The Really Scary Thing About Halloween

I’ve been thinking a lot about community these days, especially since reading McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy and his admiration for the anabaptist tradition’s connection of community to the land or watershed.  I won’t excerpt it here, but the thought goes like this:  true community requires the sharing of resources, and that requires proximity.  I will care a lot more about you if I share a stake in your life, i.e., if we share a water source or grazing land, etc.  The reason Quakers eschew cars and airplanes is not that they think it’s evil to travel far or fast, but that they understand the proportional relationship between proximity and community.  Put more simply, our ability to travel usually does not end up bringing us together, rather, it enables isolation.

This thought-path has led me to wonder long and often aloud about my church’s situation, where (and this is only my best guess) 70% of the membership lives outside a 3 mile radius of the church campus (the Davis family is among the worst offenders, living 12+ miles out).  Our high mobility makes it difficult to foster in our membership a sense of community within the membership and even more difficult to foster care for the community immediately surrounding the church campus.

If you’re screaming, “What’s this have to do with Halloween?” here it comes:  it occurred to me the other day while driving home past all the houses in my subdivision filled with people whose names I don’t even know that there are precious few rituals left in American culture that actually encourage people to get out of the house and interact with our neighbors.  “Trick or treat” is one of them.

But what happens on Halloween night in our neighborhoods?  When the kids come to knock on the door of the “Christian” family on the cul-de-sac, they get nothing because the family isn’t there (or worse, the family is there handing out pieces of candy taped to Chick Tracts).  Good Christian families opt out of the most popular get-to-know-the-people-who-live-around-you ritual of the year so they can go to “Halloween alternative” activities on church campuses that are nowhere near their neighborhoods.

And why?  Because Halloween is bad, and the people who participate in Halloween are therefore bad, and we’re better than them.  We intentionally put physical and emotional distance between ourselves and the people who share our streets and power lines and sewers and schools so that they will know that we don’t approve of what they’re doing. 


And then we scratch our heads and cluck our tongues when they show little or no interest in visiting our churches and becoming more like us.

The really scary thing about Halloween is that the church has opted out. 

I tried my hand at a little pumpkin carving yesterday, by the way:



Happy Halloween.  I hope you give out loads of candy tonight.


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