When I was 5 years old, I was a wizard for Halloween. My babysitter, Megalie, made my costume: a pointy hat adorned with starts and planets and a lushly purple robe with wide sagging sleeves. I loved it. And ever since that night 40 years ago, Halloween has been my favorite holiday.
My soul is expanded when I walk through my neighborhood at night, seeing people out and about in costumes with flashlights and glowsticks, trick-or-treating. My spirit is tingled by all the scary lawn decorations. I love the elaborate haunted houses, the "fun size" snickers bars, the pungent aroma of pumpkin innards, the laughter of Vincent Price, the spooky stories, the witches, the dead leaves, the Fall.
But, unfortunately, millions of my fellow Americans hate Halloween. They despise it. And they are working hard to snuff it out.
To be sure, most Christians in America enjoy Halloween. But a significant minority of them -- primarily Evangelical Christians -- have been waging a war against Halloween for some time now. They urge their fellow citizens to abandon trick-or-treating, to eschew spooky costumes, to resist the lure of jack-o-lanterns and instead attend "Harvest Festivals" on church grounds. To these pious souls, bobbing for apples is kosher, but not wearing a skeleton getup. They even lobby public schools -- sometimes successfully -- to ban the wearing of costumes on October 31. And of course, Pat Robertson routinely rants about the Druidic/Satanic evils of the holiday.
But what underlies this simmering hatred of Halloween, at root? I mean, after all, if you think about it, Halloween and Fundamentalist Christianity actually have a lot in common.
Let's start with zombies. The walking dead. The undead. Whatever you want to call them. Halloween is rife with people dressing up, frolicking around as, and ultimately reveling in zombiedom. As is commonly known, a zombie is a human that died but has somehow come back to life and roams the world, dead but not really dead. Well, Jesus fits that bill pretty nicely. According to the Christian tale, Jesus died and then soon rose from the dead and hung out with people, with his flesh wounds still gaping (just ask Thomas, if you have any doubts). When a murdered person pocked with wounds comes back to the world of the living and saunters among us, that's a zombie. Amen.
How about ghosts? Now, correct me if I am wrong, but don't Christians believe in the Holy Ghost -- an invisible yet powerful presence that dwells in the ether and can possess you? For Pentecostals, the holy ghost literally enters their bodies and causes them to shimmy and shake and speak in tongues. For Catholics -- and many other Christians -- the Holy Ghost is essential to salvation. So let's be clear: Christians believe in and worship a ghost. And simultaneously, many kids dress up as a ghost on Halloween. Or tell ghost stories. Or both. Hallelujah!
Next: demons. Horned minions of the devil. Christianity is rife with them! Just read the Bible: they posses people and make them deaf and blind, they cause pigs to commit suicide, they lie, cry, and essentially act real demony. And Christians of all stripes -- from the most Catholics to the most ardently Protestant -- believe in the existence of these demons, and they even have specialists trained to battle and subdue them. So if your coworker decides to wear some red horns to work on Halloween, what's the big deal? If they're good enough for the Bible, aren't they good enough for schmoozing around the coffee machine?
And let's not forget blood. On Halloween, everyone knows that the red stuff dripping down kids' eyes and mouths is fake. It is cheap make-up you squirt out of a tube purchased at the local store. But Christians actually love real blood. They love the blood of Jesus because it washes them of their sins. And Catholics even go so far as to drink the blood of Jesus every time they go to Mass.
But wait -- there's more! What would Christianity be without Satan himself? Now, you gotta wonder: why doesn't God just kill Satan -- or at least send him to another planet? Who knows? But then again, who really cares? After all, if there was no Satan there would be no way to explain sin and evil in the world. There would be no way to threaten your children when they steal cookies or masturbate. In truth, for the most ardently Christian, Satan is as essential to their belief system as God. You can't have one without the other. And this horned master of wickedness rules a fiery realm where millions are tortured without end. Sounds a lot like the ambitious haunted house my neighbor sets up every year, replete with screams of agony, sadistic demons, and crying little kids. heck, you'd think Christians would be the first people to relate to and appreciate such satanic theater!
Zombies, ghosts, demons, blood, devils -- Christianity's got it all.
And thus, in the end, here's probably the real why Evangelicals hate Halloween and seek its demise: they see it as competition.
After all, why go to church to hear about a zombie or get possessed by a ghost or drink blood? You can do pretty much the same thing down the street at the nearby Halloween party, and it'll be a lot more fun: the zombies will be giggling, the ghosts will be eating fun sized milky ways, and the blood will be devoid of actual human hemoglobin.
And perhaps best of all, no one will tell you that if you fail to believe that it is all real, you are immoral, sinful, or damned.