Archives For Halloween

Jack-O-LanternI’ve written a bit on Halloween in the past, and I’ve even engaged in a very gentle debate with some of my coworkers on whether or not it’s appropriate for a Christian to Trick-or-Trick (here). Some people can be dismissive about this issue (myself included), but there are significant factors involved. It deserves careful thought.

Here’s what no one should ever do on Halloween, or any other time of the year:

  • Worship Satan
  • Call upon evil spirits, enlist their aid, or try to appease them
  • Celebrate evil
  • Harm other people or their property, whether through physical or magical means

If Halloween means any of those things to you, run from it. If taking your kids door to door to ask your neighbors for candy implies any of the above listed activities to you, then find a suitable alternative. I have no agenda to convince anyone to go against their conscience. My simple and slanted thoughts are offered only for those who aren’t sure what to make of Halloween.

Here’s what you need to know. Halloween has pagan roots. I have not done the work to verify this, but I’ve read it a couple of places and it sounds right. I’m not interested in finding a credible source to verify the pagan roots because they don’t bother me. The names of our planets have pagan roots. So do the names of the days in our weeks. So does the timing of our celebration of Christmas and several of our Christmas traditions. Same with Easter.

So the roots are pagan. Do we throw it out? Honestly, why not? Definitely feel free to stop celebrating Halloween. There’s no reason why you need to. I’m not going to argue that it’s the Christian thing to do.

Halloween Hula GirlsBut here’s something to consider. Kids have fun on Halloween. My girls love to play dress up any day of the year, so they have a good time when all of the kids in our neighborhood dress up. Our country happens to celebrate National Dress Up Day on October 31. That makes for a fun night for my kids. This event also happens to coincide with National Share Your Candy Day, which my kids also happen to love. So it’s fun for them to go door to door, say hi to the neighbors, bump into them on the sidewalk, talk about each other’s costumes, and share candy with each other.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe my neighbors are engaging in the occult on Halloween. They’re having fun. They’re atypically social on this one night. Some of my neighbors have decorated their lawns with spiders, tombstones, and ghosts, but I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that they won’t conjure a single dead soul or perform a single hex on October 31. They’re not thinking through the cultic connections of some of the original Halloween practices; they’re just enjoying what our culture has made Halloween into: National Dress Up Day / National Share Your Candy Day.

I’ll admit that I could be wrong here. My neighbors could be sacrificing goats in their backyards. But from everything I know about them, they’re not closet occultists. I’ll also acknowledge that while my neighborhood doesn’t seem to be into Satanism, yours might be. If so, don’t engage in their celebration of evil. That’s an easy decision.

But statistically speaking, your neighbors and mine are more likely to be naturalists than Wiccans. Which means that they don’t believe ghosts, spirits, curses, or the any other supernatural manifestations are real. I’m pretty convinced that my neighbors are not worshipping Satan—not because I think they’re too Christian to do such a thing, but because I don’t think they believe in Satan or anything similarly “unscientific.” I think they’re dressing up and sharing candy.

To me, this means we all have an individual choice to make. You can view Halloween according to its pagan roots and avoid it as a celebration of evil. You’re entitled to make that decision, and I won’t look down on you at all. You’ve got to do what’s best. Or you can view Halloween according to the way its modern celebraters see it—as a day of fun and games and sociability. I’m choosing to see it that way, and I hope you won’t look down on me for that.

Vampire TeethIt may be difficult to overlook the evil origins of Halloween, but our Christian predecessors thought it was possible—even beneficial—to take a pagan celebration and rework it into a reminder of good things. That’s why Christmas is when it is, why Easter is the way it is, and why we have All Saints Day at the close of October. Maybe they were wrong, but they took a celebration and tweaked it for what they believed to be God’s glory. In my view, our culture has handed us a gift in weeding out the actual Satanism of some early Halloween practices and giving us a night of fun and games. They’ve done the hard work of systematically forgetting all of the pagan implications and viewing it in terms of the imagination.

If you’re still up in the air on the whole issue, ask yourself whether it’s possible to redeem National Dress Up Day / National Share Your Candy Day for the sake of your friends and neighbors.

You are free to decide.

 

Depending on your background and personal convictions, Halloween is either really exciting or really dark. Or something in between. Though most people tend to feel strongly one way or the other, there are actually important issues involved in the way we celebrate Halloween, and developing a clear-cut biblical response to this complex holiday is not as simple as we sometimes make it seem.

In the spirit of thinking theologically about everything (which is more or less what this whole blog is devoted to), I’m linking to a few blog posts that we ran last year at this time. In these three posts, I explained why I was cool with my kids trick-or-treating, my colleague and friend Chris Hay explained why he wasn’t, and our friend and colleague Matt Swaney made us both look foolish (jk, jk, jk—but seriously…) by explaining that he decides the issue “missionally.”

If this is something you’re wrestling with at all, I encourage you to take a few minutes and read three different approaches taken by three people who are committed to honoring God on October 31.

 

Trick or Treat Yes

Trick or Treat No

Trick or Treat Maybe

 

 

MummyIf you went outside last night, or went anywhere in the past month, you noticed that things tend to get creepy around Halloween. Our stores fill up with skeletons, ghosts, mummies, and zombies. New horror films are released and old ones are resurrected. What do we make of this morbid time of year?

I recently explained that I’m okay with my kids trick-or-treating, but I’m not okay with them dressing up as witches, ghosts, devils, etc. (Click here for my rationale.) But I do think there is something to be learned from this fascination with various stages of death.

I am intrigued by the reality that people can’t seem to let the dead go. Think back to ancient Egypt. They buried their dead pharaohs, but they also built expansive burial chambers filled with stuff so that the pharaohs would be comfortable in the afterlife. Or take the ancient Greeks. The believed their dead went to Hades (the underworld), but there also seems to have been a sense that this world of the dead was not entirely separate from the land of the living, as evidenced by tales like Orpheus’.

Haunted HouseThroughout history and around the globe we find beliefs in the need to appease dead ancestors, contact with the deceased via witches and mediums, encounters with ghosts, hauntings, and on and on.

Call it paranoia, but it seems clear that humanity has always been plagued by this disconcerting thought: What if the dead don’t stay dead?

Indeed! What if they don’t?

Hebrews 2:15 says that humanity has been subjected to lifelong slavery through the fear of death. What could be scarier than entering the great unknown? What is more disconcerting than losing everything we’ve ever gained? Whether we spend our lives literally afraid of dying, or whether we spend our lives in the relentless pursuit of the here and now for fear of missing out when death ends it all too quickly, we are all slaves to the fear of death.

Since death itself is so scary, it makes sense that contact with those who have tasted death would be terrifying. We put these people in the ground, knowing that they have experienced the one thing we want at all costs to avoid. But what if that’s not all?

Empty TombI’d say that this fear and fascination is legitimate from every vantage point but one: the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. In the death of Jesus, death itself has received a fatal blow (read 1 Cor. 15). Death is “the last enemy to be destroyed” (v. 26), but even now it has been triumphed over (v. 54). It has lost its victory; it has been stripped of its sting (v. 55).

It would appear that humanity is on to something here. The dead do not stay dead. Though death seems so final, we are right to be suspicious that it is not the true end. In some ways, humanity is right to be fearful of this reality. Jesus warned, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). As scary as death is, judgment is far scarier.

But death need not be fearful. Hebrews 2:15 says that humanity has been subjected to lifelong slavery, but it also provides the solution:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Heb. 2:14–15)

As we are surrounded by our culture’s fascination in the uncertainty of death, we can turn our thoughts to the certainty of the resurrection. We know what lies beyond the grave, and that reality is nothing short of the hope that we are called to spread throughout the world.

 

Halloween CandyCan Halloween, in some contexts, be something that prevents us from building relationships with people? Yes. In other contexts, can it be something that actually helps us build relationships with people? Yes. It seems inconsistent to say both options are okay but I think it is because sometimes we are motivated by the wrong mission. Halloween (along with everything else in our lives) should be evaluated based on what advances the gospel the best.

Creating policies like saying, “no” to Halloween or saying, “yes” to Halloween for different reasons falls short of the question we should be asking, namely, how does this advance the gospel? The mission is not purity (stay away from Halloween). And the mission is not enjoying our freedom in Christ (eating candy and dressing up).

Halloween, drinking, eating and whether or not to coach my children’s soccer teams are all missional questions. The reason you are where you are is because God is doing something with you. Our freedom is for the purpose of being a missionary.

We are God’s people who represent him to others (Gen.12:1-3; Matt. 28:16-20). The mission is not purity or enjoying the freedom we have in Christ but sharing the gospel with people, real people. This is why our freedom in Christ makes such great missionaries!

Paul makes this point when he says he has become “all things to all men for the sake of the gospel” (I Cor. 9:19-23). He wants to build bridges with people for the gospel’s sake and sometimes that might mean doing things that restrict the freedom we have in Christ or taking advantage of the freedom for the sake of the gospel.

Jesus was accused of being an alcoholic and a glutton because he was building relationships with people. He didn’t avoid them to stay “pure.” Paul was accused of being inconsistent in his behavior because sometimes he followed Jewish customs and sometimes he didn’t. Paul’s ultimate concern was not that he would be consistent in his behavior but that he would be consistent about sharing the gospel. The mission determined his behavior.  If the people were going to stumble over something it was going to be the cross, not some outward behavior.

Poor question:  How can I keep myself pure? Or what can I do now that I am free in Christ?

Missional Question:  What can I do that can help me build a relationship with certain people to be the good news to them?

 

Halloween is upon us, and even though our kids are young adults now, I am reminded of autumns past when we did not celebrate Halloween. It is an issue that every parent needs to consider, along with a multitude of other child-raising decisions. So I offer the following thoughts for your careful consideration. (To see the companion to this post, where Mark shares why he is okay with his kids trick-or-treating, click here).

Halloween MasksI am not going to reiterate the historical basis for Halloween, because while that may be important, it is not the critical issue for this blog. I am more interested in what Halloween has become than where it came from. A simple review of the newspaper ads, or a quick walk into any retail store, and the tone of Halloween is obvious: haunted houses, ghosts, witches, goblins, skeletons, grave stones, vampires, grim reaper, etc. Of course there are silly costumes, lots of candy, cider, and apples, too. But the themes of death and the evil spirit world are undeniably prominent.

Right off the bat, that should be troublesome, considering some pretty strong language in God’s word about such things:

“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ESV)

Manasseh, arguably one of the most wicked kings of Israel, practiced witchcraft and sorcery (2 Chron 33:6). Acts 19 records a great revival in Ephesus brought on by the Holy Spirit through Paul’s preaching. There was great repentance and turning to Jesus, and in the midst of that we read:

“Many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all… So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:18-20 ESV)

God hates witchcraft. Satan is the evil enemy of God and all that is good. Demons are the foot soldiers of Satan’s evil army, and ghosts and goblins are mankind’s’ best efforts at putting flesh and form on the spirit forms of the evil world. Witches and the like are the human conduits into this evil, spirit realm that is completely anti-God.

Little WitchSo why in the world would we dress our little girls up in witch costumes when God considers witches such an abomination? Why would we celebrate a satanic worldview represented by Halloween? Why would we honor Satan by glorifying witches and goblins and ghosts, all representatives of a satanic system? I am not suggesting we are worshipping Satan by wearing a witch costume, or that we are channeling demons by trick-or-treating, but why, as followers of Jesus, would we honor such a holiday that is dedicated to so much that is evil and wicked? Of course I readily acknowledge that many choose to celebrate Halloween without dressing up as ghost or witches, but choose instead to dress up as superheroes and ballerinas. But even so, we are still participating in a holiday that honors occultism in many and varied forms.

While I am not afraid of Satan and his forces, “…for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV), I do have a lot of respect for him. Peter calls him a roaring lion that prowls around looking for someone to devour and destroy. We must be vigilant and watchful. Let us never forget that we are at war, that Satan is the enemy, and we must be aware of his insidious schemes. Based on Ephesians 4:26-27, it appears that it is possible to give Satan a ‘foothold’ (NIV) or ‘opportunity’ (ESV) into our lives. As parents, seeking to raise godly kids to love Jesus and serve Him effectively, we did everything we could to prevent such a ‘foothold’ in our home. And so we chose not to participate in Halloween.

But is there anything about Halloween that can be redeemed? Are church-sponsored ‘Harvest Parties’ viable alternatives? Maybe. Satan loves to distort God’s good things, and God loves to redeem Satan’s evil things. So yea, maybe. But we need to think it through critically and prayerfully, and not simply fall into the Halloween world by default. We need to think it through in terms of scriptures such as Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” And may God grant incredible wisdom and discernment as we seek to navigate the dangerous waters of this worldly system!