October 27, 2011

Halloween, Yea Or Nay?

In Christian circles Halloween seems to drudge up some pretty heated and rather divided discussions. I think a convincing case for participating in Halloween and a convincing case for not participating in Halloween can both be made equally well.

There is a good reason for that.

Halloween is two distinct holidays that have been meshed together. Now I don't mean that literally, as in there were two holidays that have combined, but in practice that is what we have.

Allow me to elaborate.

Holiday #1 Dress Up, Candy, and Neighbourly Fun Day

I enjoy this holiday.

I actually look forward to it every year. I love seeing kids dressed up as princesses', pirates', animals and all that fun stuff. More than that I love seeing kids dress up in costumes of things I like. A few years back before I was married I was at my parents' house for 'dress up, candy, neighbourly fun day' and a little boy  around three years of age came dressed as Link from the Legend of Zelda. If I had bought the candy he would have had it all!

Of course I like this day for more than just the candy and the costumes. I like seeing parents out with their kids, talking with neighbours and generally having a good time. This is something that many of us have lost. My family has lived in our home for a little more than a year and we barely know our neighbours. And other than the houses on either side of us we have no idea who lives on our street. I think that would describe a lot of people.

Finally as a Christian I love any and every opportunity that I get to naturally speak with strangers. Normally people don't like it if  you just show up and knock on their door to speak with them for a few minutes. 'Dress up, candy, neighbourly fun day' gives me that opportunity. We can engage in evangelism, community building, and social justice ministries (for example a food drive instead of trick or treating) with more ease on a day like this.

When we highlight the aspects of 'dress up, candy, neighbourly fun day' it makes perfect sense to me that Christians want to participate. After all why wouldn't we!

Well we might not because 'dress up, candy, neighbourly fun day' is joined at the hip with...

This Was The Best 'Christian Halloween' Picture I Found!

Holiday #2 Violence, Death, and Darkness Celebration Day

I do not enjoy this day at all.

I am sure I have said somewhere along the way that I am both a sci-fi nerd and a gamer. But the other genre of media that tends to be associated with sci-fi and gaming is horror which I absolutely cannot stand. (It gives me nightmares!) Call me crazy but I do not enjoy watching someone get dismembered by a chainsaw, slashed to pieces with a butcher knife, or eaten alive by a mad man. Violence, death, and darkness celebration day has it all and more.

Beyond just the media in movies, TV, and the internet, violence, death, and darkness celebration day tends to glorify activities that are forbidden in scripture. This includes activities like sorcery, contacting the dead, willful demonic possession and worship of the devil. Combined this the very scary nature that violence, death, and darkness celebration day can bring out in some people (don't let your pets out after dark on this night) and I think every Christian is well within their rights to abstain from participating in it beyond pointing out how wrong many of its practices are.

The question we are left with is; should we as Christian participate in the combination of dress up, candy, neighbourly fun day and violence, death, and darkness celebration day, better known as Halloween?

I hesitate to make any sweeping proclamations here. So I will simply tell you where I am on this issue at this time in my current location. That being said I do reserve the right to change my mind depending on future experiences and locations.

I participate in Halloween. This is to say I try as best as I can to take part in dress up, candy, neighbourly fun day while screening out as much of violence, death, and darkness celebration day as I can. Our kids dress up, we trick or treat but we do not hang severed arms on our banister nor do we partake in horror and gore movies.

I have come to this conclusion because I find that Halloween is a good reminder of what living in our current culture is actually like. Almost every activity we can participate in is a mixture of good and bad, things that as a Christian I am for, and things I am against. We pick on Halloween because it tends to be more obvious. But let's not kid ourselves there are no benign activities. Everything we do is either making us more like Christ, or less like Christ.

Maybe a better question is; are we as Christians equally discerning about the activities we participate in, or the media we consume every other day of the year? Halloween is easy. November 4th (or August 10th, or February 7th) is hard.