Why I Don’t Participate in Halloween
Halloween: It's a conscience issue, and my own conscience is pricked by the thought of participating in it. However, I also recognize that there are legitimate (even “biblical”) reasons that one might have for celebrating with the rest of their neighbors.
It's important to realize that historians are divided over the origins of Halloween. Some say that it has Christian roots; others say that it has pagan roots. Either way, we are to make a decision based on what it communicates today and, therefore, if we should (or shouldn’t) participate based on that meaning. From a slightly different angle, we should not only ask if it is “wrong” to participate, but if it is “right” from a biblical perspective.
Typically, I hear of one of four responses to Halloween. First, there are those who believe that any participation in any holiday is inherently sinful and all “true” believers should not participate. Second, some don’t see any big deal about it and just go along with the flow. Third, some see it as their missional duty to look like the world to reach the world. Fourth, there are those (like me) who don’t believe, on the ground of conscience, that they should participate. I’ll address views 1-3 later.
Be that as it may, the following are three reasons why I don’t participate in Halloween, on the ground of conscience:
- Halloween trivializes the spiritual realm, especially the Prince of Darkness. It teaches us not to take the unseen realities at work against the church of Christ seriously. While we shouldn’t be afraid of these realities—as we are “in Christ”—we shouldn’t trivialize them either.
- In an age when the American church is bankrupt of any sense of being “set apart” or “holy” from the culture, participating in Halloween only adds one more way of being “of” the world. This is the plague of liberal churches and denominations. In attempting to look more and more like the world, they end up becoming more and more of the world. The result is the steady decline of lasting influence and the capitulating of gospel witness and faithfulness. While other holidays can either be grounded in Scripture or a gospel theme—or grounded in one’s earthly or national citizenship (e.g., Independence Day)—Halloween possesses none of these attributes. Even if some Christians initially dressed up to ridicule the devils before All Saints Day, that doesn’t make participating biblical for those same Christians or future Christians who follow.
- Halloween has become a celebration of all things evil, dark, occultist, and scary with a little candy sprinkled on top. Recently—though not surprisingly—the dark and scary has evolved into promoting the risqué and gory. It is difficult for me to celebrate any of this or to participate and therefore give any encouragement to this holiday. Obviously, not every element of Halloween is evil or sinful. There is nothing inherently wrong with dressing up or asking for candy. But what Halloween has come to represent and celebrate violates my participatory conscience.
While I don’t want to judge the morality of why Christians choose to participate (again, this is a conscience issue), I do want to briefly address the other three perspectives stated earlier.
The first option—that all cultural holidays are inherently evil—misses fact that while we are citizens of heaven and of a kingdom that is not of this world, we also pay taxes to Caesar, honor the emperor, and strive to live at peace with all. Some cultural holidays are simply that; cultural holidays with little to no bearing against the Christian church. For example, Independence Day may be celebrated as a cultural holiday because it symbolizes our freedom to worship and fair representation. There is nothing inherently sinful about that.
The second position—the “who cares” perspective—too easily separates God and his claim on his people through the shed blood of Christ from daily activities, holidays, events, etc. As Christians, we should care what we do, when we do it, and how we do it. We are not Christians only on Sundays, but rather strive to be living sacrifices as a daily expression of worship. While participation in Halloween isn’t a matter of “first importance,” it is nevertheless important to consider.
The third position—as a “witnessing” option—can be biblical. However, my word of caution against this is twofold: (1) I’ve never heard of any account of Halloween being an effective staging point of Christian “witness” and (2) God not only cares about the content of our “witness”—what we preach and teach—but also the method by which we go about communicating that content. Biblical methodology has become all but abandoned in a “do-whatever-it-takes” Christian culture to “get them in the door” (and, yes, 1 Cor. 9 would be out of context here). But this line of thinking too often undervalues the sovereignty of God in salvation through his appointed means and it weakens the kind of “set apart” boldness we find in the pages of the New Testament. We have fallen into using gimmicks. It’s one thing to eat food that was sacrificed to idols; it’s another to participate in the act of idolatry itself. I’ve also seen these kinds of evangelism tactics that have no follow up, no discipleship, and no connection with the local church. All of this would be unrecognizable by the writers of the New Testament.
Personally, I believe a much better way to celebrate October 31 is to host a Reformation Party and to remember our heritage stemming from the Protestant Reformation. But whatever you do, may God grant you the wisdom to discern his will for you and your family during this time of year.
Brian H. Cosby is senior pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, adjunct professor of historical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta, and author of over a dozen books, including Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible (David C. Cook).
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