halloween is evil

Halloween is tomorrow.  And so, on this Saturday, welcome to my circuitous ramblings on All Hallows’ Eve and my morning blendish choice of accompanying links:

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Halloween is Evil

A lot of Christians have problems with Halloween.  “It’s a tool of Satan, an evil scheme by the most evil one to entice our children into the occult.”  Although I put that sentence in quotes, no one said it — I made it up.  But that’s not the point.

This is the point:  I don’t think Halloween is bad at all; I think it’s good. Why do we associate death and blood, coffins and bones with the occult?  Death is a natural and certain part of life; we all will die.  You know what they say… “Only three things are certain — death, taxes, and babies wanting what’s on your plate instead of what’s on theirs.”  So why associate death with the occult?  Must Halloween be viewed as worshiping death and Satan; is that what we think we’re encouraging?  Could it be that we’re simply providing an outlet to process a part of life which our current culture has hidden from us?

Here in Tanzania, death is never as far away as it is in the United States.  And when I worked in a nursing home in middle Tennessee, death was also never far away; it was an every week occurrence in our building.  And from what I understand, 50 years ago in the U.S, death was never far from everyday life.  But now we hide death away, brushing it under whatever rug of happiness and rainbows is nearby, pretending it doesn’t exist and making discussion on the topic taboo.  Death has been banished to hospitals, funeral homes, nursing homes, and out-of-the-way cemetaries — so that everyday life can remain both sanitary and happy, and death never be encountered at all.

I believe processing mortality is healthy, and Halloween’s about all we have left. Children are able to deal with death in a way that’s not so scary,  depressing, or permanent.  I say better at Halloween than at the first passing of a parent, grandparent, or friend.

No one explains this better than Richard Beck, who addresses not only this idea of processing mortality, but also that of dealing with the uncanny and mysterious (ie. witches, monsters, and the like).  Check this out: In Defense of Halloween.  And this:  “I Am But Dust and Ashes.”

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Best Jack-O-Lantern ever:

yeah, baylor and i carved this one up the other day -- right after she memorized the quadratic formula

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Do people really put poison in Halloween candy?

There is no record (ever in the history of Halloween) of someone giving poisoned candy to random children at Halloween.  There was a guy once who tried to poison his own kids.  And there have been a few (very few) cases in which people put sharp objects in Halloween candy.  But for the most part this is all urban legend, and a bunch of worry over nothing.

However, on Halloween afternoon, I do lick all the candy I intend to give out that evening.

For more on this subject (and my source for above information), see Trick-or-Treat: Is There Poison in Your Pixy Stix?

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Trunk-or-Treat

I’m not a big fan of churches doing this, and I’ll quickly share just a few reasons:

  1. We’re removing ourselves from the world around us.  One more chance to participate in our larger communities, being salt and light in our neighborhoods, squandered away — so we can spend more time in our own little club.  Seriously, the one night of the entire year in which it’s culturally appropriate, and even encouraged and expected, to knock on our neighbors’ doors… we Christians are going to refuse?  On what grounds?  [See #’s 2 and 4.]
  2. “But,” you explain, “we do this as outreach.”  That’s better at least (a little).  Though I’m not a fan of outreach in which others must leave their culture and come to ours.  For those of you who don’t know, I strongly believe mission should be incarnational rather than attractional (we should live Christ into our communities rather than inviting people to leave their communities and come to us).  For more on that subject, I have a series that begins here:  attractional or incarnational — part moja.
  3. Not only are we robbing Christian families of the opportunity to knock doors in their neighborhoods (promoting relationships in their communities — and one of the only times I think “door-knocking evangelism” is appropriate and productive in American culture), but we’re also preventing these families from being home when others knock on their doors.  Our Christian families fail to engage their neighbors on Halloween AND are completely unavailable to them.  On a night when we know full well people are going to come and visit us at our homes?!
  4. I’ve heard some say this is a safety issue.  Really?  How many of our suburbanite church families live in neighborhoods in which it would be dangerous for a parent and child to knock on the doors of their minivan-driving neighbors’ homes?  I’m willing to bet that, statistically, there is greater danger in driving a family to a church parking for Trunk-or-Treat than in knocking on the doors of your neighbors’ homes to say hi and receive some candy.
  5. Do we really want to teach our kids that it’s a good idea to take candy from strangers in cars?  Do church Trunk-or-Treat officials disallow participating host candy-givers to give said candy from the back doors of large white vans with no windows?  I hope we’ve at least determined to be firm in this.

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Just one of the many reasons I think dolls are scary:

my buddy, surely the inspiration for chucky

For a list of the ten most frightening dolls, visit this essay:  10 Dolls That Will Keep You Awake Tonight.

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On this All Hallows Eve, may you and your children process death appropriately and not find razor blades in your candy.  May your offspring understand well the difference between taking candy from a stranger’s trunk and getting in his van to look for a lost dog.

Happy Halloween!

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20 Comments

Filed under family, holidays, just thinking

20 responses to “halloween is evil

  1. Sean

    Hey Brett,

    These are all valid points and I appreciate your perspective. I don’t know why I take such issue with Halloween; it is one area where I still embrace my inner-Fundie. I don’t necessarily buy into the idea of participating in Halloween to reach out to our neighbors. While it is an opportunity to be winsome in our interactions with them, when we have taken our daughter around to various houses we barely have time to talk to anyone. When kids come to our door, their parents are on the curb or in the van and in the process of getting through the neighborhood as quickly as possible. There is certainly opportunity for some conversation, but will a Believer who only interacts with their neighbor one night a year really take it? I try to take every opportunity to talk to my neighbors, care for them and engage them. I don’t think they will be won for the kingdom because I give the full size candy bars on Halloween, but who knows.

    Personally, when I Halloweened as a kid, I recall the emotions of being afraid to go out into the night and the eeriness of the evening as a whole. However, as the night when on it became more and more comfortable. Isn’t it good that we preserve that wholesome reverence to avoid the darkness? When fear entertains us I think we desensitize ourselves and our kids to avoiding darkness, and it takes more and more fear each time to get the “fear high”.

    While I think “celebrating” Halloween is a personal choice for believers and no event is an invitation for separating ourselves from the lost, most compelling arguments for participation in Halloween out there fall flat with me. Many Christians who I find participating in it are not fervent in their evangelism and burden for the lost (or using such opportunity to be so). Caring for our neighbors and allowing the Spirit to break down the barriers within our community is a daily practice; hourly! I know you’re in agreement with that. I have personally found what’s wrong with participating in Halloween to outweigh the positives. Unfortunately, that would weigh me a narrow-minded judgment from many believers, but I believe it to be a wholesome conviction.

    • sean, thanks for commenting. i enjoy a good halloween discussion. aww, who am i kidding — i enjoy any good discussion. but i do have some questions about your views. first, though, a clarification:

      as far as using halloween for “outreach” in our neighborhoods, i was just meaning here is something our larger community does in which we can participate. we can, on this one evening, very easily live among and interact with our neighbors. [i didn’t mean to invite them into our homes for bible study, etc, just be with them.]

      as per the idea of a “wholesome reverence to avoid the darkness,” i’m not sure i understand. what is it that’s evil about nighttime or the dark?

      along the same lines you said, “I have personally found what’s wrong with participating in Halloween to outweigh the positives.”

      but what is it that’s wrong with halloween? i don’t think you’re narrow-minded for disliking halloween or not participating in it. i do think, though, you’re attributing some certain evil or sin to halloween as if it’s common knowledge and apparent to all. but i don’t know what it would be.

      • Sean

        Thanks for clarifying. Does being a part of a community mean that I participate in everything the community does? Not necessarily. I do not feel my neighbors are less a part of the community when they do not attend church.

        There are associations with Halloween in regard to a lot of evil practice, Satanic worship and witchcraft. I may be more sensitive to those things because in this part of PA those things run rampant. However, even in the translation of Halloween in popular culture – it is a holiday rooted in fear and evil. Don’t you think? When do the most satanic, scary and evil movies come out? How are they marketed? I see the darkness as associated with evil and it is a common theme in Scripture even until the establishment of God’s kingdom as a place where no darkness is. We do not let our kids go out in the darkness by themselves; because many bad things happen under the veil of darkness that would not so permissively happen in the light.

        I do not see fear as a healthy emotion to cultivate in the lives of believers. We are called to be faithful, not fearful. We should not be overwhelmed by the fear of demons. Halloween presents a picture of death and the afterlife that is not based in any kind of truth. I think it is healthier as a Believing family to choose to focus on the truth and not participate in something that celebrates a lie. Does that make more sense?

        • two subjects, two replies.

          “Does being a part of a community mean that I participate in everything the community does? Not necessarily. I do not feel my neighbors are less a part of the community when they do not attend church.”

          i only mean that it’s extremely rare for our communities (neighborhoods) to participate together in something — in anything. i figure most subdivisions have halloween and that’s it. maybe some have a neighborhood clean-up day. and then there are a few, too, who have neighborhood pools or tennis clubs.

          but i don’t at all think families should participate if they believe halloween to be sinful. i just don’t like the idea of LEAVING our neighborhoods in order to celebrate the very same holiday in another place with another group of people — especially when traditionally this holiday has been a neighborhood one.

        • re: satan worship and halloween

          sean, i do understand a great deal better now. and i respect your views, though we still disagree (it is true, however, that i don’t live in pennsylvania). i just don’t see the fear and such in halloween (how a family and neighborhood would celebrate it) as being evil. i especially don’t see it as satanic.

          i do think halloween has a lot to do with fear — monsters and ghosts and the like. but i don’t think those ideas are in themselves evil. i think halloween gives children the opportunity to confront their fears (of monsters, etc) in a safe and fun environment. the scary monster is only a mask that jeff from next door is wearing. and those ghosts are only sheets hanging from a tree — the kids even saw how they were made.

          so i’m not suggesting we cultivate fear, but rather confront it in safe ways and places.

          now, popular culture does indeed come out with a lot of violent and scary (even evil) movies during the halloween season. but that’s not what i’m suggesting we participate in. i’m talking about a parent walking around the neighborhood with his costumed children as they knock on neighbors’ doors and get candy.

          popular and american culture regularly take days or celebrations which are not in themselves evil, and make them so:

          – halloween — violent and gory movies
          – valentine’s day — love equals romance/lust
          – july 4 — honor country over God
          – christmas — materialism and greed

          but i would say we don’t throw any of these out. rather we redeem them. we celebrate and practice them like christians would/should. we don’t watch the gory movies, but we give candy to our neighbors’ kids and encourage our children to meet people in our neighborhood.

          • Sean

            I feel you here. I’m all about redemption. But if you want to celebrate All Saint’s Day, why not go to church like the day was purposed for?

          • this is where i am completely lost. i don’t know a thing about all saint’s day or all hallows’ eve or the original intent of halloween… only how it’s celebrated these days.

            thanks for the conversation, sean. and have a happy october 31st.

  2. Sean

    Oh, and MyBuddy is totally Chuckie.

  3. Sean

    That’s fair. Our community has a lot going on so I see my neighbors enough to not rely on Halloween to see them. Still, I would be more prone to organize an event (block party; game night) to get together with them than to rely on Halloween to run into them once a year. So, I’ll with you a Happy Reformation Day 🙂

  4. Don’t agree with all of your blog but I’m with you that North Americans have an unhealthy take on Death- suppress and pseudo-sanitize it for 11 months of a year and then go on a wild pendulum swing for the 12th- neither of them healthy. I personally think that we pretty much sucked the good out of the old Samhein harvest festival and put it into our Thanksgiving Day celebrations. The husk doesn’t have much left that is healthy. One of my personal pluses of living in Africa is that Halloween is a non-starter.

  5. Well, as a big fat fan of Truck-or-treat, I will have to disagree (although I have not read all of the other comments and your replies, so I apologize if I am being repetitive).

    I am not sure a whole lot of relationship building and missionary work goes on with the whole trick-or-treat thing. It is quick and dirty, bags open, candy falls in, adults exclaim over how cute the kids are, and it is on to the next house.

    I also believe it IS a way to pull people from the community in. Many non-church-goers or nonchristians or whatever are also concerned with safety (whether warranted or not) and a trunk-or-treat scenario at a church of all places seems pretty safe (whether warranted or not).

    As a participant in Mayfair’s trunk-or-treat and Fall Funest every year, I have seen a TON (and I mean a serious ton) of people come. And then I have the opportunity to take an interest in them and their children. They see an atmosphere of people who love and accept each other, who are having a blast, and it is my hope that they will come back for more.

    I do think, however, that opening my door and letting the neighbors see me participating in this activity with kindness and generosity is also a good way to at least let them know I am approachable. I’ve wished a thousand times to know my neighbors better – more than just a wave now and then.

    This year we were able to do both…just like last year. Mayfair usually makes Fall Funest (including the trunk thing) on a Sunday afternoon and so far, not the same day as Halloween. So I guess you get the best of both there. Reaching out and pulling in.

    • janie, you’re not being repetitive, though i’m sure most readers probably agree with you. and this response might be longer than you’d like to read. but here goes:

      i’m not thinking of halloween in a community being bible studies and deep conversations. i’m just thinking there are so few days where we’re able to participate in something with our neighbors, why throw one more away to go to a church building.

      and i agree that trunk-or-treat is a way to pull people in from the community — but i think that’s the problem. it’s not that i think it’s wrong in every circumstance to do so. but we’ve made christianity / church into an organization that requires non-christians to leave their own communities and culture in order to join ours. so instead of Christ and his church living into the community — and new christians living Christ into their own communities — we make them act like us and conform to our group, so they can no longer belong in their former group. instead of entire cultures being transformed and coming to Christ, we’re adding a few people to our own list of members. a few churches are probably doing it because they want to grow attendance (and the contributions that come with it). but most, i think, are just doing their best to be what God wants. but i think they’re missing it big when it comes to mission.

      i just think it’s a broken system — or at least an extremely inefficient system. and it’s not what Jesus modeled. it’s like when chinese college students became christians after studying the bible with me: a few of them (those closest to me) were likely never really accepted back into their old groups — or, in many cases, didn’t want to go back. now they were more advanced english speakers (and the bible is best studied in english, it seems), with slightly more american thinking, etc. they had to conform a great deal to my american ideals in order to become a part of our churches.

      i wasn’t trying to do that. but it’s a natural byproduct of attractional ministry. and again, i’m not against all forms of attractional ministry. i think mayfair doing the trunk-or-treat thing on a day other than halloween is a great idea. but when all of our “out”reach is asking people to come to us, we’re not living Christ into our communities — and we’re not doing mission as Jesus did, or as God intended.

      so… much of my reaction against trunk-or-treat is that many churches are yet again replacing life and service in their local communities (on halloween night) with one more event to draw people to them. we have a history of doing this. we can’t play regular softball; we need church league softball, where only christians play. and now, even that’s not good enough. some really big churches are have their own private “intramural” leagues. going to starbucks to sit and have coffee isn’t good enough; we need to have our own coffee shop on a friday night with christian music. i just think we’re missing the whole point of being christians in the world.

      end diatribe.

      • I think you are turning trunk-or-treat into more than it is intended to be (or adding extra motives that may not be there). How can we ever get anyone comfortable with Mayfair (or any church for that matter) if we don’t invite them in on some sort of neutral ground (candy, dress-up, kids)? I don’t think by inviting the community to a fun, safe place to celebrate a day, that we are asking them to be like us or conform to what we think they ought to be. We are simply saying, “Hey, we are nice, give us a shot.”

        Plus, we meet and worship in that building. And it looks like a giant school (I almost did not start going there for that very reason). So…anyone interested may, like me, be intimidated by the size. But if they can bring their kid to a trunk-or-treat and sort of check us out, that may be a way of getting them more comfortable with the idea of coming back. Our church (people) is all over Huntsville and Madison and outlying areas as well. And I hope that we are all out there (work, school, running groups, whatever) letting others know about Christ, and reaching out to them where they are. But the truth is we meet and worship in that building. So…not that they have to come there to become a Christian…but that is where we are, where we meet, where we worship and learn and plan service and pray with each other. Getting people comfortable with some of it, may be the step to getting them comfortable with being a part of all the rest.

        I also see this activity as a way to build relationships with people already attending our church. Mayfair is HUGE and I have gotten to know a several of families simply by parking next to them.

        And maybe churches similar to Mayfair are not replacing life and service in our local communities, so much as adding to it.

        I’m not asking people to be like me, worship like me, look or act like me. Jesus is asking for bigger changes than that, however.

        I never thought I’d be defending trunk or treat. Every time I write it, I have to grin. I think sometimes we (maybe you in this case 🙂 ) over-complicate the simple. God can use whatever we mere humans try to do. We aren’t going to get it right even half the time, but I know some good probably came out of that silly tradition Mayfair engages in every year. Not because of me and my bags of candy in the church parking lot, but because God can do that.

        • i willingly admit that a bit of my poking at trunk-or-treat is for the sake of a larger discussion. however, it’s not people like me who are “over-complicat(ing) the simple,” janie. think about it. no, those folks would have to be the really large church buildings who organize, plan, and structure huge and complicated events and programs in order to spread christianity.

          i’m the one suggesting the less complicated approach. one in which i reside in a neighborhood and spend my time living a Godly life alongside and among others in my community. i worry little about buildings and programs, instead simply serving others and pointing to Jesus.

          Jesus chose the less complicated of the two. as did paul and a whole lot of others.

          “How can we ever get anyone comfortable with Mayfair (or any church for that matter) if we don’t invite them in on some sort of neutral ground (candy, dress-up, kids)?”

          our problem is that i don’t agree with the premise of the question. i think we focus too much on “invit(ing) them in,” neutral ground or not. and we don’t focus enough on merely making disciples. why not introduce them to Jesus and help them get to know him a little — and not worry about if they ever end up at my church building?

          i don’t think we mean bad in it, but we have an unhealthy obsession with getting people to OUR congregation.

          but, again, i don’t think trunk-or-treat is the devil. nor does it produce his fru-its. i just don’t like all the assumptions on which it’s based.

          and i like even less that most christians have never considered that there might be false assumptions on which we’ve based all these attractional programs and events. they simply fall in line, convinced God’s intention is for us to draw people in — instead of living him out.

          • You are right about one thing. There were no fru-its at that trunk-or-treat!! 🙂

            Okay, so I see what you are saying about the over-complicating and all that. And I think church goers, Christians, and all the peeps in charge at Mayfair are doing BOTH. We are living out our day to day lives in our neighborhoods and at work and all the places we happen to go. And I think if you looked into some of these guys’ (leaders) hearts you’d find that the true desire is not to get folks to Mayfair, but to Christ. Mayfair is all of us coming together and worshiping and serving and praying and loving the best way we know how in the 21st century. And if people want to be a part of that, whether they know Christ or not, I think Mayfair would want them to know they are welcome and accepted.

            I see all the “living him out” programs (I know, the over-thinking, planning programs) Mayfair does, that show me this trunk-or-treat business is not representative of the attitude you describe. It is just one of the many things they do to reach out (go out) and pull in. There is a lot of going out going on. I could list some, but that is not the point. I think there is a need for both. Do some churches/people/Christians focus solely on pulling in? Sure. But not all. I think some see the use for both.

            I see what you are saying. I do. And I understand the assumptions you describe. I just don’t think trunk-or-treat is necessarily representative of those assumptions or that all churches or large groups of Christians have that very set. I just think there is a…what is the word…purpose…use for…ministry in both the reaching out/going out, and the inviting and pulling in.

            Was going to Tanzania simple? Did you just hop on a plane, go and start living there? It took time, planning, funds, and large bodies of Christians to help you get there. Maybe it was not called a “program” exactly, but it took some planning, studying, thinking, praying, researching, organizing…

            I don’t think living day to day lives has to be that way, but a lot of the going out and inviting in both require it. I think God can use and bless it all. I mean, churches are right smack in the middle of the community. Would it be better to do it in the Kroger parking lot? The mall?

            I’m kind of wandering all over the place now…but there it is. I agree with what you have said. I just think targeting trunk or treat as an example is…well…not a good example. Or maybe I just like it. 😉

          • janie, i didn’t mean to call into question mayfair. and i know several of “those guys'” and their hearts. it’s not mayfair or it’s leaders that i’m calling into question. it’s the general default setting of “invite people to our church building.” and i don’t think it’s all bad. i just think when it’s our default, we generally slack in other, more important areas.

            rather than asking, “how can i help this individual understand God’s will for his life?” we’re asking, “how can i get this person to come to my church so they can hear a sermon by my preacher — and hopefully something will be said that’s useful to him in his place in life? what can i do to get him on our church property in a way that he can still be comfortable and enjoy his time here — until i can ease him into the more spiritual things?”

            what if instead, we focused more on being WITH that guy IN his place in life? and showing him what it looks like to be both in that place and in love with God at the same time? [instead of focusing on easing him INTO our group FROM where he is.]

            again, i’m not speaking to any church in particular. and i’m not against mayfair at all. nor am i against all attractional events. i’m only against a certain and unquestioned mindset of “we have Christ; come and get him.” and every church says they don’t have that mindset, but the actions of nearly every one shows otherwise . because it’s not a decision they make. it’s just how it’s been done and how it’s being done and how it’s going to be done. it’s an assumption.

            and i think trunk-or-treat is the perfect example of the assumptions that are made — especially if churches are hosting it on halloween night. those groups of christians are yet again making a decision to remove themselves from their communities in order to do exactly what their community is doing on that same night. only they want to do it on their own turf (either because they just want to be with one another more than with non-christians, or because they want non-christians to have to come to them).

            i think it’s great that mayfair (and i’m sure other churches) don’t have trunk-or-treat on halloween night. that’s a great decision. i think it:
            1) provides a fun activity for christian families to do together
            2) provides a good service to the community on one day or night, and
            3) allows christians to be in their communities on halloween.

            but as a tool for evangelism (and i’m not saying that’s even how mayfair uses it), i believe it’s less effective than the alternative. do i think people from the community come to trunk-or-treat? sure. might a fraction of them later come to church or even become christians? sure.

            but we’ve demonstrated to them that church and christianity is a “come to us” thing rather than a “go to you” thing. it’s become about you leaving your culture to be a part of ours and not about you allowing God to transform your culture.

            i’m not saying there aren’t people becoming christians because of these programs and events. but i am saying most of them have been removed from their own places in life — and we’re failing to assist God in transforming the larger community. because we pluck people out of it, instead of encouraging them to live Christ into it.

            and if that’s how they became christians, that’s how they assume it goes. and a cycle is born — or, rather, was born a long time ago, and we are the products of it.

            * i’d also argue that most of those who become members of our churches as a result of these fun programs and events were already christians — and have only changed congregations.

  6. Daniel

    You make a good point about processing death, especially since the origins of the holiday seem to be in honoring the deaths of those Christians who have given their lives for the kingdom. However, Halloween in America is so far removed from those origins that I don’t know if it is worth redeeming. We all may have fond memories from childhood of dressing up and getting candy, but the overarching mood of the holiday is one of mischief and evil which manifests itself in a plethora of slasher movies and costumes such as witches, people with fake knives through their heads, and sexy/trampy french maids, etc. I am all for carrying on with the fun for kids, bonfires, hayrides and such but those things can be done apart from “Halloween.” I am currently looking into the history/spirit of all saints day and all hallows eve so that our family might begin resurrecting the more noble aspects of the holiday. However, I don’t want to be a party-pooper, either, and isolate our daughter once she is in school so this is something I go back and forth with.

    • i guess i have to admit i don’t much care about the origins of the holiday. though if they help to support the processing of death, i’m on board. we’re a squeamish people who treat death on this earth as if IT is the enemy.

      but, daniel, why not refuse to participate in the slasher movie and sexy french maid stuff — and just go around the neighborhood with kids?

      except the knife through the head thing… i think that’s a good way to process death. we all know it’s fake. we say it’s gross. but we’re, all that while (possibly even unknowingly), processing our own mortality. and we can learn to be less afraid of it.

  7. Pingback: the controversy over church buildings | aliens and strangers

  8. Pingback: children processing death | aliens and strangers

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