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No Fear

October 19, 2013



Saw a preview of a new TV show the other night:

A lovely young woman, dressed in Victorian-style clothes, sits in her boudoir brushing her lengthy tresses. Unbeknownst to her, a man has entered the room, looking dark and mysterious. As the music builds suspense, the room slowly swirls as flashbacks to events between the young woman and young man quickly appear and fade.

Finally, at a pinnacle of suspense, the young woman catches a glimpse of the man in her mirror. Terror grips her.

The man steps once more and we the TV audience see what the young woman can’t…

,,, a bouquet of flowers and a card that says “Happy Anniversary.”

Okay. So this wasn’t a real commercial or preview. But I wish it were. Halloween brings out the worst in TV’s new offerings, but those shows are simply a reflection of the culture.

The times have twisted Halloween, too. When I was young, costumes were amusing and child-like. Casper was the worst ghost and witches were about as evil as it got (yes, witches are evil). We even used to collect money for UNICEF.

As the years progressed, Halloween became grotesque, with more and more of the usual objectionable costumes – vampires, zombies, chainsaw murderers, mangled bodies, demons and devils, etc. It was mildly disturbing to see teens dressed this way, but just nauseating as younger ones imitated their older peers.

In a particularly weird twist, recent years have seen these horrific beings take on an erotic approach – vampires are no longer Nosferatu and pasty white tortured souls: they are sexy young adults, out for a good time and, to paraphrase Englebert Humperdinck, “After the lovin’, I’ll take a bite of you..”

Englebert Humperdinck

A children’s evening of collecting candy has become a festival of the macabre, a night of fear and terror with a touch of sexy.

The thing is, it’s all a ruse. I’ve identified ten particulars about Halloween that are especially heinous:

1) Death is to be feared. There may be circumstances leading to death that are fearsome, but death itself is natural. Death is the end of life. We may fear how we’ve lived our lives and death’s approach reminds us of our regrets and failures, but death itself will come. Death may come at circumstances beyond our control and those circumstances may be fearsome, but death itself is inescapable. For the Christian, death is the beginning, our participation in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that is certainly not to be feared.

2) Older adults are to be feared. This part of Halloween galls me most. Notice that witches and scary masks are all of old people, wrinkled, warty, grey-haired, toothless and misshapen. Halloween characters are expected to act like people dealing with Dementia, a sadly real condition faced by many older adults. Hunched over and sounding unnatural, Halloween characters act out very difficult situations that very real older adults cope with daily. Halloween’s mockery of older adults isn’t amusing to me at all.

3) Post-mortem life will be gruesome. In reality, post-mortem life will be wonderful. Eternity with God, everlasting love and peace, wholeness of spirit, the presence of Christ, the joy of the saints, and all those things are the marks of eternity. Port-mortem life will not be lived in the shadows or as walking dead smeared with the mud of the grave – it will be lived in the land of endless day.

4) Cemeteries are scary places. Again, reinforcing a fear of death is reinforcing a fear of where the dead rest. Cemeteries are sacred spaces. They are places of honor. They are lawns of memory. Cemeteries are peaceful places. People rest there whose lives are free of the encumbrances of their years on years. The saints rest from their labors. The weary rest from their labor. The lowly and the lofty share the same status, asleep in the ground.

5) Demons are powerful. This may seem like word-play, but demons can be powerful, but in reality they have very little strength. Demons only have the power that is given to them. For the Christian dealing with temptation, the tempter has only the power we give him. Demons are on an eternal leash, one tied by Christ through His own death and Resurrection. Like the Little Rock Nine entering Central High School in 1957, whose anti-segregation taunters were noisy and rude but held at bay by federal troops, so the Christian walks before demons, whose taunts are held at bay by the One Who has risen from the dead.


6) Candy will take care of your fears. This is the modern mantra. Give me a pill, a shot, a quick fix for my problems. Let me run – and don’t judge me – from my debt, my relationship problems, my job, my emotional issues, etc. The legend of “Trick or Treat” is that giving the Halloween visitors a treat will keep them from “tricking” the fearful patron. In medieval times, a farmer may have given his virgin daughter to the Druids to keep the evil-doers at bay. Today, a Snickers bar will keep eggs from being thrown at your house. But the principal is the same: a quick fix will solve the problem.

In reality, dealing with fears takes hard work. The Druids (and others) didn’t stop harassing peasants and villagers until Christianity took firm control and cast them out. It took centuries. Likewise, pills, shots, pay-day loans, etc., only deter the symptoms. Real fears need real work.

7) Hell is amusing. The usual descriptions of hell not withstanding, I read an Orthodox perspective on hell that I think makes very real sense to me. Because God is love (and always is), to those who reject Him, love will burn like flames. Because God is light (and always is), those who prefer darkness will find His light to be particularly torturous. Because God is peace (and always is), those who refuse Him will find His peace eternally besetting.

In no way is hell amusing. There is no eternal party in the dark caves of the grave. The gates of hell have been eternally broken down by Christ, Who “conquered death by death.” Those who find themselves in hell are there at their own hands because God sends no one there.

8) “Good character” is for nerds. I don’t know if there is scientific data on this, but I think it’s somewhere between third and fourth grades that kids reject being Bob the Builder and Sponge Bob Squarepants for Halloween and begin asking for costumes a little more grim and dark. Depictions of good people are scuttled because good people aren’t scary or cool. Being a good person is more scary. It would be interesting to see trick-or-treaters dressed as St. Francis or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Ghandi or a Boy Scout, wouldn’t it?


9) Autumn and cold are dreary. Overcast skies, rain, slowly defoliating trees, shorter days and browning greens are negative to many people. There are those who deal with “Seasonally Affected Disorder,” a very real emotional state influenced by the changing seasons, and I’m not diminishing their condition. But for the rest of us, Autumn ought to be a season of hope and beauty. The departure of greenery is a reminder that the beauty of Winter is right around the corner. The cleansing of Winter brings the joy of new life in Spring.

The real affects of seasonal change should be embraced. Longer nights are nature’s way of reminding us that we need rest. Darkness and cold bring out our human creativity: how to stay warm and light with the resources available. Cold weather requires preparation and it offers time for preparation for Spring. Autumn is a time of opportunity.

10) Committing evil acts can lead to a satisfactory existence. Whether you’re a sexy vampire nibbling on teen girls or a buff werewolf slashing through passive partiers, doing evil is never satisfactory.

Those who commit real evil know this to be true. Hitler’s suicide is perhaps the pathetic best example. Grandiose dreams of a thousand year Reich built on the backs of Eastern European slaves and soaked in the blood of non-Aryans came to a simpering finale when Hitler – ever the coward – died not leading troops to a final victory but in a bunker with a pistol shot to the head. The evil he engendered was insatiable and unsustainable. And in the end, unsatisfactory. Hitler turned on his own people, accusing them of cowardice, accusing them of rejecting the Aryan ideal. His psychosis found fault not in his own evil but in the incompetence of those who were no longer worthy of his presence. And so, his suicide.

Hallowe’en, the Eve of All Saints day, should be a time and reflection on the good things God has in store for the faithful. There is no fear in that. Recalling the lives of the saints and martyrs, Hallowe’en should remind us all that God plays no tricks on us. He assures us that life is good and that eternal life is His remarkable gift.



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One Comment
  1. Dear Brian,

    Here in Russia many people think that Halloween is a satanic carnival and a glorification of evil which the American mass culture is imposing on us. Indeed, in its current form on the Russian soil, it’s completely devoid of any positive or Christian meaning and looks more like a sabbath.

    Therefore it is very interesting for me to know that Halloween used to be different, more childlike and not about evil. I do not know if you are old enough to have seen a different, more Christian Halloween (was there such a thing? I want to know more about it). We here in Russia have only seen the eerie one being imported for the last couple of decades.

    I would greatly appreciate your posting here about the good old American Halloween and its Christian meaning, if it has ever had any.

    For the present, we now have sexy vampire and skeleton dolls on sale in toy supermarkets. Eerie.

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