Thursday, October 27, 2011
I was watching Colbert last night and first learned about Jesus-Ween - the latest attempt by (a small group of) Christians to suck what joy there is out of something and replace it with unsolicited cheesiness. My fist reaction was an audible groan. Apparently, the suggestion by this group is to dress up all in white and hand out Bibles and Christian Tracts. This is a perfect opportunity for unsuspecting children who otherwise might actually be quite fond of church and Jesus to turn them off at an early age. I mean, the gospel means the good news, right? So in my way of thinking it should sound like good news, or at least have a reasonable possiblity of sounding like good news. Not..."What the...you've got to be kidding me."
I mean, I remember rejecting actual candy as a trick-or-treater. Those coned shaped orange things. Ugh! And word travels fast. In my small hometown if someone was giving out king sized candy bars, come November 1st, the entire 3rd grade knew about it. Other neighborhoods we knew to stay away from because they would stiff you with like one laughy-taffy or a loose bag of caramel corn that we were pretty sure was laced with something. This was, after all part of the thrill of Halloween - It might taste delicious, or...it might kill you! Every year my parents gave us the speech about how people might be trying to poison us, or put razor bladed in apples, and every year I wondered, if this is so incredibly dangerous why are you just sending us out to wander strange dark streets? I was pretty sure, at the time that my odds of dying were probablty like 1 in 3.
When I was growing up we celebrated Halloween. We didn't know it was Satan's Holiday. We simply didn't know better. We just thought it was fun to dress up and GET CANDY! Although my parents did have some kind of rule against dressing up as a devil or demon, which made that option sound the most appealing. I can remember my Christian friend tell me about how his family didn't believe in Halloween but that they had a Harvest Party where they played games and got loads of candy. I remember him telling me how fun it was, and it sounded a little forced. He was Apostolic Lutheran, so all I knew about his religion was that his family didn't have a TV. Which meant that when he came over to my house watching TV was the most appealing option. All this to say, I had my doubts about how much fun they were really having.
The first few years, our costumes consisted of things we could readily find around the house. My parents had the double gift of being both thrifty and also not crafty. So I'm pretty sure my first two costumes were hobo and pirate. All I really remember is that both required smearing coffee grounds on my face, which to me at the time was incredibly gross. And I remember my mom being weirdly persistent. Like she knew my costume was basically awful but that she believed the coffee grounds could save it. Like it was basically me wearing a stocking hat. But add a few coffee grounds and whalla! Instant Hobo. And as a side note, where have all the hobos gone? I don't mean homeless people, I'm talking hobos. Everything they own in a bag on a stick, walking the railways, singing Jimmy Crack Corn.
When my kids got old enough to celebrate Halloween I was faced with the question: Is this something that we want to do as a family? My gut was telling me yes. My wife was one of those Harvest Party people (put your hands in the air), and it turns out she loved Harvest parties almost as much as my friend pretended to. The other problem was, we just really didn't (don't) eat candy. So having them "earn" a whole bag of candy seemed like a bad idea. But, we decided that we were going to do it, and my wife went trick-or-treating for the first time. And the kids through the years have had either homemade (but actually good) or Goodwill costumes. I think the reason we decided to go along and do the Halloween thing, is that we're probably weird enough as it is, so when we get a chance to do something fairly normal, where we get to go out and meet our neighbors, we do it. Also, the kids Halloween candy keeps me supplied with Snickers and Baby Ruth's for most the year. Most of the candy we end of throwing away right before the next Halloween. And then we repeat the pattern all over again.
I don't know if there is some proper Christian response to Halloween. But I find it funny that originally it was Christians that kind of started this whole thing with All Saints Day It was probably synthesizing some pagan Holiday related to the Harvest. And now it's Christians who are rejecting Halloween and celebrating with Harvest Parties? But this is what I think. If you can be normal in ways that don't matter, that's probably a good idea, and if you can be peculiar and set apart in ways that do matter, that's probably a good idea. It seems like we often reject some fairly innocuous things and don't even know we are buying into more insidiousness things like materialism and consumerism.
If you are ready, here are last years reflections about the war on Christmas.