So is Halloween just another trick by the devil to get Christians all in a dither as to whether it’s evil or not, so we’re divided as Christians and at loggerheads with each other? Or is it a treat that could be used and enjoyed by Christians to meet neighbours and join them and their children in an evening of fun, leading to some great connections in the future?
Well, if we’re worried about Halloween being evil, I can’t see Jesus being upset at it, because in Colossians 2:15 he “disarmed the powers and authorities, and he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Or as The Message phrases that verse, Jesus “stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.”
He made a total mockery of evil, exposing it for the cartoon it had become. And isn’t that exactly what all those kids dressed up as ghosts and goblins are doing at Halloween too? They’re transforming the devil and ghosts and goblins into cartoonish figures we snicker at. They’re making a “public spectacle” of them too, as nothing to be scared of.
But isn’t evil something to be taken seriously? Yes, when stupid, blinded humans tune in to the devil’s twisted thinking and actually practice it, thinking it’s right. But Halloween isn’t about terrorists killing innocent civilians, or corporate executives drunk on greed and power, or dictators filling they bank accounts while their people starve. Halloween is a celebration of Jesus’ victory over evil, that started us on the road to restoration and healing.
That’s what Halloween meant on the Christian calendar too. October 31st was set aside as “All Hallows Eve,” an evening of hallowed, or sacred, preparation for All Saints’ Day on November 1st, in which saints present and past, known and unknown, are honoured. It’s a wonderful day of celebrating those made holy by Jesus’ victory over the devil, including those – like our parents, grandparents or great Christian teachers, etc. – who led us personally to becoming saints as well.
It’s also a day to remember the power of Jesus’ name. Just the mention of his name sent evil scuttling for cover, or demons begging him to leave them alone. Jesus broke the power of the devil and our fear of death (Hebrews 2:4), so that we’d never have that cloud hanging over everything we do. It means that none of our well-intentioned, faithful labour is now in vain. It’s all a step along the way to us becoming labourers with Jesus to restore this planet and fulfill God’s plan for all creation. And if we are scared at any time, all we need to do is call on Jesus’ name for peace and comfort.
We can also heed the advice in James 4:7-8 to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” In other words, if there is some evil being promoted at Halloween, like horror movies and attempts by others to “spook us out,” have nothing to do with them. I remember as a teenager we’d try to scare each other with ghost stories, or later on as adults, dabble with things like Ouija Boards and seances, or seek advice from people claiming they could contact our dead relatives, or try to figure out if premonitions that came true were from God or the devil. And I used to wonder if these things were truly instruments of the devil or flirting with the occult. James, by comparison, simply says, “Resist.” Have nothing to do with them. In other words, there’s no need to figure them out. Just ignore them and say to myself – or to others – “I’m not interested.”
Should children, therefore, resist such things too? Of course, but they’re not what children are interested in at Halloween in the first place. They’re not seeking contact with evil or flirting with evil. When they visit a so-called “haunted house” they’re not giving it any religious significance. It’s simply good for a laugh with friends, just like it is when they visit a “haunted house” or any other make-believe world at Disneyland. Admittedly it’s an odd way to create fun, but to a child it’s like going to a fantasy movie with all sorts of weird, cartoonish characters with superhuman powers, or reading a children’s story with magic in it.
Children aren’t scared by these fantasy creatures, nor do they become open doors to the occult. They’re just mindless entertainment, much like so many of the movies and video games we watch and play as adults too. They’re just a bit of fun and relaxation.
So when someone asked me how I thought Jesus would react to children coming to his door at Halloween seeking treats, it made me think he’d view it as a bit of fun and entertainment too. He might compliment a child with an especially imaginative costume, or invite the kids to answer a riddle to get an extra piece of candy. Kids loved coming to Jesus, because they could see he loved them.
None of this means we take evil lightly, of course, because evil is real. And for those people who’ve experienced evil in the raw Halloween is an objectionable and stupid custom, and they want absolutely nothing to do with it. Which is where Paul’s comments in Romans 14 kick in, that we don’t judge or condemn each other when we have differences of opinion on touchy subjects. Rather, we should try to seek peace between us, which we can by putting ourselves in others’ shoes to understand where they’re coming from and why they feel so uncomfortable at Halloween time.
Adults need to feel safe in what they think and do too, and a church that takes that into account is an attractive place to be. A church can also lessen the evil side of Halloween by coming up with fun events for children and their parents in a church atmosphere of fun and entertainment that’s even better than being out on a cold night and maybe having to deal with some truly weird people.
So, is Halloween a trick or a treat for Christians? It can be either one, depending on where we’re at in our Christian journey, and we respect that in each other. And maybe we don’t celebrate Halloween for the sake of others, just like we would’t drink alcohol in the presence of a struggling alcoholic.
Halloween can certainly get us thinking, then, as to how we can be as wise as serpents in this world, and as harmless as doves in our relationships with our fellow Christians, and, of course, with our children who think Halloween – fortunately or unfortunately – is just great.