Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Halloween - a time to laugh or a time to weep?

(Column for a local newspaper - I now write for a second newspaper, and it has to be different from the first!)

Last Halloween a colleague of mine went into a home in Letterkenny to visit. Crouching behind the sofa was a small boy, stark naked, and in the process of painting himself from head to toe in red paint! Apparently he wanted to look like the Devil.

It can be a time to laugh, yet it is also a time when elderly people are afraid to answer their door, when they are frightened by all the racket outside of fireworks and bangers.

It's a time of increased vandalism and wanton disregard for the property of others, of bangers thrown through letterboxes or at windows, and fireworks aimed at people or cars.

As a pastor I see another reason for concern - Halloween dumbs down the spiritual dangers we face by making light of them. There is a spiritual realm which we need to take seriously. The devil is real, a terrifying being who is certainly not some mildly mischievous man in a red suit with pointy ears. He is the ultimate cause of all that is wrong in this world. And while it's mostly fun and games at Halloween, it reduces spiritual matters to "a silly dressing up that we did when we were kids". When we pretend that he's just a harmless bit of fun, we are swallowing his propaganda.

Besides all this, there is the duty that each of us has to show compassion to those around us. The Bible commands us to "love our neighbour". We can't say we're doing this if we, or our children, are making elderly folk fearful or nervous in their own homes.

The whole concept of Halloween is a licence for mischief, and one that we could well do without. At the same time, it is a holiday and therefore an opportunity for families to enjoy some time together. So I would encourage you to be both wise and considerate in how you spend this time, to look out for your neighbours, and to take seriously that "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

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