What’s Halloween got to do with the church, I was asked last week. Makes you think, doesn’t it.
We live in a society of escapism. Much of our society does all it can not to think about things that don’t make us feel good. Like death. Especially death. Instead of facing it with confidence, maturity and hope, we suppress our fears, then binge on it at Halloween. We make it ridiculous, outrageous, therefore disempowering it from having a hold over us. Hahaha, we say, look at ghosts and ghouls and axe-murderers and blood and fear and how we are not frightened of you. You’re not scary! You’re only in films! Evil is all made up! Touch wood.
We show how so not frightened of evil we are by facing it in costume. Like soldiers dressing for battle or Batman donning his mask, we feel emboldened by hiding ourselves and becoming other. We dress as the deformed or the mentally ill or the demonic or simply those that strike fear into the hearts of everyone else – not us, of course – and we laugh in the face of evil. Or we would, if we believed it had a face.
I believe it has a face. That is why I cannot join in.
It has a face, and especially this year. Not in the way the tabloids find an individual and call them the ‘face of evil’, as they periodically do.
Evil has a face when millions in Iraq and Syria and Central African Republic and Sudan are forced to be refugees, when hundreds of thousands are killed in war, are murdered by ISIS; when there are so many dead we cannot count them.
Evil has a face when children in your and my neighbourhood are abused.
Evil has a face when domestic abuse happens round the corner.
Evil has a face when corporations evade tax yet pay pittance.
Evil has a face when the disabled are discriminated against.
Evil has a face when people look at child abuse images for pleasure.
Evil has a face when a teenager is stabbed on a bus in broad daylight.
Evil has a face when someone is raped.
Evil has a face when I look in the mirror.
I cannot celebrate that. I cannot bring myself to gorge on the Dark Side, to wallow in that which brings hell and death, because though it might seem like innocent fun like wallowing in a mud bath suddenly we realise it is a bath of crap and we’re covered in it.
We Christians tell a different story. A better story. In our story we take our masks off and look evil in the eye – even when it is within ourselves – and know that Jesus has the victory over it. It will not win. We do not need to make a mockery of evil and death in order to deal with it, because we face it confidently and maturely every day, by not burying our head in the sand but getting involved in the world in which we live and being a part of bringing the kingdom in.
What has Halloween got to do with the church? All Hallows Eve reminds us of the presence of evil and hell and death, but more than that it reminds us of it’s imminent destruction because of Jesus. We celebrate salvation and we celebrate the goodness and grace of God, for he is the light of the world that casts out evil and darkness and death. Focus on the light.
There’s too much hell in real life to make a joke of it.