30 October 2010

Halloween Controversy

Every year the debate rages among Christians: celebrate Halloween or not.

Lutherans typically wave off any unease about Halloween, unlike some other Evangelical communions who eschew any and all involvement with Halloween.  I have always found Halloween to be an innocent time of costumes and candy.  And even though some of the costumes have always been over the top - either sexually inappropriate or violent - Halloween is mostly about being silly and getting goodies.

There is, however, an increasingly disturbing darkness and fascination with evil as well as a pushing of the modesty envelope.  Concerning the increasingly occult element is this article from the Times-Picayune that juxtaposes family fun with gore, Satanism, and mockery of Christianity.  An few excerpts:
In the 1990s, protesters picketed, decrying the place (House of Shock) as Satanic. Some even broke in and scattered holy water over the sets and props, which included a decapitated statue of the Virgin Mary....
Almost nothing stopped him (Larry Breaux) — except his wife, Brandi, the mother of his young twins, who told him she didn’t want him to spend all his family time in a place like that. If he wanted to be part of the House of Shock, he knew he had to figure out a way for his family to be part of it, too....
His next role did nothing to persuade Brandi, a Catholic, that the House of Shock was a legitimate family hobby: Breaux became the sullen-faced preacher of the haunted house’s Satanic Church.
Standing atop a pulpit holding a microphone, Breaux, clad in all black, taunted patrons with his deep, raspy voice: “Hail Satan!” “Where is your God now?” “Join us!” “Feed me your soul!”
Actresses portraying bloodied girls in white communion dresses rushed guests, reached out to them with their arms and shrieked, “Help me! Make it stop!” Demons with heads of cow skulls and evil altar boys wielding fake swords pretended to drag the maidens by their hair, lift them off the ground and choke them....
The children asked to join the cast. Brandi thought they were old enough, and Larry secured them gigs – in his “church.” Strawberry-haired Brianna became one of the victimized communion girls. Gage, his dark hair growing past his shoulders, became an altar boy....
Brandi explained, “Larry is not in barrooms. My kids aren’t running the streets with God-knows-who. If this is what it takes to bring our family together, so be it.”
While my family does indeed celebrate Halloween, I can foresee a time when Christians may want to opt out of entirely.  It's getting pretty disturbing when "trick or treat" has been replaced by "hail Satan" and the jack-o-lantern has given way to the pentagram.

--- Rev. Larry Beane


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I find this whole issue to be a lot like "should Christians go out drinking". What do you mean by going out drinking? There is a difference between having a beer with friends and getting utterly blottoed.

Same thing here - it depends on what you mean by celebrating Halloween.

Are you talking about dressing your kids up like Star Wars characters so they can get buckets of candy? Sure.

Are you talking about absentminded Satanic imitation? Not so good. (Now, intentional craftsmanship meant to frighten rather than titillate, maybe not so bad.)

Are you talking about fun creative dress up parties? Sure.

Are you talking about license to dress in a provocative manner in which you wouldn't normally dress? Not so good.

Now, what if the surrounding culture gets so bad? Well, just as there are some bars where you might not want to hang out, there are some aspects of Halloween and some Halloween parties you probably want to avoid.

As for are things becoming more "dark" - I think the greater danger for Christians, especially teens and college aged students is the hyper-sexualization. I think that catches and can bring a downfall to many more than the occult trapping folks. Not everyone's desires for idolatry lean towards to demonic, but any temptation to lust seems to work just fine.

mollo said...

Maybe I should get brownie points because one of my kids dressed up as a Pilgrim. :)

Father Hollywood said...

We just got back from Trick or Treating with adults and children - and we had a blast. I've never had a problem with that aspect of Halloween.

But we did not go to the House of Shock.

I can think of no more way to wrap the House of Shock in the mantle of Christian liberty than I could encourage someone to visit a porn shop and call it a matter of the freedom of the gospel.

I know we like to avoid saying Christians should or should not do x or y or z, and we really love trying to prove that we're not "fundies." But I'm pretty comfortable in saying we ought not participate in entertainments that involve things like pentagrams, mockery of our Lord Jesus Christ, and praising Satan - even as I can think of no circumstance where I could just shrug off parishioners going to strip clubs or "adult movie" conventions.

I would avoid the temptation to treat sexual sins as "worse" than the occult or things that touch on the demonic. In many cases, these sins are far from mutually exclusive, and from my own discussions with pastors, I do believe pastoral dealing with demonic matters is on the rise - especially given the level of the occult in popular entertainment - especially for young people. While very few pastors would condone fornication, I know of some who laugh off such things as ouija boards as nothing to be concerned about.

Such matters are increasingly matters of pastoral care - to the point where our latest pastoral care resource from CPH includes a section on demonic activity. The Roman Catholic Church has recently (within the last few years) made it a requirement that every diocese have an exorcist.

Halloween parties and dressing up like R2D2 is not the issue. But idolatry - whether it be sexual, occult, or something else - is. Unfortunately, as our culture becomes more secular and even hostile to Christianity, we are going to see such things on the increase - even when it comes to something as innocent as Halloween.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Just to be clear - I was not intending to defend the House of Shock. Rather simply this - I was looking at the debate you had set up - "celebrate Halloween or not".

Nor am I attempting to diminish or somehow imply the occult isn't real. I've had to deal with some such stuff like that up here -- but in general I think the great danger with abuse in Halloween will be related to 6 Commandment sort of things rather than 2nd... simply because there is such a mocking overtone. Might some see things and get hooked -- sure. I'd avoid them. But a lot of what happens this time of year is dismissive. Indeed, playing around with dangerous stuff carelessly is dangerous -- but the sexual things seem much more easily repeatable.