The Christian Response to Halloween
Chris LeggChris Legg is a licensed minister and professional counselor; he is the Campus Pastor for FBC Tyler’s South Campus; he also runs a thriving therapy practice in Tyler, Texas… counseling, speaking and consulting. He is a graduate of Texas A&M and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, with Master’s degrees in Religious Ed. and Marriage and Family Therapy, and has developed the Phalanx discipleship ministry for men. Chris and his lovely wife Ginger have been honeymooning since 1993, and have been blessed with three great kids: Mark, Ellie, and Holland. Chris can be contacted at 903 561 8663 or firstname.lastname@example.org Check out Phalanx, articles, and other resources at his website at www.chrismlegg.com.
- 2012 Oct 29
This has been one of the most popular articles I have written, especially this time of the year… so here it is re-released!
“This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I remember as a kid wandering around the neighborhood with other kids, all of us dressed in costumes, and going house to house greeting neighbors I rarely saw at other times… usually parents would come along – mine always did. I would guess that it was the only time that our neighborhood gathered or united together for anything in a typical year.
I also remember when due to a combination of fearful Christian teachings and the rumors of reports (which turned out to be false, as I understand it*) of people poisoning candy and putting razors in apples, we stopped trick-or-treating for a few years. *http://www.snopes.com/horrors/poison/halloween.asp
Over the years, I consistently heard the Christian teaching on Halloween become more isolationist. I heard about how Halloween was “The Devil’s Day” (or even the Devil’s Birthday!) when pagan Druids did evil things and that Christians should essentially avoid doing anything on that day that would smack of a Halloween celebration. What did we have to do with the celebration of witches, ghosts, goblins, and candy corn (especially the ones with the brown layer made especially for Halloween), on the Devil’s Birthday, anyway?
So, the evangelicals generally boycotted Halloween for what seemed like at least a decade. Some still do.
In the last decade, there have been some changes. Now, many of our churches are hosting “Fall Festivals” that happen to fall on the same weekend as Halloween and have lots of candy (ironic, since the pagans celebrated what would loosely be a “harvest” or “fall” festival and “Hallowe’en” (“All Hallowed Day’s Evening”) was theChristian name for the celebration). At least, we seem to see this as our token capitulation – if the kids are going to be doing bad things in Satan’s name, we can at least give them a righteous version of that event… or at best, perhaps we are just doing what our ancestors did: throwing a bigger and better party than the pagans.
In my extensive and maybe exhausting (not an accident) discussion of the history of Halloween and other holidays (http://chrismlegg.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/historical-understanding-of-halloween/) I reference how so many of the pagan practices have been absorbed in our celebrations of Easter, Christmas, and Halloween… but that is not actually precisely what I really believe. It happened for sure, but something else happened first. The thing that happened first was that the pagans tried to absorb some the good things of God’s creation!
I believe that God created everything… first… and still owns everything.
I believe that God, not druids, created evergreen trees to be green all year long.
I believe that God, not pagans, created bunnies, eggs, and bright colors.
I believe that God, not witches, created pumpkins, harvest, and children having fun.
I think it is error for us to abdicate ANYTHING to Satan. Just because some of his representatives throughout time have tried to take control of some of the things God, in His artistic brilliance, designed and brought into creation, doesn’t mean they get to own it!
October 31st, this year, and every year, is a day the Lord has made. I think we should rejoice and be glad in it. Satan doesn’t get a day. He didn’t make one, and though he may be the governor of Earth at some level at this time (a discussion for another day), he created none of it.
Of course, as a family, we have some boundaries about what our kids can dress as… but that is not primarily about us thinking that it is inherently evil for them to dress as mythical or even pagan symbols… since they come up with some pretty crazy things in their own imaginations. Plus, if we really examine it, our standards are pretty cultural, not moral (we would probably say no to an axe murderer costume, but not to a Darth Vader costume… no to a witch, but not to an Egyptian princess (who I assume would have have been a polytheistic pagan too)) I recognize and accept the tough line being drawn there… Honestly, I prefer them to dress up (and this is in regards my children, who often dress up to some degree almost every single day! As I mentioned in the Phalanx, my eldest son wore a cape for 2 years!http://phalanxmen.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/phalanx-introduction-2/) as people or ideals that we can find something honorable or admirable in them to appreciate (Phil 4:8)… like heroes, princesses, and race car drivers (ok, so that last one is a stretch
None of this is about denial – I believe that evil spirits and devils exist… as well as axe murders, hippies in too-short skirts or French maids, but we do avoid glamorizing such things with our children. These are icons that communicate something. It isn’t fear that causes me to avoid them, but I want my children to think of Holiness and modesty as not flippant topics. Man, being a parent can be tough, can’t it?
…but primarily these choices end up being about appropriate dress (modesty), not too scary for other kids (compassion), not ’gilding’ something that has nothing good in it… and of course, we make an attempt at avoiding offending… based on theRomans 14 mindset.
So much about the grace filled life is about motivation and the heart behind something. The kids design faces and we carve pumpkins pretty much every year, and some years the kids pick scary faces. We are not trying to scare off evil spirits (we count on our Savior and His hosts for that), or celebrate something evil. We just enjoy goopy, messy, creative fun with dad.
Great evidence of the truth that this day is not somehow owned by Satan, is that almost 500 years ago, on this date in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church. Though the Christian reformation had been ongoing for many years, this date marks whenthe Protestant Reformation was finally fanned into a rolling flame. God’s Day, not Satan’s.
So, my vote is that Christians don’t bunker up or hunker down with their dark porches and hide behind the couches on the “Devil’s Day” with crucifixes in hand and the guns loaded.
I vote we have fun and celebrate as only people with new life, abundant life, and eternal life, can.
Celebrate this day as others – it is good as a reminder of the lives and deaths of Christian Martyrs, many of whom will likely die on this day again this year, as on every other day of the year (www.persecution.com)! Thank God for His faithfulness. Have fun with your neighbors on typically the one day that neighbors join together on something anymore – make the most of it! Meet them, greet them and invite them back for dessert and love them in the name of Jesus Christ… and love their little witches, axe murderers and even Power Rangers who come knocking at your door.
But that’s just my opinion.