Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Halloween and "Living Gospel Lives"

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. - Philippians 4:8

Here it is, Wednesday September 30. Tomorrow it's October, and this morning there was a refreshing hint of the possibility of cooler temperatures in the air. I love this time of the year.

But what I don't love so much is what's been happening to Halloween, especially at our theme parks. The commercials started early and they are - in a word - offensive.

This time last year I published an Op-Ed in the Tampa Tribune that aired some of my concerns. The column generated a lot of response; I think it's worth airing again.

When Halloween Celebrations Send The Wrong Message
DEREK MAUL, Columnist
The Tampa Tribune, October 15 2008

I recently heard someone say, "If Halloween is a window into the American soul we should all be worried."

The remark was intended in jest, and everyone chuckled. But – and I know I'm going to sound prudish here – I didn't laugh. In my mind, Halloween has gotten out of hand, and to be honest, I think it really is a window into the murky American soul.

Halloween doesn't ring true anymore, and it hasn't for a long time.

The celebration has lost its innocence, and the festivities have moved far away from their original purpose. The holiday was designed to point out we have nothing to fear from our superstitions; today it actually celebrates terror. How we made that journey is far more serious than most of us understand.

About this time every year, I try to take some kind of a stand in favor of light over darkness. But each successive October seems to go a step further down the road to indecency, and every year we go along for the ride.

So I can't help myself, I've got to say it: Enough is enough, people. Far too much of what we call entertainment is over-the-top horrific and it simply has to stop.

I'm not talking about ghosts, goblins, skeletons, witches and the like. It's not the supernatural that bothers me so much as the cruel, the sadistic and the malicious.

Let me put it this way. If watching pain, torture, mutilation or suffering gives you pleasure, then you should be ashamed, not catered to. I don't care if events like "Howl-O-Scream" at Busch Gardens or "Halloween Horror Nights" at Universal Studios turn a profit, they promote evil as a value, and I'd like to call on the organizers to close them down for good.

There's something fundamentally wrong with a society that sends people to jail for violence, rape and murder, then turns around and cheers when the same and worse is acted out or splashed across video screens in high-definition.

Today's celebration of horror sends a message that says, "There is no absolute right or wrong, so long as it gives me a thrill; anything that entertains me is OK by definition."

No. No, it's not OK. Not anywhere – and especially not in this community.


One disgruntled reader (at least he was reading) complained that "You Christians... worship a God who damns people to hell if they don't believe in Jesus...." He then went on to say that he also dislikes the violence... "but it's a lot better than the terrible things Christians believe...."

The man is a telling representation of this "post-Christian culture". My reply spoke to the imperative we have to get the truth out about Jesus, and why I often refer to myself as "Jesus-follower" instead of "Christian" - because Christianity is painted with such a broad brush and then rejected because of such misinformation. We simply must redeem the message.

"Thanks for participating in the dialogue," I wrote. "But I'm concerned you've been listening to too many television preachers. Evidently, you have not been introduced to the Jesus I know...."

So, this Halloween - all month long - let's make sure that we are communicating something true and compelling about what it means to live Gospel lives.

Peace and Joy - DEREK

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