Welcome to “The Cross & the Pen,” Crosswalk.com’s author-to-author interview column. Steve Russo (Halloween: What's a Christian to Do?/Harvest House Publishers) and I met via phone… and what a meeting it was! We chatted about everything from the world as it used to be to the world as it is and everything in between…including drumming for the Lord. Steve’s world is a little “fiery” right now (he lives in California where fires blaze out of control) and I’m sure he’d appreciate our prayers for him, his family and his home.

EvaSteve, first tell me about your family, children, etc.

Steve:  I’m married and have three children – twins that are 17 (a boy and a girl) and a little girl who’s 7 and thinks she’s 17! I’m an evangelist and host of the radio program "Real Answers" and co-host of Focus on the Family’s weekly teen talk radio show “Life on the Edge Live!” I’m also the featured speaker on the weekly TV show 24/SEVEN as well as a professional drummer and author.

EvaSounds like you have a full life! Okay, Steve. Bottom line; is the devil for real?

Steve: According to George Barna of the Barna Research Group, over 50 percent of those who call themselves Christians do not believe that the devil is real. Yet the Bible is very clear that the devil does exist. Ephesians 6 reminds us that we are all involved in a spiritual battle against the devil and the forces of darkness. This is a battle that will be won or lost between our ears. It’s a battle for the mind and the emotions.

EvaOh, I like how you said that… “between our ears.” That’s truly food for thought. Steve, if half of us don’t believe the devil is for real, then why do you think society is so interested in things that are evil?

 

Steve: People in our culture have become gradually desensitized to evil. It has permeated every dimension of society. It is enticing and seduction. And it represents hidden and forbidden power. And power is something we all want. We want it to change our lives and help us deal with the issues and difficulties that we face day-to-day.

Eva: Why did you want to write this book?

Steve: I wrote this book in response to the extreme and confusing way that people respond to Halloween. I felt it was time to take a reasonable, sound look at the second most popular holiday in the U.S. and offer some solid biblically based answers for people on how to best respond to the holiday. I wanted to remove the guilt that some people were dealing with and offer some practical alternatives for concerned parents.

Eva:  I, for one, can’t thank you enough for it, Steve. Like I’ve told you before, I think your book is the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject and I think one of the things that helped was your complete history of Halloween. We don’t have time here for all that, so can you give us a brief history of Halloween?

Steve:  Ultimately Halloween has its roots with the ancient Celtic people who practiced Druid beliefs. October 31st was the last day of the their year and the day of the harvest festival Samhain. The New Year was November 1st and was called the “Day of the Dead.” In an effort to redefine and refocus some of these festivals, early church leaders established November 1st as “All Saints Day” and November 2nd as “All Souls Day.” We get our word ‘Halloween’ from the glossing together of the phrase “All Hallows Eve” – hallow means saint. So this day actually has some Christian roots to it.

EvaWhat about the background of dressing up, "trick or treat," and carving pumpkins?

Steve: Carving pumpkins comes from an Irish traditional story about “Irish Jack.” He was a stingy drunk who tricks the devil into climbing a tree and carves a cross at the bottom of the tree. Irish Jack makes a deal with the devil not to claim his soul when he dies. As the story is told, when Irish Jack dies, heaven won’t take him because he was a drunk and stingy, but hell won’t take him either because of his deal with the devil so he is condemned to wander the earth. As he was leaving hell Irish Jack was eating a turnip. The devil threw a hot coal at him and Irish Jack caught it in the turnip. The Irish started the tradition of carving turnips on Halloween and putting a candle in them to chase away evil spirits. When Irish immigrants came to America they brought this tradition with them, but started carving pumpkins because turnips were not in great supply.