Culture At Large

Global Exchange's hypocritical Halloween

Caryn Rivadeneira

Everything I needed to learn about evangelism, I learned as a 10-year-old on Halloween night. It was then that I learned that if you want people to love Jesus, you should give them candy. Full candy bars. Snack-sized. Chocolate or pure sugar. Doesn’t matter.

As long as it's candy and not - can I repeat? - not a tract called “If you think Halloween is scary, wait until you see hell.”

I still remember this grim woman slipping the tiny pamphlet into our candy-filled pillowcases, saying nothing in response to our chipper “Trick or Treat!” until her tight mouth moved and said, “Jesus loves you.” Then she took a step back and closed the door as we stood there. Terrified.

At 10, I already knew Jesus loved me. And I loved him right back. Though I was pretty sure that because Jesus loved me, he’d have slipped a Snickers into my bag. Messing with Halloween just didn’t seem to be a good tactic for spreading the Good News.

Of course, nearly 30 years (!) later, I’m gentler on this woman than I was at 10. I understand her good intentions. But it’s sure not the road to heaven that’s paved with those.

Regardless, I thought of this woman and her good intentions gone bad this past week when I read this story about Global Exchange’s fifth annual “Reverse Trick-or-Treating.” The gist, according to Global Exchange, is this:

“This Halloween, you can help end the exploitation of adults and children working in the cocoa industry … Trick-or-treaters will be handing Fair Trade chocolate back to adults, with informational cards attached, to explain the problems of the cocoa industry and how Fair Trade presents a solution. … Hundreds of thousands of households in the U.S. are getting the message that child labor and forced labor will not be tolerated by our kids.”

You should know, I’m a fan (mostly) of the fair trade movement. I know of the horror stories surrounding the production of chocolate. And I want to see it end.

But as I read this, it was me at the crabby Christian’s door. Just in reverse. I imagined the costumed “I’m not going to tolerate child labor” trick-or-treater at my door, reaching into my plastic pumpkin, choosing her “non-freely” traded chocolates. When she chooses the Peanut Butter Cup, I smile at her (because I swore at 10, I’d always smile at trick or treaters!) and say, “Happy Halloween!”

She hands me back a chocolate. I say thank you. But then I read it: a shaming message about the chocolate industry.

My understanding of this is not going to be “the message that child labor and forced labor will not be tolerated by our kids.”

My reaction is going to be: “Give me back my Peanut Butter Cup then!” Because if she’s not going to “tolerate” this, then she shouldn’t be out begging for child-labor chocolates in a child labor-made costume! Right?

Forgive me. I don’t mean to make light of this serious issue. But just as Halloween is no time for subbing tracts for treats if we want kids to know Jesus loves them, neither is it the time to use our kids to push agendas. And that’s what Reverse Trick-or-Treating is about. No matter how well-intentioned,

Global Exchange believes that children telling adults, “There’s a problem. There’s a solution. Let’s do something” is “doubly powerful.”

It may be. Sometimes. But on Halloween, as little hands grab at the “problem” chocolate, it’s just hypocritical.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith, Evangelism, Christmas & Easter, News & Politics, Justice, North America, Home & Family, Parenting