Friday, October 29, 2004

WWJD on Halloween?

Mic brings up an interesting question in her comment:

"Any comment on the 'controversy' of Halloween occurring on a Sunday this year? I heard some good Christian towns are losing sleep over this! Call me crazy, but I believe that Halloween has occurred on a Sunday before...."


Actually, this kind of gantseh megilleh has been going on for some time, particularly among evangelical groups. What to a lot of us is celebrating a fun and harmless holiday (despite the cavities and occasional egging or stolen treat bag) is to some superstitious types just asking for the occult and spirit world to notice you, and to some ultra-religious folks a veritable PACT WITH SATAN! Religioustolerance.org has all kinds of excellent information on how Americans of different faiths in general view Halloween. For example:

A poll of visitors to the Beliefnet.com website as Halloween for the year 2000 approached showed that there is a wide range of beliefs about Halloween:
Belief % Response
"It's a fun holiday for kids and adult parties. I don't take it seriously." 42%
"It's a wonderful time to remember the dead and celebrate the end of the year." 28%
"We shouldn't celebrate it because it has occult origins and morbid overtones." 12%
"I celebrate it as a Christian holiday, the eve of the Feast of All Saints." 9%
"It doesn't mean anything to me one way or the other." 9%


In advance of Halloween for 1999, Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian agency conducted a poll of their web site visitors concerning their plans to observe Halloween. Results were:

30% Avoid it because it is evil
29% Enjoy costumes and candy
29% Turn it into a fall festival
9% Ignore it for lack of interest
9% Observe it as Reformation Day -- a recognition of the founding of Protestantism.


One of the most outrageous responses to Halloween is the Hell House, a house of horrors put on by Christian groups (and usually staffed and acted out by teenagers) that leads visitors through tableaus of “sinners” suffering and going to hell for commiting such acts as pre-marital sex, abortion, suicide, doing drugs and- heaven forfend! – engaging in homosexual acts (we gays all get the AIDS, y’know). Even just going out dancing or reading a Harry Potter book can set you on the road to much-deserved rape or slaving in the service of Satan. If you haven’t seen it, the documentary Hell House is a fascinating look into this phenomenon. One of the most telling aspects is how much the teenagers enjoy and compete for the chance to act out the goriest or most disturbing scenes. How old testament of them! Our own lovely M has witnessed these charming diversions herself as a child of the Southern bible belt (now that’s scary!).

So, what do I think? It’s just one more thing I don’t get or agree with the religious right on. And, generally, whereas I do think that it’s every person’s right to practice his or her religion as long as it doesn’t hurt others, there’s a lot of latitude in the concept of “hurt” for interpretation. If they don’t want to observe my favourite holiday, fine, but the type of small-mindedness that sees any practice or observance not set specifically down as acceptable in a literal interpretation of the bible can be more than a bit frightening. Banning Halloween is just another little symptom of the extremism fundamentalists of all faiths can resort to when they become convinced their particular rules are the only right ones and should be law. And the most disturbing part is, this type of furor only seems to building every year.

Can you say fatwah, anyone?

Happy Halloween!

1 comment:

mict said...

I am impressed by your use of the phrase "gantze megilla"! It gives me such naches, I'm kvelling!

Between the Christian Right and the drunken B&T crowd invading the Village, Halloween is REALLY scary these days. Here's an option: if you want to dress up and party, while celebrating the life of a brave woman rallying troops so that good triumphs over evil, try Purim. The weather is just as unpredictable in late March, and there is candy involved - however, you are supposed to GIVE candy to the people you visit, not take.

Yes, Purim is another faith-based holiday, and it does glorify war, revenge, pillaging and general mayhem, but it also encourages cross-dressing!