Is Halloween an unholy day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Kudos first off to Michael Brown. I managed to get in touch with him about the Halloween meme. Which one am I talking about? The one I have written about here and here. Dr. Brown thanked me for the information and has said if they cannot find a source for the quote, they will not put up the image next year. I have to say I think such intellectual humility is quite gladdening. Dr. Brown is someone I have much more respect for as a result.
However, someone else in the comments asked me to watch this video instead. This one is Jim Staley. I have encountered Staley’s work before when some old friends from church were trying to convince me Christmas and Easter was pagan. These are claims I am used to. Why?
When you deal with the Jesus mythicist crowd, paganism rears its head. After all, pagans have virgin births and turning water into wine and feasts with eating the body of the deity and resurrections and all the other stuff. Naturally, the Christians ripped off the pagans and put it together and attached it to a man named Jesus who never even existed.
When you hear those claims and see how bogus they are after doing basic research, after awhile, you start to question a lot of the claims of things coming from pagans. Not only that, but when you see claims that are common knowledge, such as Columbus sailing to prove the Earth was round or that the Middle Ages were the dark ages and you see those are nonsense, you start questioning so-called common knowledge. It is more often common ignorance.
So now I have reached the point that if you want to convince me of this stuff, you had better have some really good evidence of it.
Jim Staley does not. Most of the time he gets up with a powerpoint that has a paragraph on there that looks really nice, but there are no citations given. There are no sources cited. Things that you would think by Staley’s speaking all historians agree with are not agreed with.
Some of this is an anti-Catholicism. He mainly references traditions of praying to the saints and connects that with Halloween and communicating with the dead. Now I as a Protestant could even say I disagree with praying to the saints and with purgatory and all these other things. I would ask my friends who are Catholics and Orthodox to please put this stuff to the side for now as best as possible.
Staley still doesn’t have a case either way. Kids who dress up as a power ranger for Halloween are not trying to talk to someone who’s dead anyway. Kids are not going out and engaging in rituals to try to bend demonic powers to their will. They are just going to get candy.
So what are some of the problems Staley has? For one, he says Saturnalia was extended to twelve days, which goes with the twelve days of Christmas. Hardly. Saturnalia at most from what I understand lasted seven days and not on the 25th at all. As expected, Staley gives no source for his claim.
Staley, of course, believes that Easter and Christmas are pagan holidays. He does say he explains those in other videos and works and if he doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel in a Halloween lecture, that’s fine. I, in turn, will point people to references by my ministry partner on this. The Christmas one is here and the Easter one is here. Videos on Christmas can be found here and one on Easter is here.
He tells a story of a Kenyan man who visits and gets scared saying that all of this material comes from his culture and that the treats are involved with a witch doctor and preventing curses. For one thing, I could find nothing like that and this is just anecdotal evidence at best. From what I could find, Kenyans celebrate Halloween like we do.
Second, I could have sworn Staley was saying this stuff comes from the Celts and others. Now he jumps over to Kenya? What’s going on with this?
Third, supposing they do celebrate it in Kenya this way. So what? Perhaps some people celebrate weddings by having huge orgies take place. Does that mean we cannot celebrate a wedding here? Kids going door to door for candy are not trying to make a deal with a witch doctor to avoid a curse. They are eating candy.
Naturally, he switches for a bit to speak about Christmas trees and goes to Jeremiah 10. Obviously, Jeremiah was addressing an issue that wasn’t going on in ancient Israel, but was rather going to be going on in Europe around the sixteenth century. I have written about this here.
He also has a picture of Egyptians with a tree. Of course, it makes sense that 16th century Europeans would go and find obscure pictures of what Egyptians did and take their practices from that. Trees have always been pictures of life and things to beautify. Evergreens are just easier because they stay green all year round.
He asks if we can see Jesus giving out candy on Halloween. This comes with added claims to it such as Jesus celebrating a day that belonged to satan and that the people took and tried to redecorate and claim for Jesus. That part is begging the question about what Halloween is, but can I see Jesus giving out candy on Halloween? Yes. I can actually see Him going out to the kids and giving them candy directly if anything.
A brief note here also. Luther didn’t nail the theses in 1511. He nailed them in 1517.
Staley also is one who insists we go back to the Old Testament feasts. You can’t help but wonder if he ever heard of this guy named Paul. The old covenant was not made for all people for all time. It was made for the people of Israel and as the writer of Hebrews says referencing Jeremiah, it had disappeared.
Staley will also regularly say that this day did not originally belong to God. Not at all! Satan can’t create a single day. All days belong to God. If a pagan took a day for his own purposes, that doesn’t mean we can’t take it back for the purposes of God. The calendar belongs to Him after all.
So why do I care about this so much?
First off, facts matter. We can’t rewrite history to make it something else. Christians especially need to be discerning with what they take in. When someone says something just ask “Why should I believe that?” The people that made Zeitgeist sound just as authoritative as Jim Staley.
Second, this kind of information as I implied does give more credibility to Jesus mythicists and makes it more likely that some Christians will go down that route. After all, will it be “Well we stole this and this from the pagans, but not this and this.” If you want your children to be more prone to abandoning Christianity, keep following people like Staley.
Finally, this puts a burden of legalism on several Christians. The overwhelming majority of people on Halloween are dressing up in fun costumes and just going door to door for candy. You give them a picture of a God who is ready to judge them for anything like that. Been there. Done that. God the T-shirt.
For another perspective on this, I recommend this article written from the perspective of a Christian in the Orthodox tradition.