Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dr. Mark Young on the Celebration of Halloween

So after Halloween, I go down the street to intentionally meet my neighbors and I knock on the first dark house. I introduce myself:

“You know my name?”

Neighbor: “Oh I’ve heard about you. You’re the professor down at DTS.”

Yeah, yeah that’s me, I’m working downtown – we were missionaries.

Neighbor: “Oh that’s wonderful; you know we really love the Lord.”

“Oh that’s good. You know I noticed on Halloween night that your house was dark.”

Neighbor: “Oh yeah, we don’t engage in Halloween.”


Neighbor: “No, no, no, we go down to the church, we have a harvest festival at church.”


Neighbor: “Yeah, yeah we believe that Halloween is the night of the devil, night of satan.”

“No kidding?”

Neighbor: “Yeah. In fact I meant to talk to you about your jack-o-lanterns, they were offensive to me.”


Neighbor: ”Yeah. You know several centuries ago in England those jack-o-lanterns were used to ward off evil spirits.

“Oh, okay.”

So I went to two or three others houses, got basically the same story. The dark houses where the Christians live. They were all at church having a harvest festival.

Why? Why would a Christian choose not to be at home on the night that 82 children walk up to your front door? What on earth would possess a Christian not to want to be there?

So I did some investigation. Indeed, you can on the Internet you can find stories of how these jack-o-lanterns were used in ancient pagan religions to scare away saints. So then I decided maybe the Internet wasn’t the best place to look. So I began to read Celtic history and began to understand a bit about that world and lo and behold I asked myself the question finally after all my reading, what difference does it make? In 1995, in south Garland [TX], what function did this cultural form fulfill? What did it do? Did it drive away demons that night? What function did that jack-o-lantern perform on October 31st, 1995 in south Garland? Because that’s the ultimate question. What did it do?

Student response: It welcomed your neighbors.

Mark: It welcomed, it welcomed people. It said to them, come up to my house tonight. It also communicated participation in this holiday. Part of a structure? Sure it’s a part of a structure. It’s a part of a structure you could call a community, a place where people lived and organized their lives with one another. Well what meaning did those 82 kids ascribe to that jack-o-lantern when they saw it or those jack-o-lanterns outside my front door? What meaning did they ascribe to? Candy! This guy has candy! Maybe he is a nice guy.

Anything in my worldview that makes me want to be a nice guy? Sure, it’s called the love of Christ for the lost. That type of cultural analysis it seems to me has far, far, far more validity than what happened with this particular kind of cultural object 600 years ago in England but yet Christians are willing to step out of their communities and not be home when 82 kids walk up to their front door because they’re bringing a function and a meaning from 600 years ago into a cultural form today.

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