Bruce Watters used to simply hand out candy on Halloween, just like his neighbors in St. Petersburg, Fla., until he decided the holiday's ghoulishness really didn't jibe with his Christian beliefs.Wow—lucky kids. I never got any religious tracts when I was trick-or-treating. When we built our Halloween bonfires around which to dance in Satanic rituals, sometimes it took hours to find all the kindling.
But rather than skip the neighborhood ritual, he's put a Christian stamp on it. For the third year in a row, kids will leave his porch with a piece of candy, plus a religious tract - a concise, colorful handout telling how to attain salvation through Jesus Christ.
"If they want supernatural, let's give them Godly supernatural," Mr. Watters says.
…Halloween, long associated with pagan traditions, is now high season for an old American tradition of evangelizing through tracts. The nation's four major publishers of tracts say they sell more at Halloween than at any other time of year, including Christmas and Easter. And the push is on to grow the seasonal market. This year, thanks to new glow-in-the-dark tracts, the Texas-based American Tract Society expects to set a new Halloween record by shipping out more than 4 million tracts.
Buoying tract sales, observers say, is a rising tide of evangelical passion for Halloween rituals. Four years ago in Frisco, Texas, for instance, most churches either shunned the holiday as a perceived festival of mischief or staged their own alternative event.Look for my new book Culture Warrior: Protecting Halloween from the Religious Right and Other Tales of Progressive Fun Protection on bookshelves next spring.
This year, at least 11 congregations are equipping members with tracts for doorbell-answering adults and trick-or-treating kids to hand out.Look for my follow-up book How to Turn Your Kid Into a Lunatic in One Easy Step on bookshelves next summer.
For his part, Watters regards Halloween as "a satanic celebration" that he tries to counter by displaying a cross and an angel statue on his porch. He also asks parents for permission to pray over their children.I can imagine he’s got loads of takers.
"After we saw the evil side of this night, we decided we were going to bring light to it," Pam Malone says. The Malones now set up tables in their front yard, play recorded Christian music, and hand out doughnuts along with collections of scripture verses to trick-or-treaters.I like how they still hand out sweeties along with the unsolicited religious dogma.
Of course people are free to do whatever they like, but I find this just ridiculous. There are plenty of Christian parents who don’t want their kids exposed to conservative religious rubbish, no less non-Christian parents. Two Halloweens ago, my nephew got two Christian books in his goodie bag that represented a version of Christianity about which my sister was decidedly unthrilled. She took the books away from him immediately—and this is a kid who’s been to church every week of his life and attends a Christian school. (You can see the books here and here.)
Something tells me the people handing out this stuff wouldn’t be too happy if their kids came home with an Islamic tract or pamphlet on atheism in their bags, so why do they presume that it’s fine and dandy to hand out their crap which might be greeted with the same animosity? Oh right—because they don’t give a flying shit about anyone else’s beliefs.
When I read about stuff like this, I can’t help thinking about how the religious right is always going on about the radical homosexual agenda, and how gays try to recruit children for “their lifestyle.” Yet in all my many gay-filled years, with all the time I’ve spent in gay bars, at gay film festivals, baking in the sun at the gay pride parade, and hanging out with queers of every description, I’ve never met anyone who had joined up as part of a recruitment program—and no one ever tried to recruit me. (Maybe I should be offended!) On the other hand, the religious right is constantly trying to recruit people, especially children, and here we have the perfect example of a campaign to do precisely what they erroneously accuse gays of doing. Worse yet, it’s a stealth campaign, where unsuspecting kids go to their doors on a hunt for candy and walk away instead with a religious tract. (Or, in some cases, the candy they’re after and a religious tract to boot, as the proselytizers treat them then throw in a trick for good measure.)
Like I said, people are free to do what they like, but as long they’re going to do it, they need to can the projection. It isn’t liberals who are commandeering holidays, and it isn’t gays who are out on recruitment drives. And it isn’t we who are shoving our lifestyles in anyone else’s faces—no less in kids’ Halloween bags.