Halloween comes at us fast. And we all know what that means! Costumes, candy, parties, and–for Christian opportunists–a chance to make an unwanted sales pitch. Today, Lord Snow Presides over yet another Christian fail-train–and why it continues to find passengers aplenty.
Christian Appropriation: Alive and Well.
Christians have been stealing cultural points ever since some anonymous 1st-century writer invented their religion. This eagerness to assimilate has always been of the religion’s greatest strengths: its chameleon-like ability to shift and twist with culture to stay somewhat-relevant.
Some of their more enterprising adherents have catapulted appropriation into a cottage industry. Just imagine all of it: the clothing, car decals, home decorations, and even media that ape and mimic popular catchphrases and ideas.
Now consider the Christians throwing millions–maybe even billions–of dollars away on this over-sanitized, ultra-derivative tripe, and then proudly displaying it. Many of the companies producing this tripe suggest that their target market purchase it in order to advertise their religion. In that sense, it functions as a passive sales pitch–much like a billboard or product-placement spot in a movie.
Other efforts, like Christian movies, function as more active sales pitches. At least, that’s what many Christians say. Weirdly, I’ve never once encountered someone who converted as a result of any of it. (Someone probably has. We live in a big and deliciously weird world.)
Why They Appropriate.
This hunger to appropriate seems bizarre and poorly-conceived, much like the invention of the religion. Worse, it comes off as a bait-and-switch. Indeed, I felt real surprise to see one Christian, Andrew Barber, explaining exactly this point over at The Gospel Coalition.
Barber correctly accuses Christian filmmakers of indulging “evangelical fantasies.” And he even appears to understand that this function stands as these materials’ primary appeal.
(What? Correct statements TWICE in one Christian source? Where are we? What is even going on here? Has the world gone mad?)
Yes. Yes, it has.
I’d go that Christian one further by applying that criticism to the Christians who buy and display Christian swag in general. Christian appropriation speaks to a desire for cultural dominance and relevance that doesn’t exist in reality. Without spending money and making special effort, Christians simply don’t have that kind of market saturation anymore.
And then I’d go him a second mile by saying that his criticisms go double for Christians who appropriate Halloween to try to push their sales pitches onto unconsenting marks.
I can’t decide which I dislike more: Christians who cringe away from all things Halloween like it might burn their delicate widdle fingies, or the ones whose eyes glitter at the prospect of using the day to try to score sales. Both are twee and tedious beyond belief.
But the latter might just win this round.
SO. MUCH. INFIGHTING.
But don’t mistake this opportunism as universal. As they themselves note, Christians sure do fight a lot over Halloween.
One camp thinks that it’s fine to celebrate Halloween. The other thinks that the holiday skirts too close to the edge of worldliness (that’s Christianese for stuff that isn’t Christian enough).
And then one camp tries to split the middle. They create washed-out, sub-par imitations of the holiday. They seek to enjoy some of the merriment, but without running any of the imaginary risks they think lurk there. The results? Pure cringe.
Obviously, any Christians with firm opinions about Halloween–whatever those opinions might be–possess plenty of Bible verses to validate their viewpoints. When I talk about how infighting reveals Christianity’s lack of coherence, that truth goes double for super-polarizing arguments like this one.
“Don’t Waste Halloween.”
Charisma, a fundagelical culture-warrior site, advised Christians in 2017 not to “waste” the opportunity before them.
Oh yeah, sure, sure, Halloween totally centers around “a very real devil and his kingdom of darkness and destruction.” Indeed, their writer, pastor Jon Quitt, declares his “deep respect” for Christians who avoid any celebration of the darkest day of their entire year. However, he says immediately afterward, that’s no reason to leave money sitting on the table!
Just lookit all those customers walking past! Why can’t Christians grab a piece of that action?
All they need to do is totally pretend to play along with the holiday’s traditions to (hopefully) snag some vulnerable person’s attention! Regarding the many false rumors Christians have started and believe about Halloween, he says:
While I can’t confirm the veracity of every scary statistic, I can confirm one statistic for sure—more people will knock on your door this one day than any other day of the year. With that information in mind, Christian: Don’t waste Halloween!
Quitt tells his tribe to participate in handing out candy to trick-or-treating children–along with church invitation cards, of course. He doesn’t flat-out suggest that they verbally evangelize, but it’s hard to imagine a scandalized fundagelical not doing that. They’d want to make extra-sure that anybody who comes to their door doesn’t mistakenly think they’re totally fine with all this demonic stuff.
(One marvels at the squabbling that must have gone on after this post went live. In Charisma’s 2018 Halloween post, Jamie Morgan writes a blanket condemnation of all and any celebrations of Halloween.)
Yes, It’s Demonic, But Just Lookit All the CUSTOMERS..!Sure, we still encounter lingering hand-wringing from liars-for-Jesus like John Ramirez, yet another pathetic holdover from the Satanic Panic. Despite those opportunists’ attempts to squeeze just a little more profit from the panic, others still see profit in pandering to the sales-minded Christians in their midst.
The sellers of Chick Tracts, for example, suggest that enterprising Christian salesbots purchase lots of their products, then offer them to kids along with candy. LifeWay Christian Stores suggests that Christians purchase lots of their products to offer to kids.
And Christian Broadcasting Network had a similarly-innovative suggestion for Christians. Can you guess what it was? They suggested that Christians purchase and hand out a specific Max Lucado book to the parents accompanying trick-or-treaters. However, somehow they forgot to disclose that Max Lucado works as a contributing writer for them. The CBN shopping site sells the book they suggest.
About the only Christian I can see who is not directly profiting from Halloween-related sales to Christians is Jon Quitt himself. His church even canceled events on the 31st this year so members wouldn’t feel torn between
enjoying the evening with their families making sales pitches and attending church. (Meanwhile, John Ramirez wrote books capitalizing on Satanic Panic ideas, so he counts fully as a Halloween opportunist. We’ll be revisiting him soon.)
Gang, I’m starting to see a trend here.
The Real Customers.
You know how we talked about multi-level marketing scams (MLMs) recently? And about how the real customers of MLMs aren’t actually folks like us that the MLM shills try to guilt into buying their sub-par products, but rather the shills themselves?
We could say the same about the opportunists trying to talk Christians into converting Halloween into a sales opportunity. Maybe we’re not the real customers here. Maybe Christians are.
I mean, we already know that Christians themselves are the real audience for apologetics materials. Really, that’s why these materials function so stunningly poorly in evangelism. Apologists only need to persuade the people spending money on the materials that their wares are effective.
In similar fashion, maybe many of the Christians convincing other Christians to use Halloween as a sales opportunity seek only to sell more of their own products. They aren’t worried about how effective their products are on us unwashed heathens. We’re not the ones paying for this stuff. The people selling this stuff seek sales from Christians. They only need their Christian audiences to think these products are at all effective. When we don’t convert en masse on November 1st, the sellers of these materials already have ready excuses at hand for the failure.
As one final irony, allow me to appropriate in turn Andrew Barber’s closing statement about Christian movies, adapting it to describe how I feel about Christians who weaponize their sub-par Halloween fake-outs: “As long as Halloween imitations are motivated by a desire to trap people into hearing a gospel presentation, or as a consolation for losing the culture war, they should not make it into the holiday.”
The mere fact that they do in both cases tells us how little truth there is to Christian claims.
Imagine a sales-minded Christian who made sales pitches only in ethical, consent-based, and compassionate ways, who eschewed dishonesty and manipulation entirely, and who refused to reach for lies or threats in order to make sales! Even more than that, imagine a Christian huckster who wasn’t a hypocrite or grandstander! We wouldn’t even know what to do with ourselves.
But this Halloween fakery? We know what opportunism and dishonesty smells like. We know exactly what to do with that.
Today, Lord Snow Presides over the smoky, Candy-Corn-accented scent of Christian opportunism in action.
SPOOKY WEEK AGENDA: This week we’ll be featuring Halloween-themed posts. On the big day itself, expect our first Super Special. The Super Special will be a collection of previous Halloween-themed posts all assembled in one place. If you’re a new reader, or want to get re-acquainted with the blog’s past hits, you won’t want to miss it!
NEXT UP: Join me for an atmospheric gothic horror story about fundagelical women’s quest for marriage. Later, we’ll be diving into a guy trying to make money off of the long-dead Satanic Panic. Whew! See you then!
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Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. I’ve started us off on a topic, but feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. Pet pictures especially welcome! The series was named for Lord Snow, my recently departed white cat. He knew a lot more than he ever let on.