Saturday, October 29, 2005

Halloween: Trick or Treat?

As a child growing up in the seventies and eighties, I don't recall the increasingly common view today in Christian circles that we should have nothing to do with Halloween. When I was a kid, the only family I remember that didn't participate in Halloween was a very strict Catholic family that lived across the street from us and we all thought they were weirdos. We rather enjoyed knocking on their door all night (knowing that, though the lights were off, they were home).

I do respect Christian families that choose not to participate in Halloween at all (mine is not one of them), but I wonder if there is a different perspective on it. Here's a thought provoking article that I read several years ago in CCM Magazine by a favorite writer of mine, John Fischer...

What will you do this Halloween? Fearing the worst on an evening many Christians believe celebrates the wiles of the devil, some will choose to have no part in the traditional neighborhood trick-or-treating that accompanies the 31st of October formerly known as All Hallow’s Eve.

This boycott of neighborhood dress-up and doorbell ringing is relatively new on the Christian scene, at least in my experience. As a child in an evangelical Christian home, I was right in there with all the other gremlins and witches on our block trying to scare as many Snickers bars as I could out of our neighbors’ stashes and into my bulging pillow case. And you can be sure that every home on my block was always duly prepared to be scared by us.

The anti-Halloween movement among Christians didn’t catch my attention until after my own kids had outgrown this annual neighborhood siege. So you can imagine the shock and surprise on the face of the pastor’s wife who came up to me after a talk on Christian worldview I gave last November and wanted to know what I did with my children on Halloween. When I told her I helped them into their costumes, put on a monkey mask, turned up “Ghostbusters” on the stereo, and hit the streets with the express purpose of scaring all the neighborhood ghosts and goblins before they scared me, her face turned white. Apparently what was okay for my parents in 1958 and me and my wife in 1988 was no longer acceptable Christian behavior in 1998.

The more acceptable Christian thing to do on Halloween now is to close up the house and have an alternative party for our kids at church. This is usually around a harvest or a biblical character theme--no ghosts or goblins allowed. Though I understand how this safer alternative came to be, I wonder whether a blanket boycott is the only way to handle this controversial holiday. Is this just one more time when we Christians isolate ourselves from culture for religious reasons apparent only to us? Have we really thought through what our dark houses are saying to the rest of the block? While we’re off having our alternative party, I can hear the neighborhood kids shuffling by our house, saying, “Don’t go there, they don’t give anything.” Is this what we want to be known for in the community--a dark house on the one night you can be guaranteed neighbors will visit?

My kids are older now but when they were little, Halloween in the Massachusetts town they grew up in was nothing short of an informal neighborhood progressive party. I’d start out with my immediate neighbor and his kids and then run into other parents standing outside other houses. Soon we were a small crowd making our way up and down the street while tired little feet slogged through the fallen leaves of October. By the time the kids had filled their bags, I had been in and out of a number of homes, met people I never knew, started some relationships and renewed others. Meanwhile my wife was home dumping huge handfuls of candy into open bags, raving over costumes, inviting kids to come back and visit whenever they wanted, and entertaining other parents that I missed. It was a major community event and opened many doors for fruitful relationships we were able to continue the rest of the year.

Not to diminish the reality of spiritual warfare--something to be taken seriously by all believers--but the last day of October is not a spiritual battle any more than any other day. If Satan comes out on Halloween, he doesn’t go back into hiding the next morning. Whether the origins of Halloween are pagan or otherwise, what we have today is a culture-wide event that glorifies pretending more than the underworld. It’s actually one holiday that adults haven’t taken over--the one time kids get to “be” whatever they want to be. Our participation--or lack thereof--in such a popular, cultural event is only indicative of our ability to have a good time with silliness, not a measure of our standing in a fight between good and evil. If Satan wins anything on this day, he may win more through the darkened homes of Christians than anything else.

The truth is, Christians never have anything to fear--on this night or any other--or God is not God and His promises are not true. What we should be concerned about is a retreat from our homes, when, more than any other time, it’s important to be there with our lights on and a bowl full of treats near the door. If there is a darkness on Halloween night, I, for one, am going to at least make sure that it will not be on my block, at my house.

(NOTE: For an interesting slant on Halloween origins, John recommends checking out


orangejack said...

If you want to read more, I found a great article on the origins of halloween.

orangejack said...

LOL! I dind't follow the last link you gave. It goes to an article I linked to that repeats what you linked to!

Kim said...

I was involved with the Impact at OSU, I have been reading your blog because of the email you sent out several weeks ago.

I just wanted to let you know I agree 100%. I have so many fun memories of trick or treating as a kid. I love how the article talks about all the new neighbors he met while out, what a wonderful ministry opportunity.

scottmcrocker said...

Thanks for your comment, Kim. Are you still in school at OSU or have you graduated?

Anonymous said...

Such a good "blog" - hope you don't mind that I passed along to some in my address book. And you were right, the people across the street were weird! LOL
I have the best memories of treak or treating with Dad taking us out, while Mom stayed home and passed out candy.
I'm looking forward to keeping the tradition with my family...

freethoughtguy said...

"Christians never have anything to fear" because there's NO SUCH THING as Satan (or any supernatural critters)! It's all fantasy and fun. Relax. Enjoy!