Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BOO! Did I Scare You?

Boo! Did I scare you? I should have. After all, it’s that time of year again…Halloween. Perhaps this is the most controversial day in the Americanized church. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it evil? Is it Satanic? Is there any merit in it at all? My most favorite Halloween memory stems back to when I was working as a Youth Pastor in west Milton, Ohio. Each Halloween we had a big party that we called a “Halloween Turn-About.” We dressed up like everyone else and went “trick-or-treating,” but instead of asking for candy, we asked for canned food for needy families. After a time of food and games at the church, we then took the canned food that we collected and dropped them off on the doorsteps of needy families within our church, ringing the door bell and then running.

I assigned one couple on my youth staff to take a group of our teens in their van and go out to Pleasant Hill and drop off the food at a specific address. It was dark and their van inched up the street trying to read the house numbers. They would often stop and send a teen running up to a door to see what house number it was. Suddenly, without any warning, they were surrounded by police officers and members of the Sheriff’s Department. We didn’t know that a satanic group in the area had threatened to abduct a child in Pleasant Hill that Halloween and the cops were on the alert. When they saw our van creeping up the street and people running back and forth from it, they thought we might be the culprits that had made the threat. Happy Halloween!

Well, there is no doubt that the history of Halloween is founded in occult themes. Nobody I know debates that. It goes way back to Scotland and Ireland where Druid Priests celebrated a special day in honor of Saman, Lord of the Dead. The belief was that on the eve of this celebration, Saman called together all the souls of those who had died the previous year and who currently inhabited the bodies of animals, to return to their homes. Bon-fires were lit to scare off these spirits and children would dress in costumes to confuse these wandering souls.

Jack-o-lanterns also go back to this era, only they started as large rutabagas, carved with gross faces and lit with candles. This is due to a tale about a man named Jack who was a notorious drunkard but who was also smart. As a result, the fable says that when he died, he was turned away from both heaven and hell. As a result of that, he put a glowing coal into a carved turnip and he has been wandering the earth ever since. Poor Jack!

So, should you let your children participate in Halloween? I really do not believe there is one “right” or “wrong” answer to that question for every person. We must each follow our own conscience on this one. Our kids (when they were younger) would participate in trick-or-treating. We found it a great way to meet neighbors and get a lot of good candy to boot (after all…a good dad will go through the candy first and remove for himself anything that looks questionable, like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups). But is there any spiritual merit in Halloween? Be sure to read my blog tomorrow…Halloween…to hear my answer. It might just surprise you!

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