17 October 2009

Screwtape's agents?

From a story on The Raw
A Baptist Church near Asheville, N.C., is hosting a "Halloween book burning" to purge the area of "Satan's" works, which include all non-King James versions of the Bible, popular books by many religious authors and even country music.
You really should go read the story if you have not encountered it before. I have found the story referenced on several other blogs.

So why write a post about it? I have noticed something that I think no one else has commented on in their posts. Why is the burning on Halloween?

Halloween is a number of things.
  • It is for us catholic sorts the night before All Saints Day a major feast of the church year.
  • It was for pagans and is for at least some 'neo-pagans1'one of the four holy days that divide the year into quadrants.
  • Halloween is quickly becoming one of the major secular holidays in the American year, eclipsing Christmas in some areas as the party holiday.
  • It also appears to be something oddly special for that class of pseudo-Christians who embarrassingly elevate the "Authorized Version" or as they incorrectly label it either the "King James Bible" or (this is my personal favorite, the "Saint James Bible."

The Keltic pagans believed that on this night, the world of the living was so close to the world of the dead and demons that it was possible to communicate and even cross over the barrier. At least some neo-pagans believe that or something similar today. Any even glancing look at the Christian calendar will convince you that at least some of the holy days are spotted to compete directly with pagan holidays. There is for instance no Biblical or even early church traditional reason to think that 25 December is the actual date of Jesus's birth. In fact best scholarship suggests either March or October are what Mathew and Luke had in mind2.

So someone, somewhere decided to place a day honoring and remembering all the faithful departed in direct competition with the pagan day. I suppose that like Christians confronted with Kwanza, they may have been a bit annoyed. In any case the idea caught on and as Christianity came to be the dominant faith of Europe, the relationship between the holidays was cemented.

When I was young, the civic holiday was mostly for children. We made or bought costumes, went "trick or treat" walking through our neighborhoods, collected huge amounts of candy and knew soon it would be Christmas time. The religious holiday on November first was both catholic -- All Saints Day and aggressively Lutheran. Lutherans celebrated November first as the beginning of the Reformation: the on which Martin Luther nailed his 99 theses to the door of the cathedral. Most protestants participated in the civic holiday and my recollection is most Jews I knew did too, handing out candy and sending their kids out in costumes. By the time a person was graduating from college, getting married, being drafted or otherwise marking adulthood, the only common activity was buying candy for kids.

Things began to change. I associate that change with three social trends: reactionary fundamentalism, secularization of Christmas and anti-Christian religion. The impact of all three was to make Halloween stand out in new ways. Now we have a group who really thinks of Halloween, not All Saints Day as holy, we have a growing secular fondness for the day, and we have the anti-modern reaction.

Fundygelical3 reaction to the new prominence of Halloween, combined with their Bible idolatry ranges from Lutheran and "Bible" schools that ban costumes, to now, book burnings. In a real sense these reactions concede the Pagan view. To them Halloween is now a "Devil's holiday4." Unlike most of the mainstream both religious and secular, they actually think demons can cross over some sort of boundary weakened on that night to do evil. Yup, little girls who dress as ballet dancers and fairy princesses; little boys who dress as Brian Urlacher (I live near Chicago) are supposedly "Satan Worshipers!5.

Henry VIII is reputed to have regretted the decision to make Bibles available in English because as the under educated read them, they spawned an epidemic of really odd religious movements a fair number of which thought they should replace him along with the church of England. He got tired of repressing them.

In America, of course, repressing these lunatics is not possible. That is a good thing. I for one would not want to live where that sort of repression is possible. But one can appreciate Henry's view. Idiotic events like this make Christian faith look pretty stupid to those who either cannot, or like Dawkins wont, appreciate the difference between the bible worshiper and the Christian.

So, that is why I think there is something else to write. We, Christians: Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, Protestants, Baptists and many others are tared by this brush when these nuts burn Bibles of all things. Bibles and the works of amazingly decent revolutionary Christians like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, that is what these people burn. And they do it on the day they think is Satan's holy day.

You know, given the damage they do the faith, one has to wonder whom it is they work for? If I wanted to kill off Christian influence in a society, they are the tools I would reach for6 choose!


  1. In our society, there are a fair number of people who claim a pagan heratige. It is very much a construction not a reconstruction of what they think 4th century (give or take) Europeans were doing before Christianity converted them.
  2. There is a fair number of popular articles on the date. I suggest Wikopedia if you want to track some down. Note that only Mathew and Luke contain birth narratives.
  3. One the web one will encounter fundamentalists who say they are not evangelicals and vise versa. Those of us who cannot tell the difference have coined a sort of cover word.
  4. This terminology is considered negative by fundygelicals and positive by the Satanist wing of the neo-pagan spectrum.
  5. While it is likely that some kids come from households where Satanism is a religion not a derogatory term; most don't. And in any case, the American freedom of religion rules clearly include Satanists!
  6. grammar purists!


drew said...

Are you suggesting Satan attends Holy Church every Sunday? Next you'll tell me that God can be infallible even if the Bible is not. Really now God or Bible make no mistakes, Bloggers do.(love the idea of Bible worshipers VS. Christians)

JimB said...

Well, yes. In fact so to did Jesus and C. S. Lewis.

Consider that the number one reason people leave churches is not liberalism, not conservatism but rather is conflict. Am I suggesting the Chapman memo is a work of evil? No, I am proclaiming it!


Anonymous said...

Hello from Russia!
Can I quote a post "No teme" in your blog with the link to you?

JimB said...

Sure! Feel free.


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