I will never forget his sermons leading up to October 31st. Or the handouts, boldly decrying Halloween as “the devil’s day.” I will never forget how he hooped and hollered and ranted from the altar about how he would never dress his children up and let them trick-or-treat, because of the pagan roots of the holiday.
How he left his porch light off and refused to give out candy to the idol worshipers at his doorstep. How God deserves the glory, not Satan, ghosts, or ghouls. And I guess we should now include Elsa, Ninja Turtles, and Captain America.
About how Christians should vocalize our outrage at this wretched practice and snatch the souls of our children from their Satan worship, praying for every haunted house attraction to burn down.
And so on, and so forth.
It was my 11th grade year of high school and this was the first time in my life I’d ever heard such a boisterous condemnation of Halloween. In my informational pamphlet, it talked lots about the celtic origins of holiday, the belief that the dead could walk the earth on one night, Samhain and Wiccan practices, etc. It did mention the Christianization of the holiday and re-branding as All Saint’s Day, but the preacher quickly denounced that, saying that “If a holiday has pagan roots, it should not be celebrated by Christians.”
Well, I rebutted in my head, what about Christmas? In a few months, this sanctuary will be decked out in boughs of holly and Christmas trees and all sorts of things with pagan roots. Why do we condemn this occasion and not that one? Because we are afraid of people in masks? Because someone in Christian history coupled Christmas with Jesus’ birth, even though we don’t know his birthday, but assume it’s closer to August? What makes one day different than the other?
This preacher also went on several rants about Christian rock music and how it was “ungodly” and “If it ain’t the Gaithers or Mercyme, get it out!” So I was used to vehemently disagreeing with my preacher.
And I fear that when we become this reactionary, when we generalize people and refuse to understand culture on its level, this is the Christianity we’re left with: an angry, unfeeling Christianity that would rather condemn the lost than befriend them. That would hold to our illusions that the whole world is out to get us because people and their children are knocking at our doors wanting candy, rather than swing open our doors and meet our neighbors and build relationships that last over something as simple as a fun size Kit-Kat bar.
When we are so guarded against culture, we forget who we are, we forget whose we are, and we forget that the One who call us friend, also told us to go and make disciples. And we don’t do that by being an exclusive social club that stands away from those we are called to love.
I don’t believe that any day in particular is evil. I don’t believe that dressing up and playing make believe is of Satan. I don’t believe that even if you do believe that, it’s okay to shut people, who need the gospel lived out in front of them and modeled for them in your life, out.
What makes Christianity so beautiful is that it can thrive in any culture it is placed in. From the African bush to the crowded streets of New York City to house churches in China. It doesn’t forsake the culture around it but grows through it, infiltrating it with the presence and power of Jesus himself, showing people of all color, of all origin, of all walks of life that Jesus is not just for me, he’s for you, too.
How can we spread that message this Halloween? First off, it’s a beautiful time to get to know your neighbors. Become part of each other’s lives if you aren’t already. Be kind to their kids and, heck, give them candy. The Gospel isn’t just something people get if you toss a Bible at them and walk away. It’s something to be lived out, its something to be spoken about, it’s something that takes a long time to grow, but the reward is great.
Be part of the solution, not the problem.
(Author’s note: I was bitter against that preacher (for lots of other reasons) for a long time. I stopped going to his church, I became very frustrated with his brand of Christianity. It just didn’t line up with what I saw in scripture. His version of Jesus was so wrapped up in legalism that it was indistinguishable from the Pharisees. But I’m not angry anymore. I’ve matured a bit since then, and while I still won’t accept what he said, I forgive him.)
Have a happy and safe Halloween. Meet someone new, and share the Gospel always.
Here’s a picture of me dressed as Poseidon.