White House statement on Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

The White House released a statement Thursday on Iran’s conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. The Christian minister has been sentenced … 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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  • robgomez19841

    Hmmm. A tough one.

    Our republican base praises the death penalty even for adolescents. Our government has no quarrels with killing people despite international condemnation, as the case of Troy. Our religious fanatics feel free to attack and kill doctors who perform abortion, and their clients if the fanatics can lay their claws on them.

    So, no, the USA has no moral standing to be calling the kettle black.

    On the other hand, Iran IS a barbaric state. They believe in stoning and whipping their citizens for minor infractions. Worse than here.

    This case is soooo fking reminiscent to the medieval inquisition: RENOUNCE YOUR FAITH, RENOUNCE THE DEVIL OR WE WILL SEND YOU TO HELL.

    The only thing that can be said at this point is: THIS WORLD SUCKS.

  • jadsonpaulino

    It is time to stop this Iran’s dictatorship.

    May God be with this pastor!

  • jadsonpaulino

    It is time to stop this Iran’s dictatorship.

    May God be with this pastor!

  • sng1

    Idiot

  • kennaone

    Why? Iran is a sovereign nation. And with what? Our good looks? If you haven’t noticed our “illustrious” military empire is nearly broke.

  • kennaone

    Well put. Had not considered the far right’s insanity toward all doctors who provide services for women’s health. Especially in the case of late term abortions, the vast majority of cases are done because the fetus has deceased or nonviable and/or for the health/life of the mother. But no! There are no exceptions in right wing fundamentalist land – whether it be Christian or Muslim – they both have RIGID IDEOLOGIES in common.

  • fabolous

    that is why people cannot take this regime seriously. heretic christians used to do it and the church stood up and denounced it for what it was, said faith christians pretending to have God in their hearts. just as the fraudulent faith crusaders. Islamic leaders need to stop this nonsense world wide and denounce it. one problem, it is part of the doctrine and killing is what they do best.

  • fabolous

    must we have another Ron Paul lover athiest libertarian chime in on every single article?

  • theFSM

    Which god?

  • parjdy

    Right wing Christians do not kill Muslims for their beliefs. Christian fundamentalists who are not crazy denounce attacks on abortion providers and patients. They provide alternatives. I would suggest you attend a Christian church and learn what it is about, and killing doctors is not what is taught.

  • parjdy

    A Christian pastor in an Islamic Republic is sentenced to die and there is no outrage. Christians in Egypt are murdered, and their churches burned, and no outrage. However, if a muslim mosque was burned, or a muslim killed for their beliefs anywhere in the west, it would be total outrage and condemnation by the media, including this paper; and we would hear of our intolerance. I have noticed in this country intolerance does not apply if you promote Christian values.