f The Wittenberg Door: What to do About Halloween?

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What to do About Halloween?

All Saints’ Day (or All Hallows) is a church tradition dating back to the 7th century. At base it was an occasion set aside to remember the faithful who had come before. The observance of All Hollows Day, November 1, continued after the Reformation not only in Roman Catholicism, but also in the Lutheran and Anglican churches, as well as in some other segments of Protestantism.

The morphing of this holiday into our modern Halloween is a long and winding road that includes elements derived from Christian tradition, paganism, Roman Catholicism, and culture. But superstition is the string that ties them all together. Take costumes as an example. It was believed that certain malevolent spirits were allowed to wander the earth on All Hollow’s Eve seeking their revenge on the living. So costumes would be worn to keep the angry specters from recognizing their intended haunts. (Another weapon to have on hand is the Jack-o’-Lantern, which apparently terrifies these ghosts.)

To Participate? Or Not to Participate?

But all of this is but a back-drop to a larger question: Should I participate in Halloween or not?

There are thoughtful Christians on both sides. Those against it point to the pagan elements and the strong association with the kingdom of darkness. While other Christians see this as a way to celebrate Christ’s victory over death and the defeat of Satan; they also believe that all this attention paid to spirits and death provides ample opportunity for evangelism (as does meeting the neighbors through tick-or-treating). Valid points are made by both camps.

I think most Christians fall somewhere in the middle, and I’d include myself among them. That means I do participate, but I do so cautiously. Therefore, I stay away from the occult elements, the glorification of death, and the making light of demonic forces. Now that doesn’t mean that I shy away from a good fright. I do enjoy the old scary movies on TCM and I love a good haunted house. (As I see it, Halloween affords us the opportunity to experience the emotion of fear safely.)

Conclusion

I believe this to be a matter of conscience, although many on the “abstain” side would take issue. I admit that I don’t have a strong conviction on this and could be wrong. But one thing I’m certain of: whether we participate or not, this day, as do all others, belongs to Christ—there is no “Devils holiday.” Satan’s works have been destroyed (1 Jon. 3:8) and his kingdom conquered (Heb. 2:14 – 15). We stand triumphantly in Christ’s victory over him (1 Pet. 5:8 – 9, Matt. 16:18), and over death itself (1 Cor. 15–57). So whether we’re extorting candy from the neighbors, avoiding cow pies at a Harvest Festival, or sitting at home in the dark hiding from the doorbell, we should always remember that the message of Christ’s triumph is appropriate for all seasons.

--The Catechizer

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