Wednesday, November 02, 2011

How Should Christians Think About Halloween?

Should Christians celebrate Halloween? It's another one of those questions that will have Christians taking all sides. There will be vehement assertions one way or the other as well as those that simply say "meh..." I have usually approached it from a theological standpoint regarding both the explicit and implicit messages contained within. And usually while I am not generally opposed to the holiday there are certain things that are being glorified within the holiday that I strongly dislike.

That being said, I came across a very different take from one of my fellow seminary graduates. Jeremy Dowsett, pastor of Blacksoil, approached the holiday from an angle that I had not considered. His view is from the social aspects provided by Halloween that have been quickly disappearing in our society:

Our culture is almost completely devoid of spaces where it is socially appropriate to interact with neighbors. The evenings of sitting on front porches, talking with whoever is out for a walk have been replaced with evenings scanning the 300 channels of cable or running on the treadmill listening to an ipod. I don’t even live in an “attached garage” community, and the only people I ever see outside are kids and moms calling kids to come inside.

Halloween is the one day of the year that it’s not only appropriate, it’s actually expected you will go onto your neighbors porches and interact with your neighbors. Not only that, but their is some remnant of generosity and hospitality in this ritual. People are actually giving gifts to strangers and expecting nothing in return (albeit gifts loaded with high fructose corn syrup, but hey its something).

The neighborhood streets near our church were absolutely filled–comparatively speaking–with kids and parents Halloween afternoon. In the past, when I lived in a house where I would actually get trick-or-treaters, it was one of the very few times that I would interact with people from the neighborhood. And I would often sit on my front stoop in the evenings.

Yes there are things about Halloween that are the antithesis of the Christian faith. It has the tendency to glorify demons, vampires and witches which all stem from the evil side of the scale. But there are also aspects of Christmas and Easter which, when we dig deep enough, have their root in things that also tend from that same evil side. But as Christians we have had no problem overlooking them in order to "redeem" those holidays.

Pastor Dowsett goes on to say:

Now why on this one day of the year that’s brimming with potential for meeting and blessing people Christians want to take themselves out of their neighborhoods and do “safe” activities with their kids at some church building somewhere else is beyond me. In theological lingo, Halloween is full of missional potential.

There seems to be this trend that I have observed in many Christian circles where we want to insulate ourselves from evil rather than separate from it. Just before going to the cross Jesus prayed:

I have given them (the Disciples) your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

We are not supposed to try and insulate ourselves form all things evil. Jesus asked the Father to protect us from evil while we are interacting with the world. Halloween is an excellent example where we can interact with the world while shunning the less savory parts of the holiday. It is a good opportunity to interact with people that we may otherwise never interact with.

1 comment:

  1. I like the distinction that you draw between insulating ourselves from evil and separating ourselves from evil. That's helpful.