Halloween is upon us once more. For most kids, a time of harmless fun. For some, the opportunity to make mischief. For a very few, a time to genuinely celebrate evil. And for an increasing number of Christian families, a chance to be counter-cultural and offer ‘Light’ Parties as an alternative to, and a denunciation of, the celebration of Halloween.
Obviously, I’m not about to advocate that celebrating evil is in any way a good and proper thing to be doing, especially for children. That said, I do wonder whether Christian parents (of which I am one myself) are serving their children well by celebrating good and light at the expense of evil. Of sending our little angels to parities where demons and devils are not invited. After all, while the Bible speaks of darkness being driven away by the light of God, and Christ overcoming evil through the cross, there is never a denial or hiding of the obvious realities of evil in Scripture. Actually, evil and darkness are recognized and accepted as part of what it means to be a human being living in a ‘fallen’ creation. Though overcome, evil and the dark side of life are still very much part of the eschatological tension between the already and the not yet. What’s more, given that the existence of evil and suffering are so often cited as reasons not to believe in God, why deny it a place at the table? Surely it would be better to acknowledge such things from as young an age as possible and begin laying the foundations of a viable theodicy (an explanation of evil and suffering) for our children, so that they are better equipped to deal with the inevitability of evil.
Though my daughter is not yet three, her world, both real and imagined, is furnished with the realties of both good and evil. I don’t hide such things from her. Indeed, it would be an impossibility to. Most of her favourite films, Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Toy Story, etc, contain a narrative tension between good and evil, which she recognizes. She already senses who is good and who is bad or evil. She is empathetic and sensitive to the characters when bad or suffering is taking place – just as she is sensitive to such things in her day-to-day relationships with friends and family.
For my part, I watch these things with her. I talk to her about the content of the story, just as I talk with her about the day she has had before she settles down to sleep. Together, we face the good and the evil of life, and hopefully in doing this, I’m laying the foundations of a theodicy for her, as well as beginning to build a narrative that will explain God’s work in overcoming such things. What’s more, I pray that she will play her part in denying evil a place in her own life and the world in which she lives, and instead seek to bring about goodness in line with God’s intended purposes for her.
Perhaps next year I will organize a ‘Darkness and Light’ Party, and invite some of the little devils I know to play with my little angel, just so she gets the full story.