This morning, a post from Formerly Fundie came across my screen. Okay as far as it goes–we don’t want to be the crazy fundamentalists who see Satan in everything not explicitly church, and we also don’t want to be de-sensitized to the ever-increasing gruesomeness of the Halloween costuming/decorations/slasher-movies. The former is easy enough to avoid: just don’t be an idiot (I know, this is very hard to avoid for some people, but give it an honest effort, okay?). If you can manage it for the last two weeks of October, that will be enough.
The latter is harder–to make sure we’re not de-sensitized to things like a real, once-living-but-now-dead-body chained to a fence and thinking it’s a “decoration”. It’s harder because it takes much more concerted, sustained effort throughout the year to make it happen. And Mr. Benjamin’s recommendations are, in a way, a silly retreat of their own kind, and really only cover the holiday in question.
Let’s think about Halloween more carefully than he has. First, even though it has ancient and pagan roots, it was Christianized to be the Eve of All Saints’ (or All Hallow’s Even, from which the modern name is derived). If it could be Christianized once, perhaps we could think about Christianizing it again. Our decor could actually honor those who have gone before us, and remind us that evil and darkness (both of which are themes of the festival) are (a) real, and (b) conquerable. And we can do this without being sappy-religious, I think. But to do it well would require sustained reflection on good and evil throughout the year.
Secondly, we could avoid being so de-sensitized to the kinds of human horrors Mr. Benjamin describes by being better Christians–or really, just better humans–in the first place. Maybe checking in on neighbors, especially the elderly or lonely, to make sure they’re okay. We can do this in non-interfering ways. It’s called being good neighbors. Maybe we can do this before the neighbor is dead on their front porch for a couple of days–if it looks like a familiar face is sitting out in the same position all night and into the next day, it probably isn’t a decoration.
It’s still a bit too “fundy” for me to think we’ll do better in the response-to-gruesomeness department by trick-or-treating and having less-dark parties with people we already know and value. That isn’t Christian. Reaching out to others…a bit more. I may not be a great biblical memorizer (very different from a biblical scholar), but I don’t recall Jesus telling his followers to stay in cozy enclaves of the like-minded as a way of avoiding evil. Or being light, which is what Mr. Benjamin calls his Formerly Fundy readers to do in this case.
Developing relationships with those we don’t know, checking in on people who might need it, dealing with the messiness of life all year–these are habits which might avoid becoming de-sensitized to the darkness which has increasingly taken over Halloween.
A bit of compassion would be good. Some intelligence might help as well.