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some halloween thoughts

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The issue of Halloween has become a tool of growing division among Christians over recent years. Is Halloween harmless fun or something sinister? Should our families participate in the celebration just as it is or reject any association with it whatsoever? Or is there a third option that allows us to be light in the darkness?

CONFLICTING POINTS

For some Christians, the pagan roots of Halloween and the present day emphasis on ‘dark’ themes are enough reason to avoid associating themselves with it in any way. For these believers, Scriptures such as Deuteronomy 18:9-13 teach valuable principles that should be applied to this issue: “be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations” (NLT). This position is further supported by the obvious emphasis on non-Christian themes at Halloween, such as witches, ghosts, and what appears to be a celebration of fear, death, and the macabre. These Christians raise a valid question in asking how these themes fit with our clear biblical mandate to focus on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, etc. (Philippians 4:8).
Other Christians argue that there is nothing “detestable” to God about carving a happy face in a pumpkin or giving candy to costumed children. On the contrary, these believers see Halloween as a fun family occasion that can be an opportunity for harmless creativity and valuable interaction with neighbours.

PAGAN ROOTS

There can be no doubt that what we call “Halloween” is a cultural adaptation of an originally pagan festival. The fall festival of Samhain was practised by ancient Druids to mark the end of summer and the beginning of the dark winter months believed to be the season of evil spirits and death.
For Christians this leads to the question – Should the origin of something determine our ongoing attitude toward it?

REDEMPTION VS. REJECTION

Interesting enough, the Christian Church has a history of redeeming rather than rejecting traditions that grew out of non-Christian cultures. As William Booth (the founder of The Salvation Army) has argued, through Jesus we can set out to redeem many things that Satan has intended for evil. By redeeming them we are not trying to obliterate them, but rather to transform them for godly purposes. Since Constantine (by no means the ultimate example of good Christian leadership), this has been the Church’s primary way of dealing with her enemies – she makes them her friends. And in befriending them, she allows God to transform them. Let’s look at some examples…

  1. First is the issue of music. Most forms of music we listen to were originated by non-Christians and have been used for very ungodly purposes. Yet God has been able to work through these forms of music when the artist and his or her work becomes dedicated to him. The early ‘hymns’ of the Salvation Army, with melodies taken from popular bar tunes of their day, are excellent illustrations of this as are the hymns of Luther and others.
  2. Another example can be found in a custom we all participate in almost every time we greet a person in any semiformal situation. Can you guess? Although Paul commands us to greet each other with a holy kiss, modern westernized Christians have exchanged that custom for a handshake without concern for the historic roots of the practice. When meeting each other, ancient warriors would ask to see the other’s hands in order to check for concealed weapons. Shaking hands, a custom embraced by Christians, originated in a tradition of doubt and distrust. Still, the church has not abandoned this practice but has encouraged its use to convey a new message – one of fellowship. In fact, some have even labeled our act of welcoming a newcomer as giving them “the right hand of fellowship”, when it was originally “the right hand of suspicion.”
  3. A third and more applicable example is that of Christmas and Easter. Although both Christmas and Easter were originally holidays to honour pagan deities, the early Christians found a way to “redeem” these events. Instead of trying to crush the celebrations, the Church gave them new meaning. The result has been annual reminders of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of God’s Son. (Santa and the Easter Bunny notwithstanding.)

Those who object to pumpkin carving, costume wearing, or going door-to-door for candy should also be expected not to have a Christmas tree, or to decorate eggs at Easter (practices that likewise, originated in pagan tradition). And as far as chocolate bunnies are concerned—they are right out.

ALL HALLOWS EVE

The fact is, this concept of redemption rather than rejection is one which the Christian church has already applied to Halloween in the distant past. Remember that pagan festival of Samhain mentioned earlier? It was itself converted to become the Christian celebration of “All Saints Day” – a day to commemorate God’s work in the lives of his people. The evening before All Saints Day was entitled “All Hallows (or Hallowed) Eve”. Sound familiar? Yes, it is this Christian title that has been adapted to label present-day Halloween.
So, what we call “Halloween” today comes from an uncomfortable mix of Christian and pagan roots. This may move some Christians to denounce any real or apparent association with Halloween whatsoever. Others might argue that present day “Halloween” is actually a Christian celebration that has been hijacked by modem day neo-paganism and thus should be reclaimed by Christians for the glory of God. Each perspective is somewhat rooted in history and should be respected by those who disagree.

PAUL’S POSITION

Did you know that the New Testament church faced a very similar controversy in its day? Should believers participate in a meal even when the meat may have been used in the worship of pagan deities? This was a question of great concern for many early Christians. The parallels between these two issues are striking and Paul’s response on the matter of meat eating is certainly applicable to our treatment of Halloween. In Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, and the last portion of 1 Corinthians 10 Paul conveys a number of principles for dealing with such controversial and potentially divisive issues, some of which are as follows…

  1. The original use of something does not make it wrong to participate in.
  2. If someone’s conscience is not clear, they should not be forced to participate in it.
  3. Those who feel free to participate should not flaunt their freedom in the face of their “weaker” brothers and sisters.
  4. Regardless of their opinion on the issue at hand, no believers should harshly judge those with whom they disagree.

…Sounds like good advice to me!

A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

If you haven’t already guessed, I tend to agree with those who seek to redeem rather than reject Halloween – even though I am understanding of and sympathetic toward those who hold another point of view and would not wish to cause any offense.

My recommendation? Each family must work through this issue as a family and respond as their conscience allows them. As Paul says in Acts 24:16 – “I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and everyone else.” (NLT). Those whose conscience does not allow them to take a participatory route with regard to Halloween should be encouraged to be true to their conscience according to Romans 14:14 and 23.
For those whose conscience is clear, rather than boycott Halloween, let’s use this peculiar event as an opportunity for celebration, ministry, and redemptive fun! Some suggestions…

  1. Many Christian families use the opportunity to get to know people in their neighbourhood by welcoming trick-or-treaters and their parents into their homes for a few moments of social interaction.
  2. Others place gospel tracts into bags along with candies using the ‘spiritual’ emphasis of Halloween to draw attention to the spiritual life and freedom from fear only Christ can bring. We have pamphlets available at our church for this purpose. Of course, if you use them, you had better make sure your house gives out the best candy on the block!
  3. Parties, whether in homes or church buildings, can provide children and adults the opportunity for fun and fellowship. This can be another great way to reach out to our community. As children of God, we should lead the way in knowing how to celebrate, and what better time for all saints to party than the eve of All Saints Day

The true challenge for Christians is to bring the character of Christ into all that we do, not to avoid doing all that we can. The way we welcome people to our door, the costumes we select, the games we play, the attitude we convey – these are the issues to which I recommend we focus our energies.

I have no doubt that, like many issues, there are a number of people reading this who may hold differing opinions on the issue of Halloween. In the words of that wise old sage, Tony the Tiger: “Grrrrrreat!” Diversity of opinion within unity of faith is a beautiful, challenging, and ultimately healthy thing. When confronted with those who hold a decidedly opposing position, we should always heed Paul’s words in Romans 14:19 – “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (NIV).

11 Comments

  1. Not inconsequentially many if not most of ancient Israel’s festivals, harvest etc., corresponded to surrounding pagan customs but were transformed and hallowed to conform to God’s revelation.

  2. Thanks Bruxy – we have come to embrace the moment as an opportunity to show our love for the children in our community and make connections with them. We have so little opportunity to talk to each other behind our closed doors (live in a very suburban quiet neighbourhood) that I embrace any time the community comes out. I get so excited to see and welcome everyone. At least, I hope with my positive rapport with the neighbourhood that if anyone needs anything or when I approach them with Meeting House flyers – they see me as a positive and caring person. It is all about creating good vibes and beautiful residue through every encounter.

  3. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. I have a version if this from about 6 years ago in Toronto I held onto it and thiught it was in my bible today but it wasn’t. I quickly googled and found your blog.
    I appreciate that you do the homework and share it in such a digestible way so that as Christians we don’t have to be so ignorant. We are and have been too ignorant for too long
    All the best. Kathryn

  4. This is a subject where I have gone down this road years ago, and over the years I have found that objects or special days have no power in them other than what you do with them and your heart sentiment about them. Christmas trees, Santa, Halloween pumpkins, Easter bunnies, playing cards, even peace signs and occult symbols only derive their power over you by your feelings toward them. There is an extremely fine line between good and evil and one or the other only becomes concrete by our actions or sentiments. Better yet, they only derive substance from the driving force of our actions or thoughts. In my book I describe the difference between good and evil as being one of two driving forces in us. One is ‘EGO’ (self) being the driving force behind all we consider evil and the other is ‘LOVE’ (no self or selflessness) being the force behind all the we consider righteous or good.
    The best definition of love is: no self. The more you love someone or something the more it is about what you love and the less it is about yourself, even the care for yourself becomes about being there for who or what you love. (God is love: run with that one for a while.)
    Ego on the other hand is all about self: our selfish carnal, survival of the flesh nature – me, me, me I, I, I. When you think about all that you consider sinful you find this to be your driving force, even pride is but a derivative of this. It is the base that all sin comes from when you consider it and love is the base that all righteousness comes from.
    It is not the action that determines what is good or evil but the driving force behind that action or thought. Sex being a good example as seen in the difference between making love to your loving wife giving all in the beauty of sharing each other and sex in the form of rape. Action basically is the same but the driving force behind the action is totally opposite making one, one of the most beautiful things imaginable and the other in its selfish drive disregarding the other person altogether, being one of the most horrendous things imaginable.
    Getting back to the subject at hand considering what I have just said: Christmas, Easter, and Halloween although derived from pagan holidays does not make them evil. They are just another day and only what we do with them makes them evil or good. To try to turn them around to justify them or excuse them by turning them into some Christian gimmick is not good though. It tends to make your actions a fallacy and portrays some justification of the holiday which obviously is not your true feelings in the matter. It also tends to lead to confusion in our youth and feeds a lifetime habit of living in a false fantasy world of justification. Not good.
    I find no fault in celebrating these days or even many of the traditions accompanied with them. It is what is in your heart that is important and it is what God sees. It is great to take the day that the world’s eyes and thoughts are fixed on the birth of Christ and because of the connectivity of us all, a global emotion is in play and to celebrate His birth on that day is a wonderful thing and puts something really good into the world.
    Easter: same thing and we should take the time to celebrate and ponder the sacrifice Christ made for our redemption back to the Father. I’m not sure about ham being the holiday meat considering the Jews sentiments on eating pork, especially on their holiest holiday of the year!
    Halloween on the other hand, regardless of its origins of ‘All Saints Day’ somewhat hiding the fact that it really was a pagan druid holiday where they would leave a jack-o-lantern with a candle made from human fat on the doorstep of the household of a virgin designated for sacrifice. (Just one of the many legends of the origins of Halloween.) Today Halloween has become a celebration of all things demonic and evil. Although this is obviously not a good thing to celebrate as Christians it does provide a very important opportunity for us to teach our youth about these things that they need to learn about what is evil and an understanding of them. Unfortunately as human beings we all have to make our own personal choices in live about who we will choose to serve and trying to shelter our kids from the knowledge of evil will not deter them much in their decisions later on. It actually gives good opportunity to teach them truthfully about these things and the dangers that they incur. To falsely turn it into some Christian gimmick in an attempt to allow them to participate in the holiday is not really (as I see it) a good idea.
    I don’t have a problem with kids dressing up and going trick or treating and just having an all out good fun kids time. In their innocence it is just fun and a good chance to connect with others and fit in and not be left out, which creates greater problems than the trick or treating and dressing up would ever do. Take the time to explain to them what witches, demons, goblins, ghosts, monsters, and all these evil things are and why, and what they bring. Maybe use a bit of tact in your explicative, but they need to know the truth and Halloween provides great opportunity to give them that. I wish people had been more honest when I was a kid and explained things more. Show some care in what you allow them to participate in but remember that most of this to them is just a chance to connect with their friends and not necessarily a celebration of evil. Don’t try to turn it into something Christian, it is not. It’s as annoying as someone showing up at a funeral and trying to turn it into a wedding party.
    Constantine did a number on the church when he was having to much problem with Christians in his empire and decided to embrace them rather than fight them, so to please everyone he and later on other leaders of the church amalgamated the old pagan ways with Christian. The multiple gods were replaced by the different saints that were prayed to instead of Christ. The saint of travel, the saint of fire, the saint of fertility, the saint of healing, etc. of course the holidays would follow suit.
    In the end it is all about the heart. Honestly check to see where your heart is in the matter and if you find yourself attempting to justify in some way I’d bet you’ll run into trouble and compromise the truth and your relationship with God. God is a spirit and we worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH. As a Christian I find myself hungering for the truth in everything, 100% truth and get annoyed by anything that compromises that 100%. The details are not that relevant but the foundation is everything and that foundation is Christ revealed to us by the Holy Spirit living within us. Trust Him!

  5. This is a subject where I have gone down this road years ago, and over the years I have found that objects or special days have no power in them other than what you do with them and your heart sentiment about them. Christmas trees, Santa, Halloween pumpkins, Easter bunnies, playing cards, even peace signs and occult symbols only derive their power over you by your feelings toward them. There is an extremely fine line between good and evil and one or the other only becomes concrete by our actions or sentiments. Better yet, they only derive substance from the driving force of our actions or thoughts. In my book I describe the difference between good and evil as being one of two driving forces in us. One is ‘EGO’ (self) being the driving force behind all we consider evil and the other is ‘LOVE’ (no self or selflessness) being the force behind all the we consider righteous or good.
    The best definition of love is: no self. The more you love someone or something the more it is about what you love and the less it is about yourself, even the care for yourself becomes about being there for who or what you love. (God is love: run with that one for a while.)
    Ego on the other hand is all about self: our selfish carnal, survival of the flesh nature – me, me, me I, I, I. When you think about all that you consider sinful you find this to be your driving force, even pride is but a derivative of this. It is the base that all sin comes from when you consider it and love is the base that all righteousness comes from.
    It is not the action that determines what is good or evil but the driving force behind that action or thought. Sex being a good example as seen in the difference between making love to your loving wife giving all in the beauty of sharing each other and sex in the form of rape. Action basically is the same but the driving force behind the action is totally opposite making one, one of the most beautiful things imaginable and the other in its selfish drive disregarding the other person altogether, being one of the most horrendous things imaginable.
    Getting back to the subject at hand considering what I have just said: Christmas, Easter, and Halloween although derived from pagan holidays does not make them evil. They are just another day and only what we do with them makes them evil or good. To try to turn them around to justify them or excuse them by turning them into some Christian gimmick is not good though. It tends to make your actions a fallacy and portrays some justification of the holiday which obviously is not your true feelings in the matter. It also tends to lead to confusion in our youth and feeds a lifetime habit of living in a false fantasy world of justification. Not good.
    I find no fault in celebrating these days or even many of the traditions accompanied with them. It is what is in your heart that is important and it is what God sees. It is great to take the day that the world’s eyes and thoughts are fixed on the birth of Christ and because of the connectivity of us all, a global emotion is in play and to celebrate His birth on that day is a wonderful thing and puts something really good into the world.
    Easter: same thing and we should take the time to celebrate and ponder the sacrifice Christ made for our redemption back to the Father. I’m not sure about ham being the holiday meat considering the Jews sentiments on eating pork, especially on their holiest holiday of the year!
    Halloween on the other hand, regardless of its origins of ‘All Saints Day’ somewhat hiding the fact that it really was a pagan druid holiday where they would leave a jack-o-lantern with a candle made from human fat on the doorstep of the household of a virgin designated for sacrifice. (Just one of the many legends of the origins of Halloween.) Today Halloween has become a celebration of all things demonic and evil. Although this is obviously not a good thing to celebrate as Christians it does provide a very important opportunity for us to teach our youth about these things that they need to learn about what is evil and an understanding of them. Unfortunately as human beings we all have to make our own personal choices in live about who we will choose to serve and trying to shelter our kids from the knowledge of evil will not deter them much in their decisions later on. It actually gives good opportunity to teach them truthfully about these things and the dangers that they incur. To falsely turn it into some Christian gimmick in an attempt to allow them to participate in the holiday is not really (as I see it) a good idea.
    I don’t have a problem with kids dressing up and going trick or treating and just having an all out good fun kids time. In their innocence it is just fun and a good chance to connect with others and fit in and not be left out, which creates greater problems than the trick or treating and dressing up would ever do. Take the time to explain to them what witches, demons, goblins, ghosts, monsters, and all these evil things are and why, and what they bring. Maybe use a bit of tact in your explicative, but they need to know the truth and Halloween provides great opportunity to give them that. I wish people had been more honest when I was a kid and explained things more. Show some care in what you allow them to participate in but remember that most of this to them is just a chance to connect with their friends and not necessarily a celebration of evil. Don’t try to turn it into something Christian, it is not. It’s as annoying as someone showing up at a funeral and trying to turn it into a wedding party.
    Constantine did a number on the church when he was having to much problem with Christians in his empire and decided to embrace them rather than fight them, so to please everyone he and later on other leaders of the church amalgamated the old pagan ways with Christian. The multiple gods were replaced by the different saints that were prayed to instead of Christ. The saint of travel, the saint of fire, the saint of fertility, the saint of healing, etc. of course the holidays would follow suit.
    In the end it is all about the heart. Honestly check to see where your heart is in the matter and if you find yourself attempting to justify in some way I’d bet you’ll run into trouble and compromise the truth and your relationship with God. God is a spirit and we worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH. As a Christian I find myself hungering for the truth in everything, 100% truth and get annoyed by anything that compromises that 100%. The details are not that relevant but the foundation is everything and that foundation is Christ revealed to us by the Holy Spirit living within us. Trust Him!

  6. I read on the old web that “bar tunes” were actually just the medieval poetic meter, and hymns that were copied weren’t specifically bar songs but popular songs in general. That’s just what came up on google.

  7. We always had a Harvest Party and asked for no evil type costumes. But, of course, there were those that were guests that did come that way. Most of the time we tried to have a theme. I, personally hate the evil emphasis, the satanic high mass held on that night. But, my personal testimony, or rather that of my husband’s, is one that we really don’t want anything to do with evil. Had enough exposure to that before being saved. Nothing wrong with kids having a fun party, dressing up and getting enough candy to rot your teeth out. Lol. ☺️

  8. Hey Brux, thanks for this article. I know I’ve heard you speak about it before. While I was reading it, thoughts came to mind about the debate over yoga practices or “Christian” yoga classes etc. do you feel like this mindset applies appropriately to that as well? I don’t usually get into those debates but I feel like this would be a great reply to them. Cheryl

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