While most agree that speaking ill of the dead constitutes bad manners, perhaps it’s not so bad to speak ill of images of the dead. Either way I feel compelled to bare my own soul. Some might consider this the rant of a hyper-religious zealot, yet for my part I have seen quite enough.
The annual American celebration of Halloween I find repulsive and macabre in the extreme and wish it would fade permanently into the rubbish bin of pagan rituals from whence it came. Why must my young children be affronted by such ghastly images as disemboweled humans, corpses hanging by the neck, and human skeletons when simply looking out our car window? Our society no longer does public executions and attempts to keep gruesome images away from children on screens, and yet leaves front lawn displays to the discretion of each adult. Here I’m advocating for more discretion.
Halloween ranks second after the Thanksgiving/Christmas season for holiday expenditures at roughly $115 per US household. In total, about $11 billion will be spent this year and that total continues to climb quickly each year. Candy contributes to much of that cost as many fondly indulge the little costumed beggars. But for what purpose? What is being commemorated?
All Saint’s Day observed in the Christian calendar Nov. 1 has long served (from the eighth century CE) as a day to remember the lives of saintly people who influenced us for the good. Some scholars believe this holy day occupies its spot on the calendar attempting to de-paganize the Celtic people and their October-ending Samhain celebration marked by divination, animal sacrifices, dancing, and costumes. All Saint’s Eve (All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween) with its fixation on the dead and the spirits of those not at rest resulted from the fusing of the two. Thus, the emphasis on death has persisted against an emphasis on life.
The Judeo-Christian worldview, so thoroughly influential to American society, is one centered on the value of life. Every individual human — made in God’s image, bearing his spark—has a life that is valuable. Life is valuable, and followers of Jesus are unapologetically people of life! Children, the elderly, the foreigner, the destitute, the unborn, the sinner, every life matters. As Americans become more secular and unmoored from their religious past, so too will they inevitably value each human life less. Life and death cannot well coexist. They are opposites.
Much like the choice God placed before the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19, each day our Creator puts before us choices of life and death, blessing and adversity. His good way suffers no compromise and allows no mingling of light with darkness. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that ultimately his remarkable teachings lead to an abundant life which defeats death. Therefore, when God puts before us the options of life and death, let’s choose to be people who promote life!
Kyle A. Kettering graduated from Xenia Christian High School in 1998, Cedarville University in 2004, and Nyack’s Alliance Theological Seminary in 2017 with a degree in ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He serves as a teaching elder at Church of the Messiah in Xenia.