It’s that time of the year when the people in the city drive far outside the city to enjoy apple orchards, pumpkin patches, pumpkin lattes, and corn mazes. The sun sets a little bit earlier, the air gets cooler, the trees shed their colored leaves, and party stores are itching to make a big buck as one of the biggest holidays in America approaches – Halloween. Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday after Christmas. One quarter of all candy sold in the United States is sold for Halloween and this country spends roughly $5 billion per year celebrating it.
(for more information on Halloween click on this link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/30/the-history-of-halloween_n_321021.html)
ORIGIN OF HALLOWEEN
Halloween comes from “All Hallows Eve” which was celebrated every October 31, marking the end of summer for northwestern Europe. It is believed that around the time of Christ in what is now modern day Ireland and Scotland, the end of summer was celebrated on this day. This time was a transition between summer and winter and there was much superstition that the spirits of the dead came out to find bodies to possess. As a result, people began to dress in costumes in order to confuse and frighten the spirits away. When the Catholic Church moved into this geographical area around the 5th century, it adopted November 1st as “All Hallows Eve” in which all the saints of the Catholic Church were honored. Much later, on November 2nd, people would go door to door saying prayers for the dead relatives of the houses they visited since they believed the dead were in a purgatory state, thus their prayers could determine whether their loved ones ended up in heaven or hell.
THE BIBLE IS AGAINST THE OCCULT
First, let’s be clear that God’s Word is against all things concerning witches, the occult, and paganism.
“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 whosoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-12
Christians are not to participate in anything having to do with the occult. Common things of that nature that we see today are psychics, séances, tarot card reading, palm reading, items considered to bring luck. We must not engage with things that clearly open us up to demonic influence and oppression.
TO HALLOW OR NOT HALLOW
Because of its pagan origins, many Christians today reject Halloween as a demonic holiday. But it is a quite a stretch to label a little girl in a bumble bee costume as demonic. Some will say, “Ah, see, Satan is an angel who disguises himself in light.” Still, I do not recall in my lifetime anyone who claimed allegiance to Satan today because they put on a cute uniform or princess costume. A question we must ask ourselves today is to what extent does the evolution of Halloween, or anything else for that matter, from pagan roots give us the notion that it is completely tainted in today’s culture? It is true that dressing up as a demon or dead person is a tricky issue but to say that the physical action of wearing a costume, whether of a skeleton or a cowboy, opens you up to demonic oppression is a bit farfetched and naïve.
It can be easy to call out Halloween as demonic because of the outward appearance what some people might wear or through their actions. However, our inward emotions and thoughts that come from our hearts are usually dismissed, when they are clearly works of the flesh. Jesus was concerned more about our hearts than our exterior. In Mark 7:21-23 he explains that the fruit we bear is tied to the condition of our hearts, not necessarily to what is outside of our bodies, our attire. In other words, we sin because our hearts are sinful. Not because other things outside of us are the primary source of our sin. There is indeed validity to a certain extent that external variables factor into people’s sin, but we sin primarily and foremost because we are sinful at heart. Our hearts have the propensity to have besetting sins and will always seek a way to manifest themselves outwardly. If I am practicing divination and want to open myself up to the occult and the world of the dead, it is because of the condition of my heart, not because putting on a Freddy Kruger mask invited the occult into my heart.
THREE COMMON OPTIONS
Christians usually take three routes with Halloween. One is to out rightly reject it and have absolutely nothing to do with it. They turn off their lights inside their homes on October 31st and do not answer the door bell. Or perhaps put a sign on their door that says, “Sorry, no candy.” Option two is what you call a “Hail Mary” in the sport of football. It is to give out candy and slip in a Bible tract hoping a child reads it and will miraculously bow down and confess Jesus is Lord down the block before the night is over sparking a revival made up primarily of witches, goblins, demons, and Jack-O-Lanterns. They won’t allow their children to dress up in any costume and will probably sit at their desk having lunch by themselves while everyone else is eating in the conference room at the Halloween party. They are not totally bothered by Halloween but are not interested in indulging in the festivities too much or at all. Others will do a third option and dress up their children (and themselves), scream “boos” and maybe even attend a haunted house and retire the evening by watching their favorite horror flick.
DISAGREEMENT ON HALLOWEEN IS NOT CAUSE FOR DIVISION
This is for all the Christians reading this post. Stop being mean to one another over differences of opinion on Halloween. If you don’t want to celebrate Halloween, don’t look down on those who do. If you do celebrate Halloween, don’t accuse the rest who don’t as self-righteous, modern day Pharisees. We all have conscientious reasons to partake or abstain from the festivities of this day. 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 shows us that we can follow our consciences in light of this holiday and many other issues not dealt with specifically by the Bible. It is OK to disagree on Halloween with fellow believers in your local body without accusing one another of being legalists or liberals.
Some reading this may be disappointed that the intent of this blog is neither to validate nor condemn Halloween, as much as it is to validate the importance of using this day to share the gospel with people who need to hear the good news and condemn any judgment toward individuals who partake or abstain from it. For some, this blog post did not go far enough in prohibition and for other this blog post gave too much license to sin. It should be noted however, that total abstinence from this holiday and total embrace are not ideal. Total abstinence from this holiday will be yet another missed opportunity for the church to engage the culture at large with gospel of Christ. Total abstinence does not give us a good vantage point from which to penetrate the culture with the gospel. On the other hand, a total embrace of Halloween might trivialize some rightful concerns about this holiday of some thoughtful, sound-minded believers, and be a missed opportunity to effectively engage the culture with the gospel and make a distinction between worldly an Christian values. As with many other events and holidays in or culture, we must affirm and confront a culture in order to effectively contextualize the gospel to our audience without compromising our faith.
Either extreme is not ideal, rather more thoughtful, compassionate, gospel-centered approaches to engage your culture with the gospel are much needed this October 31st. Let this day be a day where you can allow the truth of the gospel dispel the forces of darkness, and also use wisdom and setting some boundaries while having some fun.
BE ON MISSION ON OCTOBER 31ST
Regardless of where you stand, the Church is on mission 24/365 (24 hours every day of the year). The Church does not take a day off…ever. The members of the body of Christ are missionaries in their homes, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. Just like we seek to bring truth and clarity to the Americanized and paganized versions of Christmas and Easter, we must do this on Halloween. It’s true that Halloween is not really hi-jacking the story of Jesus in a direct way like Santa and the Easter Bunny try to diminish the precious doctrines of the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, but nonetheless the majority of Christians celebrate these holidays although these holidays have been believed to have pagan origins as well. The church should not take October 31st off. The church should be on mission on Halloween. I am not advocating that you participate in Halloween, nor that you abstain from it. That is up to your conscience and thoughtful prayer. While there is nothing wrong with dressing up as a butterfly and collect candy, we should definitely not indulge in scanty, sensual costumes (Galatians 5:19) or indulge in binge drinking parties (Ephesians 5:18).
Whatever your view of Halloween is, determine to be on mission this 31st of October. Halloween can be a great opportunity to meet your neighbors that you wouldn’t meet otherwise. (Yes, we might think that some of our neighbors are so evil it is only fitting that they would come out on Halloween!) Open your home to your neighborhood and allow people to walk in and meet you and your family, offer them a hot coffee, or cider. Slip a bible tract along with their candy while you’re at it or provide information on your local church or community group. Halloween is a great opportunity for a church community group to get together and “put their faces out” (no gory pun intended) so the neighborhood sees there is a group of believers who gather at a home nearby weekly. Allow your children to meet your neighbors’ children and start friendships that will surpass October 31st. Offer your child’s teacher a fruit gift for his or her students from your community group. Let Halloween be an opportunity for God’s people to get together, jeer and mock the devil, and impact their local neighborhood with the gospel of Jesus Christ.