On a Thursday two weeks ago, also known as Halloween night, my wife and I were sitting on the front porch, light on, jack-o-lantern lit, nibbling on the occasional Snickers, and welcoming trick-or-treaters.
Our neighbors across the street were sending some mixed signals. They had a dim light on the porch, and lights on in the house. Several youngsters went up to the door and rang the bell, with no response. A minute later, the lady of the house came out and put a child gate across the front steps to block anyone from going to the door.
The message went from mixed to loud and clear.
I have no idea why they didn’t make it clear from the start, or why they didn’t want trick-or-treaters. (Quite frankly, it’s none of my business). But the message of the gate was clear: We don’t want you here.
I think that some Christian approaches to Halloween send the same message. The intent may be to say that we don’t participate in a holiday with a decidedly pagan and even sinister history. But the true message may be something quite different.
During the 80s, I sat through the youth rallies, worship services and video presentations of the 80s warning of the innate evil of October 31. I even participated in a few of the Halloween “alternatives” at various churches (boy, how THAT word has changed over the years!).
I thought the whole “anti-Halloween” furor had gone the way of Guess jeans and mullets, but apparently this continues to be a major issue for some groups of Christians. Dr. Albert Mohler has declared that it is far more dangerous than we actually want to believe.
As for me, I’m glad to say that I’m a pastor who participates in Halloween. We even have a horribly-carved pumpkin on our porch every October 31.
I tend to go with the point of view of Ed Stetzer, who points out that Halloween is a great opportunity to kick open the gates and meet the neighbors. No, I didn’t pass out any Bible tracts or brochures about Augusta Heights Church. But I did get to meet some kids from the neighborhood, and let a couple of new families from the street know that they had nothing to fear from the big, bad pastor living next door. (I’m afraid that is sometimes how people view us).
I do believe that there is real evil in the world and powers that we cannot fully comprehend, both evil and good. Combating evil is definitely a calling for Christians and the church.
At the same time, why would we give something power where power does not truly exist? Oct. 31 is a date on the calendar. What it means to some, or meant at one time to some, does not have to define what it is now.
I would not say that I “celebrate” Halloween, because that could imply that I somehow endorse what it has meant in history. I’m not a huge fan of horror movies or Twilight costumes or the ridiculous sex-ploitation outfits that are so popular. I certainly don’t advocate the absurd violence that occurs in some cities on Oct. 31, although such things are millions of miles away from my experience.
(As a sidenote, I’m overjoyed that my 14-year old daughter finds those sexy costumes “completely offensive and inappropriate”. Her words, not mine. Now if I can only get her to hold onto that attitude for at least the next 20 years…)
I do, however, celebrate the opportunity to sit on the porch and greet families from the neighborhood and laugh at the cute costumes of the kids. I celebrate the “Trunk or Treat” we have each year at Augusta Heights, where we get a chance to say “hello” to our neighborhood and show them that we are a welcoming congregation. And I celebrate the memories of childhood, where my mom and dad had to come around in the car to drag me off the streets as I tried to set records for annual candy accumulation.
When it comes to Halloween, I certainly don’t mean to condemn or look down upon those who feel that it’s something for Christians to avoid. Still, it seems that the anti-Halloween crusade has failed miserably, as most such crusades tend to do.
It might be better to simply let the day be what it was for me: A time to have fun with friends and family, and to act like neighbors in a world that is losing the meaning of that word. We can probably send our most powerful message against the “forces of darkness” by interacting with our neighbors than we do by putting up a gate to our front door.
If we want to crusade against anything, perhaps we need to offer a word about how we waste 7 billion dollars a year on the actual event of Halloween. That might be a greater evil than anything All Hallows’ Eve ever cooked up.