For some, Halloween brings a quandary: to celebrate or to not celebrate. The reason that some hesitate in celebrating Halloween is because of its appearance of celebrating the very thing that opposes God — Evil. It was for this reason that Pat Robertson once referred to Halloween as “festival of the Devil” on the 700 Club.
There is no doubt about the dark, pagan origins of Halloween, but does Halloween’s pagan roots have any real bearing on today’s present practices? In other words, does wearing a costume necessarily make one a devil worshipper? Granted, this is an exaggeration, but it does get to the heart of the matter of if we should participate or reject it all together.
Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler observes: “Acutely aware of [Halloween’s] dangers, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?”
It depends on how you are measuring significance. For most, Halloween is about candy and costumes. Research done by the National Retail Federation says that two-thirds of American homes are planning on passing out candy this year with an all-time high of $10.14 billion being spent. While this shows how significant Halloween is in our nation, it does not really answer our question of if we should participate or not.
This debate is clearly on the minds of those living in Utah. Every year when Halloween falls on a Sunday, there are discussions of if it should be celebrated on Sunday or Saturday? If we believed that it was an innocuous celebration, like a birthday party, why would we even ask the question of if it is okay to celebrate on a Sunday? After all, if Halloween is simply a time when families come together to make costumes, to decorate, to have fun – why would it matter if we celebrated on a Sunday?
It is because there is a cautioning spirit within us that suggests that there is something wrong with celebrating the things of darkness on a day when we are to celebrate and remember the light that Christ brought into the world.
But if this is true, then should the day matter? Is it okay to celebrate evil on a Saturday but not a Sunday? Possibly our answer is not found in the day of the celebration but in the heart of the celebrant?
Episcopal priest and a theology professor Justin Holcomb writes, “Many times the ‘reject position’ assumes the evil of the extrinsic world will taint the faith of a Christian. But Jesus says the exact opposite (Mark 7:21-23). The fruit of our lives (whether in holiness or sin) is always inextricably tied to the root of our hearts… The reject position falsely assumes sin is mostly what we do rather than who we are.”
So, is Halloween redeemable for the Christian? It’s difficult to offer an absolute answer, for as Holcomb suggests, it is a matter of the heart. It is possible for me to have a celebration with candy and costumes without celebrating evil, but the challenge is that when my celebration is associated with everything that is frightful at Halloween, the message is confusing.
So, should I or should I not celebrate Halloween? The answer requires discernment. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul addresses those who in the past had been idol worshippers, adulterers, thieves and drunkards. To them he says, “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ — but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.” (11-12)
My concerns are not about having fun or candy or even dressing up. I am concerned about the numbing effects that our association with evil can have. I am concerned about the increasing fascination with the occult that our society has been sliding into. I agree with Mohler’s conclusions, “While affirming that make-believe and imagination are part and parcel of God’s gift of imagination, Christians should still be very concerned about the focus of that imagination and creativity.” Whichever side of the debate you come down on, my prayer is that you will glorify God in all that you do.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at email@example.com.