Halloween is almost here. This day has become a very popular one in our national culture. Our family has taken a stand of sorts over the years when it comes to celebrating the popular day recognized as Halloween. We basically recognize the day as Fall Harvest day and shy away of the pagan depiction of the day. We have handed out candy at times and have included some juvenile themed tracks as well during trick or treat. I found a Q&A link from the Bible Bulletin Board which is affiliated with Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California and it’s pastor John MacArthur that addresses this issue. What is your response? Please comment and check out my related new poll in the side bar.
What should Christians do with Halloween?
October 20, 2008 at 2:40 pm
While I respect every Christian’s individual choice, this is as close to a no-brainer as I can get. It’s an aweful and offensive holiday, accepted only because most have grown up with it and aren’t shaken enough by its vulgarity to question it. In this world of suffering, I can’t see celebrating the macabre, no matter how benign everyone tries to make it. Tradition is no excuse.
October 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm
No-brainer works for me Vlad. Thanks for the comment.
October 21, 2008 at 6:28 am
Quite an issue – we decided to allow Halloween as a cultural holiday. We remark to it as such in our conversations with the kids and allow them to dress and go out. We, of course, direct the children away from the macabre. I have actually found it to be useful in meeting people in the community. Halloween is one of the few times in which people are outside and welcoming one another on to their property.
October 22, 2008 at 10:15 am
Our family has never celebrated Halloween. We live far back so no one comes by anyway, and instead of scary stuff we’ve always watched a funny movie while we eat dinner in the family room. Occasionally we’ll carve a pumpkin.
Now that the kids are a little older (15 and 12), they go trick or treating with their friends as a social thing. They like the candy 🙂
October 22, 2008 at 11:40 am
I agree with you…like all U.S. holidays the actual holiday has less to do with the underlining purpose and actually more to do with the focus the parent puts forth with the child.
Think about Christmas and Easter for instance.
Christmas can be about Santa or Jesus
Easter about a huge bunny that hides crap in your yard or the resurrection of Christ.
So, with Halloween you can either sacrifice a goat to a pagan god, or you can have some fun with it and make sure the kids don’t go too far with it.
And by the way, if you get too stringent on this then you need to stop using the term “Sunday” at all, because Sunday is a term used to give homage to the sun god. It literally means, day of the sun.
October 22, 2008 at 11:41 am
I am going to blog on this soon, so thanks for the primer.
October 22, 2008 at 1:14 pm
Somehow I just don’t think focusing on the family is enough of a reason to support and encourage something like Halloween. I think I can do that on any particular day, and in many different fashions. Working within a certain vocabulary (it would just make it difficult to call it something other than “Sunday”) is not the same thing, though I agree that drawing the line isn’t straight-forward.
The ancient Jews and Christians were often persecuted for not conforming to contemporaneous culture, and a modern Christian should honor them, and the ethic of Scripture, by working through faith and praxis very carefully.
October 22, 2008 at 1:54 pm
Careful that you don’t become a Jehovah’s Witness on this 🙂
Because if you use your same logic with Halloween with other holidays and customs of the U.S., you will find yourself huddled on a farm making blankets from the sheep that you herd in the back hills of Pennsylvania. 🙂
I do think we need to be careful with holidays in general. But to say that since the roots of Halloween are pagan we should abhor or abstain from it, seems like twisted logic.
October 22, 2008 at 2:44 pm
I’m not even concerned about the roots at this point, but the nature of the custom and its ethos. Is everything game? Should this not be considered? As I said, I recognize the difficulty in drawing a line; and I’m simply showing where I draw it and why. My logic works on a case-by-case basis, and I don’t plan on rejecting or accepting every cultural practice.
I do not feel beholden to do as the Romans for the sake of doing it, and I certainly don’t need to do it so that I don’t look unorthodox or backwards.
October 25, 2008 at 8:51 pm
Barry Dean, I’m glad you started the conversation. This always seems to be one of the (surprisingly) most controversial conversations among Christians.
It should be obvious that Christians have very different approaches to Halloween and very different reasons for those approaches. Vlad, I think you may have gotten us off to a difficult start by saying you “respect” people’s differences in their approach to Halloween, while in the same sentence saying that it’s a “no-brainer” issue and that the holiday is inherently awful and offensive. If it were really a no brainer, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, would we?
On the other hand, while I understand Seth’s concern about going to the JW extreme on this, there may be very genuine reasons to be concerned about the CURRENT practices surrounding Halloween, not just the origins.
All that being said, here’s what we do in our family, for what it’s worth. We use Halloween on a practical level to meet and interact with our neighbors. Like Leo said, it does seem to be one of the few holidays where all your neighbors are out interacting with each other. For crying out loud, whether we “participate” in the festivities or not, let’s at least get out in the street and interact with these people.
On a more theological/philosophical level, we view Halloween as an opportunity to mock fear. We do this throughout the year with our two year old son. He likes to pretend there are monsters in the kitchen, and I’ll go hide somewhere in there and jump out and scare him when he comes looking for me. We laugh hard, and I tickle him, and we enjoy NOT being afraid of monsters. On Halloween, we do the same thing. We stay away from the “macabre” (to continue the vocab word of the blog). But any time the scary parts of Halloween cross our paths, we laugh at fear, and we remind ourselves and those around us that God has not given us a spirit of fear. We have nothing to be afraid of, not even death itself.
I know a lot of Christians take a very sincere and serious approach to avoiding Halloween. That’s fine. This is a decision that each family has to make before God. It’s the not the kind of no-brainer decision that anyone can make for someone else. As for us, we have chosen to plunder the Egyptians and rob them of their fear-filled festivities. We have decided to redeem even Halloween.
I’ll pray for you, Barry Dean, in your family’s quest to demonstrate Christ next week. Likewise, please pray for us as we do the same. Thanks, again, for starting the conversation.
October 25, 2008 at 10:24 pm
Thanks for your comment on this controversial subject. Thanks as well for your prayer and prayer request. Halloween is indeed a great opportunity to interact with the folks in the neighborhood that you might not otherwise ever get a chance to speak with. We are trying to come with a neat topical tract to hand out with the candy. Our 16 year old daughter will be helping us this year so this will be another opportunity for her to live out her faith in the neighborhood as well. We will be praying for you and other believers as they interact with their neighbors this week.
October 26, 2008 at 12:46 pm
Thoughtful comment, Will. I feel as if I should address your “respect” remark. Perhaps my “no-brainer” comment was glib, but I don’t think respect should be stretched to mean something like ‘accepting as equally correct’. I think the sex and violence of mainstream entertainment is “offensive”, it doesn’t mean I impugn the character of everyone who sees those movies, or even those who make them, nor do I actively oppose any of it. I’m simply making a moral judgement for myself, and, as the post invited in the case of Halloween, sharing my thinking.
Nevertheless, the fact that most sincere Christians participate in Halloween, whatever their reasons and with whatever reservations, does not make the decision any more difficult for me simply because, even as I have been watching everyone’s comments, the pros do not outweigh the cons, and the ends most certainly do not justify the means.
Like those in the pericope adulturae, I’m in no position to throw stones; but it doesn’t mean I must refrain from drawing a line, even if it’s drawn by my own imperfect judgement.
John Jude Farragut
November 12, 2008 at 12:14 pm
My family and I went back and forth on this issue a number of years ago. At one point, we decided to do away with anything related to Halloween in these times–pumpkins, costumes, trick-or-treat–and did a harvest festival with friends. The idea never took off, and we went back to traditional trick-or-treat. We wanted to be careful approaching Halloween, but at the same time we felt that it was not an issue worth going to the bat over.
What changed our minds was a careful analysis of Halloween and other holidays. By choosing not to celebrate Halloween, we could have invariably decided not to celebrate Christmas. It had its own pagan side, just as Halloween did (didn’t the Romans celebrate Christmas alongside the pagan festival Saturnalia?), but it also had its good ones (an extremely good one!). The same went with Halloween. As Christians, we decided we were not to stand down in the face of fear, but rather mock it and continue with what we loved to do. Nothing makes Satan quite as mad as when we take something meant for evil and use it for good. Halloween was also a time for friendships and family, a celebration of generosity, and an excuse to riddle our teeth with cavities.
Of course, because we’re too old, my brother and I don’t trick-or-treat anymore. We’ve moved on to more grown-up ways of celebrating Halloween: spraying kids with Silly String and blowing up dry ice bombs in an empty field!