RITE OF PASSAGE: Hope in Hard Times
I know many of you parents are expecting this article to address “Halloween: The Biblical Stance” or “A Christian Perspective on Participating in or Simulating a Pagan Celebration.” I thought about tackling these topics, but I didn’t want to steal the thunder from your pastor’s sermon next week.
Sometimes it seems to me we believers spend our time fighting the wrong battles. We won’t let our children participate in collecting candy from friends and neighbors, but we will let them watch “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” When I was growing up, the big sin (every church has its own list of “big sins”) was dancing. According to the adults in my life, nothing would open up the gates of hell faster and allow demons to attack you more readily than dancing.
At this point, I must tell you that I couldn’t dance even if I had been allowed to do so. My dance moves were similar to those observed when you stick a metal object into an electrical outlet. I was always more afraid of humiliation than any demons that might come my way. Yes, the big sin in our church was dancing, which would lead to drinking alcohol, which of course would lead to smoking, which would lead to sex, which would lead to . . . dancing.
Since we couldn’t dance or “do” Halloween, our church had to come up with an alternate activity. Instead of all the things the world offered, can you guess my church’s activity of choice? A hayride! Yes, instead of sending us door-to-door to collect candy on Halloween night, our church leaders put us on a nice, safe hay wagon. Then they drove us across dark, unfamiliar terrain where demonic-looking people were waiting to jump out of the woods and scare us. To tell the truth, I would have preferred to take my chances on the demons at the dance.
There was a second problem with our church hayrides: they always seemed to occur on the coldest night of the year. There I sat in the moonlight, a hormonally overcharged 13-year-old, doing my best to snuggle under a blanket with Debbie Gardner. I must confess: I am glad Baptists don’t dance. There is only thing I can think of that can set a young man’s blood boiling faster than a dance, and that’s a hayride with Debbie Gardner on a cold, moonlit night.
I think this Halloween stuff is overrated, anyway. It’s nothing but a night to teach your kids how to panhandle door-to-door. Do they really need to collect a year’s supply of candy in one night? I’ve got it figured out, though. It isn’t the demons that promote this holiday as much as the stores that sell the candies, the costumes and the hay for hayrides.
This year, I’m looking forward to Halloween, and I intend to make it productive. We have moved to another house, and my wife says I still have junk that I need to get rid of. I could hold a garage sale, but I hate even thinking about those. I could gather everything up and take it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, but they would recognize the stuff . . . and might not take it back. Instead, I am going to give all those items to the kids who come to my house saying, “Trick or Treat.”
I have it all planned out. When they show up on my doorstep, I can say, “And yes, for you, I have an old television remote control. Just hand it to your parents the next time they blame you for losing the remote. For you, I have some lovely dishes (only slightly chipped). You can use them when you head off to college in 15 years. And for you, I have a lovely lamp. It doesn’t work, but it will look great standing in the corner of your bedroom.” I figure if I can get 90 kids to come to my house, I can have all my unwanted possessions hauled away by these pint-size panhandlers.
Yes, I might think about sharing my worn-out belongings with the trick-or-treaters . . . except some of you would put that on your list as a big sin. Maybe instead of teaching that dancing or drinking or Halloween are the big sins, we should be teaching that disobeying God’s commandments or not accepting the salvation of Christ or not running straight into holiness are the sins we really need to worry about. If we teach our children these things, maybe all of the other ones will fall into their proper place. That’s when we’ll realize that the greatest, biggest sin of all is . . . a church hayride.