Thoughts on Halloween- When Halloween Divides Christians (Part 1)
Halloween is the only American holiday that has the biggest capacity to deeply divide Christians. Not only that, all of Halloween's goods and services keep the holiday firmly in second place as the biggest money maker in the U.S., with Christmas securely holding first place. Halloween produces over 7 billion dollars in sales per year, which is a huge proponent for American consumerism/materialism.
So why does this day divide us?
Basically the two camps that divide over this holiday are the Christians that do celebrate the day and the Christians that don't. Plain and simple. In spite of the division, there is still a majority - there are more Christians that celebrate this day than there are that don't.
The Christ-followers that do revel in this day have a significant amount of clout and are not shy from sharing their views on how and why this day should be embraced by all believers. Every year the blog-o-sphere luminously shines like a glowing decorated front porch with all the exchanged words that come from Christians on the topic of Halloween.
There are good and legitimate historical arguments that come from either side of these camps so I don't feel the need to re-hash any of them. As good as these debates are, I highly doubt Christians that are pro-Halloween will be swayed to refrain, regardless of how well the argument is laid out and Christians that refrain, more than likely will not be convinced enough to engage.
At the end of the day, I think that whatever a particular Christian family decides to do on this day, it should be accepted without ridicule, disdain, or pressure to conform.
However, that is not always the case.
I don't know how many times I have felt the tension to toe the line to celebrate Halloween with all it's sugar-laden activities. Growing up in a lukewarm Jehovah's Witness family, sometimes we celebrated it, sometimes we didn't. It wasn't that big of a deal. I just don't have those nostalgic memories attached to this day that many Christians have, and to be honest, I wish the day would just dissipate back into it's medieval Celtic culture from where it originated.
When I grew up, as a non-Christian adult, I never really did anything for Halloween. Maybe my previous upbringing had a hand in giving me the conviction to dislike the holiday, but in my late teens I rejected the entire Jehovah's Witness religion and all of its silly demands to withdraw from all holidays. Despite it all, I still disliked Halloween. It never really settled into my soul with warm fuzzies the way it has for millions in our country, Christians and non-Christians alike.
When I was a single parent mom, prior to conversion, I never stressed the "fun factor" or "kid friendly" version of this day to my young children so its safe to say that post conversion, there was no new awakening or new found redeeming freedom to start celebrating a holiday I never really cared for to begin with.
Halloween was and has always been an irrelevant day to me. It arrives every year like an unwanted visitor that knocks loudly on my door, in spite of my desire to ignore it.
Before I was a stay at home mom, it had always been a day that I felt just needed to be endured while ignoring the reality of seeing my adult co-workers behaving like children when they came to work decked out in some pretty ridiculous get ups. In spite of not partaking in the Halloween festivities, I was never pressured by anyone to conform to the societal norms of the day. Literally overnight, plastic pumpkins appeared filled with cheap Dollar store junk candy that occupied every nook and cranny of the work place. Co-workers would get out of doing work by prancing around the office to show off their costumes while secretly hiding the good chocolate away at their desks and only sharing it with their favorite co-workers. Even less work got done due to the endless talk of after- work Halloween parties and haunted house adventures that needed to be done. No one questioned why I didn't do any of it. It didn't matter.
It was not until AFTER I became a Christian and began regularly attending a local church that I began to feel peer pressure to conform to what other Christians were doing with Halloween. That peer pressure came from friends and church leadership alike. Initially I was shocked that the church embraced wholeheartedly the norms of Halloween. Oftentimes, the Halloween traditions of the day were scrubbed up to look like a brand new shiny penny and there was an intentional desire to re-market the day by giving it a contemporary face lift. Terms like "Trunk or Treat" or "Fall Festivals" are names I had never heard prior to conversion but now were thrown around in church settings with high levels of enthusiasm. Needless to say, one can only clean up Halloween so much. Lipstick on a pig is still a pig.
Every church I have ever been a part of has been a predominately white church so being one of the rare brown skinned people in my local church, I had always felt like an outsider. Halloween seemed to exacerbate the issue even more. I have always wanted to be accepted by other Christians because scripture tells us that Jesus loves the church, literally calling it the bride of Christ. Regardless of how imperfect the church was and is, there is an unconditional love that I have for her. Nonetheless, on this particular day, I have felt even more pressure to get in step with the status-quo or feel even more like a foreigner.
Seeing as how the divide was there, whether it was real or imagined, I could not ignore the conviction to refrain from Halloween, even if it left me and my family further alienated.
Oftentimes, Christians that celebrate Halloween do not think well of Christians that don't. They easily write us off as "those kinds of Christians". There also seems to be an unspoken understanding that Christians that celebrate it are "more hip, more fun, less boring" than non-celebrators.
A few times my motherhood has even been questioned because I did not allow my kids to dress up and "have fun like normal kids" - their words, not mine.
A bizarre Christian peer pressure arises. The goal is to convince Halloween-rejecting Christians to join them in their costume cloaked shindigs. They will even go so far as to try to impose guilt on other Christians by claiming that if one rejects the holiday, they don't truly know the Gospel properly. I doubt they do it on purpose. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to lack of discernment.
There is also the belief that Christians can "take back" this holiday and redeem it for Jesus. There are direct and persuasive arguments that Halloween should be used for the missionary purpose of using it as a tool to reach our lost neighbors for Christ. I don't know how many articles I come across every year advocating that Christians ought to be giving out the "best" candy or that they should intentionally use Halloween as a way to strike up conversations so that they can point others to Jesus.
One particular article from a well known Christian website, one that I love actually, when referring to Halloween, goes so far as to say "How you spend Halloween may reveal a good deal of what you think of sanctification" - meaning - if you don't celebrate it with your lost neighbors, then you are not really growing in Christ-like-ness. Wow!
Another article claims that if you have fear and/or want to shun Halloween out of that fear, "it simply reveals a lack of faith in who Jesus is".
Those are pretty heavy handed words. It's disheartening because those words come from heavily endorsed contemporary theologians.
There is the assumption that the fear involved is a fear toward the "demonic powers" that are assumed over the day. However, I know a few non-celebrating Christians that have a healthy fear of the Lord and it is that fear alone that causes them to not engage in Halloween activities.
Seeing as how easy it is for Christians to default into not thinking for themselves, but instead they find it easier to believe everything that popular or celebrity theologians have to say on any given subject, its no wonder that regular Christians have this nose-snubbing demeanor when they encounter Christians that choose not to celebrate Halloween.
"So and so said it....so it must be right....and Biblical"
The divide grows deep and there is no unity or respecting of one's handling over this silly irrelevant holiday.
"Conform, lest you are disobedient to the calling of Christ" is the call of the day.
It's a sad church reality.
Thankfully, throughout my 11 years of being a new creation in Christ, I have been able to meet other Christians that don't celebrate this day either, its rare, but it happens.
They don't dress their little ones up and parade them through town for candy. They also don't participate in trunk or treat, nor do they attend church fall festivals. They just simply refrain, not because they misunderstand the Gospel, nor are they fearful of the day, nor are they trying to torture their kids by not allowing them to gorge themselves with candy. They refrain out of conviction. They refrain because they choose to.
Let me just clarify, Christians that don't participate in Halloween activities do so for a variety of reasons. They definitely don't need to use Halloween to reach out to their neighbors because, to be quite honest, they might actually be reaching out to their neighbors the rest of the year or they may not be doing anything at all the rest of the year.
If we think we need Halloween to be missional in our communities, then we might be doing it wrong. One day of dressing up in costumes and handing out candy is not going to make or break someone's salvation in coming to Christ.
People seem to forget that others don't come to Christ because we hand out the best candy or open our door wide with warm cider for trick or treaters.
People come to Christ because God, in his timing, takes up residence in their hearts and makes dead people alive. Sometimes God uses our lives as instruments to point others to Jesus, sometimes He doesn't. We don't save anyone.
God saves sinners and He does it when and however he wants.
If it happens because we hand out the best and biggest candy, praise God.
If it happens because we chose not to hand out candy, praise God.
If it happens because we tell them about Jesus after establishing a relationship with them after we open our door on Halloween, praise God.
If it happens because we never open our door on Halloween, but we end up meeting our neighbors at our local grocery store, library, play date activity, or elsewhere, and we establish a relationship with them and eventually tell them about Jesus, praise God.
This Halloween, I pray that Christians respect each other enough to see that God uses our advocating and shunning of this day for His glory.
If only the Christians that have fun on this day, not do so while spewing guilt inducing comments towards those that don't, especially about how we must not understand the Gospel the way THEY do, or how spiritually immature we must be because we choose not to be missional with Halloween.
To even say that is a tad self righteous...but in my un-churched humble opinion, I might question if they truly understand how the sovereign hand of God works...but shhhh....let's not boast about that either....or maybe we should!