Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Sacred

With this being All Hallow’s Eve and all, the old debate for good ol’ Christians is back: is it appropriate to celebrate this American past time?

Is dressing up our kiddies in Frankenstein costumes a show of “mocking the devil,” and thus pro-faith? Or is it just asking for Faustian size trouble?

Are Fall Festivals a solution, or just a lame way to assuage guilt of depriving kids from the fun of Halloween, while avoiding the guilt of allowing kids the fun of Halloween?

More importantly, can we watch Charlie Brown collect his rocks with a clear conscience?

I am put in mind of my favorite Christian response to the holiday, from the too-good-to-stay-on-television series, NOTHING SACRED.

The show revolved around the life of a struggling inner-city church. Their Halloween episode, like most of their episodes, made one wonder where the heck (and was it to heck?) they were going with their story lines.

The C plot involved the atheist accountant for the church renting the sanctuary to a movie company to film a horror movie. The B plot was about Sister Mo dealing with a parishioner who stopped attending mass after being assaulted on the way home from church a year prior.

And the main plot: Father Ray leading the church through an all day traditional celebration of Halloween.

Reading ghost stories. Dressing as demons and monsters. If memory serves, they even had a haunted house.

All inside the church.

At this point, you may be wondering (as I was) – are these Hollywood writers clueless about what is sacred?

Turns out they were clue-full.

The C story line has the atheist accountant realizing that some things are sacred, and he foregoes the rent money and kicks out the movie company (a moment of incredible character growth).

The B story finished with a Davidian rant to G-d, of the “Why hast thou forsaken me?” variety, marking the start (just the start) of healing for the victim.

And the main story?

The annual tradition includes a day of conventional Halloweening; and ends in the parking lot for a bon fire.

Where Father Ray tells the congregants why this is his mentor’s favorite tradition:

We spent the day showing you everything that the devil has to throw against us, he says. Now let’s compare that to the power of G-d.

And such a comparison shows: the prince of this world has nothing on the Prince of Peace.

Those gathered then throw into the fire a symbol of whatever they fear, giving it up to the Lord, as the pastor recites a variant of St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

“Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ within me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ at my right,
Christ at my left.”

Take that, Halloween.

Just my thoughts,



Linds said...

Hooray for Nothing Sacred! A few years back I started teaching at a Christian high school and was introduced to the controversy that is Hallowe'en (of which I was unaware as a child). As a history teacher, I decided to research the history of Hallowe'en, and I expected to be convicted of my wicked ways... til I found out that every single tradition we have from costumes to trick-or-treating to scary things and carved pumpkins come from the medieval church's attempt to show the power of God over the power of pagan gods and demons who were worshipped at the time.

I love the Church! We take fertility festivals and say 'you want to celebrate life? I'll show you life!' and celebrate the resurrection. We take the darkest, scariest pagan holiday and say 'you want to know power? Here's the God who conquered it. Be as scary as you want - you can't top it. And by the way, death is a good thing to contemplate, not a scary thing, because it reminds us of the life to come.'

Ah. I love it. :)

David Goulet said...

Halloween is the first part of a mystical Triduum, in mainline church tradition. It's followed by All Saints Day and All Souls Day. There is a progression from the darkness of Halloween (Hell) to All Souls (Purgatory) and the radiance of All Saints (Heaven).

The only problem with Halloween is when we stop the story after Halloween and forget the other two days of the trilogy.

Gaffney said...

Great, now I have next year's Halloween blog written! Thanks for the insight, as always, Linds & David. (Hey, that sounds like a call-in show, "Linds & Dave." I like it.)