I’m one of those annoying Christians who really dislike Halloween. However the reason I dislike it is not the same as lots of people I know, who see it as a celebration of evil and a trivialization of the occult. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love that stuff either and I’ve seen the damage it can do, but the reason I dislike Halloween so much is unfortunately the same every year…the behaviour of Christians.
I am a Christian, and it is this belief that shapes everything I do and everything I think. I believe there is a kingdom of light, God’s kingdom, and I believe there is a kingdom of darkness belonging to Satan who is real and active in our world; stealing, killing and destroying. I believe these two kingdoms are at war, and I am engaged in this war, to defeat darkness and bring the kingdom of God to earth, which is how the story will end. Lots of people don’t think that which is fine, but it’s what I think.
I don’t have kids, but if I did and it was Halloween personally I would not dress them up in witch, demon or devil costumes, because for me those things are representing a kingdom I detest, a kingdom that hurts and binds rather than a kingdom that heals and sets people free. Do I expect other people who are not Christians to have this view? No, and I can’t help but feel sad when I hear Christians publicly condemn and rebuke those who dress their children up in costumes like this, when their worldview and beliefs are totally different. If I was sat in macdonalds enjoying a big mac, and a Jew walked in and started telling me I was wrong or even evil for eating meat that was not kosher, I would probably think something along the lines of, ‘how weird that this woman with totally different religious beliefs and values is expecting me to live the way she does when I have my own set of religious beliefs and values!’ It probably wouldn’t make me want to be a Jew any time soon either. I find it baffling when we condemn others by not living the way we live, but we are infuriated when others do the same to us.
Please hear what I’m saying – I would not dress my kids up in these costumes! It would be like a Jew dressing up as a Nazi for fun. Not sure what my obsession with Jews is about today. Anyway, while we’re on the subject of Jews and Nazis, remember when Prince Harry was slated for wearing a Nazi costume to a fancy dress party? (story here) Now is Harry the only person to have ever worn a Nazi costume to a fancy dress party? I think probably not. But why did people react so strongly to him wearing that costume? It was because of who Harry is, what he represents, the kingdom he is a part of. He is part of the royal family and it is that family he represents. To wear something that symbolizes such horrific violence, racism and evil goes against everything that royal family is supposed to stand for. And there you have it, that is why I wouldn’t dress as a witch, demon, devil, or anything for that matter that stands for something that hurts and destroys people. Because I am part of a royal family called to bring justice, mercy, forgiveness and love. I do not expect people not currently part of that family or representing that kingdom to feel or do the same.
I also watch with horror at the way people hide their kids away from anything even vaguely related to Halloween, filled with fear and suspicion and passing on the same. I totally get that how we raise our kids is so important, specifically how we raise them to cope with the kind of world we find ourselves in. The world is a dark place, where witches and vampires and demons have made their way into every part of society. For the first time recently, Halloween became the third highest grossing festival, behind Christmas and Easter. It’s here to stay and it’s getting bigger. Whether Christians like it or not, their kids are growing up in a world where this is normal and this presents us with an important question about how we respond, but also how we equip our kids to be in the midst of all of it. Can we hide them away? No! They are going to see it on TV, read it in books, talk about it with their friends and hiding them away from everything is not the answer. All it does is make them fearful, irrelevant and uneducated. I agree when kids are very young they need to be protected and I know there is a balance to be held here – but banning kids from having anything to do with Halloween parties and telling them their friends are joining in with Satan doesn’t seem to do much other than scare and isolate them! I would want my kids to go to the Halloween parties, to talk about Jesus, to not dress up as a demon or a witch and to know that they shouldn’t be afraid of evil spiritual beings because they know Jesus, who has already defeated that kingdom anyway. We are in a tough world and we need to raise tough kids who can face darkness fearlessly and sensitively.
I have spent most of my life reaching out to young people who aren’t Christians, to meet their needs and encourage them to explore faith for themselves. Through years of doing this, the two things that have always been the biggest barriers to them meeting Jesus are Christians and Church. Young people often feel judged by Christians for the way they behave and they reject the church for being old fashioned and irrelevant. So when a Christian posts something public on their facebook page and condemns people involved in Halloween as being evil, what do you think that does to someone who isn’t a Christian? How do you think it would make them feel? Loved and accepted or judged and rejected? I’m aware of what a huge missional opportunity Halloween is, and it makes me sad when we miss it, and instead use it as an opportunity to drive people further away from God by our judgements and criticisms.
When you ask most people on the street trick or treating why they are doing it, very few will reply with “we just love celebrating evil and witchcraft”. It’s fun to dress up in stupid costumes and get stuff for free. That is it and for lots of people that is as far as it will go for them. Just because some people use Halloween to speak curses over people, hurt others and commit crime, doesn’t mean everyone does.
Let’s look at Christmas too. Christmas was a pagan festival celebrating the return of light (More on that here), that Christians took over. Jesus was not born on December 25th. Christians engaged with a pre-existing festival and redeemed it into celebrating the arrival of the biggest light of them all! They didn’t run away scared and condemn it, they made it their own! They didn’t reject Christmas, they redeemed it. Why can’t we do that with Halloween? Why can’t we get right in the thick of it, giving out stuff on the streets when everyone else is taking, blessing instead of cursing, helping instead of tricking?
Richard Niebuhr wrote a very famous book about how Christians engage with culture – Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ in paradox with culture and Christ transforming culture. (Explained better here) It is the transforming part that is so Christlike, so Godlike, to take something and completely transform it. We can do that too, we can transform culture, not think we are above it or be against it. In an essay once I argued that for me Christ went one step further, that he created culture. He created a new way of living, a different way of being in the midst of the existing, a third way, a new kingdom crashing into and dismantling another.
Jesus was and is brilliant. He went to all the places he shouldn’t. He hung out with all the wrong people, saying all the wrong things. He got quite a reputation and was even accused of being demon possessed himself! He confronted darkness, he didn’t hide from it. He was different in the midst of it. And I believe that we are all called to do that, all of us. We are not called to be a fearful, judgmental people who shrink back and stay in holy huddles, but a people who actually believe what they say they believe, that Jesus has defeated darkness already and that we have his power in us to do the same and therefore that we will go into every dark place with no fear, to transform and redeem in his name and for his glory.
Fear is a powerful thing, and for a bunch of people who are supposed to know the creator of the universe, the most powerful being in existence who defeated and conquered death, we sometimes act like we’re pretty scared. What makes me the most sad about this, is the stuff we’re NOT scared of. We’re not scared of the fact that the biggest humanitarian crisis of our generation is going on in the world right now where millions of people are homeless, with countless children orphaned and traumatized. We’re not scared that most churches haven’t even mentioned this on a Sunday. We’re not scared of our out of touch, elitist government as they privatize our services and force people into increasing levels of debt and poverty. We’re not scared that more people die of suicide than car accidents, we’re not scared that prescriptions for anti-depressants have doubled in the last decade, we’re not scared that one in six young people are not in employment, education or training of any kind. How about we start getting scared about the stuff that actually matters, about stuff that actually bothers God, about the stuff that we are supposed to be acting on and speaking out against as the Body of Christ. There are plenty of things to get scared about, Halloween is not one of them.
I am not afraid of death, or witchcraft, or evil, or the occult or the demonic or any other principality or power in this world or out of it. Why? Because I know a guy who not only defeated all of that, but who laughs at it, who made a public spectacle of it. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, Colossians 2:15) His name is Jesus, and that name holds more power and more victory and more protection than anything else in heaven or on earth. I think it’s about time we realised who this Jesus is, what he has done, what he will do, and I think it’s about time we rose up and walked and talked like we believe that knowing him actually makes a difference in our lives and means we don’t ever need to fear anything ever, even Halloween, in fact especially Halloween.