By David Jones
Well it’s that time of year again when we go to the store and buy an outfit designed to be worn exactly once.
No, not a Prom dress. No, not an Easter dress. Not a wedding dress either. Okay, stop guessing!
It’s Halloween, that time of year when everyone has to dodge Christmas decorations looking for cheap candy to give to strangers’ kids. Now here in the American heartland we have a certain amount of religious tension over this holiday. It’s considered un-Christian in some locales, if not downright satanic.
That’s always made me chuckle. It got the name Halloween because Hallowe’en came from All Hallow’s Evening, a Christian effort to make something okay for Christians to be involved with by slapping a new name on it and calling it holy.
That’s been a trend for a few centuries.
To complicate matters, that Catholic practice doesn’t impress the Protestant folks who think the Pope’s church is the Devil. So the night is the Devil, the church behind renaming it is also the Devil, and Trick-or-Treating is the Devil. To beat the Devil, those other churches decided to rename it Trunk-r-Treat (pretending it’s because it’s all about child safety), hold the party at their church, and now everything’s all better. It’s so cool how a new name makes everything acceptable!
That’s the lesson, though. Sometimes folks will go to great lengths to find a way to embrace something they would otherwise have to avoid in public. There has to be a way to say “no, this is totally different!”
It goes to show how often we create and embrace illusion in our lives to justify things that otherwise prick at our conscience.
It’s an exercise in being inauthentic for the sake of others’ opinions. These folks aren’t worried about whether God disapproves but whether their church’s members will. I think God is far more concerned with how we treat other people, animals, the planet and ourselves than with us getting our kids made up to be something they aren’t to go door to door and panhandle for candy.
Of course, dressing up as something you aren’t is also an exercise in illusion, in being inauthentic. The difference is that some embrace the illusion intentionally as illusion, where others hide behind illusion as a way to justify doing something they would otherwise decry as wrong.
You go into Halloween with your eyes wide open when you dress up as an astronaut knowing the illusion isn’t harming anyone, or you go into it trying to dodge social criticism by putting an illusion over the illusion to justify doing something you say you believe is wrong.
I remember the elders at my Kingdom Hall telling us we shouldn’t defend a lack of involvement in holidays by saying “my religion won’t let me.” It just didn’t fit the image, you know? But that explanation was the most honest one. We had parties as Witnesses, and any music had to be approved in advance. How often I jammed to a Kiss or Queen tune until I mentioned who the artist was. That got that song yanked fast. I watched a whole congregation line dance to “Oh What a Night,” a song about a one-night affair because no one knew that and approved it.
Folks who go to church learn to embrace or avoid a whole heap of things, but blind obedience to church rules doesn’t please God if their hearts don’t fundamentally agree. Isaiah 29:13 has God saying, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
If our heart has no problem with a thing but we stay away because of what people might say, can we say our heart is truly in line with our actions? Are we being dishonest just because of something we’re taught?
If we rename Trick-or-Treating so we don’t feel bad about doing it, what else in life are we embracing behind a social illusion? Wouldn’t it be better to honestly face how you actually feel about a thing and go from there?
If you think Halloween is wrong, then don’t engage. Sit at home and watch movies. Go out to eat. Hit a bookstore or invite friends over for a game night. Keep the porch light off and don’t worry about stuff.
My conscience has no problem with it, but I’m also not insisting folks make their kids go out and flirt with diabetes. So for crying out loud, don’t yell at kids or lecture parents over your views. We all have reasons for our illusions.
And if you’re handing out fresh fruit to the kids who ring your doorbell, don’t give the kid dressed as Snow White an apple. That’s just wicked.
Editor: Dana Gornall