Halloween: Redeem or Retreat?

LS014997Should Christians participate in Halloween festivities?  Should Christians seek to redeem Halloween?  If yes, how should they go about it?  If no, what should Christians do when little trick-or-treaters come all festooned to their door?  These are questions I’ve wrestled with every Halloween.  Like our forty-fourth president said on a different matter, my views on these questions are “evolving.”  Should Christians seek to redeem Halloween or retreat from it?  Here are four observations about Halloween and four actions my family will take this year.

Four Observations

1. It is true, Halloween has a dark and diabolical history.  Albert Mohler has written about this.  This is the main reason most Christians struggle with how to approach Halloween.  We must also come to terms with the reality that while Halloween is still very much about ghouls and gore it is also significantly about green.  According to the National Retail Federation, the average American will spend $75.03 on decorations, costumes, and candy for Halloween.  Total spending on Halloween will approach $7 billion (that’s right billion) this year, second only to Christmas for retailers.  This holiday represents consumerism as much as it does evil.  This observation reminds us that every holiday is touched by the prince and power of the air and tainted by depravity to some extent.

2. Halloween is a celebration of that which is evil and ugly.  A friend of mine, Greg Stiekes, introduced me to this consideration some years ago.  He wrote,

Nevertheless, as believers in Christ, we must be wise in our approach to this holiday, for no matter how innocent our celebration there is still one part of Halloween that remains: the spooky, ugly, eerie, horrible, vile, scary, fearsome, grotesque, and ghostly.  Remember, a holiday is a celebration.  And when we celebrate those kinds of qualities, we are very close to celebrating that which is bad, and what is bad is very close to what is evil.  Halloween has always been connected to the monstrous, dark spiritual, demonic, and mysterious.

By contrast, Paul said this to the believers in Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).  As believers, we are to celebrate the noble and good.

This consideration makes me want to approach Halloween discerningly so that my family doesn’t move from redeeming the holiday to being immersed in the trappings that militate against biblical virtues.

3. Christians should be willing to wrestle with the “in not of” principle as it relates to Halloween (cf. John 17:13-16; Romans 12:2).  We are in the world but not of it.  So to what extent can we use Halloween as a redemptive opportunity without being swept away by the eerie and evil torrent of the holiday?

4. Christians should be guided by their conscience.  Whether Christians should redeem or retreat on Halloween is a matter of “opinion” (Romans 14:1, ESV, NASB; “doubtful disputations” KJV; “doubtful things” NKJV; “doubtful issues” HCSB; “disputable matters” NIV).  As a Christian, I have two Biblical responsibilities on how I approach Halloween according to Romans 14.  First, I must be persuaded in my own mind about whether or not to observe this holiday (Romans 14:5).  Second, I must not condemn a fellow Christian who comes to a different conclusion than I do (Romans 14:10, 13; cf. Colossians 2:16).  So do not feel obligated to participate in or make an effort to redeem Halloween if your conscience forbids you to do this.  On the other hand, do not judge another believer whose conscience permits him or her to participate in or redeem Halloween to some extent.

Four Actions

As for me and my house…

1. We plan to leave the lights on.  In the past, we have turned the lights off and not responded to the summons of the doorbell when trick-or-treaters came to our door.  We did this with good intentions but this approach was awkward.  We will leave the lights on this Halloween.

2. We plan to distribute treats and tracts. One good article I came across, “12 Simple Ways to Be on Mission this Halloween,” suggested not to give out tracts because kids want candy not tracts.  The author makes a good point—sort of.   Why settle for an either/or approach—either candy or tracts?  We will take a both/and approach—both candy and tracts.  We will distribute EvanTell’s “CrossTalk” tract along with candy.

3. We plan to be hospitable.  As I write this the forecast shows rain with a high of 47 degrees on Halloween.  It appears that it will be a cool and damp night.  Offering hot apple cider is a possibility.  We are still relatively new in our neighborhood so we don’t want to miss the opportunity to meet and greet neighbors who will come to our door.

4. We plan to involve our children.  The kids will help prepare and pass out the treats and tracts and may dress up in some of their superhero or soldier outfits.

It’s a very simple approach for us but different from what we’ve done in years past.  I know this is an issue that can generate more heat than light.  Nevertheless, I would enjoy hearing about what others do on Halloween.  What have you done on Halloween?  What do you plan to do this year?


10 thoughts on “Halloween: Redeem or Retreat?

  1. Doug … we posted as a Filing on Sharper Iron here

    As for us … we leave the lights on until 8 pm. My wife hates Halloween for a number of reasons but also because she is the one who has to get up and answer the door. But we see it as a good opportunity to connect with neighbors and know who their kids are.

    • Thanks for the comment Jim. It’s true, a number of factors will vary from one family to the next that will shape how they handle Halloween but it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to connect with neighbors.

  2. I appreciate your article and how you chose to wrote it. I love Halloween and I love Jesus. I grew up celebrating this holiday to its fullest. As with everything we do in our home, we try to bring Jesus into our Halloween celebrations from pumpkin carving to considering others with our costume choices. It’s a good opportunity to talk with our children. I do grow so tired of “Christians” judging other Christians about their choices to celebrate this holiday. It so turns people off and creates unnecessary rifts in churches and friendships. All that being said, my favorite part of this article was how you addressed Halloween as an opinion. I believe we all have personal convictions that aren’t explicitly written in the Bible but for which we feel led (based on scripture, of course). The most important part of that is PERSONAL………..so maybe keep it that way. I am not condemning you or your article on this matter. We look to certain people for their opinions, like our pastors. I do not however, want to jump on Facebook and see a post lambasting Halloween full of sanctimonious self-righteousness. I don’t remember reading anywhere in God’s Word that this is a great way to win non-believers. Thanks again for the article! I appreciate it.

    • Sally, thank you for sharing your thoughts. This issue certainly brings out a very passionate debate. Conscience is an important dynamic in our response to Halloween. I appreciate what you’ve said.

    • Sally, It seems to me that by putting Christians in quotes you are communicating your judgement about those people? I assume you were referring to someone other than Al Mohler or Greg Stiekes? Fortunately, declarations of non-judgmental-ism have a get-out-of-jail-free card on sanctimonious self-righteousness.

  3. Sounds like a better idea and plan that what we are doing this year. We’re going to be making crafts for our own little Halloween party, cuddling in the apartment and hanging out watching kids movies, coloring, and cooking lots of snack type foods! Maybe next year we’ll/I’ll be more organized to have others over and pass out candy and tracts together.

  4. I appreciated the tone, but I have to disagree with thought that doing nothing is awkward. We turn of the lights and close the front gate. Since I am a teacher, we still have a couple of students who come by every year, and I simply let them know we are not celebrating the holiday or handing out candy. It provides an open door for discussion. This is the same discussion we have at stores when clerks ask our kids if they are excited about halloween approaching.

    • Chip, I understand. When we went with the lights off option one year, we were in a townhome. We learned that one cannot do much in the dark. 🙂 Perhaps running an errand or being away for the evening rather than being home with the lights off would have been a better way to go for us. Thanks for your contribution.

  5. Pingback: jim harbaugh halloween | Kuplux's

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