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October 31, 2008

Trick-or-Treat?



A few years back, our local Christian radio station ran a poll asking whether Halloween is spiritually harmful. The response from a predominantly evangelical audience here in Ohio was two-to-one against Halloween. This did not surprise me. It is now popular in some Christian circles to repudiate any celebration of All Hallows Eve - Halloween.

On the calendar of events for the Christian college where I teach, October 31 sits in a dark square with no acknowledgment that there is anything special about the date.

"It's Satan's Holiday, Dr. Rearick," affirmed one of my students. "Didn't you know?"

Well, no, I didn't know. And I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Impostor and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his.

I have always considered Halloween a day to celebrate the imagination, to become for a short time something wonderful and strange, smelling of grease paint, to taste sweets that are permissible only once a year. How wonderful to be with other children dressed up as what they might grow up to be, what they wished they could be, or even what they secretly feared. All of us, dreams and nightmares, were brought together on equal footing, going from door to door to be given treats and admired for our creativity. How delightful to go to parties with doughnuts, apples, brown cider, and pumpkin cakes - and to hear spine-tingling ghost stories and feel our hearts skip a beat when the teller grabbed for us.

Now some are pressuring us to give this all up, and they use what is for some of us the most difficult argument to answer: it's the "Christian" thing to do.

Some Christians shun make-believe. Such believers feel that a young Christian's mind should never long to be in lands where little men have fuzzy feet, dragons breathe fire, and horses have wings. Instead, they maintain that a Christian should be caught up in the here and now of the "real" world. Defending the reality of fiction and the value of fantasy requires an entirely different essay.

Christians certainly may be leery of sharing anything with modern pagans and Satanists who claim Halloween as theirs. But who gave these individuals the right to claim the holiday? If they are Druids, they are celebrating Samhain, which is not Halloween but an even older holiday. As for Satanists, their calendar is a perversion of Christian seasons - there would be no Satanists if there were no Christians. Let them claim all they want. I give them nothing.

"But look at the roots of Halloween," some may say. "Don't you see how evil it once was?" I do, but the operative word in that sentence is was. Samhain was once a time of fear and dread, but at one time so was Yule or Midvinterblot, as it was called in Sweden. Toward the time of the winter solstice, the days became shorter and colder. The land was laid waste. In pagan times, to keep the fire of the life-giving sun alight, people often made sacrifices before a great oak tree. Boniface is supposed to have stopped one such sacrifice and instituted the indoor Christmas tree at the same time. The burning of such logs in the midst of sacrifice has come down to us as the traditions of burning Yule logs and enjoying Christmas trees.

I'm not suggesting fir trees and Yule logs be banned from Christmas; I'm only demonstrating what has happened time and again in history. For our pagan ancestors, the holidays that marked the great seasonal changes were often fearful, terrible, and dark. But with the coming of Christ came a great light that reclaimed not only individuals but also the holidays they celebrated. In the case of Midvinterblot and Yule, the holidays that once marked the terrible price required to provide light instead began to express the joyous arrival of God's true light.

What would a reclaimed Halloween express? In our culture, Halloween traditionally has allowed us to look at what frightens us - to experience it, to laugh at it, and to come through it. So at the end of October, we are visited by cute Caspers, laughing pumpkin heads, and goofy ghouls.
Should the forces of evil be mocked? Should Satan be laughed at? He most certainly should be. At the beginning of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis includes two telling quotations, the first from Martin Luther: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."

The second comes from Thomas More: "The devil ? the proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked."

The one thing Satan cannot bear is to be a source of laughter. His pride is undermined by his own knowledge that his infernal rebellion against God is in reality an absurd farce. Hating laughter, he demands to be taken seriously. Indeed, I would say that those Christians who spend the night of October 31 filled with concern over what evils might be (and sometimes are) taking place are doing the very thing Lucifer wants them to do. By giving him this respect, such believers are giving his authority credence.

Not all believers should celebrate Halloween. For those who have been redeemed from the occult, Halloween in its foolishness may contain what was for them deadly seriousness. While their souls were in deadly peril, however, what they experienced were lies and illusions.

It is understandable that they look with horror upon what once enslaved them. Such sensitivity may be appropriate for them, but it is not appropriate for the majority of Christians. Holding their opinions as appropriate for most believers is like having a former bulimic dictate how Christians should regard church hot-plate socials.

Christians should instead celebrate Halloween with gusto. If we follow the traditional formula of having a good time at his expense, Satan flees.

If we give up All Hallows Eve, we lose the delight of God's gift of imagination and we condemn the rest of society to a darker Halloween because our laughter will not be there to make the devil run.

Comments

Thank you! I love this article! Exactly how I feel! I have only wonderful memories of Halloween as a child! Not once do I remember feeling like I was giving "honor" to satan and his demons. It was fun, and exciting, and wonderful until adults decided to add their two cents! The churches I have gone to always had other alternatives to "trick or treating." However, I would never keep my children from such a funfilled, memory making holiday. We have always had so much enjoyment in dressing up, and LAUGHING AT THE DEVIL!!

THANK YOU!!

This is excellent. Thank you.

How foolish of you to actually think this way. Halloween is STILL very much the same from when it started. Nothing has been "Christianized". There is no reflection of Christ in this day. (Unlike Christmas and Easter). Halloween has become more and more demonic, especially with todays youth becoming more intrigued with the occult and spirituality. Just ask any pagen/wiccian ect.. worshipper what this day means to them. It IS very much a CELEBRATION for them. The bible teaches(warns) us to separate ourselves from ungodly things. How much more clearer can the bible be? If Halloween is not ungoldy then what is? What is the bible telling us to separate ourselves from? Think about it?

"I have only wonderful memories of Halloween as a child! Not once do I remember feeling like I was giving "honor" to satan and his demons."
Being decieved as a child or babe in Christ is no laughing matter. Look into the roots of Halloween an you will see that not much has changed.

"We have always had so much enjoyment in dressing up, and LAUGHING AT THE DEVIL!!"
Really???? So you do agree that this is still Satans day? Why participate? Clean and unclean don't mix. Be a light to the people in this lost world, don't blend in with darkness. Research..research...research...the bible,pagen traditions and pagen celebrations. God Bless!!!!!!

YES! I believe we can either give more power to the evil one than he deserves, or we can allow ourselves to live in freedom. If we are truly free from the power of evil through Christ, dressing as an imaginary character and collecting candy from the neighbors isn't going to touch that!

Some Christians see a devil in every closet and around every corner. My teens enjoyed many years of Halloween without any ill effects but I am one of those outsiders that believe Harry Potter won't turn my kids into Jr. witches.

A good christian girl, Leticia

We are not from this world? what is the differences between worldly people and Christians...if we continue celebrating what the world celebrates, soon there will be no difference. I am a seminarian and some seminarians celebrated Halloween and this is supposed to be a Christian theological seminary...some people asked me why are those Christians celebrating Halloween? some of them are not believers but they know that Christians should not celebrate this pagan and satanic celebration.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 6: 14-7:1

In the creation narrative (Genesis 1-2) God pronounced the created world "Good." One of the doctrinal results of God's pronouncement is that, despite sin, all of the created world--including people and including holidays like Halloween--are potentially redeemable. This is not to say that every single time any person anywhere and throughout history celebrates, or has celebrated, Halloween is an already-redeemed event. However, because of God's faithfulness and continued work in the world, Halloween can be changed into a holiday with a new focus. One of the most insightful pieces I ever read on Halloween was from the book To Dance with God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration by Gertrud Mueller Nelson. I highly recommend this book.

Sorry but I can't make Halloween Christian in my thinking. It has always been a pagan activity here in Australia. I remember being in grade 1 and wondering why I wasnt allowed to go and get all the free lollies (candy)! It wasn't fair! but once my parents explained it to me, I could see that the outfits my non-Christian friends were wearing were not what a Christian would want to wear.

We are called to be salt and light. At times we just dont fit in here!

Tad, such a thoughtful and well written article. Memories of trick-or-treating when I was a child, and with my children, are all happy and light-hearted. I remember studying fantasy literature with you at ENC; as I recall, it had the blessing of the faculty. Harry Potter and his ilk are all great fun and stoke the imagination. Christians should not live in fear, but with boldness derived from the grace of God.

Good article, though I don't agree with what was said about scorning Satan or his minions - not even angels do that (see what Michael says in Jude). My kids have gone trick or treating in the US and have had a really great time, but I wouldn't let them do that in UK since I think that Hallowe'en is closer to its pagan roots there.

Wow! This article tries to bring light into a dark place. How easily we begin to accept what is not of the light. I personally believe, just another snare and trap from the enemy. Also, this article is a little contradicting to itself! Its ok for some Christians to take back Halloween, while others should not participate??? "Not all believers should celebrate Halloween. For those who have been redeemed from the occult, Halloween in its foolishness may contain what was for them deadly seriousness. While their souls were in deadly peril, however, what they experienced were lies and illusions." This is just what the enemy wants, for us to think what he brings is just lies and illusions, that is all it is, that Halloween has no evil connotation to it. Below just a few scriptures from the Word of God, I will not post, but encourage you to read for yourself. Search the scriptures and see what you find, do not be so easily persuaded on what others believe. Last, WWJD, do you really believe you would find Jesus masquerading around in that which He opposes???

John 15:19
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
2 Corinthians 6:14-18

when i got saved i had to LEAVE some things in African culture alone, because it didnt glorify GOD. its the same thing, if what you are doing is idol worship or divination you need to LEAVE it alone. Only GOD can tell you in His word I can't/ Peace

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