Thursday, November 2, 2023

Trunk or Treat

We're talking about engaging the world without entertaining it, about encountering culture, about celebrating Halloween - because it's the perfect example of all of this - and about the world being more open on this day than it is on any other day of the year. And yesterday, we gave a brief glimpse into the sacredness of Halloween, at least in the overwhelming majority of its history, until it took kind of a weird turn in the last century or so. 

I hinted that the world maybe doesn't have as much of a monopoly on this day as it might seem at first, especially now, and here's what I mean: 

The world has taken a page right out of the church's playbook. 

They call it the "trunk or treat." 

Trunk or Treat actually stems from the church tradition of trying to host "alternative" events for Halloween, something for their families to get involved in without all the demons and devils and witchcraft and so forth. 

So churches started hosting official "harvest parties" - opportunities for their families to come together and celebrate the fall season without all the entanglements of worldly culture. These harvest parties included a meal and fellowship and worship and fun, everything you could hope for in an evening. 

Unless, of course, you were a kid who attended public school and had to listen to stories about all of the candy your Halloween-celebrating friends were getting in this season. 

No problem. The church simply started adding more treats to its events. There's no reason we can't give out candy at the church. So the church kids got to go to the harvest party and be safe from the dark arts, but still have candy to pig out on and to talk about with their friends. 

Then, someone had the brilliant idea that we should open our harvest parties to those outside of the church. They then became fellowship and outreach events. They were advertised as alternatives to the world, for anyone who wanted to celebrate but wasn't really interested in the ghoul and the gore. And then, of course, we'd tell you about Jesus when you showed up thinking you were just here to have a little good, clean fun. 

But the world doesn't play that game. It knows when we're just looking for an opportunity to evangelize. It tends to avoid things where it believes we're going to "shove Jesus down their throat." So 30-ish years ago (roughly), the church really focused on moving its harvest parties to the parking lot, setting up an in-and-out good, clean, fun party with candy and treats. It was a way to get the world to come in without making them feel trapped. They never had to come inside our walls at all. Just visit our parking lot and see your holiday in a new, clean light. 

Eventually, we even dropped the overt evangelism. Early on, we had decorations that were still very Christian-y, but we dropped those in favor of more tame Halloween themes. Just to show that hey, we can have fun, too, and not everything has to be about shoving Jesus down your throat. So we made our harvest parties immensely more accessible to the general public by making them non-overtly-Christian (so non-offensive) and easily-engaged (in the parking lot). 

And the world was like, hey, this is a great idea! The more it caught on that families even in the world would drive through the church parking lot (even if it was just because that was an easy grab for a large amount of candy), the more the world started seriously looking at the church's model and, well, Trunk or Treat was born. 

Now, cities and towns and organizations everywhere are doing Trunk or Treat events. They have re-ghouled and re-gored them up. Made them more haunted and horror-filled, more bloody and dark. They have put the world's culture back into them. But don't be fooled - this model came from the church. 

Which means that even the world believes we were right about something and do have some good ideas. 

That said, there is an unfortunate downside to the world copying the church's model (as there always is) - they ruined something beautiful (as they always do). So tomorrow, we'll talk about what Halloween in the world is missing and how it is actually the most central reality of the church and how, perhaps, we can help bridge this void in our own engagement - but not entertainment - of Halloween.  

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