Once upon a time when we were living in England, I kept hearing this one particular song everywhere I went. I think it was around Christmas, so I was out shopping a lot – and the song was everywhere. It had a great vibe and I liked it, so I downloaded it and added it to the mix. My dad had taught me early on that you should always read the lyrics so that you know what you’re singing along to . . . and that’s a habit that has stuck with me to this day. As an aside, that habit is especially important as a parent – who wants to find out later that your kids have all memorized something filthy that you’ve been playing around the house every day? Anyway, I remember that I had looked up the lyrics to this song and they were completely nonsensical and poetically unimpressive, but there wasn’t anything problematic about it in that way. And it was a great song to cook to. I always love it when the music is turned up and everyone is in the kitchen helping, and like I said, this song had a great vibe. So it was definitely having a presence around the homefront as well as in the Christmas sales around Oxford.
After a week or so, apropos of nothing, I looked up the band. It wasn’t a group that I was familiar with, and so in a moment of curiosity I googled them.
What I found out was that a couple of the members of this band had met at a Halloween party – and they had instantly hit it off and had known that they were destined to be friends because of the costumes they were in. One of them was dressed as a botched back-alley abortion, and I can’t remember what the other one was but it fit in nicely with that first. Seriously, it turned my stomach – and that was the last of that song for me. I deleted it straight off my playlist and that was that – I absolutely couldn’t listen to them anymore without being completely revolted.
But why on earth am I bringing this up? I’ve been hearing a lot of Christians lately talking about how wonderfully symbolic it is to dress up as ghosts and goblins and demons and witches on Halloween – and the reasoning is that by dressing up as these things we are making fun of Christ’s enemies. But to be honest I’m dubious about that reasoning. Dressing up as a botched abortion is dressing up as an enemy of Christ’s – but I fail to see what kind of great postmillenial point could be made with that.
I’m curious if the folks that self consciously dress their kids as various members of the demonic team (as opposed to those who do so without thinking it through at all) would be equally ok with dressing their sons up as a transvestites, or their daughters as a couple of lesbian brides? Throw an abortion doctor in there? To be honest, I think most Christians would be horrified at that idea – and rightly so. I think this is because we intuitively know that dressing up as something is not actually how you mock that thing. A man wearing his favorite player’s jersey to the game is not mocking that player – and no one who sees him thinks he is. Everyone who sees him knows at a glance that this is an act of solidarity with the team, not the other way around. An actor in costume for his play is not in the act of mocking the character he’s dressed as. Heck – even a man in a hot dog suit who’s holding a sign advertising the nearby hot dog stand . . . he’s not mocking hot dogs. He’s telling all the passing traffic that if they are fans of hot dogs they should step this way. I actually can’t honestly think of one single instance of putting on a costume where we are all supposed to intuitively understand that this is an act of mockery.
I’m not arguing that parents who are doing this as an act of gospel symbolism are in high rebellion. If those parents are using this method to catechize their children about Christ’s victory then I believe them to be sincere . . . I just think that they’re mistaken about the way the symbolism works. In my mind it would be similar to teaching my kids swear words with entirely different meanings attached to them. If I told my kids that the f-bomb meant “Hooray!” then when they used the word they wouldn’t be guilty of swearing . . . they’d just be very confused. And so would everyone else be around them.
My second problem with this approach to Halloween is that, even assuming that the symbolism does in fact work, mocking the principalities and powers is actually something that we are forbidden from doing in Scripture. Jude specifically addresses this in verses 8-11:
In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
My thought is that if even the archangel Michael wouldn’t speak disrespectfully to Satan, and if the people who heap abuse on celestial beings are soundly condemned as having taken the way of Cain, rushed into Balaam’s error, and those who were destroyed in Korah’s rebellion . . . well I think that maybe we should think twice before launching a campaign with our children of, “Hey everyone! Let’s mock the devil!”
So I guess my two problems with this approach boil down to this. That’s not the way you mock the devil, and even if it was you probably shouldn’t do it.
So how do we celebrate Halloween in our house? The kids dress up and go aquire as much candy as possible. I’m totally on board with that. Yahoo for costumes, yahoo for trick or treating, and yahoo for sugar in bucketloads. We just don’t dress up as the other team.