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Actor-evangelist Kirk Cameron and the war on Halloween

Actor Kirk Cameron before speaking at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference. (Win McNamee/Getty Images file)

Kirk Cameron’s new movie carries the tagline, “Put the Christ back in Christmas.” As it turns out, Cameron would also like to lead Americans to the land of a Christ-filled Halloween.

That’s according to the actor’s interview with The Christian Post, in which he urges Christians to fight Satan on Halloween by throwing the “biggest party on your block.”

The party plans involve dressing up like President Obama in order to mock Satan.

“When you go out on Halloween and see all people dressed in costumes and see someone in a great big bobble-head Obama costume with great big ears and an Obama face, are they honoring him or poking fun?” Cameron asked.

Then, the former “Growing Pains” star answered himself: “They are poking fun at him. … Early on, Christians would dress up in costumes as the devil, ghosts, goblins and witches precisely to make the point that those things were defeated and overthrown by the resurrected Jesus Christ. The costumes poke fun at the fact that the devil and other evils were publicly humiliated by Christ at His resurrection.”

As for those costumed revelers, “you can give them Gospel tracts and tell the story of how every ghost, goblin, witch and demon was trounced the day Jesus rose from the grave,” Cameron said.

That is how Christians should come to understand the true meaning of Halloween, according to Cameron. Cameron, as you’ve probably heard, has made a second career as a conservative, evangelical Christian filmmaker in recent years.

Confused? Here is a primer on Cameron’s holiday message, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention.

Instead of telling Christians to avoid Halloween or to shun the “secular” trappings of Dec. 25 while focusing only on the Christian significance of the day, Cameron is more interested in taking all the fun parts of any given holiday and finding a way to make them “authentically” Christian — and definitely not pagan, or non-religious, or what have you.

Santa? Totally Christian. Ornaments? Sparkling with the light of the baby Jesus. And so on.

In the trailer for “Saving Christmas,” Cameron demonstrates this by break-dancing in front of a Christmas tree.

As Cameron eloquently puts it in the trailer: “I know you love Christmas, and you want it to be all about what it’s all about.”

There’s nothing theologically wrong with Christians telling other Christians that it’s okay to dress up as a ghost on Halloween if they want. That sounds like a pretty reasonable thing to say to another person.

Except that with both Halloween and Christmas, there’s a big historical problem with the way Cameron makes this argument. What Cameron could say is that the more enjoyable traditions of the holidays can have a place within the practice of Christianity, something that has been true since the church set All Saint’s Day during a pagan harvest festival of samhain, and set Christmas at the same time as the popular Roman bacchanal winter festival of Saturnalia.

The connection between pagan and Christian holidays is so obvious that centuries of Christians have contended with that history, shunning some traditions, accepting and appropriating others. Or, in the case of the Puritans, just banning Christmas altogether, which happened in Boston in the late 1600s.

“The early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month,” grumpy puritan Increase Mather wrote in 1687, “but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.”

Ignoring that history, Cameron believes that the holidays are only authentically Christian, the implication being that they don’t belong to anyone else, and never have.

“Over time you get some pagans who want to go this is our day, high holy day of Satanic church, that this is all about death, but Christians have always known since the first century that death was defeated, that the grave was overwhelmed, that ghosts, goblins, devils are foolish has-beens who used to be in power but not anymore,” Cameron said of Halloween to The Christian Post.

Except, despite that assertion, the pesky historical fact remains that Halloween wouldn’t exist without Samhain. And Christmas as it exists today certainly wouldn’t exist without Saturnalia.

On the other hand: “Saving Christmas” hits theaters for two weeks on Nov. 14.