Halloween has long been debated in Christian circles as to whether or not it's right or wrong to participate. Sometimes, culture presents us with things that aren't black and white and require us to do a little bit of homework before we jump to conclusions or make blind assumptions. As we teach our students, we need to be thinking people- people who make decisions based on well-thought out logic paired with the wisdom of God.
So what do we do with a culture piece that seems to hold a lot of weight in people's minds? Here's a thinking process we have found helpful when evaluating certain cultural norms. Research-Reject-Receive-Redeem.
1. Research the aspect of culture that you are discussing, in this case, Halloween.
It will take far too long to write the history of Halloween here, and it's not necessarily the point of this post. So in short, the holiday did, in some part, originate from pagan and mythical practices. But calling it "Satanic" can merely end up being a game of semantics. (What about Roman and Greek mythology, etc?) Maybe all these things are "satanic," maybe they aren't. Christians need to exercise thoughtful discernment when coming to conclusions about such matters.
2. Reject, Receive, or Redeem.
Christians have three options when it comes to how they want to approach the culture issue at hand, in this case, Halloween.
A Christian named Pat Robertson called Halloween the "festival of the Devils" and said it was wrong for Christians to participate. But to reject it outright without answering this question, would be foolish... "To what extent does something's evolution from pagan roots entail that its present practice is tainted?" Because today, there's been a huge shift in the original practices of Halloween, to kids dressed up in cute costumes for a sugar fest once a year.
If you are going to outright reject Halloween are you consistent in rejecting other holidays completely as well? There are pagan practices rooted in most holidays as is excess, like too much candy on Halloween. So should we reject Thanksgiving too because some people eat too much and gluttony is a sin?
Other Christians reject Halloween because they fear the evil will influence their Christian faith. The idea is, 'garbage in, garbage out.' But Jesus says the exact opposite is true in Mark 7:21-23. The fruit of our lives (whether holiness or sin) is always tied to the root of our hearts. Sin absolutely corrupts but the sin is not so much 'out there in the world' as much as it is in the heart of every person. Holding fast to the outright rejection position falsely assumes sin is mostly what we do rather than who we are.
Receiving halloween means one might take it in its full glory, jumping in with both feet and embracing every single aspect of the holiday and its practices without ever thinking through the why and the how. This in and of itself may not be a problem, but the concern may be that we might have too quickly and blindly just accepted something culture had to offer without thinking deeply about it.
If we have an informed understanding of the history of Halloween and realize that as a Christian we have the biblical freedom to redeem cultural practices (1 Corinthians 10:22-23), Christians should follow their conscience in choosing how to approach this holiday.
How one goes about which aspects of Halloween to redeem or receive is still a tricky issue. One suggestion is to distinguish between the cultural aspects of Halloween and the religious aspects of Halloween. "There is a big difference between kids dressing up in cute costumes for candy and Mardi-Gras-like Halloween parties with offensive costumes and uninhibited excess."
"It's naive to make a blanket judgment to reject or receive Halloween as a whole. There should be no pressure to participate, but for those Christians whose conscience permits, we should view it as an opportunity to engage wisely with our culture and to choose how we can redeem this aspect of culture. Many Christian use this culture piece of Halloween as a way to get out into their neighborhoods and hang out with those around them, build relationships, and be together with people they live near which they otherwise might not get to do as often. And, let's be honest, mom and dad really enjoy raiding the Halloween buckets once all the kids are sleeping (just don't forget to garboflage the evidence)!