Halloween is just around the corner. And with it comes a fair bit of noise from the faith community. Just recently I got an e-mail from the folks at Youth Specialties which quoted a book they publish "Don't Buy the Lie" by Mark Matlock. Mark is taking on the interest in the occult that has grown quite a bit in our culture over the last 10-15 years.
And that's not a bad idea really. We need to treat spiritual matters carefully and with careful consideration. It's just how he approaches the subject that sometimes set me on edge. So I noted my reservations and invited the youth to whom I send this information to spend some time and think for themselves.
I am absolutely NOT here to trash Mark Matlock. I've only seen a short passage from his book and I've never met the guy. But he did get me thinking.
So here's what I think about Halloween. These are just mine and kind of off the top of my head.
I don't get the folks who are in full "Halloween is Satan's playground" mode. Like ANY human activity evil can use it for its own ends. Little children dressed up as Spiderman or their favorite Pokemon character getting sugary treats really is not all that sinister.
On the subject of vampires, werewolves and ghosts my thoughts are as follows:
Might exist and that makes me sad.
A ghost seems to be a spirit of a person who has for whatever reason not let go of its time in this world. Because I do believe in Heaven (which for me is simply to be in the presence of the Creator with nothing standing between us) the idea that a soul refused to go is sad. The idea that not all souls will go to Heaven (and I believe that many will not choose to go) is equally sad. I've never understood my fellow believers who seem to get their jollies knowing that some folks will end up in Hell, whatever that turns out to be. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what Heaven and Hell are like. I spend that time thanking God for grace.
Cause I need it.
So what about the Big Fella himself? Satan, Lucifer, the Devil. I do believe that there is a force of evil, a malignant drive in the world. For simplicity of talking about it I'll call he/she/it Satan. I have no better idea of what that "person" is like than I do for God. I see glimpses, shadows, results of actions. In the end however what I "know" is much more what I "believe" and far too often nothing more than pious fiction. Too many of us are still caught up in the horns, pitchfork and form fitting lycra bodysuit to make any headway. There is an evil power in the world. My study of it says it's much subtler than it is often given credit, and it's not as all pervasive as it is often accused of being. Folks out there get very caught up in the "spiritual warfare" mind set where every thing that goes wrong is the Devil striving against them. I'm afraid I find that point of view rather egotistical. It validates what we're doing because look Satan himself opposes me!
I think Satan is more than happy to take credit for our own stupidity and brokenness. We provide more than enough working material for the evil in the world. It usually doesn't seem to take more than a nudge for us to suddenly veer off into actions that are selfish, hurtful or worse. While it would be great to think that Satan really has to work hard to boost the evil levels in the world I think it's just a cop out answer to get ourselves off the hook.
To expand out the circle a little more I don't believe in horoscopes, or fortune tellers. You can only "Tell the Future" if it's a fixed thing with the end already determined. Since I reject predestination that's pretty much out then. I believe that Ouija boards and tarot cards are likewise hokum. Seances require that I believe that spirits that have gone to the "other side" still have calling privileges to this world. It seems unlikely that a soul in the presence of the Divine really has much interest in this world. And the ones in the "other place"? Do you really want to talk with them? What that leaves is our old buddy the Devil playing games with our heads. Thank you, no.
I also believe that any of these can be very dangerous. Because they can quickly become tools that lead people away from God. Rather than trying predict or control the future get out and create it. Things that need to be done in the dark are rarely a good idea. Live in the light, let the next world take care of itself. Live your life to the best of your ability and thank God for grace to cover the rest.
Oh yeah, and make sure to get in some trick or treating.
"Don't Buy the Lie"