It’s that time of year. October 31st, Halloween, is right around the corner. This time of year always comes with some controversy within Christianity. Some people shun it all together, others celebrate it with open arms, and of course, there is the in-between.
Halloween has a bad reputation, and rightly so in some aspects. Halloween started with the Celts and Druids, as a New Years celebration of sorts where ceremonies were performed to please their false gods and ward off the ghost of the dead from damaging crops and such. Halloween also has strong ties with witchcraft and the occult, which is the main reason many Christians take offense anytime somebody makes Halloween out to be harmless holiday. But Halloween is quickly overcoming it’s bad reputation and history even in Christian circles. Churches host Halloween parties (most call them harvest parties to avoid the remaining Halloween stigma), children in Christian families dress up and go trick or treating. and Christian homes pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. All with their own bit of controversy.
Some Christians see participation in Halloween as watering down your witness, and conforming to this world, and some even see it as a sin. However, I cannot find in the Bible where it says, dressing up to get free candy is a sin. It’s true, a lot of things associated with Halloween are sin, but these things are not practiced by Christians who participate in Halloween. Witchcraft is a sin. Celebrating and glorifying demons is a sin. Vandalism and destroying other people’s property is a sin. Halloween is associated with these things, but as Christians we aren’t pronounced guilty by association. The Jews tried to pronounce Jesus guilty by his associations with sinners, but we know Jesus was without sin.
If we are going to denounce holidays because of their associations, we as Christians need to change the dates and imagery of some of our major holidays. Our modern celebration of Easter is a hybrid of Christian and pagan celebrations. Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, but the eggs and bunnies have their roots in pagan traditions. Christmas even shares pagan imagery and ideas yet many Christians don’t blink at pagan Christmas decorations or Santa Claus. So why just pick on Halloween? If we can worship God and celebrate Jesus’ life and sacrifice amidst pagan traditions, why can’t Halloween be celebrated in a way that glorifies God amidst similar pagan traditions? Not saying we embrace paganism and idolatry, but we elevate our celebration and worship of God above the pagan celebration.
I think we can apply some of Paul’s teaching about eating food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8 to Halloween.
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.
If you still think of Halloween being an evil holiday, then you would be defiled by participating in it. If you realize the traditional practice of Halloween in America is in essence nothing at all you have the freedom to practice it so long as your practice is not sin. Through participation in Halloween you can bring glory to God, and you can be a witness to those around you, just like every other day of the year.
As Christians I see we have a couple of ways we can respond to Halloween. 1) Reject it altogether, and hide in our homes on October 31st, 2) Recreate it, by having parties that look nothing like Halloween on October 31st, or 3) Redeem it, by participating in the cultural Halloween in a way that is not sinful and brings glory to God. I don’t think any of these options are necessarily wrong. These are things we have to work out in our own conscience.
I write this blog in a way to work out my own conscience in regards to Halloween. I’ve wrestled with all three positions in my mind at some point in my life. I’ve settled on the position of liberty and freedom in Christ. I wouldn’t say my family celebrates Halloween. We do some fall decorations, but no skeletons, ghosts, cob-webs or creepy things. We might watch Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin cartoon. We will go trick-or-treating, but my kids won’t dress up in a way that celebrates evil. This year they are spider girl, a cheerleader, and a dinosaur. We will probably go to a party at a church, or hit up one of the rich neighborhoods in town. The kids will get candy and they will eat it in moderation. My conscience is clear on this issue.