by Stan Smith
What is this thing called "Halloween"? And why are Christians either deeply outraged or having anything at all to do with it?
Well, as it turns out, the early Christian church celebrated an "All Saints Day", a remembrance for martyred Christians. And, of course, since all church holidays have an "eve", the day before was "All Hallows Eve", a holy evening to prepare for All Saints Day. Well, as is our wont, "All Hallows Eve" shortened over time to "Hallow-e'en" to "Halloween", effectively removing all connection with anything hallowed ... or eve-ish.
Over time, the church took pains to "redeem" their world. So, for instance, they "redeemed" December 25th from its pagan origins to make it the day they celebrated Christ's birth. This same approach was taken with the All Saints Day celebration. Druids celebrated the Samhain festival from October 31 through November 2. The church decided to "redeem” that event by placing its All Saints Day in the middle of it, and, presto-chango, October 31st became "Halloween".
Here's the problem, of course. While perhaps the church was largely successful in redeeming December 25th from the pagan rituals of its day, they failed to do so in the case of Halloween. While the Celtic people celebrated darkness and death in their festival, the Christian Halloween didn't seem to change at all. While the pagans celebrated the occult, Halloween seems to have retained that celebration. So "bobbing for apples", a call for a blessing on a couple's romance, was retained. Jack o'lanterns originally placed outside to scare off wandering spirits are still placed outside to beckon wandering children. The practice of offering gifts to haunting spirits in order to send them on their way is retained in the "trick-or-treat" practices today. In fact, nearly all Halloween practices today are derived from pagan rituals. Rather than redeeming the day, they succumbed to it.
Today, Halloween serves as a unique "holiday". It is the opportunity to celebrate everything evil. Even the liberal Huffington Post includes stories about the sexualization of little girls in Halloween costumes. Death, gore, zombies, vampires (Did you know that a "vamp" is defined as "a woman who uses her sexuality to entrap and exploit men" and comes from "vampire"?), skeletons, even evil clowns – all of this is fair game and normal stuff on Halloween. Adults find the celebration a unique opportunity for revelry. There is typically no "family" involved on this holiday; it's a "friends" thing. You're not buying gifts for people, so it’s just the opportunity to be outlandish and self-centered. While most won't actually think in terms of real demons, they will certainly celebrate the concept. Indeed, since "real demons" means nearly nothing to most people, it simply serves to 1) tie them to the concept while 2) immunizing them against it.
So, what's a thinking Christian to do? Lots of churches today offer a counterpoint. They might plan a "Harvest Festival" so your kids can dress up without dressing up as demons and witches and still get their jack o'lantern-and-trick-or-treat fixes. It’s a good night to invite non-Christian friends and sneak in a tract or a Gospel message. Other churches engage in "Hell House" evangelism. They'll make an alternative "haunted house", replacing demons and witches with abortions and the consequences of sin.
Others respond almost militaristically. "No! We will not take part in any way on this demonic night of revelry!" I've had some tell me that this particular night belongs to Satan. The fact that actual Satan-worship-related crime is no greater on Halloween than any other time is irrelevant. The fact that God remains just as Sovereign on October 31st as He was on October 30th is beside the point. Some just don't participate at all with the idea that we are to "come out from among them and be separate". Still others participate with the Gospel, handing out tracts to kids rather than (or, perhaps, in addition to) candy.
Others just take part. They reason "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). They figure there is nothing intrinsically sinful about dressing up your daughter as a princess or your son as Spiderman and visiting neighbors and getting some candy. Sure, some pagans used to carve pumpkins to ward off evil spirits, but not all carved pumpkins are for that purpose. What's the big deal? All in good fun.
I've read my Bible cover to cover. For some reason I can't find a single command, "Thou shalt not participate in anything related to Halloween." Odd, isn't it? So what do I conclude? Well, there are things we are to avoid. Involving ourselves in the occult -- witchcraft, divination, necromancy, etc. -- is specifically mentioned. Don't do it. We are expected to be distinct, separate, apart from the sins of the world, and revelry and celebration of evil is clearly not part of that. Don't do it. And we are commanded to be lights in a dark world, to share the Gospel in word and deed. Do that! How you apply all that is up to you. Whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Don't violate your conscience for this. Conversely, Martin Luther, the great Reformer, said "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him for he cannot bear scorn." Running from Satan on a night that does not belong to him is not a good idea either. You decide what a good idea is within the bounds of biblical command, keeping in mind that we belong to God and are His representatives in this world. Let that be your guide.
"Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life" from
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I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.
For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
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