Why conservative Christians should support nuclear abolition

By Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevensonfounder and director, Two Futures Project When most people think of abolishing nuclear weapons, they think of … Continued

The craziness around Halloween is hard to ignore and as with anything “sacred,” be it a day, a story, an object — it has multiple meanings. These days, as with so much in our polarized public culture, each meaning has its own advocates who ardently believe they have the whole truth.

There are our religious fundamentalists who oppose Halloween because of its pagan origins and occult and satanic symbols and believe the holiday undermines Christian values with its embrace of devils, demons, and goblins. Just as seriously, there are Wiccans who oppose Halloween for its offense to real witches by promoting stereotypes of wicked witches. (Opposition to fun often makes strange bed fellows.)

There are traditionalist Jews and members of other faiths who oppose Halloween because it is a Christian holiday — All Saints Day. There are our simplicity folks who oppose Halloween because they see it as another construction of Madison Avenue that has turned one more holiday into a commercialized ($5 billion) consumption experience. There are our concerned parents who oppose Halloween because of its increasing tolerance of violent images and vandalism.

There are serious Christians who reject the ghost, ghouls, witches, and vampires of Halloween and instead emphasize the Christian tradition of honoring all saints known and unknown. And then there is the majority of parents and children who simply enjoy the candy and costumes, the pranks and trick and treating, and the carved pumpkins and haunted houses of Halloween.

So, not surprisingly, depending on who one is and to what community one belongs and one’s psychological predisposition, Halloween is indeed many things. It is harmless fun or anti-Christian, anti-Jewish or anti-Wiccan, amusingly scary, chillingly violent or crassly consumerist. It is all of these as well as a Saint Fest, a day to honor the dead, a harvest festival, and a psychological release as, around us, nature “dies” for the winter and the day darkens earlier and earlier.

It seems to me that the cultural and spiritual energy surrounding Halloween is directly related to this multiplicity of meanings. (My wisdom tradition teaches that, contrary to conventional understanding, something is sacred not because it has only one specific meaning but because it has indeterminate and inexhaustible meaning.)

In other words, there is a partial truth to each of these meanings and rather than simply dismiss the meaning or meanings we feel are silly or wrong or even dangerous we might try to incorporate some insight or aspect of that meaning, however small, into our take on Halloween.

Personally, I grew up attending a Jewish parochial school that strongly discouraged any participation in Halloween festivities. But my parents, with a bit of reluctance, and quite a bit of pleading from me and my five brothers, treated Halloween as a secular day and permitted us to dress up and go trick or treating with emphasis on the treating rather than the tricking.

But we were reminded that Halloween was not a Jewish holiday and as age appropriate actually learned a little about the origins of the holiday and where we as Jews differed. And there were also some interesting additions to our celebration. Costumes were home-made, not purchased, and there were no hatchet in the head costumes. For every one piece of candy we got to keep we had to give away one piece. (We started with the non-kosher candy!)

And of course there was UNICEF — our celebrating and candy gathering were connected to giving to the less fortunate. One might say that we had fun without the fear and the frenzy — a kind of fun that transcended different faiths and backgrounds — in which our present joy superseded a pagan past, candy trumped creed, and treats trumped theology.

Be Safe and Happy Halloween!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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  • YEAL9

    Rev. Wigg-Stevenson,Publish your column in Iran, Pakistan and North Korea and get back to us. And please note that the koran demands that male Muslims dominate the world by any means. You might want to talk to any imams you know about this problem since two Muslim theocracies now have the BOMBS.

  • whocares666

    Publish your column in Israel.

  • bigbrother1

    You’re assuming that conservative “christians” care about anything Jesus said or about bothering to make sense. They do not care about either.

  • GaryEMasters

    Robert Heinlein saw a future with nuclear weapons under control. It can be done. But now is the time to do it. If we wait, it will be much later thatn we want very soon.

  • moxford0

    This is an excellent well thought out post.

  • NotMyOwn3

    Sound reasoning, Rev. Wigg-Stevenson.Bigbrother1 – I don’t always agree with my brothers and sisters on the more conservative end of the spectrum, but most of them do indeed care about what Jesus has to say. But, like all of us, our ears are often closed to the voice of truth. The Spirit has helped to open my ears to the problem of nuclear arms, and I am confident that other ears will also be opened. Yeal9 – No doubt these countries pose a threat, but the Christian response can never be based in fear. Rather, the New Testament teaches us to be confident in the Lord, that the armies of darkness (real and spiritual) will never blot out the Church, and that the absolute best response for any Christian is to continue preaching Christ crucified, caring for the poor and sick, and working for the Kingdom of Heaven.

  • DwightCollins

    John of patmos saw what could be described as nuclear weopans being used…

  • arancia12

    I cannot understand Christians who do not support a world without weapons of destruction.To support such a vision does not imply doing away with defense. Yeal9 fails as a Christian. Which two Muslim theocracies does he refer to? Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and they are methods to ensure they don’t. Pakistan has weapons but they are few and not particularly sophisticated. Nation-states are not what we fear, it’s the terrorist with a weapon we fear. All the nuclear weapons in the world will not deter a terrorist but if terrorists cannot get their hands on a weapon or the materials to produce one, we are all safer. I do not believe in survival at any cost. Why would Yeal1 wish to be like the Muslims he cites? That is not living as Christ would wish us to. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a Christian. Not living as a Christian is the worst thing that can happen to a Christian. Having served a career in the military maintaining our nuclear stockpile, I am not convinced we will ever by nuclear-free. I am however convinced we should try. We should strive always to eliminate aggression, weapons of mass destruction, and to live as role models to the world.

  • rmlwj1

    Mark 12:17:

  • cassie123

    I agree with this post and found it very insightful. As a Christian, why would I want to be responsible for shortening anyone’s time of grace (the time that they can come to accept and know Christ)? I think if we view this issue through the lens of love (as Christ commands for Christians to do), we can see that working towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons is a good thing. While I disagree with Obama on many things, I do support this move as a first step in showing the world that we look at other nations in love. Complete peace between nations will never occur, but we can try and we can be an example of the amazing love that Christ has first shown to us.arancia12 – “Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a Christian. Not living as a Christian is the worst thing that can happen to a Christian. ” — well said.

  • bigbrother1

    Notmyown3: I appreciate your comments. But I refer you to those of DwightCollins and Yeal9, which you have already remarked upon.Those comments have come to represent not only conservative “christianity” but Christianity as a whole. People like these two (not to mention “Christians” like Palin, Beck, Falwell, Robertson, Ratzinger, Bush, etc.) have laid claim to the name of Christianity and have pretty much taken it without a fight.I understand that you do not feel this way, and in your own life and heart I am sure that Christianity is not synonymous with senseless, murderous hatred. But in the world at large, I am afraid that your brand of your faith is not very operative.

  • YEAL9

    “John 2:13-16″The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” Fortunately, JC did not have a AK-47 or a small nuke to teach these ingrates a lesson!! LOL!!!

  • NotMyOwn3

    DwightCollins (and other interpreters of Revelation): There is absolutely no evidence that John of Patmos saw modern weaponry in his visions. Reading your own specific world into the visions themselves violates the text at its very heart. Revelation is directed at communities of Christians in Asia Minor who were suffering and whose faith was hanging by a thread. The visions are meant to uplift the readers by showing them that their suffering is not meaningless and that, on the great Day of the Lord, divine justice will be dispensed and the righteous will be upheld. Christians are encouraged to be patient in their sufferings and NOT to fight back with violence. Based on your comments, however, I suspect your lord is not Christ but rather Roma (see: the Harlot of Babylon).