We met up with church friends last night and took the kids trick-or-treating.
We came to one house where the people were wearing camouflage and had a display board up on a table with candy in front of it. We parents had been standing back at the houses, letting the group of 7 kids do their thing. We heard, “You can have candy and a little booklet after you read one of these scripture verses.” Huh. Little booklet. I thought, “No, it can’t actually be a Chick Tract…” (Oh, yes it can.) One after another our little Presbyterian kids read their verses or repeated them after someone (“The wages of sin is death…” “If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart…” etc.) and got their candy and the people made sure they got their “booklet.”
Other Mom:: “Oh, look, I wonder what this is?”
Bookgirl: “Fundamentalist propaganda about the evils of Halloween in comic form.”
Other mom (reading the first couple pages): “Oh. I guess so.”
(These things are really fear-filled and fear-mongering. I won’t link to the site, but if anyone is curious here is a blog-post from someone else that describes them. I certainly read a lot of Chick Tracts and comics around jr. high. I don’t remember them scaring me (or scarring me), but then they went part and parcel with what I was hearing every week, so it was no scarier to see it in comic form than hear it in church.)
I’m talking a lot about the tracts because I think they are truly problematic and I was taken back to Jr. High and surprised they (specifically Chick Tracts) were still a thing, but the truth is, I think the Bible verse reading made me more uncomfortable than the tract-giving (which one kind of expects). The verse thing just seemed weird. Who makes kids do something on Halloween to get their candy? “Now children, all you have to do is read one of these scary verses out of context and you can have your candy.” The tract publisher’s website suggests ways to give tracts out on Halloween. Putting up a sign-board of Bible verses and making kids read them was not on the list (I wondered. I checked). John 3:16 made the signboard, so there was one mention of love, but only the one. (and, of course, for better or worse, they were all verses I had memorized at some point in my youth, but I was also given a lot of verses about love to memorize.)
Someone else put a note in a little baggie with candy that said “Jesus loves you!” My daughter, a little bit of a smart-alec and always quick on the draw said, “Mom, am I allowed to read this one?” (Because I had taken away her tract and told her if she really wanted to see it we could look at it together.) We talked a little about the difference between scaring people with half-truths and assuring people they were loved. Which may be my point in a nutshell.