Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Morning

Here we are at Halloween, that strange day that drives Evangelicals crazy, that day that seems such a patchwork of spiritual traditions, including Wiccan and other Pagan traditions. Here we are headed towards one of the spiritually thin times/places, that space where our world and other worlds might collide.

I confess that I have misgivings about Halloween, but they're not the ones you might expect from someone who regularly writes about theological issues and the life of both the Church and my own church. 

Halloween has never been that time for me. I've felt assaulted by noise and crime and adults acting foolishly and children rudely demanding candy--but never have I felt glimmers of the otherworld.

I think about all the money we spend on candy and costumes and decorations--although I'm not seeing as many decorations this year.  Yes, I'm that person who thinks about all the ways that our Halloween spending robs the poor--both in money that we don't give to charity and in the ways that we set the bar so high for lower income people who can't compete on that level.

But I also understand the importance of having festive days.  I know that people on limited budgets can have fun and are capable of setting boundaries and that we don't need to legislate every single aspect of life in an effort to protect people who are grown ups capable of protecting themselves.

At my old school, there will be a costume contest today.  One of our new colleagues asked if administrators usually dress up.  I said, "Some will.  Some won't."  I always look at people's costumes and wonder what they're telling us--and did the costume wearer choose to do that on purpose?  If I dress as a superhero, am I secretly yearning for some sort of power that humans wouldn't usually have?  If I dress as a zombie, am I letting the world know that I'm hollowed out, a version of a human that no one would love?

It's an interesting time to consider the practice of putting on a costume. On Halloween, I've noticed that adults don costumes that let them behave in ways that they never would in their regular lives. Sometimes this seems sinister to me.

But as a spiritual practice, it has something to teach us. Perhaps each day, we should think of ourselves as donning our spiritual costume that will let us be more like Christ. We might not be able to do it on our own--but in our costumes, with a healthy dose of make-believe, --we can become the people we want to be--kinder, praying people who work for social justice.

It's Halloween morning, as I write.  We could still have a more intentional Halloween.  We could spend a few moments in meditation as we light our Jack-o-Lantern candles.  We could think about the gloom that we want to chase away.  We could think about the light that we want to shine into the world.  As we give out candy, we could say a silent prayer for each recipient:  "May your days be sweet and your life be sweeter."

And tomorrow, as we observe the Feast of All Saints and Wednesday, as we observe the Feast of All Souls, we could send a donation to Lutheran World Relief or other worthy agencies, to assist all of those souls in Haiti and other places who are living a kind of suspended life as they try to recover from natural and human-made disasters.  We could match what we've spent on candy and pumpkins.  Or we could do more.

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