Trick or Treat? Do We Participate or Not?
Tim Muehlhoff - October 29, 2019
This is a two-part question: My friend and I got into an interesting discussion the other day about Halloween and whether Christians should engage or not. Things got heated and we ended angry with each other and frustrated at the conversation. First, can you give some advice on how we might reconcile after the blowup? Second, can you share thoughts about Halloween and how Christians should or should not engage?
Signed, Slightly Spooked.
(Note: This article was originally published October 30, 2018)
In this post, let me tackle the thorny topic of Halloween and in the next, how to reconcile after a heated conversation.
The topic of Halloween often provokes strong reactions from Christians. The reason your conversation got heated was that those who disagree about this holiday are not only equally passionate but in some ways equally right. Those who argue that we should avoid All Hallows’ Eve note that it came from Celtic paganism where participants believed it was a time when spirits or ghosts came out to cause trouble. One way to protect your household from these spirits was to offer sweets or small gifts. Thus, Christians should avoid this ritual (1 Cor. 10:20-21). Those who advocate that Christians should participate argue that the kids who come to their door dressed as Power Rangers have no idea of the pagan roots of Halloween. As good neighbors, we should take part in passing out candy and meeting those who are part of our community (Mt. 22:37-39).
Who is right? Both perspectives have merit and should be taken seriously. Yes, All Hallows’ Eve does have demonic origins, and no doubt offers demons fertile ground for wreaking havoc. Yes, we as Christians are commanded to be good neighbors and Halloween offers a great time to connect with both parents and kids we often don’t see on a regular basis. Since you’ve asked me for my two cents, let me offer my answer in the form of a personal story. I grew up outside of east Detroit as a non-Christian. Halloween was one of my absolute favorite nights. What kid didn’t enjoy getting dressed up and filling a pillowcase with candy! Yet, on Halloween night my friends and I often came across families that didn’t participate. Walking past these dark houses, we couldn’t believe that the owners were too cheap to hand out candy. How could you not be home on this of all nights! It was only later—after becoming a Christian—that I learned it was often Christian families who didn’t participate for fear of promoting a pagan holiday. Yet, as a non-Christian, I thought they were merely cheap or bad neighbors. Personally, I think as Christians who want to not only be good neighbors but be a witness for Jesus, we should participate in Halloween. However, we should not do so lightly and without first asking for the Spirit’s protection.
In my newly released book, Defending Your Marriage: The Reality of Spiritual Battle (IVP, 2018) I advocate that Christians learn to utilize spiritual warfare prayers as a form of protection. These prayers focus on asking for protection for our spouse, children, and co-workers. Why not create a prayer for protection from spiritual attack as we seek to minister during Halloween? It might read something like:
“Father, on this night we ask for protection as we seek to be good neighbors. As a family, we command evil spirits to not only leave us alone but also our neighbors and their children! As neighbors, we pray that the light of Jesus would outshine the pagan roots of this holiday. We pray in the authority of Jesus, Amen.”
In the next post, I’ll give suggestions how we can give grace to sincere Christians who may passionately disagree on this issue as we all seek to follow Jesus (1 Pet. 3:8).
Tim is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, CA, and is the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project which seeks to reintroduce humility, civility, and compassion back into our public disagreements. He is the co-host of the Winsome Conviction Podcast and his latest book is, Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing without Dividing the Church (IVP)