To trick-or-treat or not to trick-or-treat, that is the question.
Halloween is a confusing day for the Church. On the one hand, it is a fun night where communities come together to wear silly costumes and eat candy. On the other hand, the dark and cultic aspects understandably give many Christians cause for concern. How should Christians approach the controversial celebration?
Here are five thoughts to help you make your decision.
1. Christians Shouldn’t Live by Fear
The atmosphere of Halloween is intentionally scary, but Christians have no need to be fearful. In fact, Christians have less reason to fret about the demonic and cultic elements of Halloween than anyone else does, because they are children of a God who has power over death and darkness.
2. Origins Aren’t Everything
In philosophy, the genetic fallacy occurs when something is judged or dismissed purely on the basis of its origin or history rather than by its present-day context. There is some uncertainty about the origins of Halloween. It is either a Christian holiday related to the feast of All Hallows’ Day or else a celebration that was adopted from distinctively pagan and cultic roots. In our present-day context, however, Halloween has morphed into something quite different from either.
For most people today, Halloween is about candy, costumes, and nothing more. We should also keep in mind that Christianity is in the business of redeeming things with questionable roots. The celebration of Christmas in December is actually due to the pagan celebration of winter solstice, and the Cross—a brutal Roman instrument of death and execution—was transformed into a symbol of joy and victory by Christ.
3. A Matter of Differences
Children are more intelligent than they’re given credit for. With proper parental guidance, kids can distinguish make believe and “dress up” from true spiritual evil. The unbelieving world knows this truth as well. When the world sees Christians taking their kids around the neighborhood in fun costumes to gather candy, they’re unlikely to see any hypocrisy or a tarnished witness. In fact, the world doesn’t seem to have any problem with Christians participating in Halloween. Generally, the primary critics of Christians who participate are the Christians who don’t.
Of course, Christians should also be wise in how they participate. A Christian shouldn’t dress as a devil or a scantily clad Playboy bunny. Neither should they glorify or make light of the occult. However, if parents are thoughtful and purposeful in what they emphasize about Halloween, then children are smart enough to understand the differences.
4. Christians Should Be Present in Culture
There is a significant difference between being in the world and being of the world. Christians must separate themselves from the secular and sinful ideologies of the culture. At the same time, Jesus commissions his followers to go into the world. Christians should be different, but also present.
A 10-year-old kid who dresses up as Iron Man and fills a plastic jack-o-lantern basket with candy is unlikely to start asking for a Ouija board for Christmas or organizing a séance at his elementary school. However, a child who is restricted from participating may grow resentful of “missing out” or start developing a mindset that Christianity is more about being hidden or out of touch with the world than about being present in it.
Halloween affords the Church a unique opportunity. In a world that has become increasingly isolated and private, Halloween is perhaps the only day of the year that neighbors open their doors to the community. In fact, it was when we took my kids trick-or-treating that my wife and I met many of our neighbors for the first time!
5. Discord is More Dangerous than Spooky Costumes
I believe Christians have the freedom to celebrate Halloween. At the same time, I respect any Christian who disagrees and chooses to abstain. You’re not sinning if you participate in Halloween and you’re not failing the Great Commission if you don’t. At the end of the day, Halloween is just a day. Department stores will change from Halloween to Christmas faster than you can shove that second Kit Kat bar into your mouth.
As a teenager, my church occasionally planned a “youth rally” on Halloween night that would usually include a fire and brimstone lecture on the cultural evils of Halloween. As a result, an inconsequential day became the catalyst for shame, judgment, and division within the body of Christ. The trick-or-treaters looked down on the “youth rally” folk as lame and self-righteous, and the non-trick-or-treaters condemned the trick-or-treaters as “worldly” and questioned their true commitment to Christ.
As Paul wrote, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). The Church should not make Halloween into a bigger issue than it is. In the end, division, judgment, and self-righteousness within the Church is far scarier than any Halloween-themed house of horrors.