roamin' catholic: karin rosner

Confessions of an Ex-Occultist on Halloween (Part the Third)

Posted on: October 31, 2011

 “You are talking about the nonsensical ravings of a lunatic mind!” Frederick (Gene Wilder), “Young Frankenstein” (Mel Brooks, 1974) For the earlier parts of this three-part nonsensical raving, see here and here.

What’s going on in our Christian lives is (or should be) this: we are in the process of becoming hallowed, or made Holy in Christ. We are the set-free saints. God starts changing us as we yield to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, surrendering bits and pieces of ourselves until every last bit is made whole. God takes each one of us to build a tool called church that he uses to impact both culture and individual people. Part of the process of hallowing, is that we are called to turn away from sin, and turn towards God. We turn towards God, and then yield more, surrender more, allowing God to shape us more, act through us more… God brings more growth, more activity into our lives inspires us to naturally flow into more cycles of being and doing.   God often works in our hearts and asks us to stop sinning, and abstain from things that might that get in the way of his working, even if this is not true in others lives.

There are self destructive behaviors that get in the way of God’s working, hurting not only ourselves but others. We are called to yield, turn around (repent) and turn our faces back to God; yield and surrender more. When God decides we’re ready, we slip into death and ultimately find heaven. When and how this happens is another mystery. The New Testament promise that our souls will be reunited with renewed bodies when Christ returns is yet another mystery. All Saints Day traditions capture this idea of hallowing, occurring almost opposite to the moment on our Christian calendars when we celebrate Christ’s harrowing of hell itself.

Faith in Christ means liberation from the final judgmental sentence of the Law, even if we’re still subject to the effects of the Law while we’re waiting in the in-between time of Christ’s appearing again and making all things new. We will die, but we are promised eternal life . In Christ, we are truly free. We have nothing to be afraid of: not illness or death, not earthly or supernatural powers… and this freedom and knowledge of who we are allows us to laugh at the earthly and supernatural powers and celebrate eternal life. Superstition is nailed to the cross along with fear of the supernatural.

A redeemed Halloween remembers all of these things. It remembers what we are fighting against on All Hallows Eve, through play and laughter, and even with candy. It remembers the promise of Christ’s Resurrection and Coming Again to make all of us death-defying superheroes with him as we move into the Feast of All Saints. Many Christian traditions still pray for those who have died, and I would argue for the Feast of All Souls to be added back into the calendar as a quiet day to remember them.

Halloween, like Christmas and Easter, can be a liberated holy day. It’s no longer pagan and superstitious. God is in control, not the creatures of the night.

There are some people who may choose not to participate. There are some, especially anyone who has been involved in the occult and might still be confused, who probably should sit with good friends and watch non-Halloween comedy movies that night. There are sensitivities that can be ruffled by the sight of walking skeletons and headless horsemen. Parents might want to guide their kids’ costume choices towards the forces of light, and not have them pick out the agents of darkness for their play. Adult decisions about how to engage in Halloween activities are completely up to the informed Christian adult conscience.

“An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons – marriage, or meat, or beer, or cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.” C.S Lewis

To call for a boycott of Halloween logically would mean that this same proscription would have to apply to every other creative activity that we engage in on every other day of the year. Every single form of storytelling that includes using a villain (you can’t have a plot without conflict) should also be off-limits for the Christian. What makes evil less potent any other day of the year? A Christian actor could never play the bad guy on stage or the screen. A Christian writer could never include the characterization of evil in his or her fiction. Storytelling is what Halloween dress-up and trick-or-treating, and even the more innocent pranks, are all about. Villainy needs no special day to do its stuff… but we can choose one day to mock it.

On Saturday night, my neighborhood was affected by the freak snowstorm that hit the Northeast US coast. Most of my apartment building was without power after we had a Halloween Party in the building lobby for the kids. There was one light that was still working in the lobby, while most of the apartments were dark. After the kids were put into bed, the adults gathered in the lobby, eating bowls of left over candy and telling improvisational ghost stories and tall tales about our neighborhood. We had fun, met our neighbors and ate chocolate until the power came back on. And then, it was over. We unlocked our doors and went back to our homes. The power flickered out again later that night, affecting the whole neighborhood this time, and we all laughed and woke up to a normal Sunday with power and 5 inches of snow outside our windows and doors.

Halloween takes one night of the year to mock the things that potentially frighten us. It can be used or abused, and participating or not is an individual, personal faith-based decision. Urging bans and boycotts of something that has such potential for good is a result of deep misunderstanding by Christians who are cut off from knowledge of their own history. Restoring Halloween along with its companion days of All Saints and All Souls can re-focus the day on the Christ who is more important than the evil he conquered through his cross.


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