Halloween Fundamentalism and Pagan Idols

Halloween Fundamentalism and Pagan Idols October 23, 2019
Halloween Pagan Evil?
Photo by Beth Teutschmann on Unsplash

Halloween, Harry Potter, and Amazon Statues are Pagan and evil says Catholic fundamentalists, conveying a diametrically opposed paradigm to the sacramental vision of the Church.

Halloween time twelve years ago, someone Catholic informed me that All Hallow’s Eve is Satanic. She said it was an Anglo-Saxon fantasy of wickedness, a dance macabre, a black mass for witches and demons, a return to Paganism, and a holiday for disguises. She said Halloween is indecent and morbid, that Catholics who celebrate it have been devilishly tricked. Oh yeah, she hates Harry Potter too and “the witch who writes those books!”

When I asked her to tell me what was good about Halloween, she stared at me bewildered. Our conversation halted when she then insisted I get onto my knees for her to conduct a spontaneous prayer of deliverance over me.

We really haven’t spoken since.

Some years later when a Halloween-themed youth group event was cancelled due to a hurricane threat, a daily communicant mom called me on the phone. “Why do think God sent this storm along this path?” she inquired. “It’s because He didn’t want you to expose those precious children to Satanic Paganism.”

Halloween Hurricane Nonsense
Photo by John Middelkoop on Unsplash

I couldn’t resist responding, “Is that why our Storm God drove the hurricane along a directional pathway that killed several poor black Island people, ma’am? Was it to drive home the message to me that Halloween is bad?”

Halloween Holy Madness

I find myself remembering these exchange each year in late October. I can’t help but recall the attitude shared by both women in light of the destruction of the female indigenous statues this week in Rome, the location of the Amazon Synod. A pair of white males, imagining themselves saviors of orthodoxy, stole and destroyed indigenous images. They gleefully recorded their “heroic” crime.

I can understand, believe me. Once upon a time about 20 years ago, I helped “liberate” a sister from the Santeria tradition. I destroyed her statue of Chango, which I denigrated as Mister Potato Head. Not unlike these two “heroes,” I thought I was saving a lost soul and destroying something evil. In reality I was just pooling ignorance, both hers and my own, about her own tradition which came from a long lineage of NON-EUROPEAN ways of expressing the spiritual.

You see I was once zealous with fundamentalism. I lived in my car suffering from PTSD. I had came back to the Church homeless. It was a terrifying yet wonderful time of serotonin and dopamine fluctuations. When you are homeless, even at Mass, folks look at you like you are the incarnation of feces. Having just been reconciled, I got attacked inside a bookstore by a couple of anti-Catholic bigots.  So I reacted and became them, Catholic-style. Thank God this only lasted some years instead of a lifetime.

But even back then I never hated Halloween. It had brought me much joy over the years, as a free-spirited non-religious kid, and for years following my rushed Confirmation as a self-professed atheist. My lifelong fondness for scary, creepy, and shadowy folk lore and ghost stories was not diminished by my return to the Church at 25. Too much of that was in me, marinated to the bones, to ever loathe JK Rowling or Stephen King. But I was truly a colossal jackass in many other ways.

Christianity and the Pagan

Speaking of marinades, Christianity is soaked to the bones with the Pagan. All things are. It is inescapable. If you are human, you are touching the Pagan right now. Learn to love it because there is simply no religion or human expression that is chemically isolated from the Pagan.

Yes, Halloween has Pagan roots. So does Christmas (Yule and Winter Solstice). So too does Easter (Estron the Spring god). So too all the candles of Advent and the holly wreaths and decked out halls. So too old Saint Nick (who never historically punched Arius), better known as the jolly old elf Santa Claus (or should I say pilgrim Thor or Odin in disguise?). So too does the chocolate you eat at Easter (divine food taken from the sun worshipers of the New World butchered by self-proclaimed Christians of empire). So do our wedding rings. And on and on it goes.

Every Day is Pagan

The whole week comes from different pantheons of Pagan gods. Our Biblical ancestors were not Christians (ca. 325 CE) nor were they Jews (ca. 500 CE). Stop placing severe monotheism in their texts. Monotheism of any sort is a biblical rarity!

Halloween distinctions between Monotheism and Henotheism
Fellow Dying Inmate / All rights reserved

New Testament communities were mostly henotheistic, Israelites honoring God’s sky servants while adoring only their Patron God of Israel. They knew well of the seven glorious “wanderers” on the Ecliptic Pathway in Sky Vault, God’s sky servants. The book called “Reveation” showcases this on every page! We still maintain a ghost of this ancient tradition, birthed in the Pagan, filtered by many Pagan and polytheistic sky lore traditions.

Counting the Pagan Days

We celebrate the Pagan origins of our week every day! Consider Sunday, or better, “the Day of the Sun,” and Monday, “the Day of the Moon,” called “lunes” in the Spanish tongue. Can we forget about Tuesday, or Tiu’s Day, the day dedicated to the Germanic god of war? Latino/a communities call it martes for “Mars” the Roman war-god.

And don’t forget what we name “hump-day”—Wednesday. That’s Wotan’s Day, that is, “the Day of Odin” who in Norse myth rode his swift eight-legged horse Sleipnir. But Spanish-speakers call the fourth day of the week “miércoles” remembering the Mediterranean messenger-deity Mercury (as in mercurial) called by the Greeks Hermes, the speedster-god. After Wednesday, everything goes quickly to the weekend, no?

Marvel fans should always remember the origin of Thor’s Day, I mean Thursday. Or would it be more “orthodox” to call it jueves after all things Jovian as in (by Jove!) Jupiter, which comes from the Greek Zeus-Pater, “O Zeus Father”? This is followed by Friday or Freya’s Day or Venus’ Day if you call it viernes. And then at the end we have Saturn’s Day, or Saturday, or sabado. In ancient Hebrew the word for the planet Saturn is Shabbathai—from the Babylonian Saccuth. Anything Hebrew is already blended with the Pagan.

Stormtroopers for Orthodoxy

Forgive me,  but where are the two heroic men who stole and destroyed the statues when it comes to the days of the week? I don’t hear them or their ilk complaining about these pagan feast days, and we celebrate each of them about 52 times per year. We all use these Pagan and polytheistic names of the days every day of our lives! Surely this is a more pressing concern, yes?

But no. Let’s get upset about female images. Or let’s get riled up about Harry Potter, find demons in everything scary, and get enraged about Halloween. Let’s get upset about seeing the holy in the feminine and in culturally-specific ways different from the acceptable norm, which, conveniently, means white, European, and wealthy.

Fundamentalism: Fundamentally Opposed to Sacramentality

It is tragic when Catholics approach things with a fundamentalistic condemning “there is ABSOLUTELY nothing good about it” attitude. Such a position is ontologically absurd. It is also diametrically opposed to sacramentality, the essentially Catholic principle that sees God in ALL things.

As illustrated by far greater writers than I at Catholic Patheos, Henry Karlson here, and here, and Mary Pezzulo here, and here, in sacramentality, the early Church saw truth, goodness, and beauty in the Pagan feasts, symbols, and practices. So she baptized them, brought out Christ in them. It turns out that Sol Invictus, the Winter Solstice Feast of the Unconquerable Sun was REALLY about the truly unconquerable light of the World, Christ the Son. Our calendar we share with the polytheists and pagans became our catechism. The Pagan Winter Solstice is a fitting time to celebrate Christ’s nativity.

Holy, or Silly, Alternatives to Halloween?

I have a rather intense exposure to parish life. I grow weary of something becoming quite popular these days, namely “holy alternatives to Halloween,” where kids dress up as kitsch versions of Catholic saints and biblical characters. Frankly I find this terribly silly. In a way, it’s dangerous also, for reasons I will get to shortly.

This was the kind of “saint dress-up” activity promoted by the lady who thought God moved a hurricane to prevent my damnable Halloween corrupting youth group night. So important stopping my devilish evil was to the Almighty that He decided to plow his storm right through the poor islands, taking lives. How important I must be for God to go through all that trouble, huh? By the way she’s a 30-year veteran catechist and every night watches EWTN.

We don’t need any fake, “trying too hard,” Holy-Halloweens, fellow Catholics! Halloween is already Christian! Halloween is Samhain, but born again, baptized. Seeing Christ in all things is not putting new significance into all things. Amen, Christ IS the significance of all things. That’s all things, goblins and vampires and even devils too. All things come from him and were made by him, right?

But what about the death-themes, and the fearsome aspects that comes straight from Paganism? As far as the meaner side to Halloween’s pagan style, well, our Western wedding ceremonies have a very Pagan style, certainly not Jewish or ancient Israelite! But long ago our ancestors removed any elements impossible to harmonize with Christianity (animal sacrifice, etc.). The reasons have evolved also. Same thing with Halloween. Our American reasons for celebrating Halloween as we do it are not the same thing as those behind ancient Celts celebrating Samhain.

Halloween through Sacramental Eyes of Faith

Let’s get real about scary things. We are all going to die. All of us are going to rot away, unless cremated. Christ’s resurrection and kingdom are not alternatives to death and the terrifying existential aspects of being alive. Easter happens through Good Friday, not against it, not instead of it. Sacramentality is here to help us see again. In baptism, sacramentally, we celebrate death (Romans 6). We should see death for what it is, for all living is dying (the Cross).

Beware of anything masquerading as Christianity that constantly finds the devil in everything. To see what I mean, come take a look at secular Halloween—something good!—through a sacramental vision. Catholics after all have been given a sacramental vision, eyes that can see the eternal in history, the transcendent in the immanent, spirit in matter, the infinite in the finite, and the divine in the human.

What if we exposed our secular American Halloween to Catholic sacramentality? Should we examine Halloween with eyes of faith, what could we see?

Halloween Scary Costumes

First, let’s check out the costumes on children Halloween night. Among the many non-scary possibilities are the usual ghoulish selections. Each terrifying monster and ghost we see is more interesting than the next; everyone is different, out in the dark night. Even though unintended, this can speak about sin and its social effects.

Halloween Trick-or-treat
Photo by Julia Raasch on Unsplash

Sin disfigures us, separates us, like the denizens of Halloween. Sin alienates us from God, from one another, and from ourselves. Sin makes us wear masks and deceive ourselves. Sin is like the night; it is dark, obfuscating. This is a good reminder. There is something very real about this aspect of Halloween!

Under the Costumes and our Mother

But let’s not forget that under all that ghastly masking and makeup are children. No matter how ugly and hideous we appear to one another, we are all really deep down lovable children. More than that, we are terminally ill children, all. Let’s return to that momentarily.

Consider a band of trick-or-treaters. They are not alone in the night of monstrous griefs and anxieties. Their very human mother is out with them, comforting them and sharing in human joy and hope. She is in the world, not against it and not next to it, but in the modern world with her children. And this is a great thing.

Who is Our Neighbor?

Up ahead is the neighbor’s house where a jack-o-lantern beckons with its skull-like light. The carved pumpkin evokes a peculiar marriage: the harvest and the grave, Pagan and Catholic themes pertinent to immanent November. Jim Henson of SESAME STREET and THE DARK CRYSTAL was right—we shouldn’t hide all death and scary stuff from our children. Human maturation depends on seeing oneself and everyone else as something like a fellow dying inmate in the mental asylum that is our world.

Death is so important—all living is dying. Without death, can we really be human? How could we be human if we cannot love? Love always involves a dying to self.  Love and death are inseparable. Death in the human being fully alive, Jesus Christ, is the Paschal mystery of love. From the earliest Jesus groups, the harvest feast has been associated with resurrection and the kingdom.

Halloween Treats

“Trick or treat!” The neighbor opens the door and gives us monstrous children a treat, “interpreted” and given to us at the right time (we hope) by Mom. Eyes of Faith reveal Jesus is our neighbor who gives us the sweetness of his divine life.

Home we children go. Our mother (the whole Church, did you get that?) divests us of our hideous masks and bathes us (baptism) and we delight in delicious sweets—what does food point to, sacramental Catholics? And there we are at home, on Halloween night, as saints, for ‘All-the-Saints’ really are just children anyway, right?

Admittedly this is but one way, of many really, to look at Halloween. There are other ways,  both healthy and not so healthy. Among the unhealthy ways there are piteous views hat look for the holy in only the explicitly and bluntly Christian. Worst of all, are fanatical and racist views excluding religious expression or goodness to only what is the cemented colonizing picture and identity theft of Jesus and his holy ones, like that of the so-called heroes who destroyed the female images in Rome this week. Like myself years ago with something I didn’t understand or care to understand.

Make-Believe Holiness

It is so difficult for me to understand why so many U.S. Catholics go around re-inventing the wheel each October 31st and dressing their kids up like Kitsch renditions of holy ones for “alternatives to Halloween.” I wonder: have they forgotten that saints are real people living through often terrifying trials?

Heaven forbid the children forced to pretend to be cheap renditions of stain-glass window imagery in this “celeb-reality” age actually think that holiness is just a mask we wear, a game of pretend or dress-up, and hence something totally unrelated to real human life.

Halloween Mask
Photo by tony hernandez on Unsplash

If you dress your child as a saint, take care that your child doesn’t come to think that sainthood is a dress-up. The real saints lived with witches and monsters (I mean problems, not people), and helped transform the world. Saints are messy like Incarnation and Inspiration folks and they said “NO!” plenty of times. Saints are works in process down here.

When holiness becomes dress-up, watch out! Because then saints get scarce, and when that happens, our society dies. When that happens a misogynistic, racist blowhard can say Jesus-ey things and we Christians, in sincere stupidity, imagine therefore he must be pro-life and God’s choice for president. The result is that the devil rules, parading on display everywhere, and we are blind to it.

In my view dress-up can be insidious when it smacks of dishonesty. When holiness becomes a dress-up, when orthodoxy is nothing but parroting verbal orthodoxy, when racism is found comfortably seated in our parishes, we are in serious trouble!

A Halloween Examen

Do you say that things like Halloween do not honor God in any way? Do you cringe at feminine images used as symbols for the divine and cheer at their destruction? But why, when God is the God of all THINGS, not just the patron deity of easily recognizable and explicitly Christian things. Watch your emotional reactions as you go through these questions.

When you say you want to honor God rightly, what do you mean by “honor”? Do you mean explicit worship, with explicit and obvious mentions of God, Jesus, and the Spirit? But many things we know and cherish in human experience don’t do this either. I’m talking about goods, human things that we need. Does piety consist of obsessing over the bluntly religious, especially those devotional items with which you remain comfortably complacent? What a poverty to see that way! What a detriment to spiritual growth!

The challenge of seeing Halloween, Harry Potter, and all things including those destroyed feminine images rightly comes through a sacramental vision. This way of seeing is given to the Christian with “eyes of faith.” It helps us to see what this or that is REALLY all about, to experience the Beyond in our midst. In our Tradition, what are all things really about anyway (Genesis 1:31; John 1:3, 3:16-17; Colossians 1:15-20; Revelation 21:5)? Isn’t Christ the meaning of all things?

But What About Satanism?

Make-believe witches and warlocks provide an outer hideousness children wear on Halloween. I’m sure that were we to look hard enough, we might just find a few troubled people who really celebrate October 31st in a Satanic manner. But don’t we Americans also celebrate December 25th in a Satanic way as “material gift-day” and turn Advent into “Consumer Weeks”? How godly is our Thanksgiving with sumptuous spreads and rushing out to get in first place for Black Friday sales as people starve to death in our world?

Sacramentality keeps us real, Catholics. It helps us not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Right judgment of something is founded on the thing as it exists normally, not in a perturbed state. Let’s not destroy things, dump them into the river of ignorance and hatred. Let’s bring out the good that is already there.

And if you are too busy looking for Satan in Count Dracula, Heavy Metal, and 666 nonsense, you will miss the really Satanic things going on. By that I mean the avalanche of social problems crashing in on us as we sit neatly and nicely in our well-dressed, well-groomed, well-fed U.S. Catholic parishes.

If I can find God in spooky Halloween fun, how much more ready is God to be found in a female expression of being human? How does creation and life-giving and the many other ways of being female and/or belonging to a cultural expression different than the accepted “norm” speak about God? Watch your emotional reactions.

The Obfuscated Yet Real Problems

We have big schismatic problems brewing in the Church these days because of Catholic fundamentalism. Whether doctrinal, scriptural, or devotional, various Catholic fundamentalisms have been festering for decades, fueled by the ignorance of popular Catholic speakers and EWTN. When you see the arrogant hatred and YouTube narcissism that tosses those statues into the Tiber, insensitive to other cultural expressions of the holy and ignorant of our iconography and history of enculturation, we are in deep trouble.

Catholic fundamentalism is a dangerous threat to the Catholic faith in the US and throughout the world today. It infects our parishes and homes with the corruption of Catholic values, especially blinding our essential sense of sacramentality. It sees the world as evil and dangerous, needing swift destruction instead of healing.

All fundamentalism discards God being the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of all things. It looks for grace always in the extraordinary and even the bizarre, forgetting that God is found in the every-day ordinary. It abandons God’s desire for everything and everyone to be saved opting instead for a false God who loves but the few to the damnation of most.

Fundamentalism Litmus Test

Fundamentalists enjoy operating with litmus tests. Here is a litmus test to see if one might be fundamentalist. How can I know if I suffer from the psychological malady that is fundamentalism? Here are a few helpful questions. Try to be honest with them.

Seeing Revelation, Scripture, & Doctrine

Do I enjoy getting into Scott Hahn style “Bible Wars” with different fundamentalists from other Christian traditions? Do I make the Scriptures into a “connect-the-dots” pointing in triumphalist fashion to my own tradition?

When considering revelation, how do I view it? Is revelation exclusively comprised of propositional truths, abstracted to be parroted and severed from a context found in history and culture?

How do I see Church teachings? Do they float in a vast nebula, all bearing equal weight and importance? Am I uninformed that the Second Vatican Council teaches about a “hierarchy of truths” (The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, n. 11) where some Christian truths are more central, and therefore more important, than others? Am I capable of distinguishing what is essential in this hierarchy? Can I distinguish between what is essential from what is important but not essential? Further, can I see what is merely marginal?

Criticizing Church & Churches

As a Catholic, I should ask and reflect: How do I approach non-Catholic expressions of Christianity? Is my criticism of these other Christian traditions toxic? Can I find only errors on the other side of the Tiber and Bosporus? Is truth synonymous with Roman Catholic truth?

How do I reflect on central issues for Catholics? Do I recognize that the Church today, while in continuity with the Jesus Movement of the first century, nevertheless exists in a continuity within development? Do I accept that the Church is impacted by history and does evolve?

Or do I engage in ahistorical views? For example, do I imagine the ridiculous absurdity that Peter was the first residential and monarchical bishop of Rome? Do I refuse to see any theological evolution in the papacy, romanticizing it as being identical to what Jesus established in and intended for Simon Peter? It’s one thing to say the Petrine ministry is essential; it is quite another to say that a fully-formed papacy was up in running in the 30s CE!

And how do I see the Church? Is a top-down, more-divine-than-human affair? Does Church mean to me hierarchy, and then, only that part of the hierarchy that conveniently agrees with me? Do I confuse the Church with the final Kingdom of God? Do I label fellow Catholics who dare to disagree with me as being confused, faithless, or even heretics?

Really Dangerous Idols

This dangerous way of thinking cemented in many U.S. Catholics is being enabled by more than a few popular figures in Catholic media. We need a reality check. What needs tossing into the Tiber are mental idols that come with Catholic fundamentalism.

Let’s get real, Catholics. There are bigger fish for us to fry than Halloween and Harry Potter—check out how many homeless men and women have been set on fire recently. Look at the racism in our communities. Hear the cries of migrant children in cages. Let’s stop fundamentalist nonsense.

I hope and pray that all of you have a blessed, terrifying Halloween.

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  • davidt

    What is love?
    The church only works on a single word love. We don’t evolve nearly as quickly as we believe and of the central point of the new testamant “god is love” we spiral outward into a miasmatic theory fantasy of out own creation. It’s pandemic in science so religion isn’t the only locality of such fantasies. It just seems to want to perfect them as they do in science.

    Jesus was most definitely not about miasmatic fantasies while the entire world around him was. What makes Jesus profound? Certainly not church. But inside the church there has been and is truth and generally it’s barely listened to. It asks what is love? And into fantasy the listener runs never to stop and contemplate “while you worry about your clothing your miasmatic theories, the Lilly neither toils nor spins”.
    Far too deep for most apparently. What is love?.

  • Ame

    I am conflicted about the whole mess. I will post another comment explaining more about that later.

    But if do want to correct you. Before returning to Church, I did believe as you suggest that Christian holy days have pagan origins and thought the conclusions of various skeptic researchers and Christian fundamentalists pointing out historical links between Christian and pagan holidays just had to prove that hypothesis. Rather the holidays have connections to Judaism, especially as early Christians came to connect the life of Jesus with early formation of Rabbinical Judaism, and Jewish holidays first and foremost, even if the days don’t closely coincide (Judaism’s moon based calendar means nearly all of their holidays appear to be moveable feasts in comparison to sun based calendars. Most certainly there was inculturation of symbols and rituals from paganism and pagan holidays that was very helpful in the process of evangelization. But in the history of any European pagan/polytheist religion, was there ever one that hadn’t also done inculturation and cultural appropriation from other religions?

    For instance, All Saints Day does have a connection to Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah. Shemini Atzeret is the grand day of assembly on the eighth day of Sukkot, a holy day of harvest-oriented celebration occuring in what we know to be the month of October. So plant an assembly-like holiday celebrating the saints after that. Then comes an encounter with Samhain and other harvest based holidays that ends up tacking the holiday to November 1st. Christians (whether Catholic or Eastern Orthodox or Coptic) having a tradition of making a vigil out of just about every holy day of obligation, those observing All Saints Day would also observe it’s evening vigil, thus “All Hollows Eve,” which then got inculturated and secularised in more recent history.

    Having the Nativity celebrated on December 25th is more complicated, as that date was chosen more by early customs of calculating 9 months of pregnancy. There are reasons to believe that St. John the Baptist was born on June 24th, so 9 months from that older feast is December 25th. Christian religious leaders did not lose sight of the significance of this holiday being close to Hannukah, as Jesus did make a reference to an early formation of the celebration of the restoration of the Temple in the Gospels, as well as the archetype of the Temple residing now as Jesus’ Body. So those elements put in the solemn and anticipatory aspects of Advent and the Nativity inaugurating a new liturgical year. Plus, eight days from that (Liturgically, Christmas lasts 8 days) was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus (which was recently dropped of in Roman Catholic history in favour of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, one of my most favourite feasts. Orthodox and other Eastern Churches still celebrate the Circumcision). And of course, with Hannukah dating based on Winter Solstice and plenty of other religions celebrating their holy days on or near Winter Solstice, it’s easy to mistake Christmas as just another winter solstice knock off. But it’s not. Here’s the kicker: December 25th on the old Julian calendar of early Christianity is January 6 or 7th, depending on how you count the days, on our modern Gregorian calendar. The more astronomically-dependent Gregorian sun calendar greatly changed the dating of various feasts of Western Christianity. Calendars matter! So incidentally, we Catholics are celebrating either the Feast of the Three Kings/Wisemen, aka Epiphany, in or near that date, while those still using the Julian calendar liturgically are celebrating Christmas on that date. Winter solstice will always be astronomically fixed but it did not always fall in December as we know it today. Forgive my cultural appropriation, but oy vey!

    As for Christian Pascha (we English and German speakers are the anomaly for inculturating pagan religions by calling it “Easter”), it is a moon-based feast, based on but calculated slightly differently than the Jewish Pascha, and yes there happens to be pagan holidays celebrating spring that occur on or close to those holidays. Once in a great while, Christian and Jewish Pascha coincide. I forgot how Eastern Orthodox came about calculating the date differently from the Roman Catholic Church, but once in a great while the two dates coincide together too. And now there’s a movement encouraged by Pope Francis to have Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Pascha coincide all the time.

    There are many resources, but it’s easiest to go over to Agape Catholic Bible study and follow the citations of the documents explaining these holidays.

  • Eric S Giunta

    Fellow Inmate! Long time, no see! Hope all is well. Came across this in my Facebook feed. Just a few observations:

    1) I concur on the stupidity of the neo-traditionalist hyper-ventilation over these images. Ironically enough, it was EWTN that actually settled this matter definitively: They actually took the time to interview a Portuguese journalist who did what all serious journalists are *supposed* to do: get as close as possible to the original source to find out what these images are. Turns out they’re not “Pachamamas” at all, but are simple indigenous representations of motherhood. EWTN is to be commended for reporting this, even as other low-brow news outlets ignore their coverage: https://youtu.be/76Ckqi12mPA

    2) On my own blog, I have tackled one particular line of neo-traditionalist criticism: that even if these images are not literally idols, they are practically such because the very concept of “Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature” is irredeemably “pagan,” and Christians are not supposed to ever refer to the Earth in this manner. Actually, the Catholic tradition says different. For centuries Christians have referred to the earth, or nature, in metaphorically maternal terms with no one batting an eye: https://ericsgiunta.wordpress.com/2019/10/23/mother-earth-in-medieval-christian-art-and-literature

    3) I agree with the gist of this essay, though I would respectfully point out that some of the specific examples you point too are a bit inaccurate. It *is* true that all of Biblical religion has (humanly and historically speaking) pagan antecedents, and that goes for all the traditional feasts of the liturgical year, our doctrines, and our vocabulary. But the specific customs that are usually raised in low-brow social media discussions are not pagan at all. All of the modern popular customs that we in ‘Murica associate Christmas, pagan, and Halloween are Christian inventions, and the vast majority of them — including all of the customs we associate with Halloween — date back only to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The pagan antecedents for these feasts are much more subtle.

    4) I think our approach to Halloween does need to be duly nuanced. I completely concur with you on the psychological and cultural inappropriateness of sanitizing the holiday with kitch saint-costuming and other such things. It is normal and healthy to expose children to tamed versions of the scary and the macabre, because our fallen world really does contain scary things — what the Biblical tradition calls “sin” — and festivals like Halloween are eminently appropriate ways to expose children to them in a safe and fun context, a kind of rational version of the play-fighting that non-rational mammals engage in toughen them up and prepare them for the real thing later on. On the other hand, we should acknowledge that The World has its own perverse forms of Halloween celebrations, and we would do well to keep away from them, e.g., movies and celebrations that actively romanticize sin, nihilistic torture-porn horror films (much unlike the classical horror flicks which, their gore notwithstanding, are often and surprisingly implicitly Christian in their themes and moral assumptions), gratuitous and pornographic sexuality, etc. I don’t believe you disagree with this, I just thought it should be stated.

    5) I don’t believe there is a meaningful distinction between Biblical henotheism and monotheism. Pre-Biblical Israelite religion was almost certainly not monotheistic, but the henotheism of the Biblical authors manifestly is. A “god” (lowercase-g) is simply any supernatural being, including what we have come to call “angels” and “demons.” But I think most critical scholars would agree that, while the Biblical authors — and, for that matter, a good many of the early Church Fathers — did not doubt the existence of many “gods,” they all agreed that there was only one Yahweh, and that Yahweh was qualitatively different from all other beings who could be called “gods.” So when it comes to the Bible, I think the henotheism/monotheism distinction is more apparent than real.

    6) I am a bit troubled by your apparent characterization of santeria as a mere “non-European way of characterizing the spiritual.” That kind of theological indifferentism and relativism is simply incompatible with the Bible and with the Catholic tradition. Santeria, like all false religions, is not a legitimate mode of spirituality at all, but a bastardization of authentic spirituality. Obviously, I would not expect a non-Christian to take that for granted, but this is advertised as a “Catholic” blog and you present yourself as a “Catholic” teacher of some sort, and so I shouldn’t have to prove something so fundamental to you: It should be taken for granted. Likewise, if these images really were “Pachamama” idols, the young vandals would not have been vandals at all: Their deed really would have been godly and meritorious. Their act was not virtuous, because these images really were not idols, and these youngsters should have either known that or known better than to assume otherwise.

    7) You make some good points about real and quasi-fundamentalism — I remain skeptical that one can meaningfully speak of “fundamentalism” in non-Evangelical-Protestant contexts — but I think your focus on it is rather disproportionate. “Fundamentalists” — or, as I think it’s better characterized, over-reactionary conservatism — as little to no cultural and institutional influence, inside or outside the Church. All of our major cultural and political institutions — and several within the Church, including the papacy at present — are dominated (monopolized, even) by leftist liberalism. We Catholics do need to keep “the right” honest, but let’s not forget who our real enemies are, the ones much more culturally influential and with a heck of a lot more mammon at their disposal.

  • Great article

  • Helfyre

    Loved the article but I have one simple request. Please respect Western culture in signifying dates when using the Gregorian calendar. The nomenclature is A.D. and B.C. The creator of the system so deemed it. CE and BCE are Christaphobic and anti Western. If you want to respect other culture,as we both do I am sure, pleae respect Western culture as well. Some of us are sensitive.

  • fractal

    Get over it, Mr. Sensitive.

  • AntithiChrist

    My thoughts? The biggest take-away here is that Christians in general are waaaay overthinking this whole Halloween thing.

    I love a good rebuttal to fundy excesses, don’t get me wrong, and I always appreciate a good discussion of the tangible tie-ins (ties-in?) between our modern lives and the ancient histories and gods whose legacies we all share.

    But at the end of the day, it’s just a fun holiday that puts free candy inside many people’s mouths, and gets everyone else out complementing each other’s style and originality.

    Let’s face it, when’s the last time someone complemented most adult people on their style and originality? Last night! Because it was Halloween!! Some folks even went home with scads of free candy! It’s like an Easter egg hunt, except wherever you wander, a friendly person just puts candy in your carry basket? How wonderful is that?

    My advice: just enjoy the fun lark that is Halloween for what it is. A fun lark.

    Cheese, mate.

  • AntithiChrist

    Judean Yule-logs? Judean Norse gods? Judean Stonehenge? Judean fertility painted egg and horny hare symbology?

    Color me confused.

  • AntithiChrist

    Only works on the word love?

    May I suggest the church work a little harder? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4acdd6a1f2a4c0b773d33426e835c21115ec50035aaf4ceac8aa9ac8c18cc0f7.jpg

  • davidt

    We don’t evolve quickly.

  • Ame

    Jewish origins first and cultural appropriation along the way of the last 2000 years, but please keep telling us that it’s all just pagan and make the fundamentalists satisfied in their errors.

  • Ame

    Jack Chick is the Leo Taxil of the 20th century. A fraud out to make people who believe him look foolish and get a quick buck out of it. Atheists should be ashamed of the thought of trying to plagiarize his gimmick.

  • Eric S Giunta

    Why do you assume that burning a man at the stake is inherently unloving? Because Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi told you it is?

  • AntithiChrist

    Not so. Being a decent human being informs me that burning a man at the stake is unloving.

    Amazing that one person needs to explain that to a different person.

  • Eric S Giunta


  • Ame

    So I need to correct myself concerning the Xmas dating, as I missed a couple of steps:

    1) consider that the people of Jesus’ time did not yet use zero as a place holder when counting things, although it is believed the convention did originate in that general part of world around 3 BC. So what looks like 2 days to us contemporarily in a 24 hour cycle was seen as three “now” instances of daytime and nighttime. So this matters, because pregnancy is actually counted as 10 months in Jesus’ time when you’re looking at how many full moons should pass through that time (10 months is not entirely foreign to us today, when you start counting from the first day of the last menstrual cycle and average out your month-lengths to about 4 weeks each, you come to 10 months/40 weeks; and depending on where you start from on our Gregorian, astronomical sun calendar, may look like we’re adding another week to get to a due date, whew! Calculating due dates is messy if you don’t know the actual date of conception). We think of pregnancy colloquially and statistically averaged out as approximately 9 months plus a week or two. And for us, the concept of zero pragmatically gets thrown out when counting days for salary, vacation leave, maternity leave, bill-paying due dates.

    2) Early Christians had reasons to believe that John the Baptist was born on June 24th

    3) Because of early Christian tradition believing Jesus being conceived of the Holy Spirit 4 months prior to that (about 3 months in how we count it), we get about March 25th as the date of the Annunciation.

    4) 10 months (Jesus’ counting)/ 9 months (our counting), takes us to that Magic Midnight boundary that makes the night of December 24th actually be the beginning of December 25th. So for us, we say, “Jesus was born December 25th, whereas pre-concept of zero Christians/ Jews would reply, “What?”

    5) Oh yeah, there is that Julian versus Gregorian calendar difference, so many Orthodox Christian and Eastern Catholics would reply, “you silly Romans busy-about making something too complicated out of something simple!” Or “you Romans are just not happy unless you best us by starting your holidays early!”