How Dark?

We had the usual Hallowe’en phone call from a journalist today.  How did we feel about the Vatican’s condemnation of Hallowe’en as anti-Christian?  Do we think it is based on a sinister and dangerous ‘undercurrent of occultism’?  Or do we think that it is all harmless and traditional stuff?  And we decided that we wouldn’t get drawn into commenting on other people’s comments ….

So here are a few of the things which might be part of a more serious exploration of the issues.

Yes the soul of a child matters and we are probably over-careless about the influences to which they are exposed.  Children do need to acquire what it takes to live in a very mixed-up kind of world but the spiritual nurture task is more important than we admit – probably because it is hard to define.  After all, the Gospel constantly prioritises children – ‘Whoever does not receive the kingdom like a child ..’

So the Hallowe’en question takes its place there – alongside the internet questions and the war toys and the ‘shoot ‘m up’ video games.  But the most insidious of all?  I think it’s what children see us adults doing.

That means the effect of relentless consumerism – that what we want we must have whether we need it or not.  And inability to manage relationships, to forgive and to live and let live.  It’s easy negativity about all sorts of things.  It’s discouragement when we should be offering encouragement.  It’s lack of values and moral compass.

It’s all those things which are fine for us because we can choose them and live with the consequences.  But not fine for children.


  1. I think the danger of the way we do Halloween in the US is not the “satanic”. Its the danger in the way we do all our “holidays” … all consumerism and nothing holy. Its not evil – just terribly shallow.

    What disturbs me about the Vatican position is that it locates evil in a thing. The evil is not that kids put on costumes. The evil is that half the children in the world live in poverty. Here in the US, many children lack basic health care and decent nutrition, are physically and emotionally abused.

    Its easy to condemn tacky Halloween stuff – far more complex to talk about real evil.

  2. Sorry – tired – should read ‘ For every one occasion when I have suspected the kind of evil associated with the occult, I have found evil in a thousand other places ……’

  3. For every occasion when I have suspected the kind of evil associated with the occult, I have found evil in other places. In those who will not take due responsibility to equip themselves for the tasks they need to do. In those who undermine relationships. In those who belittle. In those who make the world a negative place. In greed, and deception and lack of generosity. If I were preaching a sermon on evil and children, I would preach on those who do not take the time to give children the support and the encouragement they need. Who do not appreciate them and further their aspirations.

    If I were preaching on Halloween I would preach on the need to give generously and to make fun.

    Children take on the roles of the things which scare them, and so they master their fears. .

  4. I have had that experience myself. Sometimes it comes from meeting someone who has been dabling with the occult or even when I have walked into one of those new age crystal shops.

    Speaking of Halloween, here is a link to the main Sydney paper regarding Halloween :

    A bishop from the diocese next door to me (Sydney) Bishop of South Sydney Robert Forsyth said most Australians did not really take the event too seriously.

    ”Most people in this country are very light hearted about Halloween,” he said.

    ”A lot of Australians also view it as something that’s a bit American and not really one of our traditions.” (Thus my surprise when I lived in Scotland [which I do miss] how big Halloween was).

    Halloween becomes bigger in Australia each year, due largely to the influence of American entertainment and driven by commercial forces, according to popular culture expert Dr Marc Brennan of the University of Sydney. “It’s less to do with cultural absorption and more to do with capitalism,” he said.

    Fergus was at St John’s Cathedral in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

    Any plans on coming to Australia for a vist in the near future?

  5. An Madainn bhath!
    (Well it is morning here),

    If I may gentle enter into the waters of Scottish Episcopalian blog discussion?
    1. Since I believe that Christ is the head of the church, what the Pope/Vatican/Magisterium thinks does not really concern me.
    2. Halloween – not really a big issue down here in Oz. When we lived in Alba for a few years (we were surprised how big Halloween was). The impression here in Oz is that it is big in the states.
    3. When we lived in Alba, other Christian parents were wrestling with what how to respond to Halloween party invitations.
    My wife and I were only talking to our kids about this yesterday. We told them (in a way that they could understand, they are 9,7, 6, 2) that although Halloween has ungodly origins and that there are a few people who treat it the same way, for most people it is just a fun day for cutting up a pumpkin, dressing up and going out to get sweeties. Since one our daughters has a penchant for sweeties since living in Alba, I am not surprised by the popularity of this in Scotland!
    4. My stance on Halloween is not to get into (that would be if I were serving in Scotland) only because I would not want to cause a stumbling block to those of God’s people who do have a problem with it.
    5. Keep the main thing the main thing I think is important
    6. Oct 31st is also Reformation Day! – I would have a Reformation Day party – quite funny actually that the Pope would say something about Halloween instead. HEHEHE

    Bishop, I trust you are settling in well to your new role. You are in our prayer diary. Also I know a Scottish bloke who also serves in our diocese (Newcastle Do, Australia) Fergus King. Do you know him?

    Look forward to your response.
    Happy Reformation Day agus
    Gràs gu robh miile thu!

    1. Thanks Joshua

      Haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Fergus King yet – but no doubt it will be soon. Thanks too for your good wishes.

      I suppose the question for me is whether Hallowe’en is a manifestation of evil lurking in the background of what appears to be some childish dressing up and all that. I can understand that view and even partly share it. I think one messes around with that stuff at one’s peril. But when I ask myself about the times when – and it does happen – I feel myself in the presence of principalities and powers, it is not to do with Hallowe’en. More in some of the extraordinary responses which I sometimes experience from people – a sense that there is a complex of things wrong in a situation which is more than co-incidence – a feeling that whatever I or others do to try and resolve, calm or heal, it is simply of none effect. I think people generally are far too complacent and accepting of that. In my experience, moral ambiguity and partial thinking are the ‘way in’ for the dark stuff.

  6. ‘Anti-Christian, sinister, dangerous’? More so than silence about the arms race, exclusion from the sacraments of those who are divorced? Add your own items to this list.

  7. Do you think the British press would take a similar cognizance of the Pope’s views of Guy Fawkes’ Night?

    1. My dark suspicion is that this is journalism manufacturing controversy to fill space – rather than anything which tells us about values. And now I shall turn into a pumpkin

  8. I have just seen my neighbours young son dressed up in a costume partially of my making as Alexander Peden – returning to the village where Peden was born. Following the Scots tradition (pace Vatican).

    You are right. What destroys the soul of a child is not dressing up as what might otherwise scare them. It is hearing half of humanity relegated to a class of person who are unlike Christ. Or hearing those who desire their own sex vilified. These things actually do destroy the soul. And, yes, the relentless push for more for the individual, and less for the community, more for the strong, less for the weak. And yes again, the elevating of possessions into the place of the greatest good.

    And yes, I really am in a mood to go forth and give the fiends of night a jolly good fright….

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