All Hallows Eve - or Halloween as we call it is not an easy event for Christians. It sits on the cusp of what a person of faith should and should not do and from experience is complicated further when you have small children. 'Why can't we dress up, dad?' 'Why don't we go Trick or Treat?' They're fair questions coming from a young mind - so what are we to do?
From observation I see people go one of two ways - harmless fun; what's the big deal, they're just dressing up and having a good time. I agree, that's exactly what they are doing, as we witnessed tonight when what must have been over one hundred local children knocked at the door. I think we have kept Haribo's in business today! I doubt anyone who knocked on our door tonight will be playing the Ouija Board tomorrow - but people will be playing the Ouija Board tomorrow.
The other side of the argument: It's the pathway to the occult, a doorway to evil. I'd be foolish and irresponsible not to acknowledge the nature of evil found on the dark side. I see the pathway that leads to darkness and deceit. Fear, after all, is the devil’s playground. What we might question is what are the roads which lead to it?
Historically, Halloween is All Hallows Eve and falls on the 31st October and refers to the day before All Saints Day. For many years in the northern hemisphere, many different festivals have been associated with gathering in the harvest, preparing for winter, remembering loved ones who have died, and preparing for the time of longer nights and winter cold. Halloween falls into this category and any dressing up was associated with warding off evil. And don't we all want to 'ward off' evil. The question is: What is evil? And where do you find it?
The challenge with making too much of Halloween is that by categorising it as a ghouls and pumpkins we are side tracked form what are the real issues of evil in the world that our children will need to learn. As Jo rightly tells our children sometimes when we pass by a graveyard: 'It's not the dead you need to worry about!'
It is true that Halloween has been commercialised (In 2011, the National Retail Federation in the USA suggested that $6.68 billion dollars would be spent on Halloween, or $72 per US citizen.) and to the extent we see this we might indeed see evil at work. And if we do, we should know its name is Mammon. Our concern should be that evil is (amongst other things) commercialised and institutionalised presenting itself in patterns of power that traps millions of kids in child slavery; that creates strongholds keeping people locked in systemic poverty robbing them of any opportunity to flourish. Evil is all around us - and it manifests in many forms.
We will speak to our kids about evil - and why we've chosen to host a Light Party in our church; and why we made a decision not to walk the streets for Trick and Treat. But we won't make a big deal of it - we will seek to find a middle ground between inclusion and reason. To pave a way to walk through the world not given to superstition or sensationalism. The evil I am concerned about for our children is that which is subversive and locks us into forms of selfishness, greed and ignorance. Evil that sets people apart on the basis of colour, creed or gender. These are the evils of our time - 'the powers of this dark world'. The prophets of old had a clarion call to the people and it was to resist idolatry at all cost and call out injustice wherever it manifests - including our own heart. The devil that most concerns me for my children is not the one I saw this evening portrayed with a three pronged fork and red horns, but rather the one that masquerades as an angel of light - that's the devil we all need to exorcise as we make our way through the world, the one we should instruct our children about.