Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Christians and Halloween I

As a pastor, it brings me great joy to know that people the church I serve are striving to know and live truth. And as one of their spiritual advisers, I get to help them make decisions about life and family and the faith (a responsibility that I do not take lightly, and am constantly amazed at how people listen to what I say).

So I get an email from a young family with small children this week that asks me what I think about Halloween; and should believers participate, if so, how much? This is a family that has been recently converted, baptized, and are now asking questions about their family life and their new faith. They have been doing some research on the internet, and realize that the opinions on this matter vary greatly.

But before I post my reply with my thoughts and convictions, I thought I would just give all of you a chance to chime in on the question. That's what blogging is about, right? The quicker, freer exchange of ideas? So, what do you think? Should Christians be involved in Halloween?

13 comments:

  1. Paul Spoke about this in Romans:

    "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, not for passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may /Celebrate Halloween/, but he who is weak /does not/. The one who /celebrates/ is not to regard with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not /celebrate/ is not to judge the one who /does/, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." - Romans 14:1-4 (Lew's Revised Edition)

    God Speed,
    Lew

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  2. Christians who have convictions against participating in Halloween activities should not participate. Christians who do not have convictions against participating in Halloween activities should participate. Neither group should force the others to comply with their own personal convictions. Either group should be willing to change their own participation to encourage other believers who are concerned about their decisions.

    I wrote a post about Halloween a couple of years ago called "Fall Festivals and Scary Masks".

    -Alan

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  3. From Melanie in Maine:
    I am so glad you are blogging about this. I am so here right now. I had this conversation with my 7 and 6 year old this weekend. I sadly must admit I do not have the Bible knowledge to know the true answer to this right now. I have celebrated Halloween with my children and do not see the harm in it for us. I can understand how it might harm ... Read Moreothers though. I feel strong enough in my faith that I can let my children play dress up and visit friends while enjoying candy. I look forward to more answers from you and the others! God Bless!

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  4. From Hollie in GA:
    for Faris, she dresses up but we don't trick or treat unless it's people we know and we hand out candy. I decided to participate in moderation. She doesn't ask too many questions yet. Plus in the handing out candy part it might be a good time to slip a tract or a bookmark with the gospel on it (along with candy of course) in trick or treaters bags

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  5. Jason,
    First and foremost I admit upfront that I’m not sure that I have all the answers to this subject but here are a few thoughts in no particular order.

    I don’t think any Christians should hide in a bubble on Halloween or any other time of the year (I’m thinking of Christians who might have strong convictions against Halloween). For many years I lived in a subdivision and turned my lights off to ward off trick or treaters. Oh how I wish I could have those opportunities to share the gospel back!

    In regards to Lew’s rendering of Romans 14:1-6 (I note Lew’s revision :- o ), I do think this passage has a very valid application to this subject, but I would be very cautious about substituting “Halloween” into this passage for the word “day”. The actual passage is arguing for days that a person observes or does not observe as an act of honor toward the Lord. Let me give an example of how I think Lew is misapplying this text. If someone instituted a certain day of the year to celebrate Satan, then I can’t think of any way possible that a true believer could observe that day as an act of honor toward Christ. I know what you’re thinking, and no!...I’m not equating Halloween with Satan. However there are real issues with Halloween that exist today that ought to give every believer pause before they celebrate Halloween with no distinctions. I do believe that there are believers who are weak in the faith, who could be convicted either way on Halloween, and we should be very gracious in our dealing with one another on this issue.

    Everything Christians do should have a different flavor to it than the way the world does. We are commanded to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), which, if I’m not mistaken, is still the reason we exist. One of the greatest blights on American Christianity is that there is so little distinction between the way we do things and the way the world does. Think about the gross materialism that clouds out actual Christian holidays. We must remember that be the friend of the world means to be the enemy of God (James 4:4). I don’t think we can celebrate Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. with no distinction from the way the world celebrates these holidays and do it to the glory of God.

    What are Christians “celebrating” if/when they celebrate Halloween? (I do think the motive of the heart is HUGE in this and all other areas of our living).

    Personally, I think the best for Christians is to use this holiday, not as a way for us to make much of ourselves, but as a way to help others make much of Christ(while I sadly admit I haven’t done this very well or at all). We should be distinct from the world on this holiday but not withdraw from the world. I think our Churches and families should gather for modified types of celebrations on Halloween that might serve as opportunities to reach out to the communities around us. The great opportunity here lies in the fact that parents are reluctant to take their kids trick or treating for safety reasons. So they may be more likely to take their kids to a fall festival at a local Church. Which, if handled rightly, could serves as a great opportunity to honor Christ.

    For professing believers who differ I would advocate attitudes of grace and forbearance with the caveat that we love one another by stirring each other up to “love and good works” and greater zeal to glorify Christ in all that we do.

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  6. From Dayna in TX:
    Glad you posted this. I've been having strong convictions lately NOT to participate in Halloween..... even just for the candy.... because I don't feel like the "holiday" is pleasing to God or brings glory to God in any way. At the present time, I won't follow through on my convictions because I'm too afraid of disappointing a 4-year old. Pray for me.... I know that's wrong.... I have to be able to make the right decisions even though Aiden may not understand.

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  7. GlorryBlogger - Actually, Romans 14:1-4 is talking about meat sacrificed to idols. Or in other words - Pagan Meat :). I think it's a great replacement for a "Pagan Holiday".

    Romans 14:5 starts where Paul talks about how people don't have to go to church on Sunday, since they consider everyday the same --- or something like that ;).

    Lew

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  8. With young men still at home and one only 8 years old, I felt the Lord was speaking strongly to me about this celebration.

    I began sharing, with my Youth in Sunday School, the history that was available so they could make an informed and prayerful decision as to how they would celebrate or not celebrate. I did the same thing at home.

    With the youngest included in the decision process, we decided we would not celebrate as usual. We did not turn anyone away and our door was open with candy for all. This was a big decsion for me as this was one of my favorites, a time to be somebody else. A day of playing and a time to party. But I was truly convicted.

    Thinking of others in countries where some of the mask and characters we display have much more meaning than we acknowledge.... do we offend them as they walk through our stores and communities. Are some new Chrisitans to this land and wonder what are we doing when they have left some of these same symbols and representations of their own darkness and spiritual warfare.

    Then on the other side, after over ten years of this conviction I have a pastor come to me. One who will be away visiting family after planning a big Fall Festival for Halloween. The church is going to hold this in the local school with flyers and families already invited. What do I do. He has asked me to help see this through. The only thing I can do is pray. Lord you know my heart. Show me, lead me, guide me. Only your will.

    Here in the NorthEast esp Halloween is a very big celebration. I felt that I was to be a part of this, because this was our way to reach our community. We had fun with games, challenges, a bouncy bounce and even did a presentation of the gospel as well. This was done with a heart to reach others so that they might come to know us. Everyone had a good time. There were even families that started coming to church. We had provided a safe place for them to spend an evening. It was a bridge.

    So I would say....be prayerful.. be knowledgeable, research and know. I truly believe the Lord has us all at different places in our walks and sometimes your church family does not even understand when you are truly convicted of something.. they may think you have lost your mind. But the Lord tells us we are a peculiar people and He always knows your heart. From Him you cannot hide.

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  9. Mark Lyles (Tifton, GA)October 13, 2009 at 9:58 PM

    The Origin of Halloween

    Halloween or "All Hallows Eve" is a holiday that originated from the Druids. It came to pass where the Druids would go from castle to castle and yell "Trick or Treat". If the head of the castle or manor gave up the oldest virgin daughter to the Druids (The Treat) to be later sacrificed then there would not be a "trick" or Satanic curse on them where everyone would be slaughtered in their sleep at night.

    Most recently and currently, it has been known to myself and others that Halloween has ALWAYS been a "spritual" holiday for the Satanic believer almost to the degree of what Easter means to the Christian. As Christians, we honor Easter as the most sacred day which is when Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Satanists view Halloween equally sacred to them.

    It is also noted that there are more animal sacrifices on Halloween where it has been documented that there have been animal carcasses found on roadsides without any blood because they have been used in a sacrificial ceremony. These ceremonies usually involve the drinking of blood while engaging in perverse sexual acts with either other members of the satanic group, animals or children.

    Since I was about 10 years old (when my mother made the above discoveries of the origin of Halloween) I have not gone Trick or Treating. With my own family, we go to our church that holds a "Fall Festival" instead. Yes my children dress up as a soldier or Star Wars character to go to the Fall Festival but that is the extent. The Fall Festival features hayrides, a large slide and carnival-like activities. It is available to anyone in the area not just members of the church and I very greatful that my church has provided this for years. Furthermore I make certain that no outside lights are on so others that go Trick or Treating do not come to our house.

    This is what I believe and think that when other Christians under estimate the power that Satan can have and thinking that "oh, it's just harmless fun", and let their kids go Trick or Treating because they don't want their kids to be "different", then it is another way that Satan deceives us. We should be the leaders and not follow others in this world. We (as Christians) should not be of this World.

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  10. From Donna Johnston in GA:
    I grew up trick or treating with my cousin. We would create our own costumes out of whatever we could find. One year we borrowed my great uncles overalls and stuffed them full of pillows and wore hugh work boots that we kept tripping over. We couldn't hardly run for laughing so hard. I still get a smile and a giggle thinking about those times. For a while, I really contemplated on whether or not to Trick or Treat with my children. And with much prayer, found the solution to my dilema. What I do with my children (now 11 and 9)is, we go to the grandparents house, great uncle and aunts houses. We spend hours Trick or Treating, but only go to a few houses. The kids look forward to visiting, and the family enjoys them coming. This will be our first year actually going with friends, but we will still have to make at least quick stops at our traditional houses. That is just our tradition now, and in some way shape or form,I hope it will be, no matter what their age(even w/o costumes). The rule is we do not dress up as anything that would represent Satan in any way shape or form. No ghosts, witches, devils,fortune tellers, etc. This year we are Alice in Wonderland and Captain Rex from Star Wars. My kids know the real meaning behind Halloween and some of what takes place on Halloween. We have decided to use it to create happy memories, as I did as a child, and to show people that Halloween doesn't have to involve anything Satanic at all and that you can honor God on that day and not Satan. We don't even carve pumpkins. We paint farmer pumpkins and glue raffia on for hair and the girl pumpkin has hair bows. As soon as my son saw pumpkins this year, he said, "Mama, are we gonna do our pumpkins this year?" This is what works for us, and I haven't fell under any conviction that I should change it. Hope this helps.

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  11. Lew – I apologize. I misunderstood your “revised version” and how you were using it. However, I’m still not sure this is the best understanding of the text. First of all, I’m interested in how you’ve come to the conclusion that the text in Romans 14 is speaking of meat sacrificed to idols? Some commentators interpret this passage as speaking about the Jewish ceremonial laws regarding meats. I’m open to hearing more on this.

    Even if it is a “meat sacrificed to idols” passage, I think you’re making a category error in equating eating “pagan meat” and “celebrating Halloween”. There is a gargantuan difference between personally offering meat to an idol as an act of worship and eating meat that you bought in a meat market that may have previously been used in a sacrificial ritual.

    That’s like the difference between celebrating Halloween and buying candy for 50% off on the day after Halloween. I think Paul did/would make a distinction between actively practicing idolatry and eating meat that had been involved in idolatry. Practicing idolatry is not a “Christian liberty” issue. Eating meat formerly sacrificed to idols might be.

    Using your “revised version” I refer you again to verse 6. After Paul speaks of observing/not observing certain days, he readdresses the eating/not eating subject again and makes the same point – Let him that eats, eat in honor of the Lord. Or to put it in your revised version, “Let him that celebrates Halloween, celebrate Halloween in honor of the Lord.”

    I’m not sure that's possible given Halloween’s origin and the dark themes which are still interwoven in it till this day. Your thoughts?

    Grace and peace,
    Matt

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  12. Matt,

    It was just a common assumption (Romans 14 meat = 1 Corinthinans 8 meat). I think it still works, regardless of what type of meat we're talking about.

    To your analogy, "There is a gargantuan difference between personally offering meat to an idol as an act of worship and eating meat that you bought in a meat market that may have previously been used in a sacrificial ritual.... I think Paul did/would make a distinction between actively practicing idolatry and eating meat that had been involved in idolatry."

    I agree... but we're not talking about Christians participating in the "actual rituals of Halloween" we're talking about Christians participating in the Americanized nonPagan celebration of Halloween (kids going out getting candy and having fun).

    I personally do not know any non-Christians who participate in the Halloween of old (Virgin sacrifice / whatever). Nor do I know of any Christians who do this.

    Can a Christian celebrate Halloween in honor of the Lord? I believe so.

    God Speed,
    Lew

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  13. Ok - thought I'd throw my opinion into the ring for whatever it's worth, which I know isn't much. When I first think of Christians and Halloween, honestly, the thought that comes to my mind is legalism. A lot of the Christian life is spelled out in black and white in the Bible. Other things that are not, well, God has to convict each person accordingly. Many Christians have varying convictions about Halloween, as well as Santa, the Easter bunny, and other "fictional holiday figures." I do think one of the most damaging things we can do to our children to keep them from living out a Godly life as adults is to expose them to legalism. The Christian life isn't about following a list of rules and teaching our kids to obey all the "do's and don'ts) it's about them having an active relationship with Christ. SO many kids that grow up in the church learn the do's and don't and the right way to act and the right things to say, and are void of a deep relationship with God - I think legalism creates this dangerious environment - it is deceptive. As a child, I enjoyed Halloween to dress up and go get candy. What is the harm in that? However, if a child takes if further, then as a parent, you have to re-evaluate the situation and maybe make adjustments. I think it's sad when Christian don't participate in Halloween. I've known many that leave the porch light off or go out because "as a Christian we do participate in this.." That saddens me. My husband and I are always trying to be intentional in reaching out to our lost neighbors. Oftentimes, it's hard to find opportunities to interact with them or find reasons to talk with them. The one holiday when my lost neighbors are going to come to my house and knock on my door, and I'm gonna be away because "I don't participate in this holiday"????? While I'm on my soapbox, that is what irritates me with churches "fall festivals." Don't get me wrong, I love fall festivals and usually particiapte in them Halloween night with my children, but the one night lost neighbors are coming to my house and knocking on my door, and I feel obligated to be down at the church at their fall festival...why don't we teach our children, and our church members to have a missional mindset about Halloween instead of a judgemental one. Why don't we train our kids and church members how to engage in conversation those nights that lead to kingdome discussions? Why don't we train church members how to hand out a gospel track and discuss it with a person that night?? Why don't we as Christians in one neighborhood plan a block party that night with intentional plans to engage our neighborhood in inviting them to church? Why don't we shift our focus from "making a stand and being judgemental" to seeing this as a huge opportunity to interact with our lost neighbors and be intentional in our discussions with them that night? Are we really impressing a lost world when we proclaim "we don't particiapte in Halloween?"

    And that's my 2 cents worth of opinion!

    Jill Ramsey

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