Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Real Scare of Halloween

Today is October the thirty-first. On this day in 1517 AD, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the doors of Wittenberg Castle Church and challenged the status quo. It is also Halloween, the day on which every year we celebrate the status quo.
I have to admit that I’m not a great proponent of this annual nod to Satan and the titillations of toying with our fears and dipping our toes in the Styx, as if we wanted to try death on for size to assure ourselves that it’s not that bad.
People will tell me that it is all in fun. And there was a time in my youth when I happily joined in with the crowd and submitted myself to the many thrill rides of fear. I reveled with the rest of them in the rush of dread. But I’ve learned that there is enough real hell in this life to overcome without my need to fabricate it for my amusement.
And certainly death is nothing to celebrate. Death is the great curse upon all creation. All the universe groans in agony while it waits longingly for the relief that will finally come on the day when death will be put to death. It took a titanic act of love on the Creator’s part to make that happen, for Jesus died for us and was raised again in power so that in Him we might have eternal life. Why would we want to look back on that death, like Lot’s wife looked back on Sodom, which cost so much for us to be finally freed? Jesus wept at the sight of the anguish and hopelessness that death has brought on the human race and all of creation. We should weep too.
Having said all that, I, like all the rest of the families on our block, filled a bowl with candy and dutifully doled out the morsels to all the little ghouls, goblins, monsters, supermen, princesses, witches, fairies, ballerinas, cowboys, ghosts, skeletons, astronauts, dirt-bike racers, lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my, aren’t I the little hypocrite. Yes I am. And this will be my last year of caving under the pressures of the mainstream.
But the impetus for this blog was not self-confession; although I do feel quite liberated by this confession. The main reason is to share with you my observations of this year’s crop of trick-or-treaters, to support my opening thesis.
We had teenagers come to our door armed with pillow cases wearing costumes that looked strangely like those I see them wearing everyday at the junior high school. We had kids who took the candy from my hand. Some said thank you. Some, after I plunked a 3-Muskateer Bar in their bucket, whined, “Man, I wanted a Starburst.” One kid said, “Gimme something.” Very few of them actually said, “Trick or treat.” Some were eating the candy on their way down my lawn, leaving a trail of empty wrappers. There were also a few little cuties who welled my eyes with tears: the little two year old giraffe who made the long hike to my door with her dad and looked bewilderingly at me as I dropped a chocolate bar in her sack; and the three year old superman with forties style slicked back hair who said trick or treat and thank you; I told his mom and dad that I felt a lot safer knowing that superman is around. Some, I’m reasonably certain, came back for seconds. And some drove into our neighborhood in vans from who-knows-where, armed with empty buckets and sacks. I kept waiting for the tour bus to show up.
I don’t know about you, but after witnessing this pageant of Halloweeners, I understood the meaning of status quo like I’ve never understood it before; what I experienced today is the true American culture in miniature. Lord have mercy.