Last Saturday on halloween, TV evangelist Pat Robertson rolled out his annual warning that this festival, despite all appearances, is actually a ruse of satan. The holiday has to belong to satan, the thinking goes, because it's pagan. Good God, what was the point in burning all those hundreds of thousands of witches if these pagan rites were to continue? Put away your costumes, lock your doors; chain up your daughters!
Pat Robertson would also think Native American holy days are satanic. Or anything else not instigated by to the church fathers. In fact nothing but boys' choirs, kneeling sinners and flesh-eating supplicants are permitted.
But the root of this evangelical thinking is sheer intolerance. Of course, say the evangelicals - we worship a jealous god. Somehow they have circumvented the teaching of the Christ they profess to venerate, that mountain, lake and field preacher who taught love and tolerance above all else. They have cherry picked the scriptures that foster paranoia and ignored the gospel that is "good news."
Looks like a Colorado Christmas to me!
Truth is that any monument to Christianity you can name, down to Westminster Abbey, and including the sacred Isle of Iona, was built on a pagan site. In Scotland the church is called The Kirk (from circle) because churches were inevitably built on scared pagan circles. The yew trees that often line Christian garveyards are the actual trees left over from the pagans who venerated the yew as a symbol of eternity. If you think the early Christians were putting up Christmas trees in Judea and bringing in mistletoe and greenery to decorate their houses, or rolling eggs down the hill at Easter, think again. These are some of the completely benign pagan customs that survived the Christian onslaught.
Candlemas was a feeble attempt to co-opt the pagan celebration of Imbolc which marks the beginning of spring. Christmas, Hannukah, all hark back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Such sin!
So, Halloween. All Hallows Eve. All saints. No, it's the end of the Celtic Year, Samhain. A time when the thin veil between what we know and what we only think we know grows thin (a fitting meditation for evangelicals of all stripes.) It celebrates the grey area between life and death. It is in Spanish pagan terms the day of the dead. Dias de los Muertos. Pagan. And it's fine. Get thee behind us, Pat Robertson.