Thursday, October 28, 2010

On Christians and Halloween: Jesus with stinky breath is not Heaven

I got roped into going to one of those Judgement Houses once.

Instead of scaring you to death with monsters and killers, the intent of a Judgement House is to scare you into eternal life through showing poor life choices.

Typically held in church family life centers, you start out in a room of teenagers at some sort of social event then proceed to a room where a horrible accident has occurred and some of the teens have died.

Next, you're ushered into a funeral scene with crying friends and relatives, and then you go to Hell. There is fire and moaning, weeping an gnashing of teeth.

These are typically Protestant affairs, so you don't go to Purgatory. Still, your trip to Hell is short-lived and before you know it you're in Heaven.

The one I went to had us all stand in a line and have our fates pronounced by God the Father, portrayed by a man with multiple senior discount cards, but who still looked nothing like the painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Instead, he was clean-shaven with with male-pattern baldness -- and wore glasses.

Glasses? Why would even an anthropomorphized God need glasses?

Well, anyway, it got worse.

I say that even though you'd think that having my name read from The Book of Life would be great. Yet once the Father had put on his glasses to read our names from the Book, Jesus showed up to welcome us to our eternal reward.

At least Jesus looked pretty much like his paintings: Long hair, beard, robe. Of European descent.

He started at one end of the line and welcomed each of us personally. Being a shy person and at the farther end of where he started, I was filled not with the Spirit but with dread -- which only increased in dreadfulness the closer he got.

He got closer and closer, and finally he got to me. I hated to break it to him, but had I already heard his speech when he told it to Jim, who was standing next to me.

He put his hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."

He had bad breath.

I wish when he'd opened that scroll a roll of Certs would've fallen out. (Wait a minute: Perhaps that was the Pergatory!)

Soon enough, though, his simple chronic halitosis was out of my face and on to Dave's. Then we walked through Heaven and out the back door, loaded up onto the church bus and were driven back to our cars.

At least people who go through haunted houses are happy to return to their normal lives. I got to go to Heaven then was told "Goodbye! Come back to see us!"

Should we celebrate Halloween?
Judgment Houses spring from the desire of some Christians to avoid celebrations of Halloween because of their non-Christian roots. Some churches and parents host harvest festivals or have their kids dress up as biblical characters.

I'm for following your own conscience on this -- as long as you don't drive other people away in the process.

For instance, an atheist friend of mine once noticed that his neighbors had put a sign up on their front door declaring that since they were followers of Christ they wouldn't be passing out candy on Oct. 31. This just ticked him off and gave kids a good reason why they shouldn't even consider being Christians.

In my own heart, I've decided to follow Jesus' command to "give to all who ask." So when kids in costumes knock on my door expecting candy I give them some. I don't throw Bible tracts in with the candy and don't tell them, "God bless you!" I just give them candy. I don't wear a costume or decorate my house for the occasion. And I buy only candy that doesn't have skulls, witches or bats on it. I'm making only a subtle statement, and they can't consciously tell that I am, but, combined with prayer, maybe I'll make an impact.

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