'JesusWeen' offers Bibles, postcards to trick-or-treaters
Andy Johnson, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, October 29, 2011 9:45PM EDT
A movement founded by a Calgary pastor is calling on Christians to forego the candy and costumes of Halloween and instead hand out Bibles to trick-or-treaters.
It's called "JesusWeen" and hundreds of churches across Canada and the U.S. are expected to take part in the event described on jesusween.com as a Christian gift-giving festival.
"JesusWeen is a non profit organization also known as JesusWin. We are focused on helping people live better lives," the website says.
In addition to handing out Bibles, Christian post cards or tracts instead of treats, participants are encouraged to wear white as a symbol of purity.
The event was founded by Calgary pastor Paul Ade in 2002 and has the ambitious expectation of becoming "the most effective Christian outreach day ever and that's why we also call it 'World Evangelism Day,'" the website states.
"This year we're thinking it will be 400 churches all across Canada," John Johnson, a spokesperson for the movement reached in Maryland, told CTVNews.ca.
In addition, he said at least 1,000 churches are expected to participate in the U.S. along with a handful in the U.K.
It's certainly getting a lot of attention. Major media from as far away as Europe have done stories about the movement and comedians have, not surprisingly, taken aim.
Late night television host Jimmy Kimmel described JesusWeen as "even lamer than it sounds" and mocked the event in a spoof promotional video.
"I'm a Jesus wiener," say three bored-looking children with blank stares, who grudgingly espouse the benefits of a candy-free Halloween.
Organizers describe the event as an alternative for Christians who feel uncomfortable with the premise of Halloween.
Oct. 31, the website says, is a day where "ungodly images and evil characters" are celebrated "while Christians all over the world participate, hide or just stay quiet."
Because it's also a day when neighbours visit each other's homes, Ade decided in 2002 it would be a perfect opportunity to hand out Bibles or kid-themed Christian literature to the costumed kids and their parents that came to his door.
Ade gave gifts to 200 trick-or-treaters that first year. Word quickly began to spread about his initiative and others joined in the following year. The movement hit a tipping point in 2008 and has now grown to include hundreds of churches across North America and the U.K., Johnson said.
This year JesusWeen is focusing on the Canadian cities of Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton, as well as the state of Maryland and the cities of Houston and Dallas in the U.S., and London in the U.K.
Johnson said it was founded out of the Christian charismatic movement, but brands itself simply as a Christian movement that is not tied to any specific denomination or church.
The group's website is careful to avoid any denominational references and instead focuses on how participants can get involved and adapt the simple strategy to their own community.
The interactive website, which incorporates slick videos and social media such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the message, includes resources for churches or individuals who want to take part, as well as links to inexpensive Bible retailers.
Johnson, who first participated in 2007, said he found most people were receptive to the gifts he handed out and it was a positive way of reaching out to his community. So he's stuck with it.
"If it's OK for children to learn about ghosts and demons or Superman or Spider-Man it's also OK for them to learn that God loves them," he said.
However, not everyone agrees. A number of Christian pastors have expressed concern that the movement feeds the stereotype that Christians are against everything outside of the church, a viewpoint they say simply isn't true.