Halloween provides another example of what I have come to realize is a standard tactic of conservative Evangelicalism. Someone quoted a small snippet of Ephesians 5 and applied it to the October 31st holiday. They don’t celebrate it, they said, and Christians shouldn’t celebrate it, because we are to have nothing to do with the “deeds of darkness.”
So typical. Whatever it may or may not have been for small numbers of people in the distant past, Halloween today is a holiday when children and sometimes adults have fun dressing up as their favorite fictional characters and asking for candy. There are certainly health reasons to get away from the focus on candy. But that isn’t the Evangelical objection. They claim that it is demonic in its roots and a time when something not merely evil but Satanic is happening. Again, that might not be an altogether inappropriate way to characterize the conjoining of capitalism and the promotion of unhealthy eating. But there is no evidence that Satanists or witches do something special on October 31st, much less that Evangelical families not participating in giving and receiving candy hinders those imagined diabolical plans.
The reason this bothers me is because conservative Evangelicals do this persuading themselves that they are taking a stand on and for the Bible, and yet they clearly haven’t read Ephesians 5. It talks about sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, obscenity, and foolish talk, among other things. Many of their leaders, and the president they support, are characterized by these very things. When it comes to the president, they will say that they aren’t electing a “pastor in chief.” They will quote 1 Timothy to say people must pray for and support the president, but ignore the characteristics of a leader outlined in that same epistle, all the while claiming that Trump really is a Christian and on their side. But the truth is they are on his side, and if something good has emerged from recent political realities it is that a genuine demonic danger is being exposed, one that lies at the very heart of contemporary Evangelicalism, with its blatant hypocrisy and willingness to adopt a double standard in the pursuit of worldly power and influence. As Matt Johnson points out, Evangelicals have boycotted all kinds of individuals, shows, and franchises because they don’t adhere to their moral standards. Shows with gay characters were the targets of conservative Evangelical “cancel culture” long before Evangelicals started using that phrase to complain when others did the same to them. Jesus’ teaching has been summed up as the Golden Rule, and yet conservative Christians have cancelled others in a way they themselves don’t want to be cancelled. And they have opposed other politicians for not living up to the standards of a pastor-in-chief in a way that they now insist would be inappropriate in Trump’s case.
What would Jesus say about this? Surely the words “woe” and “hypocrites” would be addressed to them.
I left sharing this until after Halloween had passed, in the hope that perhaps some who joined in the nonsensical Satanic panic to boycott the holiday might be better poised as a result to see the hypocrisy with which they decide who and what to support and oppose and on what grounds. If you’re in this category and can’t see it, perhaps it is time to read Ephesians 5 again, this time not just skipping to the part you feel you can twist for your own purposes.
The combination of conservative Evangelical rhetoric about Halloween and their political stances exposes that they talk about Satan and yet don’t see when the truly demonic has taken root in their own hearts and communities. The weapons they choose to use in their fight, when compared with those listed in Ephesians as those appropriate to Christians’ spiritual warfare, show which side they are really on. Once again those who are more likely to spout their views at great length in terms of spiritual warfare show themselves to not have grasped what makes warfare spiritual, what contrasts it with worldly conflict, and this make clear to the discerning that they know not what manner of spirit they are of. There is no possibility of waging warfare in and of the Spirit of God without the characteristics of the warrior being the fruit of the Spirit. The political aims and methods of the so-called “Christian Right” are characterized by the works of the flesh, not spiritual fruit.