Halloween – just a bit of harmless fun, right?

Halloween: Kids love it, the whole family gets involved, and it brings the community together. Too bad that while everyone’s having fun on Halloween in our Western culture that children aren’t having fun elsewhere in the world. They’re dying of starvation because their countries’ leaders are siphoning off the riches for themselves, they’re fleeing as refugees from war zones, dying as slaves in factories, as the prey of sexual predators, and as victims of Aids, infanticide and abortion. But ignore all that. Let’s make light of evil at Halloween, kids, as if evil isn’t real.

But evil is real, as all children find out in school, when bullies make their lives miserable, and every weakness and blemish is exploited. Our kids are never safe from those who wish to hurt them, and some resort to suicide to escape the pain. And that’s just school. At work they’ll be up against sexual harassment, destructive gossip and weird people who think only of their own appetites, none of which is fun. Evil is real, weird and brutal, and it’s not going away, but Halloween somehow makes it fun instead.

But God is merciful, as he revealed through Jesus on the cross, when Jesus cried out, “Forgive them for they have no idea what they’re doing.” So God doesn’t condemn us for being blind and stupid. Instead, he feels a great sympathy for us, which he shows by sending some into the darkness – where people are stumbling around – to “open their eyes,” Acts 26:18, and “turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.”

God’s great desire for us is that we “come to our senses and escape the devil’s trap,” 2 Timothy 2:26. So God doesn’t ridicule us for what we’re doing, but he does reason with us – just like a parent reasons with a child who’s blind to danger – in the hope that we’ll see how easily trapped we are into doing really dumb things, like warning our children all year to “never take candy off a stranger,” but at Halloween we encourage it, as though Halloween makes our children immune to evil.

But they’re not immune to evil the rest of the year, are they? Not when they’re being bullied, or worse still, they turn into bullies and get pleasure out of wrecking other people’s lives. Monsters aren’t so much fun when you see your own child turning into one. And when you see your child’s face blaze with anger and hatred, evil becomes real and very frightening. Why would anyone in his right mind, then, make fun of it?

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Is Halloween bad?

Many Christian churches offer an alternative evening for children and their parents on Halloween, without all the monster costumes, devil outfits and trick or treating. But what do you do if your children and grandchildren love Halloween? They love dressing up, scouring the neighbourhood for treats with friends and family, bumping into neighbours who welcome them, and counting the loot back home. To them it’s fun. There’s nothing sinister going on.

With my own children, however, I thought there was a sinister undertone to Halloween, so I took them off to a Mall that evening, or closed the curtains at home and turned up the TV. But then grandchildren came along, and not only did they love Halloween, so did my children who now had the chance to make up for lost time and go trick or treating with them. And then we all counted the loot back home and shared the spoils. And for all of us it was fun.

Fortunately, Halloween today is completely meaningless. It has no sinister agenda and no purpose whatsoever beyond making children smile. Halloween is a lot like sugar – no nutritional value whatsoever, but it makes things taste good. And in a world with so much real ugliness going on and much of life being a boring routine, life could do with a little spice.

But isn’t that falling into the hands of a cunning devil, who’d like nothing better than people thinking evil and devil outfits are just a bit of harmless fun? Yes, it would be if Halloween causes evil or preserves it, but for most people today it’s just an excuse for silliness, with no evil intent. Halloween has lost the power it had in past centuries to scare people. People, at one time, really believed Halloween was about warding off spirits seeking revenge, but today it’s been reduced to a joke. It’s not a joke in the best of taste, but instead of preserving some really scary superstitions, it’s taken the power right out of them.

And that’s exactly what’s happened to the devil – he’s had the power taken out of him too. Ever since Jesus came the devil’s powers over us have been severely reduced. He can still blind and deceive people the world over, but not forever. He’s a defeated foe and a spent force. Jesus has already triumphed over him, and for “anyone born of God….the evil one does not touch him,” 1 John 5:18.

We are wary of the devil, therefore, but we don’t live in fear of him. And if Halloween reminded us of that, it could even be classed as ‘good’, not bad.