Halloween and the Protestant Reformation

I’m not a fan of Halloween. When I was a kid, it seemed a much more benign holiday than it does now. The growth in the grotesque horror movies that have become fashionable in our day is truly scary (and not because of the great acting). Originally, horror was a derivative of the “gothic novel,” with a flawed hero, and featured some element of divine justice; now, the monster(s) usually get away, and in many cases are celebrated – this of course was going on discretely in the seventies, but our society is becoming more open about its thirst for sex, blood and gore. I’ve seen reviews of movies in Time and Newsweek that seemed to offer all of the plot and sense of justice of a slaughterhouse (and having been to a couple of slaughterhouses on business, I can tell you they are not places to hang out). Halloween today is an excuse to celebrate evil and depravity.

But there are actually two things I like about October 31, the first is that it is also Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther released his 95 thesis on the sale of Indulgences, and slowly the gospel moved from the nooks and crannies of Europe to the center stage. Many of my heroes are found in Scripture, but I have a lot of heroes from the Reformation period, as well. Huss, the faithful martyr who laid the groundwork for Luther as he died in 1423. Luther, with that backbone to stare the Papal ban down, and minister for a quarter century until he died in his bed. William Tyndale – “God’s outlaw” – the father of the English Bible, who made the plowman to know God’s word better than many of the priests and bishops, and that is not to mention, Zwingli, Ridley, Knox, Calvin, Katherine Von Luther and others. It was truly a period when God made himself known to mankind.

A second thing I like about Halloween is that it is an opportunity. Paul preached on Mars Hill, on a Pagan site in front of a pagan court, by quoting from memory a pagan poet and cited a pagan monument to preach the gospel in Athens. In our day, if the children of unbelievers will come to our houses celebrating a Pagan holiday, who am I to argue? Many Churches do a “Trunk or Treat,” if I hadn’t been sick with a Sinus infection, that’s where I would be tonight. We had another strategy, though, since my wife would never be able to make it over there in time, we prepared our Candy early. It’s not hard to pass out tracts with your Candy, but considering the time and the busy traffic of our neighborhood, we packaged appropriately themed tracts with M&Ms and licorice in plastic bag, easy to hand out, and it doesn’t look like some Christian handed out tracts while being stingy with the candy. Maybe I’m not a fan of modern Halloween, but handing out Halloween candy might just be the best way of celebrating Reformation Day after all.

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