Category: Current Events

Is Halloween a Christian Holiday?

Cross Pumpkin

Is it true that Halloween is a holiday rooted in pagan cult traditions? It appears that just the opposite is the case – that it began as a Christian celebration.

In an article by Father Augustine Thompson, he points out that “The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

“It’s true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on October 31–as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Solemnity of All Saints, or ‘All Hallows,’ falls on November 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to November 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere. And so the holy day spread to Ireland.

“The day before was the feast’s evening vigil, ‘All Hallows Even,’ or ‘Hallowe’en.’ In those days Halloween didn’t have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans.”

Father Thompson notes that a French abbot began to encourage a day to pray for the souls of the faithful departed, which became All Souls Day on November 2. The Irish, not wanting their friends and family who had gone to hell to be forgotten, began a tradition of banging pots and pans on All Hallows Eve, in order to help those in eternal punishment know they had not been forgotten.

Various French, Irish and English traditions relating to All Hallows Eve – including the wearing of costumes and the practice of demanding treats – came to America with immigrants and began to be intermingled.

“But what about witches?” asks Father Thompson. “Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already “ghoulish,” so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed.

“So too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o’-lantern. They thought that Halloween was Druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration.”

While modern-day pagans may have claimed this holiday as their own, the reality is that it is deeply rooted in various Christian traditions that came to America.

You can read the full article on ucatholic.com.

After presidential candidate Donald Trump told crowds that the Bible was his “favorite book” but then could not tell interviewers what night be a favorite verse (or any verse), Twitter picked up on the idea of creating a “Trump translation” of various Bible passages, phrased so as to capture that distinctive Trump idiom. Among the best at this game has been Eric Metaxas, well-known evangelical author, speaker and radio host. Here’s a sampling of his #TrumpBible offerings:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was TERRIFIC. And also YUUUUGE. #TrumpBible

And Jesus went out into the desert. But he should have invested in hotels there. I mean I’m killing it in Vegas. A LOT of money. #TrumpBible

Nathan said to David: “You are the man!” And David said, “No YOU are the man!” And they high-fived each other. It was fabulous. #TrumpBible

Take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake. And if you’re eating the Surf & Turf you can go with the red OR the white. Your call. #TrumpBible

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. For a season. #TrumpBible

At the Last Supper, Jesus said to Judas: “What you must do, do quickly. And do it under budget if possible. Unheard of, right?” #TrumpBible

Why do the heathen rage? Because they want jobs. And I’m the greatest job creator God ever made. And then some. Am I right? #TrumpBible

A sower went out to sow. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love sowers. But they’re killing us. They’re sending us their worst sowers. #TrumpBible

A man went to Jericho & he was set upon by thieves. Because they have lousy security in Jericho. The Unions destroyed it there. #TrumpBible

Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but I have duplexes with views of the East River. The Chinese are buying them like crazy. #TrumpBible

You’ve heard it said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I say unto you that’s lousy negotiating. Why break even? #TrumpBible

A good wife, who can find? I found three. #TrumpBible

A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown. But I was born in Queens, so who cares? #TrumpBible

And Jesus came to them walking on the waves and said, “Have you seen the polls? I’m like WAY ahead. It’s not even close.” #TrumpBible

Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. Wait a minute…I don’t want to get that specific. #TrumpBible

You can read more Metaxas quotes at https://m.facebook.com/eric.metaxas/posts/1658037631083835

Sermons for the Mayor

Last week there was a flurry of interest in sermons preached in Houston, Texas.

As you likely read in various news reports, the mayor and city attorney were unhappy with public opposition to Houston’s recent “bathroom bill” which allows people to enter any public bathroom associated with their self-identified gender. So if a man feels he is a woman, he can saunter into any ladies room in the city. Wow, who could possibly think anything could go wrong with that?

Since pastors were among the most vociferous opponents of the bill, the mayor apparently decided to put them on the spot. So five pastors who were vocal opponents of the bill received subpoenas demanding copies of their speeches and sermons which addressed the bathroom bill, homosexuality, and the mayor.

By the end of the week – facing withering denunciation from across the political spectrum – the mayor was reconsidering the subpoenas. But anyone who thinks this is the last time an American political official tries to pressure preachers in regards to their sermons hasn’t been watching the growing trend toward restrictions on religious liberty in order to appease political correctness.

At first thought I was considering some possible responses pastors could send to the mayor, including:

Notes? I don’t use no stinking notes!
Sorry, but I think the dog ate my sermon.
I already sent my sermon file to Lois Lerner. I’m sure she saved it.
But now I’m reconsidering, and I think it would be best to send the sermons to the mayor. In fact, I think I’d send all my sermons to the mayor – as many as I have available. I suspect digging through a few hundred sermon manuscripts would convince any public official that a subpoena might be a bit counterproductive.

And it would do this mayor a lot of good to read some strong gospel sermons.

Why does the Hobby Lobby decision matter?

It has been fascinating to hear the diverse responses to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision last week. To hear the reaction of some in the media and politics, you’d think that the Court had pulled the plug on the rights of America’s women to use contraception.

Hobby LobbyIn fact, the Court took a small but valuable step in the direction of protecting religious liberty in the U.S. In this narrow ruling, the Court said that a privately-held, family-run company that emphasizes Christian values has the right not to be forced to pay for drugs that can cause abortions. That’s it.

Did the Court rip away the right of contraception? No; in fact, the Hobby Lobby company pays for at least 16 different forms of contraceptives for its employees. It simply doesn’t want to pay for four other drugs that can be used to destroy existing life. While that may play into the “war on women” rhetoric of many media and political operatives, it seems a carefully-drawn and important distinction to those for whom the right to life is a sacred trust, rather than a political weapon.

This is far from the end of the battle for religious liberty in America, and future fights are likely to be much more significant and much more difficult. But for now, the Court has agreed that religious liberty extends beyond the four walls of the church – and that is an affirmation worth celebrating.

Another reason faith matters

In his May 18 column for the New York Times, Ross Douthat pointed to a disturbing trend in American life – even as other violent crime is on the decline, suicide is increasing, He writes: “In the 1990s, the suicide rate dipped with the crime rate. But since 2000, it has risen, and jumped particularly sharply among the middle-aged. The suicide rate for Americans 35 to 54 increased nearly 30 percent between 1999 and 2010; for men in their 50s, it rose nearly 50 percent. More Americans now die of suicide than in car accidents, and gun suicides are almost twice as common as gun homicides.

“This trend is striking without necessarily being surprising. As the University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox pointed out recently, there’s a strong link between suicide and weakened social ties: people — and especially men — become more likely to kill themselves ‘when they get disconnected from society’s core institutions (e.g., marriage, religion) or when their economic prospects take a dive (e.g., unemployment).’ That’s exactly what we’ve seen happen lately among the middle-aged male population, whose suicide rates have climbed the fastest: a retreat from family obligations, from civic and religious participation, and from full-time paying work.

“The hard question facing 21st-century America is whether this retreat from community can reverse itself, or whether an aging society dealing with structural unemployment and declining birth and marriage rates is simply destined to leave more people disconnected, anxious and alone.” (Click here to read the full column)

As Wilcox notes, suicide rates tend to increase as people disengage from “society’s core institutions” like marriage and religion. As Christians, we understand that reality, because we recognize that humanity was created to live in community and in relationship with God. As we preach, the hope we offer in Christ is not only for an eternity with God; it is hope that can make a life-or-death difference in the lives of people right now.

   

Get the latest updates via email!