“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).
Christians have always had a tough time with Halloween. The danger usually associated with the message of Halloween was its association with the occult — the glorification and celebration of evil, death, Satan, witchcraft, blood-sucking vampires and the like. Clearly the people called to “live in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7) have no business dabbling in this sort of darkness. Christians living in the bright new day of the Resurrected Son are called to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12).
I have always appreciated C. S. Lewis’ balanced approach to the topic of Satan and the forces of darkness, warning that: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” So, reasonable and balanced Christians and church leaders have attempted to recognize the real evil standing behind the folk religion of Americanized, materialized, sugar-laden Halloween by offering alternatives to dressing up as goblins, witches and vampires. The Harvest Party and other family-friendly gatherings that celebrate the true Light’s victory over the powers of darkness have provided alternatives to trick-or-treating. (Read Ben Witherington on “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?”)
Well, one wonders if even the creative mind of C. S. Lewis who wrote at length from the point of view of the “devils” in The Screwtape Letters could have anticipated the sneaky way our culture (or the Devil) would try to put a new spin and sexy veneer over the dark focus of Halloween’s evil under layer. Lewis has the senior Devil named Screwtape write to Wormwood, his devil in training, instructing him on how to try to keep humans (called “patients”) from even believing in their existence (since they can do more harm when their “patient” is unaware of them):
“I don’t think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.”
Well, take a trip to the nearest Halloween Costume Outlet store today and you will find that old Screwtape and his junior devils have taken it a step further. You would have to be blind or living in a cave somewhere to not have noticed the trend in costumes the past several years. The cultural forces at work (driven by the sexual forces within) have managed to add an entirely new kind of darkness and evil to the traditional favorites. I speak of the overt sexualization of Halloween costumes.
My wife and I host a fun Halloween costume party every year and were shocked when we went looking for some costume ideas at our local outlet. We couldn’t find any costume that didn’t have the adjective “Naughty” in front of it — naughty nurses, voluptuous vampires, sexy kittens, sassy pumpkin witches, adorable Alice in sexy wonderland, diva devils in high heels, and so on. I entered the store expecting to find kids costumes like Scooby Doo, Little Red Riding Hood and Tinker Bell, and instead felt like I was in an Adult Novelty Store. Needless to say, we ended up piecing together our own more PG-rated costumes at home with the help of the local Dollar Store.
What intrigues me is how strongly sexualized a culture has to be for a holiday that typically glorifies such things as blood, guts, horror and death can so quickly become associated with sexiness and sensuality. If I were merely a casual observer this would seem quite an odd combination: blood thirsty vampires coupled with sexy nurses in heels. But I’m not a casual observer. I make this observation as a Christian well aware of the true nature of evil and temptation. Lewis is quick to point out through Uncle Screwtape that the devils cannot manufacture anything good or evil of their own power. Screwtape admits,
“[God] made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy [i.e., God] has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.”
There is no pleasure more powerful among human beings than the realm of sexuality. Thus, we should not be surprised to find overt evil (Satan, demons) joining forces with derivative evils (distorted sexual pleasures and lustful fantasies). I should say they make perfectly natural bedfellows — pardon the pun. As Screwtape continues, “Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.” I suppose a blood-sucking temptress in spiked leather and short skirt luring her prey with sexual appeal in order to devour them is about as unnatural as God’s design for female sexuality could be. Lewis was right again.
Yes, in this 21st century America, Halloween is no longer primarily about the celebration of traditional evils — ghosts, goblins and the grim reaper. Rather, we find Halloween itself the victim of the irresistible influence of sexual forces. The Bible warned us that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14), though today he may be masquerading just as often as a Playboy Bunny in White. Youth pastors used to save their “Sex Talks” for the month of February surrounding St. Valentine’s Day. Now, however, we might just as well begin our teaching in October to prepare our students to resist the temptations presented by those naughty nurses, black leather kittens and purple lace witches that might come knocking on our doors.
Let us as Christians be one step ahead of the sneaky schemes of the evil one; so we can be as alert as Paul who could declare confidently: “We are familiar with the Satan’s evil schemes” (2 Cor 2:11).
“For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world…” (1 John 2:16).
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one… Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:19, 21).