This October 31, many Memphians will be out celebrating what is today referred to as Halloween. In many regards, Halloween is considered a major holiday in the US, perhaps surpassing Thanksgiving and coming in behind Christmas, which is the number one celebrated holiday. But is Halloween a holiday that should be celebrated, particularly among Christians? According to one website, Wiccans see this as one of their eight major holidays, so how should Christians respond?
According to Dictionary.com, the name Halloween is derived from All Saint’s Day even though the Christian holiday doesn’t have any resemblance to the holiday celebrated today. In fact, it is more likely based on the Celtic New Year, which at that time celebrated the dead arising for one night, among other things.
There are several aspects regarding Halloween that should raise “red flags” among Christian believers. However, it is a matter of disagreement even within the Christian community about whether Christians in general should be involved in the holiday or not. While some arguments “for” participation may have merit, there is one aspect of the argument that is completely left out and will be discussed later.
Some that propose that Christians should participate in Halloween list various reasons for their position. Alan Rudnick, a pastor from Ballston Spa, NY, claims that Halloween somehow got hijacked by the culture. In asserting this claim, he believes Christians should have a certain understanding of history such as how All Saint’s Day and Samhain, the Celtic New Year ritual, just are not the same thing and should be distinguished today. There’s also a call to reclaim the “evil” themes associated with the secular holiday and revert it back to an innocent, spiritual observance. Even Kirk Cameron, a well-known and out-spoken Christian convert, believes that Christians should take advantage of the opportunity of Halloween:
“Halloween gives you a great opportunity to show how Christians celebrate the day that death was defeated, and you can give them Gospel tracts and tell the story of how every ghost, goblin, witch and demon was trounced the day Jesus rose from the grave. Clearly no Christians ought to be glorifying death, because death was defeated, and that was the point of All Hallows Eve.”
Rudnick does make some valid points, such as taking comfort in the fact that Christ defeated death and Christians should focus on teaching the concept of celebrating All Saint’s Day. These are ideas that are not in disagreement in the community. Kirk Cameron makes a similar point. The question arises, however, how these certain points fit in with the Halloween narrative.
Christians that do have a problem with Halloween point out some of the more disturbing aspects of the holiday. Though at one time the holiday was purposely moved to November 1 to replace the pagan ritual of the medieval time, the current culture has undoubtedly taken a page from history and has brought “evil” back into the picture. Whether one puts stock into witchcraft, the occult, divination, or other spiritually demonic practices as being part of Halloween, the fact is that much of the holiday celebrates a rather dark view, and spiritual one at that, of the world. Think Vampire Diaries.
Consider the changing nature of our culture. Perhaps 60 or so years ago, there was a certain innocence that was a part of the American psyche. People generally could trust their neighbor and many could leave their doors unlocked while they slept in their homes. Today, it is widely acknowledged that the climate has changed for the worse and people lock their doors at night, many in fear. As the culture has changed, particularly in the discussion regarding Halloween, so has its views toward the darker, spiritual side of the holiday.
It is probably out of a lack of understanding but Christians today generally take a lackadaisical approach toward demonic influence. It might be because the world has been exposed to so much bad in the world that many people have become desensitized to what is truly evil. However, if Christians believe in the God of heaven and earth, then they should also believe there’s a very powerful being, named Satan, that is in the world to kill, steal, and destroy. How Satan accomplishes his goals and how he exerts his influence more likely takes a deceptive approach to catch us off guard. Christians, of all people, should be keenly aware of Satan’s deceptive practices and be on guard at all times.
Christians should have more discernment spiritually. They should take a page out of the Apostle Paul’s view toward observances of holidays. There’s a certain verse in Scripture that speaks to this issue: Colossians 2:16, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” If taken in context, we could assume that if Paul was talking about certain celebrations, it was in regards to days that were set aside to honor God, not pagan holidays. The current holiday of Halloween does not fit that description.
We can also assume that in the observance of these certain holidays that we shouldn’t judge each other. Verse 16 begins with therefore and so is a continuation of a thought Paul was making. Paul was talking prior to this verse about how we were free from sin and have the fullness of Christ in us. Paul was emphasizing on our freedom in Christ. It doesn’t appear that the point was for Christians to not use discernment regarding their participation in certain holidays, only not to judge each other in regards to celebrating a particular day in how we honor God.
The question is then by some Christians’ admonition that Halloween being derived from All Saint’s Day, why should Christians be judged by their participation? This is where discernment should be used. Can anyone honestly say they are celebrating All Saint’s Day in a way that gives glory to God? It seems by claiming All Saint’s Day to participate in Halloween is only an excuse. But unfortunately, it only endorses pagan activities for the most part.
But then there’s another side of this issue that Kirk Cameron brought up. Ironically, the Huffington Post viewed Kirk’s views as a little bizarre. To be quite honest, it is bizarre that Christians would want to be involved in a holiday that doesn’t involve God but rather invokes the ideas of witchcraft and the evil side of the supernatural. Do Christians endorse these views or teach them to their children? Of course not. They dress them up in superheroes costumes or furry little creatures or something more innocent. However, as children grow and mature, do they not tend to be curious and want to understand the other views toward Halloween? If mature believers do not explain the reality of evil and the power of demonic influences, how will children or new believers guard themselves from these realities?
It’s difficult to imagine that, according to Cameron, “Christians would dress up in costumes as the devil, ghosts, goblins and witches precisely to make the point that those things were defeated and overthrown by the resurrected Jesus Christ.” If that is true, it’s a naïve view of the influence of the spiritual forces of darkness. Satan and his dominions are intelligent creatures that are not be taken lightly. It can be viewed in the same manner as a Christian in prayer speaking out to Satan and saying, “Satan, you have no power over me.” It’s a dangerous thing to be speaking to the enemy. The Bible says that God provides protection for the believer through the armor of God. Why? Because God recognizes that the enemy is powerful and influential. Ephesians 6:13 states, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
Going back to what was stated earlier, there is one aspect of the argument for Christians that defend their participation in Halloween that is unfortunately left out of the conversation. Even if Christians believe they’re mature enough and easily distinguish between good and evil, they’re not being sensitive to children and fairly new believers that may not understand so easily. It may cause some to stumble in their faith questioning why the Church feels it’s acceptable to be participating in such a blatant pagan holiday. The Apostle Paul had something similar to say in regards to the weakness of some believers:
1 Corinthians 8:9-11
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.
So while Memphians go about celebrating this Halloween, Christians should stop and reflect whether their participation is warranted or not. If even after reading this there is no conviction, then the Christian Church in the US might be more vulnerable to the enemy than we thought. Consider this, is it worth the risk of allowing Satan greater influence over God’s chosen people and over you?