Saturday, 27 October 2012

Halloween: have we missed the point?

31st October is fast approaching, which means that once again the supermarket seasonal aisles are full of witches hats, pumpkins and skeleton costumes and Christians across the country are gearing up to condemn Halloween parties as hotbeds of occult activity.

Over the last few years, as I have observed how a number of non-Christian friends celebrate this time of the year, it has become increasingly obvious to me that Halloween is one of those issues where many Christians take a position that is based more on an imagined caricature than real life.
Before you stone me as a heretic - allow me put my cards on the table: I do not like Halloween. At all.

Why on earth anyone would want to celebrate death, demons, darkness, gore and evil baffles me. Young children trick or treating with their parents is one thing, but I don't welcome the excuse Halloween gives for gangs of older teenagers to engage in antisocial behaviour: banging on front doors, intimidating and frightening pensioners, and verbally abusing or egging those who refuse to meet their demands for treats.

In Philippians 4:8 Paul says: ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.’

To my mind, Halloween is none of these things!

HOWEVER... while I think Halloween is unsavoury and unpleasant, for most of my non-Christian friends it is no more than a night of harmless fun, another opportunity to dress up, let their hair down and have a party.

No doubt there will be some who dabble in the occult on 31st October, and that is a cause for concern, but in my experience Halloween is a lot more innocent for the vast majority of people than many Christians imagine it to be.

According to one blog I came across this week (which is actually a transcript of an evangelistic lunchtime talk organised by Durham CU), the roots of Halloween are more Christian than we might at first think. The word ‘Halloween’ is simply a shortening of All Hallows’ Eve’.‘All Hallow’s Day’ or ‘All Saints’ Day’ has been celebrated on November 1st for several hundred years. All Hallow’s Eve was the night before: 31st October.

‘So why did celebration of All Hallows’ Day and All Hallows’ Eve emerge? What did they originally mean? In short, they were a celebration of the victory of those who trust in Jesus over the devil and over all evil...’
What has happened for centuries on All Saints’ Eve – or Halloween – is quite simple. God’s people act out a drama – a drama in which the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is seen for what it really is. What is the means by which the demonic realm is seen for what it is? In a word: mockery.
According to the Bible, the devil’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. And so, to remind themselves of Satan and the evil realm’s ultimate defeat because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians ridicule them. In fact, this is why the Medieval custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thought that the devil really looked like this; indeed, the Bible teaches that he is a fallen arch-angel. Rather, the idea of portraying him in this way is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.
Similarly, on Halloween, the custom arose of mocking the demonic realm by dressing children in costumes. Because the power of Satan has been broken once and for all, children can mock him by dressing up like ghosts, goblins, and witches. The fact that Christians dressed up their children in this way shows our supreme confidence in the utter defeat of Satan by Jesus Christ – there is no fear!
This same principle explains the emergence of another phenomenon. If you go up to old churches, you’ll often see gargoyles: grotesque little figures attached to the outside of the building. Again, there’s a lot of misunderstanding today about why gargoyles were originally included on these building. Again, they had the same meaning as the original meaning of Halloween. They symbolized God’s people ridiculing the enemy. They stick out their tongues and make faces at those who would assault God’s people. Gargoyles represent Christians ridiculing the defeated demonic army.

If you want to read the whole blog/talk follow THIS LINK- it's certainly an interesting new perspective on Halloween!
However the fact remains that neither Halloween-as-pagan-festival-celebrating-evil or Halloween-as-Christian-festival-mocking-evil is the main motivating factor behind most contemporary Halloween parties.

I wonder if as Christians we train our guns at the completely the wrong target and miss the real issue when it comes to Halloween.

Think about it for a moment: what is it that has fuelled the dramatic growth in Halloween over the last few years?

Answer: commercialism.

The rise of Halloween has been fuelled primarily by commercial interests: retailers playing on our need to escape the mundane, by creating yet another red letter day that will tempt us to spend more money on associated merchandise.

In 21st Century Britain, Halloween is as much about materialism and hedonism as it is spiritualism.

Which is why I think most of us Christians miss the point – and the opportunity – that Halloween gives to point others to Jesus.

For most non-Christians, Halloween is not a doorway into the occult, it’s a window into modern priorities.

The best Bible passage to address Halloween is therefore not Deuteronomy 18:10-11 (which denounces sorcery and witchraft), but Matthew 16:26:

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

I suspect the rise in the popularity of Halloween is largely due to the fact that we live in an increasingly secular culture, which says: ‘the whole point of life is to enjoy as much of life as you can while you can’. All retailers do is take advantage of this by providing us with more and more ways in which we can escape the mundane.

And so the new ‘Winter Catalogue’ from Next, the new iPad Mini from Apple, and Halloween are all just symptoms of a much deeper issue: that people have forgotten that the whole point of life is to be connected to God and to enjoy a relationship with him.

Halloween does a  unique thing: it brings our neighbours to our doorsteps. Is it possible that our negativity toward Halloween only alienates the people we are seeking to reach?

Perhaps we should stop bashing Halloween so much and start talking about Jesus a whole lot more.

Dundonald Church has produced a really helpful video 3 minute video with advice on how to do this better - see below. Also, don't forget our own evangelistic 'Light and Bright' Party at Woodgreen this Wednesday for all the family.


Dundonald video: