Sunday, 2 November 2008

Hallowe'en and the Evangelicals





Horrendous thing on the South-East ITV news on the 31st: an evangelical Christian-organised alternative Hallowe'en. Naturally this involved a ring of bored tots sitting round in a Church hall eating biscuits whilst Christian youth-workers led them in saccharine songs about Jesus. 'Jesus was a little lamb, his fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.' Or something. The light shined in the darkness, you see, and the darkness (viz, moi) comprehended it not.

Dyspeptic as I am about most aspects of Paganism, and respectful as I am about many aspects of Christianity (I like a nice Evensong as much as the next man), this sort of thing arouses my extreme distaste. First the youth-workers. The one interviewed was about 23, with blond straightened hair and angular, trendy glasses. Ping! went my gaydar - I wonder how that's working out for him. With a kind of horrible, glassy, fixed smile, he explained that it was the intention of his church to provide a place where children could get away from the annual celebration of evil and darkness that is All Hallows, and instead they could stress 'the positive' and 'the light.' By this time I was jumping up and down at the telly, shouting 'Have you never read Jung, man?! What about Bruno Bettelheim?!'

Kids need darkness. They need to be scared, whilst still being held securely by careful parents. Boundaries need to be explored, tested. They need to acknowledge the reality of death and decay, that ultimately nothing is permanent; and this is best done through play and make-believe. Now I suppose all this is in contradiction to the eschatological hopes of Christianity, which don't appeal to me. (Is there any more desolating line in the Bible than Revelation 21.1? - '...for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.' I bloody liked the bloody sea.) But I loathe this kind of Panglossian evangelicalism, which reminds me of nothing so much as one of those bright, striplit 24-hour shopping centres with their endless thin gruel of musak seeping out of the speakers. Or perhaps evangelical Christian churches are more like the spiritual equivalent of Motorway Services: overlit, overpriced, brutal, crude, at once constantly thronged and utterly empty. Do they not know that the Bridegroom comes at midnight?

The psychological and spiritual ramifications of this narcissistic splitting and repression are frightening. What gets tamped down into the collective Shadow along with the 'evil' and the 'darkness'? Night, and with it sleep, and silence. Emptiness and waiting. Genuine mourning, and its capacity to heal. The ability to deal with ambiguity and nuance, with the ambivalence of thresholds and doors, with cyclicity - the ebb and flow of things. Insight, and honesty. The mysterious unsafety of the world. Our common human flesh.

5 comments:

Fionnchú said...

It's why we remember the villains more than the heroes in our tales, isn't it? Feile Samhain agat.

Bo said...

Agus agatsa fhein! (was that right?)

robinherne said...

Evangelicals, of whatever ilk, are scary people in my experience.

On the topic of strangeness at Halloween, I particpated in an interfaith Hindu-Pagan-Christian "dialogue" thing recently, marking the late octoer festivals. Pleasant enough, though didn't quite understand the decision to make a maze out of sheets, then get everyone to circle about trying not to ignite each other with nightlights.

Hopefully this message will register my Google whatsit? I really don't understand computers!

Robin

Anonymous said...

I was brought up as an Evangelical in the heart of America and it was never suggested (in my young hearing at least) that I keep away from Halloween. But that was half a century ago. This situation is getting more and more polarized.

Thanks for letting us back in. I may be forced to get a Google account. Rodger Cunningham

Cat said...

I'm late to this blog, and this might seem a strange thing to say, but I wish you were a priest after reading your thoughts on Hallowe'en, you would do so much good with your poetic, beautiful but hilarious way of looking at the world, and people's minds just might open up. The world needs more of you and less of "them". This whole blog is wonderful though.

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