Halloween came and went and everyone saw lots of ghosts, goblins and funny looking creatures roaming the streets. We all knew most of them meant no harm — most evil things that can do real harm are a lot less obvious and much more deceptive.
When I was a child, Halloween was a kids' mini-holiday (the big one, of course, was when Santa came to town). We couldn't wait to dress up in whatever costume was the prettiest, most popular, creative, or cheap. My brother just wanted to be a typical guy character, like a pirate or a bum. I actually made a clown costume once that I'm still proud of today.
And the holiday, if it can be called that, was fairly innocuous; an evening of trick or treating, and a rare opportunity to get all the candy your mother wouldn't buy you throughout the year. No one thought Halloween manifested some deep-seated evil, or that children would learn to worship the devil after dressing up as one. Of course the downing of all those sugary sweets may make some kids seem as if they're the spawn of Satan, but I assure it's only temporary.
"In the good ol' days" as we like to say, life was different. We like to think it was safer too, and it was, if you look at school records from the 1940s to now. The worst problem at school was something akin to gum-chewing and minor scuffles. Today we've got rape, drugs, assault and even murder. This is not just against the students, but against the teachers as well.
Also in other times, there were no child guards on your TV set to keep young folk from watching inappropriate shows, because there were few 'inappropriate' shows on — only boring shows kids didn't want to watch anyways. Shows were either story lines that didn't interest children, or they were shows the whole family could watch. Because that's usually who watched TV ... whole families.
Things like adultery, murder, incest and other kinds of behavior were known as evil at worst and simply wrong, at best. And were rarely if ever portrayed on TV.
But that was all back in the day, when evil was being made into good, like that innocent Elizabeth Montgomery portraying a good sorceress on Bewitched. And then, of course, those loveable ghouls of the show The Munsters. There was always a clear distinction between right and wrong, good and evil. They were people who obeyed the perceived moral laws of the day, but they just happened to look frightful, in the case of The Munsters, or have special talents, as in Bewitched.
But things have changed today. The most popular artists mock religion. Madonna pretends to be crucified on a giant cross in her live show. The Folsom Street Fair used DaVinci's "The Last Supper” painting as the model for its poster and substituted hedonistic figures in whips and chains for Christ and the Apostles.
Then there's Britney Spears' latest contribution to this irreverent group. Pictures from her latest album "Blackout" show her in a barely-there black dress and fishnets, cavorting in a confessional with a good looking guy playing a priest. This is the same Britney Spears who boldly state she was a virgin and would remain so until marriage. She was the teen star who innocent and impressionable little girls wanted nothing more than to emulate. Don't try that today girls. PLEASE!
As if Britney didn't have enough trouble trying to keep her personal life from going to Hades, she actually seems to be piloting the super-sonic jet that will get her there in record time. I think we should do like the minister at Southland Christian Church in Kentucky. Pastor John Weece asked his congregation to send letters of support to Britney; no condemnation, just words of support and love. They might also want to pray for her redemption ... or at least that she can pull her life back together enough to have unsupervised visits with her toddler boys.
So now, back to Halloween. Does any of the above behaviors have to do with how we perceive Halloween? I say, "Yes." Because it is precisely the blurring of the lines of what is good and bad in our culture, that has turned off many people of faith to the 'spirit' of fun that used to embody Halloween. Halloween is supposed to be an opportunity to mock evil. Today it is God who's being mocked.
A British poll two years ago actually found that more people believed in ghosts than believed in God. The poll of more than 2,000 people said 68 percent of them believed in spirits and the supernatural, while just 55 percent believed in God. How can you believe in the supernatural and not believe in God?
Well, one reason may be that ghosts and the supernatural are big stars in Hollywood. Just look at the number of films out about Halloween with ax or chainsaw murderers, or with things that go bump in the night that eventually scare the giblets out of you, or any number of films that actually make the devil a kind of nice guy in great looking clothes.
Sometimes these films are trying to show that good people do bad things and bad people do good things — that we can't always tell the good or the bad from what's on the outside. Or that everyone is essentially good, but an event in their life turns them to evil. And where that effort may seem noble, it misses a very crucial point that, at least the Bible, makes clear. That is, that it's not a matter of good people or bad people — it's that something called sin is common to all of us, no matter what religion we practice. And ... that evil resides in the heart of every human being not just so called "bad" people, but "people."
According to the Bible, there is good and there is evil. And the spiritual world is where the battle is really waging. The Bible calls the spiritual world a very real and powerful entity that's not to be taken lightly, and must be reckoned with. Ephesians 6:12 says it best:
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
The verse hammers home the point that the "evil" behavior in us all, is not because we're particularly bad, but because the dark forces of evil in the world have tapped into an open door in our own persons and exploited it. All of us have different portals. For some, it's the purely physical needs: lack of sleep or lack of food. For others, it could be stress at work, lost wages, or lost opportunities. Or it could be the loss of something valuable or the chance to gain something valuable. It could be any numbers of pathways. And the resulting evil doesn't have to be criminal. It can a very little things. The list is endless, and is a subject, I'd like to say, for yet another blog.
But today, we think evil is only perpetrated by "others," not by everyday people we know ... or especially the celebrities we all admire. Their lives may be a little unorthodox, but we've come to be entertained by that. When Britney Spears and Madonna mock Christianity many in the entertainment world react with cries of "freedom of expression." When teenaged gunmen murder scores of fellow students, we're outraged and grief stricken. We ask angrily, "What brought this sort of evil upon us?" Well the answer to that question is simple: "We did."
Early in the 20th century the London Times asked scholars and people "in the know" to write an essay on the topic, "What's Wrong with the World?" Theologian and scholar G.K. Chesterton's (1874-1936) essay had to have won the prize for brevity. He wrote:
Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton
Chesteron pointed the finger squarely at himself and dared others to do the same. He was making the charge that the evil we seek to destroy is within us. But like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote: "The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy his own heart?"
This may be why many evangelicals are staunchly against children celebrating Halloween. They see so much evil in the world at large, and can no longer take it lightly enough to make it into a party. Although I still believe you can celebrate Halloween as an innocent night of fun and costume, there still is that nagging issue of how we deal with the evil that can shape how we live. The evil pride and arrogance, lying or cheating, failure to do good ... etc.
One of the most poignant conflicts between good and evil I've seen is in Disney's original 1940 film, Fantasia. The film is a fantasy world of music set to stunning animation depicting stories that helped young minds unfamiliar with classical music learn to love it. I developed a passion for classical music from the LP recording my mother bought us.
The last two musical works in Fantasia starkly illustrate how evil is dealt with. In the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's "Night On Bald Mountain," a huge, black demon with wings, emerges from the rocks of a great mountain. The demon calls to life his other demons who dance wildly and raucously in the night. Their hedonistic dance reaches fever pitch, as their evil grows stronger and stronger, matching their joy at being able to corrupt. Just as the demon reaches down to lay waste to the innocent souls unaware of his presence, a bell rings. He flinches as if touched by an unbearable pain. He tries to move his hands again toward the innocent. The bell and the light make him cower. Very soon the light emerges, lit candles held by images in white slowly waft through a forest. The demon at last sinks back into the safety of his nest ... as the strains of Ave Maria take over.
The way that evil was dealt with in the film is something to be admired. Instead of a great battle, a mere presence of light. Instead of swords and great machinery of weapons ... the soft wafting of angelic voices. It was the turning towards the light of pure goodness that made evil flee like a coward he is.
There's a wonderful painting called "Daniel in the Lion's Den." I can't remember the artist (it's not the famous Paul Rubens painting), but I can remember the meaning. Daniel was looking placidly up towards a window where the light was streaming in. His hands were clasped nonchalantly behind his back. Several lions were poised behind him, but Daniel seemed completely unaware of their presence. The artist's statement was that Daniel was unconcerned what destructive forces and pain the lion's might cause him, because he was focused on the love and salvation that God had promised.
What the film Fantasia, and the painting Daniel in the Lion's Den are saying, is that evil must flee and hide when the pure light of pure goodness is present. Evil does not exist in a vacuum. It simply fills a space left open by the absence of something else.
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996. Her new book is "Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog."