So far, in the run-up to this year’s Halloween, we’ve had the spectacular failure of supermarkets creating ‘horror’ out of mental illness; an edible kraken autopsy; and the truly terrifying ‘twerk or treat’ Miley Cyrus outfit that is proving to be America’s Halloween costume of choice 2013. It’s enough to make you want to put on the kettle and settle down to knit yourself a zombie.
For Christians it’s pretty obvious that getting involved in anything that gives fame or worship to anything demonic is not OK. It’s not ambiguous whether it’s wrong to play with Ouija boards, practise witchcraft (or sacrifice frogs to Satan while you’re at it).
But the real face of evil is not a plastic Scream mask. That’s too obvious. As Paul writes: “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Evil comes in all kinds of other costumes that wouldn’t pass muster at a Halloween party.
Some of those haunt us in personal ways. The things that tempt us usually loiter very closely to our best attributes. If we’re humble in serving others, then maybe it’s the closet desire to get noticed for our ‘humility’. If we’re outwardly self-controlled with food or sex, then maybe it’s our occasional secret binges. If we’re diligent, then maybe it’s workaholism.
A couple of weeks ago, the Exposed campaign shone a light on global corruption, which under the guise of respectable business, preys savagely on the lives of those who are poorest and weakest in the world. At the prayer vigil at St Paul’s Cathedral, Rev Mark Oakley, canon chancellor, said this:
“If we wear masks to hide from the truth, they eat into our faces. If we allow secrecy and bribery… then we no longer are worthy to be called God’s people… Light must be shone into the dark corners of any human behaviour that belittles, subverts, bullies or overshadows the dignity of all the people God cherishes.”
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul puts it like this:
“For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true… Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them… everything exposed by the light becomes visible.
[and my favourite zombie verse*]
“Therefore it says: ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” (Ephesians 5:8-14)
This Halloween, don’t fret over the cartoonish ghouls, ghosts and monsters. Whatever isn’t fiction, Jesus has overpowered on the cross, so we don’t need to get out our own wooden stakes.
Instead, pause to consider what corruption, what secrecy lurks in the shadows of our lives? Whether personal demons and temptations – or co-operation with structures and powers bigger than ourselves – let us ask God to show us what needs to be exposed in the light. And like that mythical vampire, as we bring that darkness into the light of Christ, may it be turned to dust.