Why Won’t the U.S. Christian Community Return My Phone Calls?

Why Won’t the U.S. Christian Community Return My Phone Calls? November 2, 2009

mrquestions“Hey John,” wrote Latoya, one of what I’m sure are my many readers in Jamaica. “Could you do a post on how the Christian community in the U.S. views Halloween?”

I’d love to, Latoya! I feel I should tell you, though, that the U.S. Christian community hardly ever returns my phone calls.

“Oh, we meant to call you,” they’ll say when I run into them later. “But we just got so busy with our Up With Teens! fundraiser.” Or, “We were going to call you, but had to finish putting the roof on the orphanage in Mexico we’re building.”

It’s always one lame excuse or another. Some people just don’t know how to establish priorities.

Anyway, my many years of eavesdropping on Christians and reading their church bulletins allows me to say, with a fair degree of confidence, that when it comes to U.S. Christians and Halloween, the following is true:

In general, U.S. Christians are not particularly keen on the idea of children dressing up in fantastical outfits and running around getting free candy from strangers. I’m not sure exactly why that is. My guess is that Christian parents are afraid, what with all the mask-wearing going on, that they’ll end up taking back home with them at least one kid who isn’t theirs. And then of course they’ll end up raising that kid, because who wants to admit they took someone else’s child home with them on Halloween? But they’ll always wonder whatever happened to their own little princess or pirate. And Christians don’t like wondering about things; they like knowing things. So forcing them to wonder is one major strike against Halloween, right there.

Here are the opinions that I believe U.S. Christians hold about some of the more specific features commonly associated with Halloween:

Jack ‘o lanterns: Christians like pumpkins—they love pumpkin pie—but they don’t like the idea of a fat person with a fire burning inside of them, because it makes them think about the heartburn they’re going to get from eating all that pumpkin pie. So it’s thumbs-down for jack o’ lanterns.

Black cats: Christians don’t generally like cats, because they know cats couldn’t care less about what they or any other humans think or believe. So it’s hard to imagine converting a cat. Any dog seems like it’s one tap on the forehead away from falling to its knees and confessing where it hides all its bones; they’re already so close to talking in tongues. But cats act like even if you’ve forgotten that in ancient Egypt they were worshiped as gods, they haven’t. And a black cat, which acts haughty and looks cool? Forget it.

Witches on flying brooms: Generally Christians believe that it’s a bad idea for cleaning implements to take flight. They like angels to fly, not mops and dustpans. Also, a flying broom implies that magic is happening—and, as everyone knows, Christians despise magic, because they can never figure out how the tricks are done, which (see above) drives them crazy. Christians also like safety, and there’s nothing safe about a grown woman zipping through the air on a stick.

Haunted houses: The first thing Christians think when they hear the words “haunted house” is “decreasing property values.” Enough said.

Goblins: The main reason Christians don’t like goblins is because they’re not sure what exactly a goblin is. A gnome without the pedigree? A leprechaun with an eating disorder? A troll on steroids? Whatever goblins are, Christians are pretty sure they can be killed with a can of insecticide. So they’re not too worried.

And there you have it, Latoya. Thank you for giving me this chance to share with you and the rest of the world my insights into the mind of the American Christian.

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  • I like your comment on contemporary faith "…Christians don’t like wondering about things; they like knowing things." My wife and I have both struggled with this growing up in traditional Christian homes. Things were done certain ways because it was the "right" way, well it turned out our "right" ways of doing things weren't the same. So where did God fit? Not in a box and not in an easy answer, I think the more questions you ask the closer you get to the true heart of the gospel, that God isn't American, doesn't drive a Prius (or a Chevy) and that he loves the people we can't stand (even the bigoted ones).

    I heard a funny comment the other day about Christians and holidays, "Which is worse: Kids dressing up in scary costumes and getting candy on Halloween. Or, Turning the birth of Jesus (Christmas) into one of the most consumeristic, out of control, product saturated, holidays of the year."

  • Tim

    As a Christian, I know (as does LTG William G Boykin) that my God is bigger than any idol or some cauldron stirring hag enchanting newts…Gingrich or otherwise. As a former warlock, I know that order comes from on high and chaos and disorder comes from on low. While I can appreciate great bass response in a sound system, I don't care for the very real and spiritual influence celebrations play in our lives. Somewhere in th OT, God implied that He grew weary of the feasts, new moon celebrations, sacrificing, and what-not. That goes for HOLY-days as well as not-so-HOLY-days. We stupid humans get so wrapped up in the pomp, we lose sight of the circumstance. Jesus modifies the fact that I'm a hell-bent, freak-flag-waving, nut-job who sooooo easily gets all wrapped up in the pomp. Maybe why Elvis was so stinking popular with his pompadour hairstyle. MJ had his own brand of pomp. While not on his head, certainly in all of the surrounding spectacle.

    I like Halloween O.K. My kids love to wear costumes and collect candy. Can't understand why so many Christians get their panties in a wad over it, though. Didn't they initially hijack it from the Celts, anyway? Same process as what is traditionally held as Christmas. Just another pagan ritual hijacked and commercialized for Christ's sake. I just remember that Jesus is all about the circumstance…not the pomp. FWIW.

  • I have to say, I never got what all the fuss was about Halloween. What's not to like about free candy and having fun? What a great, entertaining explanation!

  • Mark Lattimore

    Personally, I despise Halloween (and not because I am a Christian), and here is a story that I hope will explain why. We live in a community that dictates the permissible hours during which kids may go "trick-or-treating." Knowing my intense dislike for little Harry Potter look-alike beggars (though I take my own kids "trick-or-treating". I never said I wasn't a hypocrite), my much more easy-going wife humors me by not turning on the porch light, the universal sign that candy is here, and allowing us sit in quiet solitude while our kids fall into a sugar coma. Thirty minutes after official "trick-or-treating" was over, two kids walked up to our dark house — in fact, they had to make an extra effort since we have no front door — rang our doorbell and had the temerity to say "trick-or-treat." Upon closer inspection, each of these little urchins was toting what had to be an oversized pillow case literally bursting at the seams from the 50 or so pounds of candy that was topping the decorative trim. They walked up to my darkened house, late, overloaded with candy, and asked for more. Like I have said on my own blog, if your kids want to play, need help with their homework, need a meal or warm clothing, they are more than welcome. If your kids want to come to my house begging for candy, they need to get a job. Yes, I am a Halloween Scrooge.

  • So Mark, you took your own kids out to get candy, but didn't contribute any of your own to the neighborhood?

    And trust me, I confess that I do have planks in my own eye before asking the question!

  • Mark Lattimore

    Redlefty, yes. I'm not proud of it, but yes. It's about picking my battles and, in this case, kids win, neighborhood loses. In my defense, we live on a college campus and don't get much in the way of trick or treaters — in fact, the two I mentioned were the only two of the day, and the fact that we kept the lights off really shouldn't have mattered since you can't see our porch light from the street and since trick or treating ended at 7pm while the sun was still up — it's a strange little town we live in. Nevertheless, I humbly confess my hypocrisy in the presence of all.

  • Matt

    Here's the best Halloween tradition ever. Take your family to the house of a friend or family member. Park far away. Sneak up to the house with a package – shaped like a ghost of course – of candy and gifts. And ring the doorbell, and run like you've never run before to the nearest good hiding spot. Truly, it's an adrenaline rush. Then watch as your friend looks for the culprits and helps themselves to the treats.

    Christians love "ghosting" because they have a special fondness towards undeserved gifts, and especially for chocolate.

    Caveat: if your friend thinks it's some prank and releashes the bloodthirsty hounds it somehow becomes less of a great tradition.

  • Latoya

    I am here asking myself if i really expected a 'serious' response from John Shore. lol. thanks John 🙂 And thanks to everyone else for your comments. Mark…I found yours hilarious!

  • Matt, you forgot the part about the ghost picture to hang in your window, and the instructions to ghost 2 other people! So fun.

  • Christine

    so here in little ole NZ we don’t really do Halloween…I mean it does happen, a few stores sell costumes and a few (very few) kids actually go trick-or-treating. But other than that it is pretty much a blow over. The interesting thing is that thousands (literally thousands) of people on Halloween night go to what are called ‘Light’ parties. They are put on by churches and community halls and have bouncy castles, games, lollies etc. The kids can dress up (and adults too) but they are encouraged not to do the devil/witch thing. It was started by churches not because going out and having fun and eating lollies are wrong but the history of where Halloween comes from and what it represents (though many don’t even realise it now) are things that people should be aware of and not really be celebrating. These parties they put on have become so popular among Christian and non-Christian alike (the City Council sponsors them cos they are not overtly religious) and everyone has so much fun!!

    There are alternatives is my point. I have never been to America or experienced a Halloween over there but it appears (and not from a Christian point of view) that it celebrates a night that historically was for worshipping evil (a night that many Christians have been martyred on just by the way) and was followed by All Saints Day (in commemoration of those who have been martyred) which has been largely forgotten. Though it (and Christmas) are largely not celebrated as religious days, their foundations are set heavily in them and it is that which we are celebrating.

    Go, have fun, eat lollies, get a sugar coma, have fun with your kids, but don’t think that Halloween has always meant that. As long as you are aware then I’m happy 🙂