Problems lurk in the future that will test Christendom.
We live in a nation with legal abortion, in a world with human trafficking, in a time of revolution. Legitimate cares burden any head of house in America. Will I keep my job? Will the house ever be worth what we paid for it? Should my family celebrate Halloween?
Actually, the last is a luxury worry, the sort of concern that folk with a surfeit of holiness or happiness can spare time to consider.
Somehow my pastor Dad managed to send my brother and me Trick-or-Treating without introducing either of us to the forces of darkness. We ate candy. We dunked for apples. We drank cider.
But what did our candy munching, cider swigging, apple chomping really mean?
Evidently some believe that if a bad group invented or was involved in starting something, the meaning of that something is fixed forever. If Hitler helped start a car company, no good man would ever buy one. Right?
And yet I once saw a pastor driving a Volkswagen.
Somehow a connection to Hitler seems of more pressing concern than the supposed Druidic pagan origins of Halloween, especially since we know little for sure about the Druids and have pictures of Hitler with a forerunner to the VW.
There might be many reasons people carved pumpkins in the past, but as a Christian I carve pumpkins because I can. Augustine would have been right if he had said: “Love God and carve what you will.”
Christians are good at taking wicked old customs full of fear and turning them into good and joyful events. If a cult worships a mountain and names it for a demon, Christians will ignore the old backstory and name it after a Christian hero.
What we never do is ruin anything good about the old ways. We save what we can of them.
Of course, All Hallows, the day before All Saints, does not need much saving at this point. We made it our own and as a Christian, I refuse to let the pagans have it back.
Halloween taught me some good lessons as a child.
Halloween reminds me that death is part of living and I too will die. In my grandmother’s day, funerals were major social events and the undertaker had fewer abilities to pretty up the corpse. Ancient Christians worshiped in the catacombs amongst the tombs of the righteous dead.
Christians were not afraid.
In most villages entering church meant passing through the churchyard. You knew that someday you would join those that had gone before you in resting in that sacred ground. A man was baptized, worshipped, was married, and finally buried in his church.
He knew that several times a year, such as All Hallows, his church family would remember him. This is good for the living and a comfort to the dying.
Halloween reminded me that all the supernatural world was not angelic or good. Saying a thing was “spiritual” was just the first step in understanding it. There were monstrous spiritual powers and they could deceive and destroy.
At the same time, they had no power over me as a believer. Devils cannot stand to be mocked and Halloween was a time to remember that devils were real, but to mock their folly and powerlessness before the true God.
Finally, as a child Halloween was a time to turn from summer and begin the journey to Bethlehem. The games, the parties, and the fun were a foretaste of what was to be. Why start with a reminder of death and of evil?
Jesus saved us from evil. He took the sting from death. I will die as He died, but I can live as He lived if I will. Jesus redeemed the world . . . just as the church triumphant redeemed sad old October 31 and made it Halloween.
(This year the Reynolds’ family will be “Newsies” with John Mark appearing as Theodore Roosevelt. . . padding not needed.)
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.
Publication date: October 30, 2011