Halloween: A Different Kind of Outrage

This is Halloween week so we get to hear from well-meaning Christians (once again) the outrage against and denouncement of this particular “holiday” that allows children to dress up as ghosts and goblins—or other horrible creatures (like Elsa of Frozen)—that will surely scar them for life. I’ve always been amused at the “Christian dress up” replacement events held at churches where children can dress up like a “biblical character”—except, of course, the witch at Endor, Jezebel, Rahab, Tamar, Bathsheba, Judas, Goliath, Herod, Pilate, Legion, or the Dragon (to mention only a few).

(Ah! But silly me, you can now buy a “Monsters of the Bible” lesson pack to teach your children all about God’s truths, with a proclamation in big bold red letters: “Don’t let God’s Truth Take a Backseat This Halloween!” Only monsters are included. So this leaves the door open for more marketing ideas, like “Despicable People of the Bible” lesson pack. Or, “All the Prostitutes of the Bible,” lesson pack, including the pornographic prostitute sisters—Oholah and Oholibah—of Ezek 23. You could even include patterns for making ancient prostitute clothing!)

Could we at least focus our outrage a bit?

I personally have many fond memories of Halloween as a child. In our town, it was acceptable to dress up and go trick-or-treating every night of the entire week of Halloween (except, only one visit to each house per goblin, please). Our parents didn’t even go with us! We just went out by ourselves at 8, 9, 10, 11 years old! We got in no trouble, we had a lot of fun.

I realize that times have changed and also all of the evil some people do with such a holiday; but if we are to abandon every activity because of how some people turn it into evil, then every church would shut down overnight never to open its doors again.

Oh, and speaking of doors and the evil in churches, this brings me to a different kind of outrage that I myself always associate with this time of year. For this week in 2014 marks year 497 since a monumental occurrence. On October 31, 1517—All Hallows’ Eve—Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church against the practice by the Catholic Church (at that time) of the sale of indulgences (a way of buying forgiveness of sins and not having to go to confession). The date (October 31) was not an accident but well chosen: for All Hallows’ Eve (or All Saints’ Eve) was the eve before a religious holiday influenced by pre-Christian practices dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. (This is still celebrated in some countries.) The 95 theses railed against the sale of indulgences which granted forgiveness of sins and even release from purgatory—and this had everything to do with the dearly departed.

Look at this description, which comes right off of Wikipedia:

As part of a fund-raising campaign commissioned by Pope Leo X to finance the renovation of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest, began the selling of indulgences in the German lands. Albert of Mainz, the Archbishop of Mainz in Germany, had borrowed heavily to pay for his high church rank and was deeply in debt. He agreed to allow the sale of the indulgences in his territory in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. Martin Luther was apparently not aware of this. Even though Luther’s prince, Frederick III, and the prince of the neighboring territory, George, Duke of Saxony, forbade the sale of indulgences in their respective lands, people in Wittenberg traveled to purchase them. When these people came to confession, they presented their plenary indulgences for which they paid, claiming they no longer had to repent of their sins, since the document promised to forgive all their sins. Luther was outraged that they had paid money for what was theirs by right as a free gift from God. He felt compelled to expose the fraud that was being sold to the people. This exposure was to take place in the form of a public scholarly debate at the University of Wittenberg. The Ninety-Five Theses outlined the items to be discussed and issued the challenge to any and all comers. (see full article)

For Luther, the monsters, despicable people, and whores were the church leaders who concocted and promoted this evil scheme.

Martin Luther's 95 ThesesYou can yourself read a translation of the 95 theses here. Among my favorite are #10 and 11:

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.

If you read these 95 Theses, you will likely be struck with how foreign the problem sounds from anything you deal with on a daily basis (although clearly, corruption is an ever present thing). It is a great example how we can become so wrapped up in our own interpretations of things and with things that have nothing to do with the Bible that we can no longer see the Bible itself or Jesus himself.

It is always good for us to be on guard. But let us be reasonable people in the process.

Gary

 

3 thoughts on “Halloween: A Different Kind of Outrage

  1. Thank you for your perspective. I also enjoyed Halloween as a youngster. Cloverdale UMC will be having its annual “Trunk or Treat” this Friday in the church parking lot.

    • Thanks, Jim. I always appreciate when church groups try to provide safe havens for children and adults at such times (especially knowing that danger may very well lurk in darkness). The “Trunk or Treat” events done all over the country are good efforts as long as they don’t get too preachy.

      The problem I have is when “we” try to attach (force) some unnatural “Christian” theology to the whole thing. So what if Halloween has ancient pagan roots? It doesn’t mean that now. Besides, so does everything else. Banquets. Baptism. Days of the week. Marriage. Sex. (Now there’s an argument. “Sex is an ancient pagan ritual—still practiced by pagans! No more sex for Christians!” Just watch how fast the churches go empty.)

      Anyone can satanize/paganize anything. Even Jesus on the cross.

      Personally, I’m for encouraging Halloween as a fun kids night it has come to be—–ghosts, goblins, and all—–and not pressing any unnatural theological issue on top of it.

      I would personally like to see more of a celebration of what Martin Luther did in nailing the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church on All Hallows Eve (Hallows-e’en), since it was a watershed moment in Christian history. It affected all of Christian life and worship to this day, and it impacted the shape of the canon we accept and use to this day. This was an amazing moment! If there is going to be any religious significance attached to the day (at all), let it be the recognition that on this day nearly 500 years ago, Protestantism and the biblical canon we now accept were born.

      But I would not try to force the kids to dress up like Martin Luther. 🙂

      Thanks, Jim.

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