A new Earth Day theology

NOEL CELIS AFP/GETTY IMAGES Workers replace broken LED lights on a huge bronze globe in front of a mall in … 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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    Christians want to destroy the planet in a nuclear war. They worship the end of the world. They have a whole mythology about it.

    Don’t count on christians to help preserve the planet.

  • DavidSierra

    Into the vacuum that is a Progressive’s life, a crude & heathen nature worship. You people suffer a profound soul-sickness.

  • tioedong

    “we need to look at how the Bible actually talks about how climate catastrophes should be seen as God’s judgment.”

    Sheesh…where is Christopher Hitchens when we really need him?

  • ccnl1

    What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

    1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame. Said Sun will envelope the Earth as it turns into a red giant. (starting early with resultant global warming?)

    2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

    3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

    4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

    5. Many contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

    6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

    7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode catalytically at any time ending life on Earth.

    Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

  • permagrin

    The good news is no one takes this claptrap seriously anymore. Hopefully this didn’t make the print edition and help waste a tree.

  • WarEagle1

    Whatever. Just more doom and gloom from the cult of climate change. There’s been no warming now for about 15 years and there is no evidence that severe weather events are increasing in frequency. Cap and trade is about as dead as dead can be. You warmers lost. Now go away.

  • Tomwe

    What does the Christian faith have to do with this? I think Robert Ingersoll said it best when he described how we should live in this world and respect it,

    “Secularism is the religion of humanity; it embraces the affairs of this world; it is interested in everything that touches the welfare of a sentient being; it advocates attention to the particular planet on which we happen to live; it means that each individual counts for something; it is a declaration of intellectual independence; it means that the pew is superior to the pulpit, that those who bear the burdens shall have the profits and that they who fill the purse shall hold the strings. It is a protest against ecclesiastical tyranny, against being a serf, subject, or slave of any phantom. or the priest of any phantom. It is a protest against wasting this life for the sake of one that we
    know not of. It proposes to let the gods take care of themselves …It means living for ourselves and each other; for the present instead of the past, for THIS WORLD instead of another … It is striving to do away with violence and vice, with ignorance, poverty, and disease …It does not believe in praying and receiving but in earning and deserving …It says to the whole world, work that you may eat, drink, and be clothed; work that you may enjoy; work that you may not want; work that you may give and never need.”

  • Tomwe

    Good comment . . .but wait, wasn’t the earth created around 7.000 years ago? . . .just kidding.

  • Tomwe

    “serious research in theology . . .” huh?

  • NickShaw1

    You do realize that writing trash like this is exactly why the warmistas are losing, don’t you?
    Now that I think of it, WaPo publishing trash like this is exactly why it won’t be around much longer!
    And that has nothing to do with the weather.

  • JamesPainter

    When did George Soros buy the Washington Post?

  • pedalingparson

    Spoken like a true climate-cult devotee and eco-doctrinaire. More proof that you lot are barking mad dirt-clod munchers.

  • jeffk1

    The better question, and tougher issue, is how we get all our money back from the politicians who squandered it funneling cash to their profiteering global warmist friends. Whether it is the money Obama parceled out to his campaign contributors for their now looted and bankrupt companies or the billions skimmed from producers in the carbon credits scams.
    We want our money back.

  • quiensabe

    Could God’s judgement, Susan, be for other reasons beside planet abuse? Are there things men and women are doing that God may have said are unnatural?He did judge Sodom an Gomorrah, did He not?

  • jjlc125

    Some years ago Billy Graham said, “If God doesn’t judge America He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

  • jjlc125

    That’s something to think about following yesterday’s spring snowstorm in the higher elevations of the interior Northeast.

  • conversefive

    Maybe God is judging the EPA and Obama adminstration for making energy unaffordable to low-income citizens and putting them at risk of hypothermia or heat stroke.