By Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv
“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” We all know this line from the movie Wizard of Oz. The only thing scarier than that part of the movie were those flying monkeys. I still have nightmares about those darn monkeys and what they did to that poor scarecrow. Even though the Bible instructs us “do not be afraid,” we have this fascination with being scared. From roller coasters and thrill rides to Halloween, we seek out the ultimate fright.
And even though the Bible instructs us clearly and often, “Do not be afraid,” fear is used by many churches as an instrumental motivator for conversion therapy by trying to force people to love God. Personally, I remember as a child hearing about a god who condemns people to an eternity dwelling in the “burning pit of hell” and God’s punishment of “fire and brimstone.” I was so scared by this conversion tactic, that at the age of 16, I walked down the church aisle not for God to save me because of God’s love for me, but for me to save myself from this type of condemnation. Due to God’s grace and opening my mind and spirit to God’s truth and learning to interpret the Bible in context, I now clearly understand that “love forced or based on fear is not love.”
During October we celebrate one of my favorite traditions or holidays. Halloween! Halloween scares many conservative Christian churches because they believe the holiday glorifies or celebrates the devil/satan. I love Halloween for many different reasons. It reminds us of our own mortality. It’s also a time to remember the saints and those who have passed to the next life. I remember as a child, I used to love choosing a scary costume. I wonder if it was because the church scared me so much it felt powerful to scare others.
But my favorite part of Halloween is indeed dressing in costume. I choose to call it a legal day of self-expression. I find it ironic that one day per year, judgment (for the most part) is suspended and self-expression is not only tolerated, but also encouraged. The more one is self-expressed, you are even glorified and honored with awards at costume contests.
What if we lived in a world where self-expression was encouraged and celebrated every day? What if we lived in a world where judgment and fear was cast aside like the Bible instructs us to do? What if we lived in a world where we could be and gloriously celebrate who God created us to be? What if we lived in a world where people choose love over fear? As Louis Armstrong sang, “What a Wonderful World” it would be. Enjoy yourself and celebrate on Halloween Day. Then let’s get back to work on the other 364.
Rev. Patrick Rogers, MDiv. – Community Activist and Senior Pastor at
United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale.