 (The Devil’s Holiday) to Important Christian Culture War Cause #28903 (War on Christmas).

        Anyone know any source for one-way super-saver fares to Ponyville? Because cartoon horsies make a lot more sense than RL right now…

        • humanslug says:

          I understand that the Puritans actually got Christmas celebrations banned at one point in England’s history.
          Same as it ever was.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Not because Christimas was of pagan origin.

            Because Christmas was ROMISH.

            The ultimate Protestant:
            If enemy Christians do A, We Must Do Not-A.

  15. We have lived outside the US for the last 9 years, and have just recently returned. I have to say, the celebration and commercialization of Halloween has gotten creepier during my 9 year time warp. I’m not a party prude – I celebrated Halloween with the best of them (we Catholics can party at any holiday).

    Just sayin …

  16. Halloween? Bah, humbug!

  17. For all of you out there who are utilizing a carved pumpkin to worship demons . . . Stop it! The rest of us are going to have a great time. Happy Halloween!

  18. Not much concern expressed for the “weak brother” in any of this article or comments. I personally have failed to see any redemptive holy quality to the observance of halloween. It’s all a pretty ugly celebration of death and evil even in the pagans eyes. Even too much free candy is a rotten thing.

    • No, Jonathan, it is the Eve of All Saint’s Day, whcih is a celebration of all of those brothers and sisters of ours who loved God so totally that their lives are an example for us all to follow in our journey. There is nothing “evil” about it, and DEATH…it is gonna happen to us all, so we need to keep that in mind as we live our lives and make our choices.

      I’ll not bore you with old ideas that the souls of the SAINTS used to be allowed to visit on the evening before All Hallow’s, and lights to guide them/remind them who was still an earthly being….because I’m sure you know all about that, right?

      And a gap-toothed princess begging for Snickers? Gotta be pretty stuck in ideology to not enjoy the “awwww” cuteness factor. I’m just sayin’.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Not much concern expressed for the “weak brother” in any of this article or comments.

      Because we’ve had experience with Professional Weaker Brethren.

      “Just like Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

      Even too much free candy is a rotten thing.

      Willie Wonka’s father (the Christopher Lee version) would agree.

      • “Because we’ve had experience with Professional Weaker Brethren.”

        Besides which, as the OP stated, the “weaker brother” is responding to hysteria that is based on Mike Warnke’s lies. Never mind that in the last 25-30 years the bulk of evangelicalism has bought into the lies – they are still lies.

        I don’t see this as a “weaker brother” issue, but as an issue of education to correct a falsehood that has been perpetrated on a gullible church.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          However, if Grand Unified Conspiracy Logic is in effect (as it was among Warnke fanboys when he was exposed), your claiming something different (i.e. that “they are still lies”) makes you a Closet Satanist, One of The Conspiracy. (Warnke’s fanboys and the rest of the Satanic Panic industry claimed the same about Cornerstone and the reporters who exposed him. The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.)

          • Ah yes, conspiracy theories – gotta love them. The lack of evidence is simply proof that “The Truth” has been suppressed, and I’m either ignorant and gullible or an active part of the conspiracy! ;)

            And I saw the same thing with Jerald and Sandra Tanner, when they started discussing the possibility that the Salamander Letter was a fraud. The other ministries to Mormons immediately started questioning their salvation, and whether or not they were, in fact, closet Mormons intent on sowing dissension within the ranks of Christianity. After all, the Salamander letter “proved” every allegation they’d ever made about Joseph Smith Jr. and his participation is stone-peeping.

            Even after the whole fraud came to light (a pipe bomb blew up in the perpetrator’s hands, after which they found the tools he was using to create his forgeries), the Tanners were still ostracized by several ministries to Mormons. And their only crime was telling the truth!!!

            So yeah, the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs, and not even the truth can get in their way.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            After all, the Salamander letter “proved” every allegation they’d ever made about Joseph Smith Jr. and his participation is stone-peeping.

            EVERY allegation they’d ever made? Convenient, that. Too convenient, too complete. If it were genuine, there’d probably be some discrepancy or omission. Nobody hits at 100%.

            So yeah, the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs, and not even the truth can get in their way.

            Because Grand Unified Conspriacy Theories are a completely closed system. Completely closed-loop, independent of anything outside. Lack of evidence is proof of suppression, thus evidence for. Evidence against is disinformation, thus evidence for.

            “Because they ‘won’t be taken in’, they can never be taken out.” — Aslan

          • “EVERY allegation they’d ever made? Convenient, that. Too convenient, too complete. If it were genuine, there’d probably be some discrepancy or omission. Nobody hits at 100%.”

            That was, in fact, why Jerald started questioning it – it was simply too good to be true. Too clean, too precise, too much in alignment with previous information. :)

  19. I am always sympathetic to my “weak brother.” That said, when the weak brother is an organization or is running the organization, having a contrary position is entirely proper.

  20. That part that makes me nuts (which I blogged on, natch) is how the neopagans have managed to sucker the press into believing that Halloween is actually their holiday, Samhain, which we Christians stole and tried to Christianize.

    Which is ridiculous. We Christians didn’t steal any holidays from the pagans. We stole them from the Jews. All Hallows had nothing to do with Samhain until we moved it from May to November, sometime in the 800s. And even then, our celebrations look nothing like a largely secular Celtic harvest festival (which, ironically, is what a lot of Halloween-phobic churches insist on calling their shindigs). Thanksgiving does.

    Your average neopagan observance of Samhain doesn’t look like it either. It’s a largely religious (and if food’s involved, largely vegan) observance that tries, if anything, to avoid tradition like the plague. If anything from the previous year gets repeated, half of them will object out of principle; They are not an organized religion, unlike the Fundamentalists (which quite a lot of them grew up as, and are rebelling against).

    Anyway. Every Halloween, some gullible reporter writes a little something about how Samhain became Halloween, and it’s all bunk. Warnke and Larson would love it though; it’s more “proof” they can point to.

    • Thanks….I tiptoed around the same point above, minus your eloquence!

    • I think the name for Easter (at least in the Germanic languages) was stolen from the pagans (not the neo-pagans, but the older ones, who were fighting the Romans). And the date for Christmas was changed to compete with similar pagan holidays. But Halloween, well, the bull detector is in the red zone on this one.

      • Jack Heron says:

        Quite correct concerning Easter, Eostre is an Anglo-Saxon goddess associated with both spring and the dawn. ‘Eostremonath’ was an alternative to ‘April’ even for some centuries post-Christianisation.

        Concerning ‘stealing holidays’, it’s usually more complex than that. Remember that pagan festivals often had quite sensible reasons behind them (the harvest’s arrived/it’s the shortest day/look – flowers!) that Christians wanted to celebrate too. Added to which, people just like having festivals and don’t always care much about religious reasoning behind them. So it’s not a simple case of either co-opting or ‘stealing’, but nor is it necessarily a conscious attempt to compete with or replace.

  21. *gasp* you mean they DON’T sacrifice children to Satan on Halloween? What is the world coming to?

    LOL, don’t mention Frank Peretti to me. You would be surprised to hear so many people quoting Peretti as if they had added his books to the canon of Scripture! And yes, I was taken in by Mike Warnke for a while. Even sent him money. (I wonder if he would give it back when it was discovered he was a fraud?)

    People are so concentrated on Satan that they forget about Christ. Just like the prophecy buffs who talk more about the Antichrist than about Christ. *sigh*

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      LOL, don’t mention Frank Peretti to me. You would be surprised to hear so many people quoting Peretti as if they had added his books to the canon of Scripture!

      Just as they did the books of Hal Lindsay and LaHaye & Jenkins.

      As for Peretti, he had an interesting concept and premise, and a technothriller style that matched well with the premise. (I vaguely remember a similar concept in Chinese theater — two stages, with the Immortals on the upper stage and mortals on the lower; action on one stage would affect the other, but the mortals were unaware of it.) However, Peretti was the type of writer who needed a strong editor and didn’t have one in his early stuff. A strong editor might have rescued him from such bad moves as:
      1) Peretti’s breakout novel made a strategic mistake of building up its Big Bad (the Demon Prince of Babylon) for the entire novel only to take him out relatively easily at the end.
      2) His second had this one scene where all the Secular Humanist Conspiracy Big Bads meet to plot their next move to destroy Bible-Believing Christianity in America, every one of them being ridden by DEMONS who control their every thought and every move. I took one skim of that scene and identified everybody at the meeting — THAT’S Madelyn Murray O’Hair, That’s Carl Sagan, That’s the Amazing Randi, That’s Stephen Jay Gould, That’s Shirley Mac Laine — all that was missing was the Pope, the Premier of the USSR, and the Elders of Zion. IT WAS THAT OBVIOUS.

      People are so concentrated on Satan that they forget about Christ. Just like the prophecy buffs who talk more about the Antichrist than about Christ. *sigh*

      Some of these Spiritual Warfare types make me wonder if Satan is bigger and badder than God, else why would he need such Spiritual Warriors as reinforcements? Maybe the reason they’re so shrill (Demons Under Every Bed) is deep down they’re afraid Satan is So Strong that they’ve backed the losing side?

      “A lot of Christians are more interested in The Antichrist than Christ.”
      – J Vernon Magee

      “Christian authors have signed the future over to The Antichrist.”
      – some essay on Christian SF and its problems

      • It seems I heard somewhere one time that Peretti had planned a whole series of books along these lines, but nipped that idea when he saw Christians taking them too seriously, even to the point of doing “Bible studies” on the books. His intent was more purely for entertainment purposes, not trying to create something to be taken so seriously.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “I am responsible to my audience. I am NOT responsible FOR my audience.”
          – Rod Serling, after a thriller TV script of his inspired RL copycat bomb threats

          If true, this is a phenomenon I’ve seen in various fandoms — crazy fanboys. Somewhere on the Web there was once an open letter by fantasy author Mercedes Lackey on the subject; she had problems with crazy stalker fanboys of an urban fantasy/supernatural detective series she discontinued — bad problems — and vented about it on the Web.

          Over at Slacktivist, there was once a theory that with Christian enclaving/separation/isolation, a lot of Christians have little experience of the power of fiction, and when they do experience it, they can get carried away to the point of confusing fiction and reality.

          However, the specific phenomenon of “doing Bible studies” on fiction books isn’t limited to Peretti. In the Seventies, I experienced “Bible Studies” whose only “Bible” was written by Hal Lindsay, and I’ve heard of similar studies using only Left Behind. And it’s not just fanboys; my writing partner has related cases where Christian publishers demanded a Bible Study Guide included at the end of a novel. Like a book only has value if you can use it as a Bible Study textbook.

  22. i was once asked to come preach at a Hallelujah service as a young preacher on halloween night, got there and there was the obligatory cheesey carmen video and “rapture” practice where everyone was told to jump up in the air, wow

    but, i have seen an increase in a focus on the darker side of halloween in recent years, and trust me i’m not a party pooper, i love horror movies and such, it just seems that as Christians have withdrawn from halloween it has grown darker, and there is now with adults a good deal of debauchary involved

    that said, i can’t wait till tonight to take the kids out for candy

    • the increasing creep+gore factor of Halloween costumes+trappings is a definite red flag IMHO. and the young child emphasis is simply lost nowadays with teens & older out haunting the neighborhoods showing off their really ghoulish costumes+makeup…

      if there were just kiddies with their parents wandering about in the just-after-sunset hour or two, i wouldn’t mind staying at home handing out treats. i always liked the creativity of homemade costumes & cute youngsters that were always polite & even a bit scared themselves having to brave a stranger’s doorstep for their wanted ‘treats’…

      so yes, i agree with Spencer’s lament. it is worse now with the trick-or-treat tradition continuing to become another excuse for an X-treme party horror-themed bacchanalia that adults & older teenagers have usurped in a very demonstrative way. the little kiddies selfishly being relegated to minor players now in this once innocent American holiday…

      Lord have mercy… :(

      • cermak_rd says:

        Oh come now! Sure there are sexy nurse costumes and such, after all Halloween has become the #1 hookup holiday. Which makes sense, most of the others are either family based holidays (winter religious observances, Thanksgiving, spring religious observances); or holidays for those already a couple (New Years Eve, Valentines day). So sexy costumes are a part of that aspect, but most of that takes place in the context of parties, not trick-or-treating!

        In my neighborhood, most of the kids for Halloween are 1-8. Dressed up as cute little dinosaurs, frogs, monsters, Star Wars characters etc. Every year, I sit out on my porch and hand out candy. I usually have one of my dogs dressed up in costume, too. This year, Scampi (my Jack Russell Terrier with crooked legs) is a squirrel. My home is decorated with skulls, carved pumpkins, and skeletons. Most of the youngest come out early, around 4-6 with a few out around 7. Older kids show up around 7.

        Our neighbors also come out and we talk and watch out for the kids who are not always wise enough to look both ways. This year we’ll be even more alert since there have been some attempted kidnappings in the area (seriously in my town and the burb one over…same car description).

        In my neighborhood, there are lot of folks from Mexico who have their own feast, Day of the Dead. Which fits nicely into Halloween as well (and probably derives from the same source).

      • Michael was also aware of the current trend in our culture involving extended childhood. Teens and older continue to embrace Halloween, but look what happened to the video game market. There are so many games rated T for teen because not only does every teen play games they also have money. “Teenage years” now extend into the mid 20′s, if not beyond. When a 25 year old (man? boy? man-child?) spends all of his disposable income on basketball shoes, video games and music when exactly does adulthood begin?

    • Jack Heron says:

      Rapture practice involves jumping in the air? Does Jesus need a bit of a run-up when it comes to apocalyptic take-off?

      • evidently so, it was a little bizarre:)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’ve heard of the phenomenon in the context of youth group icebreakers.

        My writing partner (the burned-out preacher) credits John Nelson Darby (inventor of Secret Rapture) and his fanboys with killing off Protestant Christianity in America.

  23. Jack Heron says:

    A lot of the trouble around this is down to rather essentialist thinking – that is, the idea that holidays and celebrations are either one thing or the other. If there is any trace of practices of pagan origin then the whole thing must be some great crypto-pagan conspiracy, so runs the thinking.

    Were there pagan festivals around this time of year connected with the dead? Sure, the falling of the leaves is a pretty obvious time to think about death. Have these festivals anything to do with modern Halloween? Not much, no, though a few local traditions might survive in heavily modified form. What does this mean for us as Christians? No more than we want it to – just because some people a long time ago used a day to honour the dead in one way is no reason for us not to use the same day to do the same in our way.

    One thing I find heavily irritating about ‘Christian alternatives’ is that they always seem to assume that everything not explicitly Christian is inherently unChristian – and so entirely neutral things like, say, rock music are only acceptable in an explicitly Christian guise. The other thing is that they assume anything done or invented by non Christians is somehow incompatible with Christianity – so if pagans celebrated something worth celebrating, like Midsummer, then we shouldn’t.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      That and “Christian Alternatives (TM)” are usually second-rate knockoffs of whatever Heathen (TM) fad or festival they’re “Alternatives” to. Like a consolation/booby prize for those forbidden to enjoy the original.

    • As someone whose Christianity runs heavily towards the Celtic end, I totally agree on the issue of ‘if it doesn’t fit the mold everyone freeks’ analysis. Usually (this year October was harsh, so there was no usual about how it ended either) we have a small fire in the back yard, eat smores and celebrate the fact that we as Christians don’t have to fear the dark because of the coming of the Light of the World.

      I think there is something almost healthy to take a moment to remember there is evil in the world (the real thing, not the fake gore for profit Halloween stuff) and that Christ came so that we didn’t need to fear it’s power over us.

      So Happy Samhain from this Southern Baptist!

  24. BOO!