Happy Halloween — or not, depending on whether you believe Linus’s favorite holiday is the work of the devil:
“The October 31st holiday that we today know as Halloween has strong roots in paganism and is closely connected with worship of the Enemy of this world, Satan. It is a holiday that generally glorifies the dark things of this world, rather than the light of Jesus Christ, The Truth,” ChristianAnswers.com warns on its website.
Or merely the work of our childlike imagination:
“For me, Halloween has always been a festive, fun-loving time. I loved it as a kid and I love it as an adult. What’s not to like about seeing children get to live out their most outrageous — if harmless — fantasies for one magical evening?” Bob Setzer Jr., is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Macon, Ga., wrote for the Associated Baptist Press.
Stewart and Colbert, step aside. The church continues to host its own Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on a daily basis. When it comes to Halloween, though, I see more congregations and clergy thankfully moving in the direction of sanity.
Sure, too many Christian voices fear the reaper, especially on Halloween, applying warning labels to trick-or-treat bags. But many more Christians choose to fear not, even on the darkest of dark All Hallows Eves, making efforts to turn those fearful faith-based frowns upside down.
Look around and you can’t help but notice how many congregations are hosting Fall Festivals, Harvest Parties, “Trunk or Treat!” programs, or other church-based events to offer children and adults a safe, fun and, sometimes, lightly spiritual way to celebrate Halloween. Listen and you’ll hear Halloween’s faith-based defenders speaking out, offering all sorts of reasons and reasonable ways for Christians to join the fun.
Like Rev. Polk Van Zandt, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Murfreesboro, Tenn., who wrote for the Daily News Journal:
“The Good News of God’s love is that there is nothing, not even death, that can separate a baptized person from God’s love and presence. That is a reason to celebrate. That is what Hallowe’en is all about. It has nothing to do with the worship of the devil. It has nothing to do with evil. It is a way to teach our children that God is with them and loves them. And God loves you, too!”
Like Rob Moll, a Christian hospice volunteer who wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
“Halloween, also known as ‘All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day (on Nov. 1) offer a rare opportunity in the Christian calendar to reflect on death. The holidays were intended to celebrate the communion of the saints, the spiritual unity of all–living and dead–who trust in Christ and await the eventual resurrection of their bodies. This is the hope on which Christians stake their lives. But in a culture with deep fears of death and dying, even many of the faithful would rather avoid talking about the grave.”
“In the interest of a kinder, gentler approach toward seven-year-old ghouls and goblins, here’s my suggestion for Halloween: Turn on the porch light. Have plenty of candy on hand. Be a neighbor. Welcome and delight in the kids who show up at your door. Smile at the parents who linger behind in the shadows. Act a lot less like a finicky, self-righteous Pharisee and a lot more like a joyous, fun-loving Jesus. Make him proud. Shine his light. Share his love.”
And like Christian writer Caryn Rivadeneira wrote for Christianity Today:
“I’d love to leave room to celebrate Halloween as a day when Christians can at once embrace the call to live without fear and to consider the mysteries, even the creepiness, of our faith. Of things we don’t understand and yet are so drawn to. Recognizing these mysteries as part of the wonder and glory of how God chooses to reveal himself to us as light on the most dark and stormy nights.”
Sure, churches continue to take the creepy, scared straight Hell House approach to Halloween, producing truly gruesome dramas in an attempt to literally scare the devil out of children. And a handful of churches try to raise the Eternal Threat Level beyond belief.
For the second year in a row, for example, the poorly named Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C., plans to celebrate Halloween by burning Bibles that aren’t the King James Version.
“We will also be burning Satan’s popular books,” pastor Marc Grizzard told reporter, “written by heretics like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning (and) William You.”
What about Stephen King? Sadly, not even King could imagine something that scary.
What’s the best way for churches to react to faith-based phobias about Halloween? Should congregations offer alternative forms of celebration? Should they folllow Setzer’s advice to “Turn on the porch light. Have plenty of candy on hand. Be a neighbor. Welcome and delight in the kids who show up at your door”? Or should they just let it be?