As I walk around my neighborhood, I notice that most of the homes have Halloween decorations up. I can't help but find this somewhat surprising.
This is the Bible Belt. My neighborhood is not some atheist stronghold surrounded by Southern Baptists (wouldn't that be nice?) - it is filled with them. I was virtually the only house around here without pro-Bush signs during the last election, and most of my neighbors decided that it was their business to ask me where I attend church when we first met. "God bless America" and anti-choice bumper stickers cover their cars, and they consistently vote to ban sales of alcohol within our county.
According to the Southern Baptists who are interviewed this time of year by our local paper, Halloween is evil. It is an evening with Satanic overtones where demonic forces somehow break through the defenses of their god and his army of angels. It is a time when children are at increased risk of being corrupted by these evil forces. They should not be allowed to trick-or-treat, even in the safest neighborhoods. Instead, they should be taken to church. Yes, church. Many churches in this area have daytime programs for children on or near Halloween. In part, this is to ease the childrens' pain at not being allowed to participate in Halloween. Some churches even allow the kids to dress up (in positive sorts of costumes without any hint of "evil") and receive candy from people at church. In addition, it is hoped that the extra time at church will fortify their fragile souls against the demons who wish to prey upon them.
So when I see pumpkins carved with scary faces, rubber skeletons, ghosts, etc. adorning the doors and porches in my neighborhood, I am filled with questions. Maybe my neighbors really aren't the Christian extremists I thought they were. But if so, why are they so quick to push religion and carry the extremist torch during the rest of the year? Maybe they just being selective in deciding what part of their pastor's dogma to ignore. But how do they reconcile this with their so called faith? If the pastor is right that homosexuals are evil and should be persecuted, why isn't he right about Halloween? Could it be that my neighbors are simply selecting which sections of religious dogma appear to justify their pre-existing beliefs and discarding the rest?