Halloween is a strange time for Christians. There is an abundance of ghosts and witches and ghouls. There are devil outfits for children with horns and tails and pitch forks. It all seems alarmingly unchristian.
As a diligent young Christian I stayed away from all things Halloween but the arrival of two daughters made me have to think again. They enjoyed the dressing up. How was I going to deal with it?
It wasn’t long before I took a more measured approach. My children were always imagining and dressing up, they were often reading stories of fairies and ghosts and witches including CS Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. Then there were all those games like Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosies and rhymes like Rock-a-Bye-Baby based on some pretty dark themes. When I caught my then three year old daughter rhyming about catching an old man by the left leg and throwing him down the stairs, and showed some alarm, she said incredulously “it is only a rhyme daddy!”
Yet I still surmise. In my surmising I did some research and discovered that the reason for costumes may not have been about aligning yourself with demons and the dark side but actually about Christians protecting themselves from the dark side. The costumes may have been disguises to navigate a way through times of heightened evil presence. Perhaps once again Christianity has twisted the meaning of things with our lack of research, imagination and understanding. Sensationalist negativity has often been one of our weaknesses.
It all took me back to Bono, CS Lewis and Martin Luther; as it does! When Bono dressed up as the devil, on the Zoo TV period of U2, Christians circled the wagons for another cheap pop at his faith.
In my book Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2 I pointed out that when asked, by a fan dancing with him in his McPhisto outfit, if he was still a believer he asked her if she’d ever read the Screwtape Letters by U2 and the penny dropped. Bono slipped the book into the video for the Batman soundtrack U2 song Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me as if to reveal his cunning strategy to a wider Christian audience.
In CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, Lewis gets inside the persona of a Senior and Junior devil to expose the devils schemes as he attacks the Church. In his Preface Lewis used the phrase, “mock the devil and he will flee from you,” paraphrasing the New Testament letter of James, “resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
As well as the verse in James, Lewis seems to have been recounting what Reformer Martin Luther once wrote, "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."
Fascinating stuff. Enough to surmise that this week when we see a little nine year old dressed up as the devil that he or she might not be evil incarnate but a young zealous Christian seeking to give the devil a hammering! It might just be an opportunity in the midst of the festival to explain the difference between the two!