I recently walked into a shop to get my hair cut and was immediately struck by decor that included skeletons, ghosts, spiders, bats, disembodied skulls, and cemetery grave stones. When I was a kid, Halloween seemed less morbid. Do kids dress up anymore as clowns, pirates, princesses, hobos, and Superman?
It got me pondering. Let’s go beneath the surface.
Humanity seems to react to morbidity in two extreme ways: fearing death and glorifying it. They’re opposites, yet the same. Like Fascism and Communism in the political realm, they metaphorically go down opposite sides of the circle and meet at the bottom. Fear and glorification of death fit rather neatly into two different eras.
Before we continue, people who have read some of my writings know I loosely categorize recorded history into three distinct eras: pre-Christian, Christian, and post-Christian. Some of the world is still pre-Christian, as in areas within the Middle East and Far East. The Western world is post-Christian. Much of Africa and some of Asia are entering their Christian era. The difference between pre- and post-Christian is the difference between a subconscious anticipation of hope and a rejection of hope – personified in incarnate Son of God. It is no coincidence that our abortion age began at the beginning of our post-Christian era, when academia began changing B.C. and A.D. (Before Christ and Anno Domini – Latin for “year of our Lord”) to B.C.E. and C.E (Before the Common Era and the Common Era) to identify history. The change is fitting, since a culture of death and a Christian era cannot co-exist.
In pre-Christian cultures, fear of death dominated life. In post-Christian cultures we tend to glorify death. The two reactions are born of the spiritual maladies of fear and pride, the opposites of faith and love. Pre-Christian obsessive fear of death points to a recognition of a dark mystery over which we have no control, and being intimidated by forces higher than ourselves. The post-Christian glorification of death obstinately stands in the face of heaven and foolishly cries out “Death is mine!” as we abort millions of babies and legalize euthanasia. Pre-Christians didn’t know God, post-Christians act as if they are to be God.
As a child, when our country was at the tail end of the Christian era with its ethos still somewhat permeating the culture, Halloween was fun. There was no common obsessive fear of death, nor was it glorified. Halloween was an enjoyable holiday for kids, which many adults saw in context of being the eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows-Eve), when the souls of the just who are now in Heaven are celebrated. Faith in Christ conquering death offered hope that one day we will join them in unending bliss.
However, when Christ is rejected, hope is unwittingly rejected. This quiet post-Christian despair of our age spurs on the arrogant claim that we are the ultimate arbiters of life as belligerent purveyors of a culture of death. It is a foolish and self-destructive display of pride born out of a deep emptiness and lack of meaning.
Fear and glorification, the pre- and post-Christian reactions to death, are obsessions that express a lack of hope and inevitably lead to grave injustices. Both miss the point of life and neither should be the central theme of Halloween.