Don’t Dismiss Halloween
Don’t Dismiss Halloween
Albert Bogle, Minister of Sanctuary First, reflects on good and evil, halloween, harrowing experiences from those living on the street, and the inspiration we can get from All Saints’ Day.
“The dead don’t hurt us,” was a phrase that Paul Clark, the General Secretary of Scripture Union Peru, repeated and attributed to the many street boys who had been rescued from street prostitution and abuse in Lima in the late 1990s and early naughties.
Clark once explained to me that somehow they had a profound understanding that the dead would never harm them. They also understood what it meant to be terrorised by evil. When asked about what they knew of Jesus one boy said “He is the dead man on a stick, I don’t know him, but I know the other man who meets me in the dark places.”
These children used to hide in the cemeteries and sleep in the little alcoves among the bones of the dead. They felt safe there. The dead certainly would not hurt them. However on the street all kinds of evil could be encountered.
In our culture when it comes to hallow’een our children play trick or treat and we allow them to explore aspects of death mythology that have been commercialised. They dress as ghosts and ghouls and they flirt with the darker side of something that for those little street boys was far beyond a game, instead it was a living reality that dominated and controlled and abused their lives.
When it comes to this time of the year many christian parents are conflicted. Should they celebrate Hallow’een, and allow the children to engage with ideas and thoughts about, the afterlife that are celebrating the power of darkness; or should they find a more creative way to use Hallow’een to talk about the afterlife?
Regardless of how you approach the topic, I think it is wise to do so when the children are ready to ask questions. We need to guard against submitting our children to our anxieties and, by doing so, be creating difficulties for them that need not have arisen. Finding ways to honour the dead and preventing them becoming boogeymen is surely an important aspect of Christianity. Finding the right balance is where the wisdom lies.
Perhaps autumn itself can be the best introduction into teaching our children about the cycles of life. There is a beauty in creation as the year comes to an end. There is a splendour and a sadness as the trees shed their leaves and another year draws to a close. I think our children can grasp this because they can see the falling leaves all around them. We just need to be tuned into their thinking when the questions arise. For like the little Peruvian street boys they too have a spiritual understanding of life and we cannot hide from them the fact that evil exists.
We can do this without sugarcoating the fact that there are evil people and ideas in our world and that there is a spiritual dimension beyond the time and space we find ourselves in. Such conversations will take place over an extended period of time and may only last a few minutes. These are the opportunities as parents and grandparents we need to pick up on.
Hallow’een is in fact the evening before All Saints’ Day when traditionally Christians remember those who have passed from time into eternity. It is a time to remember and give thanks for the influence and service of the saints. When the word saint is mentioned in the epistles in the New Testament it is just another way of describing the believers who met regularly in homes and public spaces to worship. The everyday people who were followers of Jesus. The saints in the Bible are not stained glass window saints. They are ordinary disciples who made up the Christian Community.
Remembering our everyday people, those who have passed through the veil into the nearer presence of God is something we should keep in mind. We are reminded in the epistle to the Hebrews that we are surrounded by a great host of witnesses. Perhaps we need to acknowledge them more often. Even give them a wave from life’s running track.
All Saints’ Day gives us an opportunity to do so. Perhaps among all the pumpkins and autumn decorations, that seem to have become fashionable, some pictures of our family saints wouldn’t go amiss.
Why not take a moment and listen to Fiona Maddox as she sings that great hymn ‘For All the Saints' and in doing so, allow yourself to give thanks to God for the saints of the past who have helped shape your life, and pray that we too might be used to pass on a legacy of hope to the next generation.
Albert Bogle, Minister of Sanctuary First