Sometimes, I wonder if Halloween is supplanting the Fourth of July as our national holiday.
Come summer, the flags will fly and the fireworks will pop, and bands will ring out “Stars And Stripes Forever.” But these don’t seem to resonate in the broader culture anymore, the way vampires and zombies do. Year-round, TV and the movies are awash in the blood of horror flicks. Horror fiction seems to outsell everything else, for teens and adults. And in many neighborhoods, people seem much more excited about spooking up their homes for Halloween than they do about sprucing them up for Christmas.
Walking down the main thoroughfare of a major American city a few nights ago, I was taken aback by the level of sexual depravity and death depicted in one window display after another, block after block – a saturation of satanic commercialism.
Now, full disclosure: I’ve never liked Halloween anyway. But even with that, I can’t help wondering if our growing national obsession with this holiday is a dark reflection of things happening at deeper levels of our collective conscience. Looking past the masks we wear in most of our conversations about elections, government, and the society we share, any honest observer would have to admit that, in many ways, America is only a ghost of its former self.
Understand, in saying that, I’m not just pining for “a simpler time.” I’m not looking to drag us all back to delusions of Mayberry or some Norman Rockwell idealized yesteryear. I’m talking about the things that have always made America a nation apart from the rest – our extraordinary, even unprecedented, commitment to life, to family, to faith, to freedom.
Those things have mummified a bit in America today – we still see them, hear of them, talk of them, but like Halloween, they’re wrapped more and more in the things not of life but of death. We have a million extraordinary medical means at our disposal to physically save or prolong fragile lives – even those of babies, born months too soon. And yet life is cheaper now, in some ways, than it’s ever been, and babies are more vulnerable than ever to the caprices of reluctant mothers and the financial interests of profiteers like Planned Parenthood.
Through the marvels of communications technology – phones, webcams, texts, and e-mails – and a plethora of responsible dating sites, single men and women have more safe, convenient opportunities to meet, learn, court, and marry each other than at any time in history. And yet more and more young people are rejecting holy matrimony for the passing pleasures of “hooking up” and the half-hearted commitment of living together. Divorce rates soar and families dissolve while those driving popular culture and entertainment are obsessed with promoting same-sex relationships that promise only physical destruction, emotional havoc, and moral degeneration.
Since all of this – the contempt for life, the redefinition of marriage, the dissipation of families – goes hard against the grain of souls made in the image of God, the elimination of God has quickly become something of a new national pastime.
Aborting babies, legitimizing homosexual behavior, warping and erasing gender…all of these require us to defy nature and deny God. How do mere mortals justify doing that? By telling ourselves that we’re more tolerant than He is. By convincing ourselves that our own ideas of compassion surpass the truth of His eternal love.
God says homosexual acts, adultery, and all sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is wrong. We say “true love is more important than society’s rules or old-fashioned morality.” God says we’re responsible for controlling our sexual desires, regardless of what the law may allow, and that a child, no matter what the circumstances of its conception, has a right to live. We say, “A woman’s right to her own body is more important than a baby’s right to draw breath.” Amazing…how much smarter we are about things like love and freedom than is the God who created both.
We have taught ourselves to separate the judgments of God from the wisdom of God. Several thousand years of human experience to the contrary, it’s not wisdom if I disagree with it. It’s not right if it makes me uncomfortable. It’s not fair if it doesn’t give me what I want.
The inevitable end of such childish arrogance is…emptiness. Selfishness must lead to nihilism. In redefining righteousness, we trade faith in God for faith in ourselves. And our selves are fallible. We know this. We can’t deny this. We prove it to ourselves every day.
When the thing in which we have the most faith is fallible, hope goes to pieces. We’ve reinvented ourselves as God – and we’ve created a monster.
Shutting down churches and shutting up Christians won’t change that. We know ourselves too well. We’re our own Achilles heel. We’re vampires, draining the life from our own veins.
Behind the trick-or-treating and the costume parties, Halloween has become a symbol of these deeper, darker things. It is a celebration, for many, of some small battles they think they are winning against God and the truth He has planted within us. But the celebrations are premature, and the victories are sad, empty things…hollow as the jack-o-lanterns with their ghastly smiles.
For there’s this – always this – when you declare war on God: you know you won’t win.
Scary stuff, on Halloween—and the rest of the year, too.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.