Halloween, Reformation and a Writer’s Difficult Choice
By Fin Sheridan
Today provides a unique challenge for a Christian writer. Do I talk about Halloween or about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation?
500 years ago today, a man called Martin Luther, disturbed by the Church’s teachings on salvation, grace and forgiveness, nailed his 95 Theses (statements) to the door of Castle Church in Germany. Luther was angry at the corruption of the Catholic Church and the false teaching that people had to earn or buy God’s approval and forgiveness through good works or through buying ‘indulgences’ – pardon from certain sins. The Reformation affected Christianity as much as any event ever has, since the actual resurrection. 500 years is a significant landmark. The case is strong.
Halloween, though. It’s low hanging fruit – an entire day month devoted to horror, fear and things that go bump in the night. At best, it’s a harmless bit of fun that’s got super commercialised and happens to go a bit OTT on the fake blood thing. At worst, it’s a Satanic festival, with the forces of evil trivialised as demonic forces tighten their grip on our children. What’s not to write about?!
Like Christmas, Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Halloween is big business. Not just for the obvious – producers of zombie masks make all their money in October – but everyone else jumps in on it too. Your local restaurant will be offering a “deal so good it’s scary!”. The pharmacy will be offering make-up deals for ‘Glamoween’. The supermarket will be draped in all sorts of decorations, even the aisles that have nothing to do with Halloween. This article predicts that this year, in the USA, $9.1 billion will be spent on Halloween.
“Changing the world is simple – we hoist the sails. The Spirit will bring the wind.”
Imagine the impact you would have to make to stop Halloween from being celebrated. The ripples you would have to send through culture, to stop supermarkets and pubs and opticians and all the other business, individuals and organisations from using Halloween or referencing it. Seems like an impossible thing doesn’t it?
When Luther put his 95 Theses on the door of the church, I wonder if he had any idea of the scale of his impact? Surely not. Christianity, as many of us know it today, is unrecognisable from Luther’s time. His actions led to the belief that each of us have a ‘personal relationship with Jesus’, unmediated by priest or church.
We have him to thank for the fact that most of us will own a Bible of our own. Salvation by faith alone, not through good deeds or financial transactions, come from Luther’s understanding of Galatians. Wars and immense cultural upheaval came as a result of what he did.
It took one man doing something according to conviction to tip Europe upside down in 1517. The changes he wrought were as implausible and inconceivable as Halloween celebrations ending. Yet they did happen and there are two lessons to be learnt here.
Firstly, never underestimate what taking a stand for what you believe can accomplish. We simply hoist the sails, the Spirit will bring the wind. Anything is possible with his help. The theory of worldwide reformation becomes a reality.
Secondly, if you can’t choose between two subjects, simply write about both.