The Cross & the Pen: What to Do about Halloween?
- Wednesday, October 29, 2003
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.
Eva: Steve, 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.
Eva: Sounds 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.
Eva: Oh, 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.
Eva: What 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.
The ancient Celts did put on animal skins and heads as they danced around bonfires on October 31. But there is something more closely linked to modern tradition in the 1930s. Up until that time, October 31 in this country was basically a day of pranks, similar to April Fools Day. The pranks got out-of-hand so civic and government leaders in New Jersey met to discuss the problem. Their solution was to encourage kids in the community to go door-to-door saying “trick or treat’ – dressed in a costume – and in turn the neighbors would give them a treat.
Eva: I went trick or treating and I'll bet you did, too. My children, however, went to church and school carnivals because of what I consider my spiritual enlightenment...and I find I'm not alone. Why are we becoming more aware?
Steve: More and more parents – both Christian and non-Christian – are looking for safe, fun alternatives on Halloween. Part of this is due to the insecurity we all feel in our culture today, which was magnified as a result of 9/11. Parents want their kids to have fun in a controlled environment free from worry. Plus we are seeing a greater number of people in our culture searching for spiritual meaning in life.
Eva: You give 5 excellent principles for discerning how a Christian should handle Halloween. Will you share the "bottom lines" with us?
Steve: Sure. Here we go:
1. Not everything is constructive 1 Cor. 10:23
2. Guard against unholy practices Deut. 18:10-13
3. Stay focused on what is good & pure Phil. 4:8
4. Sidestep all evil 1 Thess. 5:22
5. Be aware of the battle Eph. 6:12
Eva: You also tell us to "be on guard." How can we do that?
Steve: We need to be aware of the multiple ways that the devil can attack us and influence our thinking. This doesn’t mean that we have to be paranoid, just on the alert. 1 Peter 5:8 puts it this way: “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The bottom line is to be selective what we allow into our minds and not give into the temptation to ‘dabble in the darkness.’
Eva: What are our responsibilities as Christians when it comes to Halloween?
Steve: I don’t believe as Christians that we should celebrate what Halloween has come to represent in our culture. Instead I think we need to participate in healthy alternatives that give us the opportunity to turn on the light of the Gospel. These alternatives could be as simple as handing out tracks with candy to trick-or-treaters to having a harvest festival at your church.
Eva: Steve, in closing, will you offer a prayer to the Lord for our parents and children during this holiday season?
Steve: Father, I ask for your blessing on parents and children this holiday season. Protect us from the forces of darkness and help us to be lights in a dark and confused culture pointing the way to Jesus. Thank you for your love and precious gift of eternal life. In Jesus name. Amen.
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams, Summon the Shadows and the recently released and highly anticipated Shadows of Light (Barbour Publishing). She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at www.EvaMarieEverson.com
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