Used to be, it was the occasional apple or other healthy snack that ruined an otherwise perfect candy collection on Halloween night.
But creationist Ken Ham has taken spoiling the holiday to a new level with “Halloween Learn & Share Kits” designed to scare children straight into the judging arms of Jesus.
“If you have broken just one of these [Ten] Commandments, God sees you as guilty of sin,” reads one of the messages to all those little Wonder Women, Darth Vaders, fire fighters and Princess Moanas out there. “The penalty of sin is death and eternity in hell.”
Maybe. But comedian and Baptist minister Susan Sparks notes there is much more than fear to be found in Ham’s youth-focused spiritual scare tactics.
“This is rich with comedy because it’s absurd and because it doesn’t use one of God’s gifts to us, which is our brains,” said Sparks, senior pastor at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.
The young-earth worldview enshrined in those faith-based tourist attractions runs headlong into scientific proof the planet is much, much older. Sparks referred to a 40,000-year old musical instrument recently uncovered in Germany.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Sparks said of Ham’s anti-intellectual claims. “Jesus died to take away our sins, not our minds.”
But there’s nothing funny about Halloween for Ham, whose learn-and-share kits include religious tracts and phony money with proselytizing messages on one side, and images of dinosaurs or arks on the other. The idea is to give the tracts and fake bills to trick-or-treaters.
“In just a few weeks here in America, kids will come knocking on our doors — are you ready?” Ham said in a blog post.
He’s not referring to having enough candy on hand.
“Halloween can present a fantastic opportunity to share the saving gospel with your friends and neighbors. And we have special gospel booklets and tracts to help you.”
If trick-or-treaters don’t show, then “try ‘reverse-trick-or-treating’ when you bring a basket of goodies to bless your neighbors,” Ham wrote. “This is a great way to encourage your kids to give and bless others as well as share the gospel as a family.”
One of those blessings is knowing how scary the future can be without Jesus.
“The penalty for your crimes against God is death and eternal Hell because God is holy and just,” one of the fake bills reads.
One of the available tracts is “Halloween, Paganism and the Bible.” Its purpose is to illuminate the holiday’s original purpose and to uncover its connections to pre-Christian paganism.
Or, shoppers may choose the tract “A Biblical and Historical Look at Halloween.”
“When did modern-day Halloween get started? What is the original source for Halloween?” the tract’s online description reads. “What are the evils of modern-day Halloween and what can a Christian do?”
Buy the tract to find out.
Taking an anti-Halloween approach to reaching trick-or-treaters is counterproductive, Sparks said.
And so is turning Christian outreach into a scare tactic.
“What’s sad is that there seems to be this fear — this leveraging of fear — that he’s going after,” Sparks said. “It’s the antithesis of how Jesus shared the message in his day.
“He engaged the culture.”