Marissa Kantor: At a moment where every lunch bag left under a chair is deemed a potential bomb, it should come as no surprise that Halloween, a holiday of costumes and candy, has become tainted and suspect as well. Take Venezuela, for example, where Reuters reported that Caracas has found a new enemy: “Halloween-style pumpkins carrying messages of rebellion against President Hugo Chavez.” This so-called “pumpkin alert” was not the first Halloween-related threat to hit Chavez; paper skeletons with anti-Chavez rhetoric somehow appeared dangling from bridges and lampposts across Caracas.

A less decorative protest has erupted in Austria, where the mayor of the town of Rankweil has started his own campaign to put an end to what he calls a “bad American habit.” According to an AP article, a few days later local police and the mayors of several neighboring towns had joined the protest.

The European revolt seems mostly culture related; in an already globalized world, Jack-o’-Lanterns just add to the hodgepodge. Christians have a more direct objection: Halloween is the work of Satan, and it tries to bring kids over into the “Dark Side.”

Focus on the Family’s James Dobson says that “the traditional emphasis upon the occult, witches, devils, death and evil sends messages to our kids that godly parents can only regard with alarm. There is clearly no place in the Christian community for this ‘darker side’ of Halloween.” He does, however, admit that dressing up and getting free candy can be fun. So how to reconcile these beliefs? How about The Pumpkin Gospel: Have your kids carve a pumpkin and remove its insides, and during the process, ask them how the gooey stuff they pull out is like the sin in their heart. Sound too messy? Trina Schaetz in Christianity Today recommends “Mystery Bowling” or a nature walk.