In 2001, our family doubled with the addition of three teen refugees from Burundi. They moved in with us on the Labor Day, and soon after, the Halloween decorations started popping up in our neighborhood. As we were headed home one day, they asked me about a particular decoration on our block — an effigy of a witch who’d crashed into the telephone pole she was mounted on, and lost her balloon. At the time, we didn’t have much language in common, so I started where I thought I might get the most traction. Their last name, in Kirundi, means “Man of God,” so I started with, “Um . . . she’s a Woman of the Devil.”
They nodded, knowingly. “Um . . . uh . . . and she doesn’t drive a car, but instead, she rides on a broom.”
They exchanged sideways glances, did I just say what they thought I said?
“Um . .. but . .. uh . . . we don’t really believe that.”
Great. This was going well. Why do we decorate with things we don’t believe?
That didn’t even make sense to me.
We’re not big Halloween people . . . I went trick-or-treating exactly once, when I was 17. Michael did a little bit of it when he was a kid, but we just didn’t feel strongly enough to join the holiday when Farmergirl joined us. (I have proverbial childhood scars from having to handout religious tracts to trick–or-treaters . . . there’s quite a bit of scorn associated with getting candy-less tracts. We didn’t even hand out original tracts . . . we were handing out bad photocopies of a “check for eternal life” signed by “Jesus Christ.” My only hope was that the copy was so poor that no one could read it).
Which brings me to this moment, two days ago: I’m standing in line for lunch at the Bioneers conference, which was hosted at the local community college, with my friends, some very lovely Unitarians, when we notice a Chick tract on the table in front of a woman who was sitting there, her back turned to us. It’s The Trick, a holiday-specific comic that details what Jack Chick thinks the origins of Halloween are.
I explain that there’s an entire genre of these little comics that all have roughly the same premise : a bumbling person “doesn’t see anything wrong with” a practice or object that is dangerous to the disposition of h** eternal soul, either discovers the danger in time to discontinue the practice, or does not and is sent to hell. Each comic has a copy of “The Sinner’s Prayer” in the back, and an exhortation to read the Bible, pray, and find other Christians with whom to fellowship. The comics rail against the usual suspects: abortion, homosexuality, evolution, Halloween, drug and alcohol use, gambling, greed, and gangs, but also against a more esoteric set of subjects: dinosaurs, rock-n-roll, Dungeons and Dragons, communism, prophets, godless schools, AIDS, and Catholicism (and, more recently, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam).
The tract kind of freaked Farmergirl out, but they were always in the literature rack at the base chapels we attended, so I’ve read nearly all of them, and kind of grew up with them being a “normal” part of the Christian experience. If that was your experience, too, or if you’ve now gone and read a few and think, “Uh, Jen, I have no idea why anyone would find this objectionable,” try these on for size:
Who Will Be Eaten First?, the Cthulhu version, or the polytheist version. Seriously people, Chick tracts rub people this way.
If by some grand cosmic irony, you happened to become a Christian because of a Chick tract, would you write me?