October 2019 - Pumpkins and spooky things

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve as it should properly be known, is a night which can cause a lot of consternation in the Church, and can leave Christian parents with difficult choices.  Should they let their children dress up as witches and zombies and whatever else, or is it all beyond the pale, a gateway to darker things?

Well, I have to begin with an admission, all though my childhood, my Presbyterian mother allowed me to carve turnip lanterns with horrible jagged faces, and so far I have been OK (apart from a deplorable lurch towards the papist high church as my Granny would have seen it!).

I don’t want to seem to be making light of this, and I am sure some will disagree with me, but as with so many things in life, I do think we need to come at this with a sense of balance and proportion. Do some people have a worrying and dangerous interest in the occult, do some people do some truly evil things in this world?  Yes absolutely to both.  Do children get a deep interest in the occult by dressing up as ghosts, witches and zombies once a year, I am not convinced.

As a society we have become more and more insulated from death, whereas in the past most children would experience the death of a classmate at some time in their schooling, that is thankfully now much rarer.  The majority of us live our day to day lives without anything scary happening to us. I do wonder if all this desire to play at dressing up as something scary is just a way of trying to rationalise that which is now beyond the normal run of our lives.  

Do our children want to dress up in scary clothes to see and play at, but not really meet, the darker side of life, in the same way people go on a safari to see the wildest parts of nature but without ever wanting the risk of being eaten?

But is there not a risk it will turn to something deeper, that they will be lured into evil.  Again, I am not really convinced, this may be my excessive liberalism coming to the fore, but I do not at my core believe that humans are lured into evil by an external power.  I believe, and I am not sure that this is not more terrifying when you really think about it, that every single one of us has the capacity for good and evil built into us from the very start.

We choose the path we take through our lives, that path can be good or it can be evil, and although we may sometimes be influenced by other humans in the path we take, I truly believe we make those choices ourselves. No one in this world is 100% good or bad, we are a massive complex set of contradictions - even that most evil of people Adolf Hitler, was loving devoted to his dogs, and even the kindest people will hurt someone at some point.

As Christians we live within the grace of Christ, we believe that Christ died for us, that his love for us saves us.  So how can we then give in to evil, how can evil ever be compatible with that state of grace?  Well I would argue we are not perfect as Christ was perfect, and if we are to live in that state of grace, we must live lives that reflect that state.  We must put aside the darker parts of ourselves, choose to walk in the light. But that is not always easy, if it was we wouldn’t start almost every service we have by confessing our sins!

We must always strive to walk in the light, do to good, to live a life reflecting Christ’s Grace, but we must also recognise we won’t always get it right, we sometimes fail, and we will need God’s forgiveness.  We will sometimes need to push that darker part of ourselves back in the box in which it belongs, and reach for the light of Christ.  But I fear we can never get rid of it completely.

So back to Pumpkins etc, what should a parent do?  Well, I don’t think the odd bit of dressing up in scary clothes will do that much harm, perhaps it could be offset by a few evenings some other time in the year talking to our children about how they can deal with the many temptations this world will throw at them, and how they need to equip themselves to make the right choices in the lives they will lead, the ones that reflect Christ’s love for them and us all.                              

 Malcolm Wearing