Halloween: The Masquerade Becomes Normal

The season of Halloween (the eve of all saints, but where are the holy ones today?) is upon us.

The Lord brought to mind an equivalence of sorts, between folks wearing evil masks and costumes at Halloween and folks just being who they are year round.

The idea of dressing up in costumes and appearing to be someone else at a dance has a long tradition begining at least as part of Venetian Pre-Lenten masquerade-carnival dances of the 15th century whereby rich courtiers needed a socially sanctioned outlet for their bad selves.

This spread from there around Europe and then was imported into Puritan America too in the eighteenth century. Then it became a costume party for many, the hoy poloi, who also apparently like socially-sanctioned outlets for bad selves as well.

"Good" people, once a year (no more mind you), used the mask to do bad things.

Get it out of their system so to speak.

And everybody looked the other way, because they were "only" role playing.

Go figure.

The idea of wearing a mask, playing someone else, is the stock in trade of the theatre and acting in general. We get that. It's acting, a really big show, entertainment, a diversion from the hum drum.

Yet correct me if I'm wrong- Halloween in the good old USA has become a year round secular carnival, in a culture that has a way of allowing the glorification of the deathly and marginalizes our life of faith as a private, once-in-awhile thing- whereas Halloween is everywhere and begins in August and never stops.

Soon the "Spirit" stores will be open year round.

It's worth noting that a masked one is what the New Testament bible, written in Greek, refers to as a hypocrite, one who wears an invisible spiritual mask, that hides his or her true nature. They are also fond of declaring themselves righteous, after making up their own or extra rules, as they go along mind you, rules that strictly maintain their relgious power and status (Matthew 16,16).

Their hypocritical teaching is bad leaven.

It risks the ruin of the whole loaf, the many who tend to imitate their leaders.

To this day when I see someone physically wearing a mask the Holy Ghost in me gets grieved, and I get the heebie jeebies, spiritually seasick.

(Some retail stores will not allow masked people into them even in the season they are eagerly selling all this gruesomeness. Praise God for this bit of common sense at least.)

But you say Halloween is just fun, and we all still (yeah) have free speech, and (yeah) association, and sports, but we the faithful say Halloween is not so fun, beyond those making a buck off of it perhaps.

There's other fun than putting on evil masks.

Second, Halloween reminds us that some people are just being themselves, and really need no mask or costume to conceal or reveal their hearts.

This one of the themes of the timely and great American short story, "Young Goodman Brown", written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1935, then of Salem Massachusetts. 

You might have suffered through it in high school English and never ventured back.

But please do.

It's worth say ten excellent sermons, at least. If you read it, you will know why Jesus addressed the denizens of hypocrisy in his day, as Hawthorn in his own way did, as "whitened sepulcres."

Goodman has been married to "Faith" for three years. She is still on her honeymoon, with pink ribbons in her hair, darting her head through the lattice of the front door as her Goodman runs to the nighttime errand that will keep him from her just this one night.

This night Faith's "young goodman" wants to be more than young and good.

He wants to be a gentleman and enjoy the approval of like solemn faces of his deacon and pastor and the catechist of his youth, and the other Salemites who self righteously stroll about town working up an appetite for lunch.   

And an appetite for their yearly (?) evil pilgrimage into the night woods, and their evil communion there,  that seals their mutual trust and business concord.

What say you dear reader about young goodman Brown leaving "faith" for his ambitious nighttime communion?

Is this pilgrimage only Goodman's fearful faith struggle in dream form, and thus to be dismissed as psychological?

Is it a true story-allegory of the many who weary of humility and well-doing?

Is it the freedom of "good" souls who at some point freely choose evil, prefer it in fact, over living by faith?

Is it just about an author who knows that halloweens and masquerades and the evil communions thereof need no physical masks or nighttime pilgrimages?

Is it a faithful cautionary tale to tend our own family and leave aside social ambition in and outside the church?

Some combination of the above?

Anyway, you'll have to read the story and, like your confrontation with Jesus, decide for yourselves.

Perhaps, it will give some new perspective on the Halloween reality that comes to its apex this time in late October every year.




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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.