Thursday, October 31, 2019


I have a young neighbor who on a typical day is rather kind and bright. He is also very religious, duly full of zeal for The Lord©. The son of immigrant parents, he often remarks to me how glad he is that I am his neighbor. And frankly he should be – I’m a good man and I don’t cause my neighbors any problems. They can come to me any time and I will kindly receive them and listen to their concerns for the neighborhood. He could have much worse neighbors than my family, to say the least! 

A year ago around this time, as I was helping my daughter decorate our downstairs for Halloween and get her costume ready (she prefers to give out the treats rather than going door-knocking herself), my young neighbor dropped by to say hello. He noticed the Halloween items and became visibly annoyed, even conflicted. (Disclaimer: My transcription of our ensuing conversation is as faithful as I can recollect; granted, I don’t have the memory of an aging illiterate fisherman recalling a conversation from forty years ago…. Just sayin’!)

“It’s not nice to scare people!” he blurted out.

I smiled.

He apparently did not approve of me taking his pronouncement lightly; I guess he expected me to hear his condemnation and immediately start packing up my Halloween gear for the recycling bin.

I asked him, “Do you think anyone is really scared by Halloween costumes?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he snorted. “It’s not nice to scare people!”

Sensing that I may never break through, I still tried to engage him on the matter. “I don’t think anyone’s actually scared by Halloween. Everyone I’ve known who is familiar with the custom has implicitly understood that it’s all in jest. Contrary to being scared, people who dress up for Halloween appear to being having a lot of fun. That doesn’t suggest to me that they’re scared.”

“That’s not the issue,” my young neighbor proceeded to explain. “It’s clearly intended to scare people, and that’s not nice.”

“Okay,” I conceded, “so, it’s never nice to scare people, right?”

“Right,” he replied. “It’s wrong to scare people.”

“Okay,” I indulged, “it’s never right to scare people. You agree?”

“Yes, that’s right,” he answered. “It’s always wrong to scare people.” He was quite emphatic.

This was too easy. “So what about claims about hellfire?” I asked. “Such claims scare lots of people, especially children who might think those claims are true.”

“That’s different,” he predictably replied.

“Oh? How so?” I inquired. “It’s scaring people, and you’ve already stated quite emphatically that it’s always wrong to scare people.”

“People should be scared of hell!” he stammered.

“But,” I reminded him, “you said that scaring people is always wrong. How is this different?”

“God says that hell is bad,” he explained. “That’s what’s different.”

“But given what you’ve stated,” I reasoned, “that means God is doing something wrong, for the very claim that there is a hell awaiting people after death scares people, and scaring people is always wrong.”

“I have to go,” he said suddenly. “See you later.”

“Okay.” I was disappointed that he wanted to abort so quickly. “Come back any time. Have a good day.”

Poking my head out the door, I yelled out, "Hey, I almost forgot!"

Turning back, he asked, "What is that?"


He scowled and grumbled something as he marched back to his house across the street.

And that’s basically how it went. Now, I’m not a big fan of Halloween to begin with. At my company, many of the adults [sic] there are heavily into it, decorating the office, wearing costumes, even running company-wide contests. I personally find it very taxing and, frankly, unbecoming of adults. Yes, I realize I’m quite the spoilsport, but I go to work… to work!

That said, my daughter enjoys it, and in the confines of our home, it’s all in good fun and cheer. But even in the larger scheme, dressing up for Halloween and decorating a home’s entry way in macabre themes is not even on the level of a practical joke, which pranks an unsuspecting victim. When it comes to Halloween, everyone’s in on the act, and it’s pretty difficult to catch anyone off-guard. And even then, it’s taken as an impressive achievement.

If I’m wrong and nefarious for “scaring” people during Halloween, when no one is going to be caught off guard by the spooky, how much more wrong and nefarious is a worldview which encourages its adherents to take delight in scaring people, even little children, with the threat of hell? Think I’m wrong for using “delight” here? Then go here for starters.

This is not written as a defense of Halloween, but rather to draw attention to how unaware an individual can be of the conflicts between his own pronouncements and stated beliefs.

by Dawson Bethrick

1 comment:

Ydemoc said...

Thanks again, Dawson!

Plenty of of laughs in this one.

Happy Halloween!