"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." —Martin Luther
Many of us struggle with the practice of Halloween. Some of us steer our children from trick-or-treating to Harvest parties, while some shun the holiday altogether. Some of us send our children out with the hope that no one from church will see them, while some of us engage the holiday without qualms. As Christians, we have good reasons to struggle with this holiday. With costumes that are sexualized and glorify violence, we have good reason to ask ourselves, "How can Christians, in good conscience, celebrate Halloween?" Christians can and should struggle with how to engage our culture in appropriate ways. As a Christian and a pastor and a mom, I wrestle with a number of issues with Halloween. But in spite of my wrestling, my husband and I have chosen to celebrate Halloween with our family. Here's why.
Halloween’s not my favorite holiday. If I had to rank holidays, I’d say it falls just after Dr. King’s birthday and Veteran’s Day on my list (which I also celebrate with my children). I have my concerns about the way Halloween is practiced. I also have my own fears about it. But frankly, I believe that there are more reasons to be concerned about the way that Christmas and Easter are celebrated in our country than Halloween. That is because their celebrations, which are rooted in the Christian faith, often neglect Christ almost entirely in common practice.
Instead of shunning Halloween, I choose to engage it. I help my children dress up. I take them “trick-or-treating”, which is more about walking up to houses for free candy than ever tricking anyone. I pass out candy to the hundreds of kids who walk down my street on their way to the “better” neighborhoods. I talk to neighbors who excitedly decorate their homes with scary décor. I even make my own meager attempt at Halloween decorations by neglecting to remove the spider webs that adorn my front door every fall.
I do all this because I honestly feel more Christ-like by engaging in this community event than shutting it out. Rather than choosing to fear our children being corrupted by the scare and gore (which I really don’t like), my husband and I talk to them about what we see and offer them a foundation at home that we hope will set them on the right path. We seek to practice hospitality to those who might otherwise not receive it. We seek to love God fervently and our neighbors graciously (although I still struggle being nice to those punks down the street who egged my front door).
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis mocks the devil in his depiction of demons. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend checking it out because I love the idea of making fun of the devil the way gargoyles did outside ancient churches. I also appreciate the notion of poking fun at ourselves so that we do not give the devil a foothold. Halloween costumes are a great way to do that. As tempting as it is to shut the door and turn out the light, God has called each of us to be lights in the darkness, especially on dark nights like Halloween.
This Halloween, my children will spend far too much time figuring out what they are going to wear. We will have the same arguments that we do every year about how much money mom is willing to dish out for their costumes. Because to my children, as to most children, Halloween is simply about getting candy and dressing up, running through the leaves on neighbors lawns, and giggling with their friends. It is about community, and enjoying the season.
My husband I will once again talk to our children about Reformation Day, about our ancestors in the faith's desire that the gospel be accessible to everyone, and we will share that as the motive for our participation in this holiday. Because our primary concern is that our children to know the commandments that Jesus gave us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I know we make mistakes in conveying this message, but my hope and prayer is that our three children will grow up and say, “My parents may not have always gotten it right, but they were committed and courageous followers of Jesus”.
The Verge Network has published a helpful guide for the missional practice of Halloween. Check it out!