Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Do you "do" Halloween?

I realize I may ruffle some feathers here, and there may even be some who won't read these study posts anymore, but I feel like the Spirit is nudging me to write this today.

What is Halloween? What should the Christian's outlook on Halloween be? I hope you will join in the discussion by using our comment section.

If you google search the words "Christians" "celebrate" "Halloween" and look at the results, you will find that good, well-intentioned Christians are all over the map on this. Some are convinced that we should not acknowledge, celebrate, or even answer the door on October 31st. Others are at the other end of the pendulum swing, theorizing that even though Halloween's roots are rather grisly, that it's OK now, and it's entirely innocent. What's the harm in creative costumes and candy, they say. All it gets you is a trip to the dentist.

Or is that all?

Where did all of this start?  Well, at the risk of boring you, here's a little history. Even though they didn't call it Halloween, the origins of the holiday are Celtic, and have to do with the end-of-summer sacrifices to gods in the Druid religion. It was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they thought that Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits and demons out to attack humans. The only escape for the hapless humans was to disguise themselves as other evil spirits.
Now, the Christians of the fourth century tried to appropriate the holiday and celebrate the day before Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, by marking the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween, or All Saints Day. This was an attempt to show that there was an alternative, and to focus the day on the "good" instead of the "evil" in the world. In like manner, many Christians have decided that it's OK to celebrate if their children dress in more innocent costumes, such as cowboys, firemen, ballerinas, and such.

Many of those who feel it's OK to celebrate Halloween point to the pagan origins of other holidays, and the fact that Christianity has co-opted those holidays and given new meanings to the symbols and traditions. It's true that the church has done that. The yule log, for instance, comes from the ancient sacrifice before an oak tree, trying to keep the life-giving sun from "going out" during the cold, dark days of winter. The day that we celebrate the birth of Jesus was the final day of Saturnalia, a week-long orgy of drunkeness and debauchery. But the church co-opted it in the hopes of converting the pagan masses, and now those origins are hidden away in old books.

Millions of kids will walk up to houses tonight, and cheerfully exclaim, "Trick or treat!" You know where that came from? Let's open our "History" window to look at this one:
Long, long ago, you would open your door and be greeted by someone who asked for treats, and in return would pray for the dead. Some years later, in Scotland, children would look up at you and recite a poem or do a feat of some kind, and ask to be rewarded. Once the custom made it to America, it became a (sometimes real) threat -- if you give me a treat, I won't pull a prank on you. Whether it was soaping your windows, letting your mule out of the barn, or taking part of your fence to feed the bonfire in the town square, it wasn't a very happy time for the homeowner who was annoyed and simply shut his door, without handing out some treats!

Now, where am I going with all of this?
I recently corresponded with one of our readers in the UK, who told me that there has been a "huge rise in interest" in vampires, zombies, etc. And I can see why . . . some of the most popular movies, books, and television events today are those that explore the "dark" side of humanity --- the Twilight series, the Hunger Games, and others. She told me that in the UK, young people threaten innocent people with all kinds of things, just as we noted above, when we talked about "trick or treat."
I also saw an internet piece from a former member of the Wicca community (the official religion of witchcraft), who is now a Christian. He was astounded at the Christians who allowed their children to participate in the holiday, go through the haunted houses, etc. (And yes, I realize that some churches have haunted houses that they call "hell houses" and they try to show people the fate that awaits the unsaved.)
If you research the modern day Wicca community, you realize that they consider Halloween one of their two highest, "holiest" (can they even call it that?) days --- days to revel in the worship of Samhain, to embrace the dark and evil, to pay homage to the spirit world and to Satan.

In I Corinthians 10:20, Paul was writing about the meat from pagan sacrifices, which ended up in the common markets for sale. In just that simple context, of purchasing and eating meat from those sacrifices, he said,
No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.
In Ephesians 5:11, he says,
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
There are several verses in the Old Testament, that point out we need to avoid the occult and its practices. I don't want this post to get super-long, so I'll just point you to Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:10-13, I Chronicles 10:13-14, and II Chronicles 13:6.  Now, some of you may be ready now to say, Hey, Snoodles, we aren't letting our kids practice spells, and we aren't sacrificing to idols . . .

But to me, kids participating in Halloween is standing at the tippy top of a slippery slope. Remember, our children's ability to withstand spiritual wickedness is less than ours. And if trick-or-treating is OK, then how about a party at the haunted house? And how about if someone says, "Let's have a seance!"  And.....and.....

I know that it is silly to think that we can ignore a hyped-up, media and market driven holiday. But perhaps we can teach our children these things:
1. There is a spiritual world filled with good and with evil (Eph. 2:1-10)
2. Life with Christ has power over darkness  (I John 4:4)
3. Those who celebrate Halloween are either unaware of its roots, or are (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps intentionally) promoting a world where evil is celebrated and viewed as the "winner."
As I said, I don't think we can ignore Halloween, but perhaps we can boldly and unashamedly offer an alternative that is positive and uplifting, that celebrates good instead of evil, and teaches that God will triumph over Satan. If we can provide something that is heaps and heaps of fun, but that provides us with an opportunity to teach about God's provision, power, and protection from evil, then we will
Abstain from all appearance of evil.  I Thessalonians 5:22
I like what Matthew Henry's commentary says about that verse:
We should abstain from sin, and whatever looks like sin, leads to it, and borders upon it. He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of it, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to it, will not long keep from doing sin.
Now it's your turn . . . tell me what you think.


CATachresis said...

Thank you Snoodles for highlighting this. An excellent post.

I have recently read an article by a sound Christian teacher about what he sees as the "Zombiefication" of America, highlighting the growing fascination (and not just in America) with all things vampires, zombies, ghouls etc.

Halloween in the UK has become much bigger business in recent years. When I was a kid, I remember no such thing. However we do have Guy Fawkes Night on Nov 5th which "celebrates" the successful stopping of Catholics in 1604 blowing up the English Parliament and assassinating the King. Now the two seem to run into each other, with a week long celebration of ghoulies, ghosties and burning of effigies, which apart from anything else, terrifies the animals!!

I know some churches counteract this by putting on "Light" services. I think you are right, we should do our best to show that God is good and the ultimate overcomer of all evil, even if some Christians think there is no harm in trick or treats, there is a sinister background to it and it should be avoided!

Meanwhile I think of Phil 4:8 ".... whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report , if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things."

Belinda said...

This is a really great post and I fully agree with it and with CATachresis. I've probably commented in the past about a group of Christians who boycotted the school's Halloween Festival when my children were small. There was a huge uproar and parents acted with anger and hate. The Christians simply stood their ground and eventually the festival was cancelled for good.

I've never liked Halloween or what is symbolizes. My two year old grandson would be terrified seeing all the ugly creatures walking the streets. Our church holds Trunk 'N Treat to try to keep the kids off the streets. It's a festival of sorts but in the church parking lot. I'm not really crazy about that if you want to know the truth, but at least we are trying to counteract the negative.

This is one of those things where you have to do what you feel is right, and be at peace with what you know God wants you to do. I would not ever judge someone who disagrees, but will continue to leave my porch light off and not answer my door.

Donna McBroom-Theriot said...

Interesting post and comments. Thanks for visiting and entering my book giveaways! Donna