- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Stephen Colbert made fun of many Halloween alternatives on his show "The Colbert Report" Wednesday night, but one celebration received the most mockery.
The Comedy Central funnyman set his sights on Jesus Ween, also known as Jesus Win, a Christian celebration of Halloween focusing on God's divine love rather than the holiday's darker themes.
"Many Christians don't feel comfortable with Halloween," said Cynthia Brown, a Jesus Ween volunteer. "We encourage people to spread the love of the Gospel that night by giving Christian gifts in addition to candy. The goal is to get the message of God out."
Brown said Jesus Ween began in Calgary, Texas, in 2002 before becoming an official organization this year. She said the event encourages typical Halloween rites like candy and costumes, but adds a Christian slant. Participants are encouraged to give out Bibles and other Christian gifts, she said, while dressing in white. The end result, she concluded, is a more positive Halloween.
"Some people think we're out to hijack Halloween or replace it," Brown said. "We're not. Halloween has uncomfortable imagery including ghosts, ghouls and the dead. It's gone too far with the negativity."
Colbert teased these tenets in a sketch called the "War on Halloween." In it, the comedian calls out potential additions to Halloween tradition and then ridicules them. Jesus Ween was no exception, and Colbert called the group the segment's "Hallowinners."
"That is in the spirit of Halloween," Colbert said of the group. "Because dressing in white and handing out Bibles is sure to make your house the creepiest one on the block. Kids, remember, when you bring home your bag of Bibles, make sure they check them for razor blades – or worse, dianetics."
It's a sketch that isn't sitting well with Jesus Ween volunteers. Brown said Colbert had gone too far with his jesting, but added that there was a positive outcome as it gained Jesus Ween more attention.
"Millions of people watch that show," she said. "Even if they were making fun of us they'll hear about us. It's overwhelming but wonderful."
Colbert didn't stop there. Eager for more chuckles, he kept going with a few more one-liners about Christ's relationship with Halloween.
"Jesus rose from the dead," Colbert said. "He's the original zombie, except you eat his body. It's true, therefore it's not offensive."
Brown said such jokes were in bad taste rather than bemusing. Taunting Christ, she said, goes totally overboard.
"The secular world thinks that if they ridicule or mock us we'll give up," she said. "We won't. We hope more people will get to know Jesus and believe it will go all over the world."
At day's end, Brown said she doesn't begrudge Colbert for doing his job. After all, she said, Jesus Ween is a new way of doing some old traditions.
"No one can expect to change the world without kicking and screaming at times," she said. "It's part of the package. Both positive and negative feedback works out for us."