It's that time of year again in the Churches of God when they bow to the pressures of Satan and his crew of pesky demons on this their most holiest night. This is the time of year that COG members retreat to the back rooms of their homes and turn out the lights as they cower in fear at the evil standing on their front porch. Can you imagine the terror in their eyes when looking through the front window curtains and seeing Jelly standing there with a Mystery of the Ages book in its hand! Satan can't get any more evil than that!
Here is Keith Stump's article about Halloween that has irritated Bob Thiel and others in the various splinter personalty cults of Armstrongism. Keith was a former writer for the Plain Truth magazine and other WCG material.
HALLOWEEN HYSTERIAby Keith StumpOctober is quickly flying by, meaning it’s time for the traditional Christian hand-wringing over that most “demonic” of holidays, Halloween! In anticipation of the usual anti-Halloween propaganda, I offer the following observations about this alleged “satanic festival of evil”:First, there’s no need to point out that Halloween is not found in Leviticus 23. (Duh.) Leviticus 23 is obsolete and irrelevant anyway. Second, forget the lengthy dissertation about how the papacy (the alleged “image of the beast” and “great whore”) instituted the Roman Catholic celebrations of “All Hallows Eve” and “All Saints Day”. That, too, is irrelevant. Today’s Halloween has nothing to do with honoring Christian saints. For most, Halloween long ago ceased being viewed as a religious observance—and never was, by Americans.
The Halloween that many of us know today is largely an American phenomenon. And it’s a purely secular observance.Yet some of Halloween’s customs do have roots in pre-Christian (“pagan”) practices. “Pagan” has long been a popular buzz word among Christians, especially among the COGs. As a Plain Truth and World Tomorrow writer, and occasional GHOSTwriter (how occult!) for the Armstrongs, I used the word liberally for decades. If it’s “pagan” in origin, it MUST be evil (like, I suppose, playing cards, wedding rings, dominoes, medicine, beer, the theater, the names of the days of the week and months of the year, and so on—all of which are scrupulously avoided in the COGs, aren’t they?).Some of Halloween’s customs can be traced to practices of the Celtic New Year, particularly among the Druids of ancient Britain. The Celts worshipped nature deities and practiced a relatively benign type of witchcraft. (Shame on them for living before the birth of Christ! Why, they must have been as evil as Cyrus the Great, who worshipped Ishtar, the pagan goddess of love and war, and Ahura Mazda, god of light and wisdom. [Oh, wait a minute—God still called Cyrus "that righteous man from the East." Never mind.])The Celtic festival of Samhain (which means “summer’s end” and marked the Celtic New Year, and is properly pronounced SOW-in, not “Sam Hain”) was considered to be a magical time, when the thin veil between the worlds was lifted, and the dead walked among the living. It was a night of ghosts and fairies, in which bonfires were lit and fortunes were told, and the thoughts of all turned to the afterlife. For some odd reason, the Celts didn’t think that exposing their children to contemplation of death and the afterlife was a problem. And, of course, the “witches” of the time were primarily herbalists and midwives. Witches as evil, devil-worshiping crones were an invention of the medieval Church, perpetuated by modern fundamentalists.Despite fundamentalist assertions, there were no orgies or human sacrifices or cannibalism or devil-worshipping during Samhain. Anyone who claims otherwise is an incompetent researcher or an outright liar. And—despite all those sermonettes you’ve heard—there was never a Celtic “god of death” named “Samhain”.The ancient Samhain festival in no way “glorified” the demonic world, nor—except for a relatively few “Satanists”—does Samhain today. Modern pagans who celebrate Samhain regard it as a time to look back on the past year and reflect on how they can become better people, and a time to honor departed loved ones and welcome them into their presence. Modern Halloween is even less focused on “making contact” with the spirit world.Stop for a moment and consider rationally: Is a six-year-old girl trick-or-treating in a Cinderella costume “fellowshipping with demons”? Is a child covered in a sheet with eye-holes “associating with spirits”? Are employees attending a company costume party “consorting with the devil”? Is hanging a plastic skeleton in your window “paying homage to Satan”? Is carving a jack-o’-lantern “fashioning an idol”? Is bobbing for apples a “wicked revel”? Some who are reading this would reply with a resounding “yes”. And that’s because of the spiritual myopia that warps their thinking, as I’ll discuss in a moment. Goofball notions are de rigueur for the fundamentalist.Others who are reading this have heartwarming memories of Halloween. It’s a slice of genuine Americana. It was one of the highlights of their childhood calendar—a time of family crafts and costume-making, a time to celebrate creativity and imagination. It was a time for children to dress up and solicit candy from their neighbors. (We were even taught to say “thank you”, which I’m sure irked Satan no end.) Trick-or-treating allowed the entire community to share in the Halloween festivities, as costumes were admired and rewarded with goodies. Halloween reaffirmed social bonds with friends and neighbors. These are hardly the “unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11), unless one is a fanatic who interprets that phrase like, well, a fanatic.(A parenthetical note to hypocrites: Anyone who condemns Halloween, yet enjoys an occasional Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff film, or reads a Stephen King or Anne Rice thriller, or a Harry Potter novel, or who watches “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “The Wizard of Oz” or Disney’s “Snow White” or “Sleeping Beauty” or the “Lord of the Rings” films or who plays fantasy-based video games or visits Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion” or watches a stage magician is a hypocrite, pure and simple. It’s like a conscientious objector being a fan of war movies. But hypocrisy is nothing new to the COGs, is it? And, for that matter, is “glorifying violence” any less “sinful” than “glorifying the occult”? (Hmm. I must have been imagining those LCG members sitting in the theater when I saw “Terminator 3″.))To all COG members out there: Is your children’s Christianity so feeble as to be endangered by a plastic mask and a few candy bars? Are your children so inadequately grounded in their religion as to be tempted into a life of witchcraft by attending a costume party? Are you yourself so poorly rooted in your faith that you fear your children will ask questions to which you have no satisfactory answers?I have seen no evidence of children being psychologically warped or seduced into a life of witchcraft and perversion as a result of innocent Halloween activities. I HAVE, however, seen many fearful and superstitious COG children who have been conditioned to be abnormally hypersensitive to anything blackened with the feared label “occult”. One child in particular comes to mind, whom I witnessed shrieking in stark terror at the mere sight of a jack-o-lantern. Are you raising fearful children who, like medieval peasants, see Satan lurking behind every tree and demons skulking in every dark corner? Are you raising children who fear they will “open themselves up” to “demonic control” at any moment by the slightest misstep? What a tenuous, precarious and paranoid spirituality! Satan is a defeated enemy! We need not shrink inanimate mortal remains. Explain that fear of black cats is an ancient superstition of the ignorant. Talk to them about the fanciful creations of horror fiction, like werewolves and vampires. It’s healthy to examine the things that frighten us. Tell them about “ghosts” or disembodied spirits. (The dead are relatively safe; it’s the living you need to watch out for!) And talk to them about the subject of life after physical death. Tell them about the Lord of Life who overcame death. Assuage their fears about those who can kill the body but not the soul.Halloween is also a good time to reconsider our own views about death and the afterlife. The unbiblical doctrine of “soul sleep” would be a good place to start. The Bible clearly teaches (and centuries of experience demonstrate) that death does not interrupt self-awareness; personal identity survives death! By contrast, Herbert Armstrong’s so-called “restored truth” about “What is Man?” is totally without biblical foundation, though his followers blindly accept it. Measuring truth by the teachings of a morally unprincipled deviate who was indisputably unqualified for ministry by biblical standards (i Tim. 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-7) is far scarier than any aspect of Halloween! (A rule of thumb, which I’ll throw in free of charge: The farther an individual or group moves away from the teachings of the so-called Philadelphia era of the Church of God, the closer he moves toward genuine truth and balanced spirituality.)So here’s my point: Objection to Halloween is a reflection of something much broader: an obsession with trivialities, a confusion of priorities, a primitive fear of the unknown, an arrogance that finds “righteousness” in being odd-ball and out-of-step. Fundamentalists can find something offensive or objectionable in almost anything. They have a world view in which virtually everything is “anti-Christian”. They have lost the ability to filter the important from the inconsequential. The traditional COG prohibition against Halloween ignores the facts of history, misrepresents the modern holiday, and demonstrates a woeful lack of spiritual discernment.So, in a nutshell, my message to Christians about Halloween is: Lighten up! There is nothing spiritually harmful about this tradition. Sensibly observed, Halloween can be a day of wholesome fun and merriment. Believe it or not, not everything in life has to have some deep spiritual connotation. Halloween is “Satan’s Holiday” only to those who concede it to him or arbitrarily label it as such. Christians have been redeemed from the forces of evil. We don’t have to give credence to Satan’s claimed authority in any area of life. Don’t surrender to the fear, superstition and hypocrisy of the fundamentalist, who wouldn’t recognize a little harmless fun if he tripped over it, who is oblivious to the value of fantasy, who has no idea what “magic” and “witchcraft” really are, to whom everything paranormal is “demonic” and who trembles before the power of Satan and his demons (whether he admits it or not). Don’t fall prey to shady “scholarship” and flawed arguments about this holiday. Don’t let anyone judge you in respect of this or any other occasion. Safe, fun Halloween activities are NOT “of the “devil”.To believe otherwise is just plain silly!