Just Another Bum from the Neighborhood on Halloween
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2013 Oct 31
It’s easy to start a fight between Christians; just talk about Halloween. The first jab comes from those who don’t participate by calling attention to pagan associations and other things nefarious. The counter-punch comes from those who don’t want their kids to miss out on all the fun. “You guys are just legalistic spoil-sports,” they say. That exchange is followed by a flurry of blows: one to the gut: “we only go to fall festival at church;” another to the head: “we only celebrate Reformation Day – you fall festival guys are compromised.” Then the more spiritual among us try to land the knock-out-punch by laying a guilt trip on those who don’t party with their neighbors to build relationships and hand out gospel tracts. Talk about a bar-room brawl.
Al Mohler highlights some issues old and new. Hollywood’s influence on the day with the advent of slasher movies combined with post-Christian secularism’s increasing fascination with the occult should give Christians pause. He challenges us to scorn Satan and pray for reformation of the church.
Michele Blake provides a personal perspective on why she gave up Halloween. Even if she gets a few facts wrong one can’t ignore her straightforward biblical appeal or the fact that our modern version of Halloween is generally celebratory of evil, death, gore, and immorality even if some Christians dress-up otherwise.
Steven Wedgeworth details the origin and history of Halloween. He challenges some of the rhetoric concerning Halloween’s pagan origins. His premise is we can’t know what to do without knowing to what we’re reacting. He then notes: “Once we remove the mythology from the Halloween critique, we still have to deal with the overt sexuality of more recent teenage and adult costumes and the sensationalism of gore. Holidays have always been known for allowing otherwise good folks to pretend to be bad for short time. But it is not obvious that Christians can defend participation in this sort of practice simply on the grounds that it is a frivolity.”
“Well, ya see, sir I understand you're lookin' for sparrin' partners for Apollo, and I jus' want ta let ya know that I am very available.” In other words, it’s not the smartest thing to do but let me throw my hat in the ring.
I appreciate Mohler’s cultural perspective and challenge. I’m grateful for Wedgeworth’s commitment to facts. But it’s Blake’s post that really resonates with me and where I’ve been for twenty years after doing the Halloween thing as a kid; then embracing the fall festival thing as a new parent and dressing up our two-year-old as a shepherd-boy; and moving on to the Reformation Day thing as a pastor until I realized that Baptists are not reformed even if they believe in predestination (though we still celebrate much of what transpired in the Reformation). In other words, our kids have never been trick-or-treating and these days we don’t do anything different on Halloween than we do any other day.
Here’s what I’m thinking: “it really don't matter if I lose this fight. . . . Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. . . if I can go that distance . . . and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know . . . that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.” Read the articles I referenced and then ask yourself some questions. Why would I celebrate death when death is the enemy and Christ died to overcome it? Why would I celebrate evil when God hates it? Why would I call harmless what God doesn’t? What am I missing in the American playground if I don’t do Halloween? Why would I not want to send a message that Christ has changed my life and I don’t participate in darkness or at least I don’t have a love affair with cultural holidays? Am I absolutely certain it’s okay to do Halloween? The bible says its sin if I’m not certain. Moreover, it’s one thing to eat meat that may have been sacrificed to idols without question but it’s another thing to go to the temple and ask for it. And, if I feel certain it’s okay, am I more influenced by my culture or my flesh than I am by the scriptures? You have to search the scriptures to understand and to inform your conscience. Am I just looking for an excuse to pretend to be bad for a short time? Do I just not want to deal with my friends thinking I’m weird? Do I seriously believe rejecting Halloween will deprive my kids? You get the idea.
My neighbors do Halloween but I’m not “just another bum (translate typical American in this context and nothing derogatory) from the neighborhood.” I’m a Christian. I’m not missing out on anything; I have Christ. I don’t celebrate death; I celebrate life in His Name. And because I love my neighbors I do seek to build a relationship with each one of them – but I do that all year long. So no I don’t party with them on Halloween. So get your own legalistic log out. “Cut me Mick.”
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