October 28, 2016

JesusWeen Approaches

Jack-o-lantern
Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A version of this post initially appeared on the Mississippi Atheists blog in 2014. It has been revised and updated.

I was using the Internet to read up on JesusWeen the other day. Yeah, I know. I just can't help being fascinated with such things. I came across an interesting conversation by some Christians on a forum that I really wish I had bookmarked or screen captured. One was complaining that nearly all of what he had been able to find online about JesusWeen was somewhat snarky or mocking in tone and/or content.

That's a real shame, I thought. Some evangelical fundamentalist Christians decide that a particular holiday is too pagan, too scary, too dangerous with all the demons waiting around to possess good Christians, or just too fun and set out to Jesus it up. Instead of handing out candy, which the children ringing their doorbells clearly want, they'll hand out Christian bibles, which I can't imagine any child wanting on Halloween. Clearly, this is a holiday tradition we should be taking more seriously!

I suppose an argument could be made that the infusion of Jesus into Halloween really does make sense (see here for a visual depiction of why I might say this). As I wrote previously,
Still, Halloween always seems like a good excuse to remember that Christians believe in ghosts, think that angels and demons are battling for their "souls," and insist that they have "a personal relationship" with a 2,000 year-old zombie. It is almost as if every day is Halloween for Christians.
Halloween does strike me as an appropriate occasion to think about superstitious beliefs and how they develop, including religious superstitions. It is a good time to marvel at how some people seem to have a very difficult time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. And of course, it is an excuse to remind ourselves of what many of our neighbors do believe about the world around us.

Obviously, not all Christians believe in ghosts, demons, hauntings, gateways to hell, or any of this stuff. Many Christians prefer to live in the real world rather than this magical sort of fantasy that has more resemblance to bad horror films than reality. And even among those who claim to believe in souls, demons, and other supernatural nonsense, few seem to behave as if they really believed it. They profess belief because doing so is advantageous and not because they take it all that seriously.

While I may find it unfortunate that some evangelical fundamentalist Christian parents refuse to allow their children to participate in Halloween, I suppose that's their call. I have no right to interfere with that anymore than these same Christians have the right to prohibit me from enjoying Halloween (or buying beer on Sunday). Besides, being able to participate in Halloween doesn't seem nearly as important to children today as it did back when I was a child. The part that gets to me is that many evangelical parents seem to do this primarily by instilling unrealistic fear in their children. Some children will recover from this, but few will emerge from the experience completely unscathed.

So here's wishing you a pious and respectful JesusWeen. I hope you have enough bibles for the neighborhood children who might come to your door.
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