In the 21st century the holiday season begins when summer ends. Stores capitalize on the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s Eve sales boon. The summer landscape transforms into a graveyard that quickchanges into the North Pole. Spider webs give way to icicles. Zombies concede the lawn to reindeer. Strobe lights dim into candles. Tombstones become nativities. Ghostly shrills quiet into carols. Candy corn is replaced by walnuts and cheap suckers by candy canes. The slide from ghoul to yule begins after summer ends, when darkness, death and fear sells until light, life and peace does. And each year must outdo the last.
All the while, we church folk fight about where, or if, Jesus is in any of it.
For reasons I cannot sufficiently explain, we’re simply not Halloween people. We don’t blindfold our kids at Walmart or ignore the neighbor’s inflated skull. We don’t wag our fingers at Christolanterns or lampoon the kid next door’s plastic fangs. We don’t condemn “Halloweeners” or assume we’re better parents for keeping our kids’ faces free of fake blood. Or maybe we do. I don’t know. I just know we’re not Halloween people. I only hope prohibiting fake scars doesn’t create real ones. Every year I wonder.
My wife and I grew up Halloween people. Whether it was Spider-Man or the Incredible Hulk, that little elastic string holding my mask never lasted past Crazy Ms. Chamberlain’s house. Breathing in those masks got me all hot and bothered anyway. We bagged our fair share of candy so it was worth the trouble. If the rain pancho KMart peddled as a “Batman costume” didn’t have a rip in it by night’s end then you didn’t trick-or-treat hard enough.
Mrs. Latham always had old lady gum. You know, chewing gum rather than bubble gum. But, you took it all the same knowing it would find its way to Mom’s purse somehow. And even though I knew it was coming and despite my vow of courage the year before, Mrs. Wages–that witchy woman–always got me when she sprung from the porch chair. Oh, and please don’t get me started on whoever thought the Chick-O-Stick was legitimate candy.
Though I’ve not been thoroughly psycho-analyzed I don’t know that I suffer any effects from the “horror” of Snob Hill. Still, now that we’re parents, we’re just not Halloween people.
We could justify our Halloween Scroogeness on how much has changed (for the worse) since we were kids. While true, we could say the same about a hundred other things to which we’ve adapted. So that argument is more red herring than helpful.
Of course, everybody has their own opinion about whose day Halloween really is. Is it Satan’s day that Christians try to redeem? Is it a Christian day Satan hijacks to drag children into the deepest recesses of hell? What combination of Celtic, Gaelic and pagan is it? I don’t know. I just know we’re not Halloween people by modern Halloween standards. The church historically used the day to hallow (hence, the name) dead saints and ridicule death. Now it seems we hallow (living) death and ridicule the saints.
That said, Christians should be on guard of being awash in abject worldliness despite how innocent we assume it is. We are people of conviction and that includes having some conviction about Halloween. We do then have some rationale, however unsatisfactory it might be to most, why we’re not Halloween people.
The typical Halloween “observance” falls into one of two extremes, neither of which help cultivate or demonstrate a robust Christian faith. One extreme is the sensationalism or glorification of evil, darkness and death. The other is the trivialization of them.
Christians do not glamorize or commend evil, darkness and death. They are enemies so we don’t enjoy them or consider them a cause for celebration. I’m not suggesting parents who lead their little Ariel and Captain America down the street are leading them to hell. But they should know that the world of evil, darkness and death is fundamentally at odds with the kingdom of Christ. While the world may exalt and find entertainment value in evil, darkness and death, the church never popularizes them. We don’t trade on fear, but faith. Gospel, not ghosts.
Christians do not trivialize evil, darkness and death. Sure, we all get a good laugh when a chainsaw-wielding goon jumps out from behind the tree. But death and darkness are not to be trifled with. They are very real and far more powerful than The Walking Dead lets on. We don’t want our children taking death lightly. It doesn’t have the power modern Halloweenism gives it. But it is not impotent. Apart from Christ, we are wards of a wicked enemy who intends far more harm to us than wetting our pants.
We must think soberly about evil, darkness and death. They are neither happy nor trivial realities. We want to seem them for what they are: aberrations and squatters in God’s redemptive plan. Because of Jesus we love and portray light and life, not darkness and death.
We don’t hate Halloween. Really, we don’t. We just think there’s a far better message to share and a far better way to share it. God bless any and all Christians who seek to leverage the day for gospel purposes. Just do them with your eyes open as a matter of conviction rather than convenience. Your Trunk-or-Treats and Harvest Festivals will reach far more folks than my pouting about them. Remember, however, every Sunday we gather and scatter as the church to confront darkness and celebrate Light. Whatever our efforts we “are not in darkness . . . for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness . . . but since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess 5.4-8).
Our gospel efforts on Halloween should not be all that different from every other day we mill about in this world. We bring the sweet message and display of Light to a dark and dying people. We don’t need axes and pyrotechnics to attract folks to Jesus. We simply need bread and wine. Prayer and praise. Word and worship.
Call me an old fogey. Call me a puritanical hypocrite. Call me unevangelistic. I am all those things, for sure. I’m probably dropping a KJV Family Bible on a Pop Rock. Whatever your conviction about Halloween just be sure not to hand out Necco wafers. That will indeed scar a person.