Halloween can be a controversial topic among Christians! Every October my Facebook feed starts to fill up with posts arguing for a whole range of approaches the holiday.
Some argue for an outright rejection of the season, some show complete embrace of it, and many try to find a balance between the two.
Halloween is becoming a big deal here is Australia, but October 31st is also an important day for other reasons. Historically, in the church calendar (which is a tradition, not part of the Bible) it is the day before All Saint’s Day, which celebrate the lives of those Christians who are now with the Lord. And October 31st is also Reformation Day, the day when Martin Luther nailed his list of objections to the revenue-raising abuse of the Catholic church (The 95 Theses) to a cathedral door.
This year, October 31st falls on a Sunday, making this an even more pointed issue for Christians. I haven’t got all the answers, but I do have some thoughts on Halloween and how we can show unity when we differ on it.
- There are troubling elements to Halloween.
While Halloween is now all about costumes and lollies, the spooky elements do find their roots in an ancient pagan festival, and the focus on death and thing stereotypically evil is certainly concerning. If we jump right into celebrating Halloween as just being a bit of fun, we can unwittingly endorse elements which are opposed to what we believe. While this doesn’t lead me to toss the modern event aside, we do need to acknowledge its roots in the way that we respond to Halloween- regardless of what that response is.
- There are great opportunities in Halloween.
Whether we like it or not, Halloween is rapidly becoming a major event in Australia. And if we simply refuse to engage with it, we are missing out on some great opportunities to share the good news of Jesus!
This season is focused on death, and things which are spooky or even evil. But Jesus defeated death, breaking it’s power over all those who trust in him. He has crushed evil! That means that we really can laugh at death- it is not something we need to be afraid of!
But the secular culture around us has a strange relationship with death. It is treated as a joke or amusement at Halloween, but when it strikes for real, people rarely know how to respond or to cope. This time when people have fun with a cartoonish caricature of death is a great opportunity for us to point toward the only one who can defeat the real thing!
There are all sorts of ways to do this. One approach which I read in an online article and appreciated is to dress up the kids and go trick-or-treating, but to also give out treats of your own: a little bag with lollies & an invite to church!
- Unity is Important.
Wherever your opinions land on Halloween, is a non-negotiable that we show loving respect to other Christians who have different views. Unity among believers is a top priority for Jesus (see John 17:20-23), and is should be for us also. Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly worth encouraging someone to think through what it looks like to approach Halloween from a Christian perspective, if they haven’t already. There is plenty of space to talk it through (with other people who also want to talk it through!). But it is OK for others to have a different approach than yours. If there is one way that the devil truly can attack the church via Halloween, it is by tricking us to go to war with one another needlessly.
If you haven’t put much thought into Halloween, I highly recommend having a look at the many articles published by The Gospel Coalition on the topic. Just head to thegospelcoalition.org, and search for ‘Halloween’ to get started.
If nothing else, let’s allow these words from 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 shape the way that we approach Halloween:
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”