So You LOVE/HATE/TOLERATE Halloween (Part 2)
This blog is a RE-POST from a blog a wrote a year ago around this time on the theme of Halloween and Christianity. I will be adding in some 'Ed notes' in certain spots to express some new thoughts (this will have to do until squarespace makes putting footnotes in blogs really simple. I mean is it too much to ask? I want my blog to be like Grantland's!) . In knowing that Halloween is a touchy subject, I write this not as a line in the sand but as a piece that hopefully starts healthy dialogue.
Also, it's funny to note my writing style and how it has slightly changed in a year. God bless MPS!)
So, without further ado...
When I was either 8 or 10, I remember being on Rue Des Cageux in Pierrefonds, Qc out getting candy on Oct 31st, when I rang a door to no answer. Stubbornly, I rang the door again for I was NOT going home with a half empty bag. The door opened and a man said, “We don’t celebrate Halloween. We’re Christians.” He then closed the door and went back inside. I was perplexed. “Shouldn’t Christians WANT to give and be nice?” my young mind questioned as I walked to the next home. I mean isn’t it better to give than to have a dark house and sit in your basement until 8 PM? (Ed note: I remembered later seeing the man's wife look from her upstairs window with disappointment. The funny thing? She was in the dark, which made her look more Halloween-ish than she knew. Jokes on her, I guess)
I bring this up because Each year on the last day of October, millions of kids get dressed up after school and either among their friends or with their parents, go to different doors in their neighbourhoods to collect candy. To most kids, it’s an excuse to be Iron Man, Captain Jack Sparrow (Ed Note: Do people still want to be him?), a Cupcake, a lion, a ghoul or a witch while (and I’m emphasizing here) getting free candy. The houses that give candy always have their outside light on, some steps are covered with pumpkins and decorations. And the houses that have their lights off either hate kids and visitors, have a religious stance against it or simply aren’t home.
Now for Christians and people of other religions, Halloween comes with its own, how-do-I-say...struggles. On one hand, we want to be lights in a dark world no matter what. This is why we go to war-torn countries, get involved with pulling people out of sex trades and the like. So it’s funny that on the supposed darkest night of the year, many Christians house lights are off. And on the other hand, Halloween in its current form highlights the occult and many evil practices, and so churches do Halloween “alternatives” (candy, games, prizes with no costumes so church kids are away from the ‘world’) and protect themselves from the evil outside (Ed note: How I wrote this without mentioning "Hallelujah parties" with their biblical costumes makes me disappointed in the 2012 me. I mean girls must have hated this, right? I mean who could you be besides Mary or Esther or Ruth?) These same Christians, I hope, want to reach their neighbors for God and have it in their hearts that their stance is a part of their witness.
Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it’s “Satan’s Birthday” (never proven). Some Christian do Halloween because they weren’t allowed when they were kids and this is their rebellion. Some Christians don’t do Halloween because to do it is to accept evil in the form of costumes. Some Christians do Halloween because they enjoy dressing up and acting (not in the hypocrite sense…I mean actual acting). Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it celebrates all that the Bible speaks against. Some Christians do Halloween because the same Bible compels them to go into evil without being of the evil world.
What about me? I’m a pastor at a church (Ed. note: I am no longer a pastor but still hold my credentials with the same fellowship as my church and I serve at one of fellowship's theological training institutions. Learn more about Master's here). I aim daily to shun evil and cling to the light. And for the past 3 years, I have skipped my church’s Missions Mania Halloween alternative night and taken my daughter trick or treating. And the event is a really good one that many people love and come back to year after year. So why am I a Halloween-er?
- I did my research on Halloween. After a lot of searching, I found a great write-up on Halloween produced by a well-known church named Mars Hill Bible Church. These guys, if you know them, don’t play games with anything. And they do a good job of giving the history of where Halloween came from and how to respond. You can read it here.
- I looked at my intentions. I can’t speak for everyone I know who happens to believe what I believe. I know that I looked at my family and said, “is this about me wanting to be THAT pastor who does Halloween?” And I wasn’t. My neighbors and I get along great and this is a chance to hang out and do life with them.
- I looked at the field. There is no other time during the calendar year when my entire street is outside wanting to talk and hang out. This will be last time I’ll see many of them until the Spring unless we’re all shoveling snow together. And most people don’t talk at times like that. Plus to invite them to an alternative is silly. Why? Because to the average parent, Halloween isn’t evil. To most parents, it’s about getting their kids candy and spending time with others. I just couldn’t figure how being in my house made me a witness. Still can’t. Being inside shows me taking a stand but it doesn’t make me any closer to sharing my faith. And plus, THIS GUY talks about it! (Ed note: This year, my local Starbucks is donating two tumblers of coffee and we're going to set up a parent chill station in front of our house. Some parents are going to make snacks and we'll also have hot chocolate too. The hope is that we get to say hi to every parent on our block before Old Man Winter knocks us on our collective butts!)
- I want to establish a relationship with my kids. I have chosen, for better or worse, to talk with my kids about some things so they know why dad and mom say yes or no. I talk to Elle about Halloween and why we’re going out. Ellie will tell you, it’s a time to be with her friends, dress up, get candy and have fun. I never want to hold Ellie from stuff so that later on she either can’t explain why to others or rebels and goes full tilt into it. She’s also a great storyteller and I love that she’ll be able to get good material there:). Lastly, like in some many other things, it’s fun to watch her with Becca carve pumpkins and play dress-up. It’s bonding (Ed note: Carved my first pumpkin last night with my family. Not my strength)
- There are so many more evils we accept. I’m not aiming to do a balancing act here but it’s true. I think we’re quick to hate on Halloween but allow daily lying, hatred, cutting corners, etc. And our non-believing friends mostly agree. Do I not think Satan is real? Of course I do. But I think he’s not really worried about Halloween. I think (my opinion), he’s more interested in dividing homes, exploiting kids and circumstances daily, promoting bullying, bringing dishonest to governments, etc. Personally I think Halloween is too on the nose for him. And he loves it when we argue on this stuff because then we’re not focusing on the real attacks he’s doing. Again, my opinion. (Ed note: Not to tie in another former blog or Mark Driscoll idea but i REALLY don't see Halloween as a close handed issue (like Christ being born of a virgin or dying on the cross). I mean, we are okay with someone not believing in Spiritual matters but get up in arms about this?)
So, that among other notes are why I’m fine with my daughter being a cute T-Rex and Liam being “hopefully” Gangnam Style’s Psy this Halloween (Ed note: This year? Pete The Cat for school and then Ariel for the night. Liam will be Elmo). If that’s not you, that’s cool. I’m not trying to convert you to anything and hopefully you’ll see my points here too. Have fun celebrating at a church party or at a night event with family and friends. But if a 9-year-old rings your door, maybe don't shut your lights off and stay in your basement. Open the door say hi and at least say you don’t have candy. Or give some with a small scripture note.
(Ed note: I really think that this is a great thing here. Sure, don't send out your kids, but have them at home to pass out candy to their friends. But if you keep them in, do right by them to explain why and help them figure out how to leverage their explanation to their friends to help lead them to Christ.)
Because your response will in some ways set up how they view God forever.