Halloween

As a child, Halloween was never a big deal. It was just a night that we dressed up and went around our little farming community to get candy and visit our neighbors. I don’t remember getting lots of candy but getting more than enough. Also, I don’t remember attending parties or even spending money on a yearly costume. However one year, I did talk my mom into purchasing a witch mask that I wore for a few years. Even now, it is difficult to recall when I was “too old to dress up” or when we stopped trick or treating. Clearly, it did not cause me any trauma to give up the ghost costume.

Halloween wasn’t on my radar again until I was in my 20s and I had young’s kids. At the time, I was beginning a decade descent into reformed theology with some infiltration of totally reformed theology. As a new mom with young kids, I was very eager to think about things differently, including roles and duties of spouses, parents and children, as well as education, discipline, spiritual training, the mission of the church and my own participation in “the world.” Funny enough, one of the topics in my reformed circles was Halloween.

Quickly, I discovered that many of my reformed friends had traded Halloween for Reformation Day, and so I followed suit. Honestly, the trade seemed smart because they had lots of kids and a party, and we were still new to Knoxville, my subdivision had only 8 houses and I was (take a deep breath) homeschooling and hadn’t met a lot of people. It didn’t seem like I was making a moral choice between Halloween and Reformation Day but I was making the easiest choice.

I don’t think I ever thought much about Halloween or that it was evil, although I had become pretty strict about what my young kids watched on TV and I made sure that they were not exposed to witchcraft and witches in cartoons. (Just ask my kids about Scooby Doo and the hex girls- still hearing about it.) While I was serious about not exposing my kids to witchcraft, Halloween seemed silly especially when compared to celebrating a real historical event like Reformation Day where my children still inhaled plenty of treats.

Fast forward a few years and things did change. Though we were still reformed, we ended up switching churches and my kids began attending public school and started participating in Halloween. None of these transitions were a big deal for us, because we weren’t completely committed to homeschooling or being totally reformed and we weren’t hyper focused on Halloween. So, when October 31 rolled around, it seemed like a night that my kids could run around with their friends filling up pillowcases of candy. Even I ended up dressing up and attending adult Halloween parties where overconsumption was just as normal and celebrated as pillowcases full of candy.

It has now been many years since I have thought very much about Halloween or contemplated its evil beginnings or its modern day commercialized version. Likewise, it seems even longer since I thought about reformation day or celebrating Martin Luther’s 95 thesis and his stand against the selling of indulgences, though I have written my own 95 thesis against the monoculture. At the present moment, I would not label myself reformed, though I still agree with some reformed doctrines. 

Truthfully, I have been rather turned off by much of today’s religious talk because it is only religious talk that for the most part distracts us from not literally applying the most basic biblical truths to the most ordinary areas of our own lives. Kierkegaard would call such talk “christian scholarship” and say it keeps us from imitating Christ and loving our neighbor as ourselves, and I would agree with Kierkegaard.

However over the course of the past week, I have seen religious talk that, some 15 or 20 years ago, I would have agreed with or even posted about concerning Halloween and whether or not Christians should allow their kids to participate in Halloween given it’s origins. Of which, I would I have said “Christians, it is fine.” Likewise, I could have easily posted something about Reformation Day or hosted a Reformation Day celebration, and also spoken about the need for reformation. But that was when I was at the height of my reformed (pharisee) false self.

I hope and pray that is not the case today and this post doesn’t feel like judgement but an invitation to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and our participation in a consumer monoculture and it’s made up celebrations. With this being said, I do think any talk about Halloween being or not being intrinsically evil or Reformation Day being celebrated or not celebrated seems trivial at this point. Even more, it seems completely out of touch with what is going on in our lives and in our world.

I mean really…what is a witch costume compared to a multi trillion dollar economy built on and sustained by greed, abuse, violence and overconsumption? How is anyone supposed mitigate our consumer culture and unfettered capitalism, let alone a made up consumer occasion like Halloween, without considering how rapacious it has become? Surely, we are aware of child labor and slavery on cocoa farms. And, we are aware that here in America, we have epidemics of diet-related disease in both kids and adults, and obesity and morbid obesity affects over 74% of adults.

Sure, I see how we can easily dismiss some strange pagan practices to ward off evil spirits or celebrate a monk for taking on man’s ungodly doctrine. But…how can we remain blind to the slavery at both ends of the consuming process and the harm that is happening to children? Why are adults increasingly unwilling to look at what we are doing and the results that have been produced by our insatiable appetites and consumer demands for massive amounts of junk food.

Even more so, given the reality of our current situation, how do we continue to celebrate overindulgence and escapism every single day and top it off with an absolute meaningless and gluttonous junk food feast every single year? Is it because we have built an entire economy on overindulgence and escapism? I know, I know… I hear you saying “It is just a night of fun, stop being so serious!” But I have to ask “Is it more fun that we need right now and how long can we afford to continue to feed our addiction to fun and demand our right for more and more fun, while our fun seems to cost us so much? Have you ever thought about how Halloween affects anyone else other than you and your kids?

Have we ever thought about how we spend billions on candy and costumes while people in our country and around the world starve? “ According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans are expected to spend more this Halloween than any other year — $10.14 billion, up from $8.05 billion in 2020. About $3 billion of that will be spent on candy alone; which translates to about $30.40 that each person is spending on candy.” How do we justify this on any level that is right, good and true?

More than ever, it seems that if you want to talk about evil and corruption, then I would say that witches, evil spirits and the hex girls are the least of our worries. In fact, they do not hold a jack o lantern’s candle to our gluttonous and over-consumptive consumer lifestyles. On the other hand, Martin Luther would turn over in his grave if he saw we were celebrating reformation day rather than risking our entire lives to radically follow Christ with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength.

At this point, it has been over a decade since I was confronted by own religious talk and the reality of my life, and how I lived no differently than any other consumer. Just like every other consumer, I wanted what I wanted, how I wanted it, when I wanted it and where I wanted whatever it was that I wanted. Truthfully, my consumer identity, mentality and lifestyle didn’t need a reformation but what I needed was a death and rebirth. During this time, I discovered that not only did I need to consume differently, but I needed to be different, think differently, feel differently, want differently and live differently. I didn’t need to talk about how to mitigate a consumer culture. Instead, I needed to stop being just like the world and thinking about what was best for me and my kids, and start thinking about how I was called to love and serve my neighbor and teach my kids how to live as receivers and givers of love and truth.

See, the biggest problem that I have with 99.9% of religious talk is that it is nonsensical when we (christians) are addicted to over consuming and to obsessively curating our consumer lifestyles, and we look, speak, think, feel, want and live no differently than anyone else. Have you ever thought about how are christians to participate in a man-made occasion that ignores the truth that the mass majority of christians are physically sick (88% of Americans have diet-related disease and sickness)? Personally, I don’t believe we can participate in this monoculture, partake in its indulgences or celebrate its occasions until we can look at ourselves and our daily lives and ask some real questions about who we are and what we are doing, embrace the Truth and start living radically different lives as receivers and givers of love and truth, and not as consumers.

The truth is that we do not need more opportunities for fun and fantasy. (Read Dopamine Nation) Instead, we need to understand who we are and how we are designed to be healthy, whole, holy and human, and how this design is nourished by sacrifice, denial of self, Truth, Love, service and living for something more than dopamine highs and avoiding dopamine lows. Even more, we need to understand that overconsumption and overindulgence aren’t fun when they come at a big price. Overindulgence and overconsumption costs Americans trillions in healthcare and kills over 500,000 Americans a year. These costs are not only physical, but they our spiritual, emotional, mental and relational, and they trickle into every square inch of our lives.

Perhaps, post Halloween is a good day to look back at Halloween and ask if Halloween is any different from our daily lives. Could we not immediately jump to defend ourselves but allow Halloween to be the opportunity to ask ourselves some real questions like “Are we consumers? What are living for? Are we addicted to food, sugar and consuming? How does my consuming affect creation and it’s creatures- my neighbor? What are the results being produced by the way I consume? What has my mindless consumption and my mindless participation in a culture dependent on overconsumption produced? How has it affected me? How has it affecting my kids? Am I participating in priming my kids for some type of addiction?”

I don’t know your answers. I just see the results of our consumer mentality and know that we desperately need to start asking some different questions about what we are doing and if it proves what we say we believe. For a very long time, my consumer lifestyle did not line up with me loving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself. Even now, I am failing miserably in these areas. But I want to love and I want to create spaces where we can rest and be nourished, and we can become our best and healthiest selves who open our lives and homes to our neighbors so they can remember what love looks like, smells like, tastes like, sounds like and feels like.

Next stop Christmas…

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