Ken Ham, a Christian creationist, is the mastermind behind the website, Answers in Genesis. On its main web page, Ham acknowledges that his is an ‘apologist’ site, ardently defending the Christian faith and actively fostering a Biblical worldview. Much of this website is devoted to conveying clear ‘answers’ from the Bible’s 1st Testament book of Genesis by, in its own words, seeking “to expose the bankruptcy of evolutionary ideas…” Ham recently recommended that his followers change-up Halloween this year by using the holiday to evangelize others in the faith. Notably, his website advertised fake Jurassic Park $1,000,000 bills—with the idea that families might give these out to Trick or Treaters this year instead of candy or other snacks.
Nothing wrong with that, I suppose… until you actually look at these bills. On the front side, there’s a ferocious looking dinosaur crashing his face through the middle of the bill. His mouth is wide open, exposing a large mouth and really frightening teeth. It’s as if this beast is coming through the bill in search of your head… and your life. On the flip side, the bill offers a positively scary message around our fate in the absence of God through Jesus. How’s this for a frightful greeting to the costumed, otherwise happy children calling at your door:
“God knows your every thought, word, and deed, and your conscience confirms that you’re guilty. What will you say in your defense? No amount of good works will help your case. An eternal fine must be paid.”
The message goes on to say that this fine is paid only through the death and saving grace of Jesus. In my own paraphrasing words, otherwise, you’re going to a tormenting Hell forever. Perhaps hunted down each day by hungry, monstrous dinosaurs. So have a Happy Halloween, kids.
A number of media outlets picked up on this story and lamented that Ham had spoiled Halloween. He was outright ruining it for everyone with this aggressive Christian evangelization. While these writers successfully garnered some national press with their criticisms, they largely missed the point here. Sadly, they came off as adversarial and combative, effectively saying that faith has no place in our holidays. While I would concur that Ham’s effort is wholly misguided, our faith isn’t the problem at all. It’s just the wrong message for faithful Christian believers to send at the wrong time and the wrong place.
In truth, Halloween does have religious connections. Otherwise known as All Hallows’ Eve, it’s tied to the following day on the Christian calendar: All Hallows’ Day. On this day each year (November 1st), many Christian churches celebrate the remembrance of the dead, departed saints and gone-before martyrs of the faith. It underscores the belief that we, the living, are spiritually connected to the dead who now reside in Heaven. Some believe that we look to them as intercessors for placing our needs before God. Some even pray to the dead and the celestial saints on a regular basis.
Conversely, though, Halloween also has long-standing, ancient roots in pagan festivals. During these festivals eons ago, the celebrants honored the harvest and their preparation for the upcoming winter months ahead. They believed that the souls of the departed revisited their past homes. As such, places were prepared for them at dining tables to appease them and hope for their protection during the cold, dark months to follow. These festivals were sometimes accompanied by games, food, drink, mask wearing, and even trick or treating from house to house in villages. On some occasions, pranks and disruptive behaviors were acted out if hospitality wasn’t extended to the callers at the doors. In effect, these callers ‘became’ the dead souls returning unhappily to their former homes where they didn’t feel wanted.
So, Halloween does, in fact, contain both Christian and secular (some would say pagan) elements. As such, arguing that faith ‘ruins’ the holiday is historically, anthropologically, and culturally inaccurate. At the same time, however, trying to evangelize the Christian faith to others (particularly in such threatening ways as Ham does) on Halloween night is a misplaced, hurtful, and off-putting effort to ‘tweak’ the celebration. One that will almost certainly fall flat on its face.
Worse yet, it’s counter-productive. If some Christians honestly feel like Halloween is a pagan mess, then don’t participate in it. That shows far more conviction than trying to somehow fix it around the edges with fake, but terrifying, $1,000,000 bills. These kinds of cheap, blatant scare tactics only reinforce hurtful dualisms around the faith: that you’re either ‘in’ or your ‘out’ of God’s grace. And these bills are traumatizing. Even small children know the difference between fake, festive scariness and the notion that they’re going to die, forever tormented in hell, if they don’t say the magic words.
But even more problematic, it’s all actually unbiblical. Jesus spoke more than once about money in the Bible. He understood that there was a legitimate role for the ‘secular’ in society. What he most detested, though, was the pandering and hypocritical corruption of the faith around money. And he kicked the tables over in the temple in protest. Given this, isn’t it ironic and sad that some well-meaning Christians are trying to use ‘money’ to convince others to come over to ‘our team’. Or else…
More importantly, though, Jesus was keenly aware of the right moments to teach others. He picked his spots and his approaches carefully. Admittedly, he used miracles to draw attention to his words at times. And he taught in stories and parables. But he ‘got’ that his followers had to work hard and continuously in order to truly understanding the teachings. Superficial, fly-by conversion was shallow and for naught. In other words, people needed to be truly open, dedicated, and coachable. Something tells me that Jesus wouldn’t have picked Halloween night to teach. Not exactly a coachable moment if you know what I mean.
So if you want to ‘evangelize’ on Halloween, here’s a question and a thought. What if you tossed the fake bills in the trash and just enjoyed the night in caring, festive fellowship with others? And ‘spread the word’ on this night by simply showing genuine Christian kindness, love, and gratitude for the friendship and generosity of others. Let the love of God shine through you and your costume. If, on the other hand, you insist on handing out threatening literature (even in the name of a good and noble cause), don’t be surprised if someone tweaks you back… by getting as far away from you as possible.
If this happens, please don’t take it personally. For you were duped by an unabashed apologist, however well intended, who just handed you some fake bills of sale. And remember that you didn’t ruin Halloween. No, you just unintentionally cheapened the faith with some truly scary tricks, indeed. As such, how about this instead: pick a better time and place to share your faith and your Christian convictions. A time and place when you really have their ears, minds, and hearts. When everyone’s not distracted, juiced-up, and tweaked-out with sugar-charged adrenalin. And better yet, with a welcoming, beautiful, and grace-filled message that far more truly and accurately reflects God’s love.