Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why, as a Christian, I like Hallowe'en.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Many of my fellow Christians get worked up over the dangers of Hallowe'en.  I personally have always liked it, for the same reason that I really like old horror movies, that is, about 1970 or before.  (After that, with special effects, they often strike me as a delight in violence and blood that is deeply disturbing.) Let me explain why.

Part of the danger we face nowadays is that we avoid the evil of evil.  Sometimes we romanticize and play down evil, like, it seems to me, the Twilight series does.  Or we are paranoid about it thus giving it power over us, like some of my fellow Christians do by trying to ban Hallowe'en altogether.  Or we delight in it per se, as it seems to me the modern gore and violence movies do. 

Essential to the old horror movies (and to the universe of good story) are stories with real villains and real heroes.  Everyone knew that vampires were bad things, that you shouldn't let them in the door, and that they (like evil generally) were deceptive.  They were dangerous, they made a good story, but they also were an object of fun.  Who wasn't delighted when the sun burned Dracula up?

During the Jewish feast of Purim, Jews tell the story of God delivering his people as found in the book of Esther. They hiss whenever Haman is mentioned, dress up in costumes, celebrate their deliverance from Haman and other persecutors of God's people, and mock Haman and his ilk.  It seems to me that this is the way we should approach Hallowe'en.  It is both a celebration of our deliverance from death and evil in Christ, and also a way of mocking the evil one and his minions, from whose power Christ has delivered us.  We should delight as we do it, remembering as St. Thomas More said, that “The devil … that proud spirit … cannot endure to be mocked.” 

We should not, however, diminish the evils of the world, or their real danger to us.  Stories, and play, and dressing up, are not only ways of making fun, but also ways of helping us to face reality.  They are ways of reminding ourselves, and our children, that there are real perils in the world.  As C.S. Lewis said:

"… Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. …"

So, let there be vampires!  And let the story end with the hero pulling aside the curtain so that they can be vanquished by the sun.  

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