An Argument In Favor Of Christians Participating in Halloween

Its that time of year again. Nights are getting cooler. A few leaves are changing color. Pumpkin this and that are appearing on menus everywhere. And Christians everywhere are starting to post their “I hate Halloween” rants all over social media.

In a lot of ways, I get that. Many people who aren’t Christians also hate a lot of the dark and scary imagery of Halloween. Personally, I have never been a fan of “horror” films in general – and I’m not going to really get into the aspects of any holiday that resembles an entire genre of entertainment that I’m not a huge fan of.

But I still don’t think that we should go around writing off the entire holiday as an evil orgy that we should avoid like the plague. And here are a few reasons why:

1) We give “the darkness” (however you label that – Devil, Satan, Demons, Dark Forces etc) too much power if we freak out too much. The way some Christians react to Halloween you would think that Yahweh and Satan are two equal forces locked in an eternal yin/yang struggle. That’s not the picture that the Bible paints: God is all-powerful and love overcomes all.

2) God is everywhere, even in the darkness. He is more powerful than the darkness. See Psalm 139:7-8 (“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are.”) and Psalm 139:2 (“even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”)

3) Yes, there are many grotesque things celebrated at Halloween. But the Bible does not hide from these realities. Have you ever thought about what the Valley of Dry Bones vision looked like to Ezekiel? Not exactly good clean family fun. Now, this is different from celebrating the grotesque, but it is also not running and hiding from it and pretending it doesn’t exist.

4) If we are to avoid holidays because some people take it too far and commit “sin”, then there are no holidays that we can celebrate. You do realize that unmarried people have sex on Valentine’s Day? And that people get greedy on Christmas and buy more than they need instead of giving to the poor? Or that people commit gluttony on holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, you name it? And what about the drunkenness and who-knows-what that happens on New Years Eve? “But there are Satanic rituals on Halloween!” you say. Yep. And anything that is sin is just as “Satanic.” Do you really think that performing a specific ritual makes it more powerful? See point #1 then.

5) But then of course, you point out the “pagan” roots of the holiday. Which would also be true for Christmas, but let’s say you exclude that and just focus on the “pagan” aspect of the origin of Halloween. Does that still mean we are stuck celebrating a holiday based solely on the reason it was first created? Do we still go around martyring people on St. Valentines Day? No? Do we go fight in a war on Veterans Day? No? Okay then – maybe we can look at holidays as a way to celebrate something without actually having to do what the people that we are celebrating did back when it started.

This last point brings me to what I think we should focus on as Christians when celebrating Halloween. First of all, we need to realize that the word “Halloween” itself is a Christian term: “Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of “All Hallows’ Evening”), also known as All Hallows’ Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows (or All Saints) and the day initiating the triduum of Hallowmas.” “Hallowmas, also known as the Triduum of All Hallows (Triduum of All Saints), is the triduum encompassing the Western Christian observances of All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’) and All Soul’s Day, which last from October 31 to November 2 annually.” If you celebrate Christmas despite all of it’s Pagan roots and modern secular influence, then you have the same reason to celebrate Halloween.

Also, if the rampant materialism of Christmas doesn’t offend you as much as the grotesque imagery of Halloween, you might be getting something wrong.

Halloween is a great time to go and enjoy festivals, community night out events, and friendly celebrations. If someone invites you to a Satanic sacrifice, you might want to politely turn them down. But otherwise, be a part of your community for Christ’s sake! Be creative and dress up in a costume that you find appropriate. If not, then at least don’t go watching Star Wars or the Avengers or any one of a million movies where performers are dressed up in costumes.

Halloween is also a great time to teach kids about how some people are fascinated by darkness and death and how that can be an unhealthy thing if taken to an extreme. Kind of the same way we teach our kids to be thankful at Christmas while not getting sucked into materialism.

metamodern-faith-avatarSo, in other words, just like any other day of the year and any other holiday out there, let’s learn to focus on the positive, avoid extremes, and not let fear rule our lives. Because to be honest, too many Christians make arguments against Halloween based completely on fear – which leads back to point #1 above. Its a tired cliche now, I know – but still true: Love wins, even on Halloween.

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Representative Metaliteralism

One of the more well-known debates in the Church is the infamous “creationism vs. evolution” debate. I know that many people see this as a debate between Science and Religion, but the Truth is many Christians believe in Science and many Scientists have some kind of religious belief in a higher power. So the debate usually falls between those that feel that all words in the Bible should be translated literally and those that feel that certain passages were written metaphorically and not historically.

There are two issues here that cause problems for both sides. The first is that not all parts of the Bible are meant to be read literally as there are parts that are poetry and metaphor. Most people agree with that, but you still have to bring it up when people swing too much onto the literal side. The other is that even if a something is a metaphor, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be historical or real. As the scholar Jerry L. Walls once wrote: “a metaphor communicates because the reality it depicts is similar to the image that is used.” So the conundrum is that Genesis 1-3 are not historical chapters just because they are presenting events in a historical fashion (metaphor can also do that), but if they are metaphorical poetry that doesn’t mean that the Earth wasn’t created in seven days (since metaphors can still rely on historical facts).

But beyond this we are still faced with one larger issue in how to look at the Old Testament – the presentational style of the story (whether fiction or non-fiction) does not change radically from Genesis up through Acts (which skips for wisdom literature like proverbs and some of the writings of the Prophets that detailed Gods prophecies of the future and not chronicles of the past). In other words, if Genesis was not historical then where does the history start? Some also write off Moses, Judges, David, and a few of the Israelite kings as metaphorical, also. Some don’t even stop there and write off the whole Bible as complete morality tales based on fictional characters. We run into a problem that there is not a clear line where metaphor ends and history begins if we start grouping such large parts of the Bible in the metaphor category.

So am I trying to make a case for a literal interpretation of every line of the Bible? Not really. I believe there are many metaphors in the Bible. I also believe that most of them have fairly clear beginning and ending points. Some don’t, of course. But as I have stated, using a metaphor or poem does not necessarily mean that the events described did not occur. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.

So I started searching for some kind of position that matches what I believe – that takes into account the possibility of metaphor and historical accounts both being in the Bible, and both often in the same passage. I came across the term “metaliteral” at Urban Dictionary: “when a statement is both metaphorical and literal at the same time.” I know that urban dictionary is not exactly the pinnacle of scholarship, but that just shows the concept of mixing metaphor and reality is out there.

But to be honest, my problem in the whole debate is with the literalist side taking a weird angle on the idea of literalism. I came across these two parts of the overall definition of “literal”:

  • (of a translation) representing the exact words of the original text.
  • free from exaggeration or distortion.

And right there is probably my problem with the literal creationist side of the debate: they have to add many things to the Bible to support their literal 7 day creation narrative. I have previously looked at how reading the Bible literally does not lead to a 7 day creation week unless you add ideas into the text that are not there. Other famous examples of this issue are things like Gap Creationism or the problem of dealing with Adam & Eve’s children marrying other people that were already there (I’ll look at these in the future). Ideas like this involve adding exaggeration or distortion to the story. It also doesn’t always represent the exact words of the original text. One could also argue that saying something is literal when it was written as metaphor does not “represent” the exact words, it “modifies” them into a different genre.

So all of this leaves me in a bind when it comes to how I view the scriptures, caught somewhere between literal and metaphorical. I couldn’t find a view that matched mine, so I just came up with my own term. Since my desire was to faithfully represent what the scriptures are meant to be, even if they could be both literal or metaphorical or either one, I just went for “representative metaliteralism.”

I know – I use a lot of “meta” around here. I need to stop that – its pretty cheesy. But at least the “meta” in metamodernism and metaliteralism mean different things 🙂

metamodern-faith-avatarI will keep going through various parts of the Bible to explain how I look at things from this “representative metaliteralist” position. I already started with “When Literal is Not Literal Enough: The Genesis of a Creation Myth.” I will continue on looking at other issues through out the Bible where I don’t feel like either the literal or metaphorical interpretation really fits fully.

Click here to see a list of posts in the category “Representative Metaliteralism

Was Jesus Really That Serious About The Whole “Plank in the Eye” Thing?

Seems like every week there is a new controversy breaking out on the Interwebs between different camps of angry Christians. I generally don’t fall into the mindset that thinks all anger should be buried and ignored. At times, I think our anger about an issue tells us that we have witnessed a huge injustice. But there are times when I wonder if we are still missing the lessons of Jesus about how to deal with and express our anger.

Just a thought… if you get mad or upset at some Christian that falls into judgement or stereotyping, and you decide to write a blog post blasting that person…. you might want to think long and hard about how you are judging and stereotyping those that you are upset with. Don’t talk a high and mighty line about loving all and accepting all and giving people the benefit of the doubt and then turn around and put stereotypical words in someone else’s mouth and blast them for the hypothetical thoughts they might have had. I see this so much around the Christian blogosphere, especially among the “emerging church” crowd. Too many blog posts and articles have overall points that I agree with, but choose to inject their otherwise good point with stereotypes and judgment on those they are upset with. And they are usually upset with someone else that got into judgement and stereotyping. Odd, I know. And I know I have been guilty of that. I just wish we were all a bit more sensitive to the plank in our own eyes.

The most recent controversy seems to be over an blog post called “FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)“. You probably either love it or hate it. I find it extremely problematic. There have been many responses like “An ‘FYI’ to My Daughters“. I agree with the general idea of this response… but I cringe at the judgmental, stereotypical language used there. So how do you know that these parents will never find a perfect enough girl for their son? Sure, I have known a few parents like that… but most of them never said a word about the swimsuit bikini models plastered on their son’s bedroom walls. So there are at least a few people that don’t fit in that stereotype.

You see, the “horrendously hypocritical” and “disgustingly sexist” people out there are people, too. Jesus loves them, too. I have known more than a few people that would probably easily fit into those stereotypes. The surprising thing is that, once you get to know them, they are not as one-dimensional as our judgement and stereotypes makes them out to be. They might have been talking out of frustration and used words they regret later. They may think even worse things that they didn’t express. You never know either way.

But I think this is the main point Jesus was trying to get across when He told us to look at the plank in our own eye first. If I am upset at someone acting “horrendously hypocritical,” my first goal with my response would be to remove all hypocrisy from it. If I am upset at judgment and double standards, I need to first make sure I don’t respond with judgement and double standards. This is not to say I shouldn’t respond, but that I should only respond to what was said and not assume someone thinks something else just because of a particular statement they made.

Look, as human beings, we aren’t mind readers. But we are all poor communicators at one time or another – some of us more than others. The combination of the two really should scare the hell out of us and drive us to be more graceful in our responses. Or to at least respond to the issue and not drag the person into it and assume they are the poster child for their side of the debate.

metamodern-faith-avatarYes, I know I am horrible at this myself, so I will also try to commit myself all the more to dealing with my plank first. And looking more at the issue rather than the people that speak out about the issue. I am hopeful that those that read this will join me. Saying that we love and respect all has to extend to even those that we are most frustrated with or it means nothing at all.