Christians are divided on the issue of Halloween and this episode tries to find a middle path everyone can appreciate. Its condemnation of the dangers of some parts of Halloween, its leniency to other parts and its overall controversial nature landed it in The Lost Episodes, which is surprising because I can think of episodes that seem even more controversial, like Castles and Cauldrons, which continue to air on the radio today. But the episode What Are We Gonna Do about Halloween? is far less exciting.
In this episode we find out that Halloween began as a pagan festival and was later Christianized, much like Christmas and Easter were. But not only does this episode recognize Halloween’s pagan origins, it seems to recognize the harmful influence paganism still has on the holiday. In order to reject that aspect, AIO tells us not to celebrate Halloween and it discourages trick-or-treating and wearing scary costumes. Its alternative is a Bible-themed costume party, complete with a zombie Lazarus. It’s a celebration meant to compete with the celebration of evil, similarly to when Saint Patrick lit a fire on a hilltop in Ireland in celebration of Easter in defiance of a druid festival. For a show that appeals to so many different people, it’s perfectly acceptable to take the middle road on this issue. But where the episode falls short is in its portrayal of Christians who disagree.
AIO unfortunately paints the parents who are completely opposed to Halloween in an unfair light. Mr. Renfield is a false caricature. He is rude, dismissive, overly judgmental and bossy. He tries to scare people out of Halloween with images of razor blades in apples and drug-laced brownies, not exactly appropriate for Odyssey. He refuses to come to Whit’s End to witness Mr. Whittaker’s Halloween alternative. When Whit asks him to find somewhere in the Bible where it says what he is doing is wrong, Mr. Renfield is unable to give an answer. Although it was obviously not intended, that question from Whit sounds like a clear invitation for listeners to send in the Bible verses which they believe supports Mr. Renfield’s choice.
If you weren’t listening very closely to this episode it’s easy to miss Whit’s little disclaimer about his position. He says that kids should listen to their parents and whatever their parents decide should be obeyed over his opinion. Whit’s great respect for parents is an important part of AIO, which is why it is so puzzling that near the end of the episode he disciplines Mr. Renfield. Whit says “We’re going to celebrate goodness and holiness. Now if you don’t want your children to be a part of that, I understand. You have to do what you think is right.” That could easily be seen as an insult. Who wouldn’t want their children to celebrate goodness and holiness?
Connie’s celebration of Halloween, which this episode makes clear should be avoided, gives her a stomach ache and a cavity. But this episode wasn’t about the condemnation of candy. It condemned the celebration of evil. Focusing on the consequences of eating too much candy trivializes it. For some people Halloween is a big deal and for others it isn’t. The intentions behind this episode were good but it seems the parents who are so vehemently opposed to Halloween in all its forms were not taken seriously enough. And anyway, maybe Odyssey isn’t the best venue to have a controversial and complex conversation between Christian parents. This episode gets 3 out of 5 stars.