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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Friday, October 20, 2006

Thoughts on Halloween

Halloween is less than two weeks away, and most Christian families have already taken a position on whether or not to celebrate it. I’m not a family man, so I haven’t had to make the decision for anyone other than myself. I do have some thoughts on it, though.

Most Americans treat Halloween as they do other holidays – as a day to celebrate for no particular reason, according to traditional practices that people don’t know the origin or purpose of. If I had no other wish, I would that people actually recognized the significance of the days they observe, and questioned in an informed and intelligent fashion why they do what they do.

Halloween has historically been recognized a couple of different ways. The older form is as All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve. The other is, as it is in Reformation circles, as Reformation Day, because it is the anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

I consider both observances as legitimate and compatible, though I know my Catholic brethren would disagree. And while I don’t think anything is wrong with the custom of putting on costumes and knocking on doors, of yelling “trick or treat” and getting candy, I wish that the average Christian home would seek a return to a recognition of this day as it historically has been, as a “holy day” – a day of celebration for God’s work in the lives of his saints. While I believe God can truly be honored through mindless fun, I think that an observance of the Church Calendar is irreplaceable as providing order, stability, purpose, and meaning in a Christian’s life as well as in the Christian family and community. I also believe that the Church Calendar is one of the greatest testimonies of Christ’s Kingdom, in showing that the kingdoms of this world are truly His. In observing the church calendar, we stand against the forces of paganism and secularism that seek to encroach upon more and more of our lives every day, and instead testify that we are Christ’s, that we belong to no other, and that every knee will one day bow to Him.

I would also like to add some thoughts on the “Holyween” or “Hallelujah” festivals that Evangelicals have the past few years taken to holding in an effort to provide an alternative to Halloween. I know some of these things have sprung up due to the fact that in many or most communities it is unsafe to take your children (or, in some cases of parental neglect, allowing them to go without a chaperone) to the doors of your neighbors for “trick or treat”. Part of the problem here lies in the fact that most of us don’t know our neighbors anymore. We choose rather to isolate ourselves in our houses whenever we are at home, which is growing more rare as the years go by. Increasingly, we are using our houses for little more than sleeping at night. (This is a subject worthy of its own blog entry, so I'll save further comment for another time.)

Another part of the problem lies in the fact that our country is growing more and more wicked. Insofar as the churches are simply seeking to protect children, I applaud them.

But there is a problem here in the approach. The Evangelical church has been largely secularized for years, giving up the culture to non-Christians to run. And those non-Christians have done their best to take our Holy Days and turn them into non-descript days of celebration for all to observe and exploit. Now the Evangelical church has realized (late, as usual) that they have a problem on their hands. The pagans have done with this what they always do – by removing God from the equation, they expose us to the gradual erosion and eventual disappearance of God’s Moral Law. They think they can maintain some vague notion of “civility” without God, and they have once again provided us with evidence that this isn’t possible.

Evangelicals, finding their children in danger as a formerly decent holiday becomes a celebration of death, are left scrambling and looking for answers. Some simply consider the holiday to be pagan and shut it out of their homes. Most try to set up alternatives at their local church. But Evangelicals meet with little success, and what success they meet with is of a fleeting character. With an incomplete understanding of the sufficiency of the work of Christ, they have allowed the pagan to “assume the center”, while they are off in the corner, acting as if Jesus isn’t really King. And with no historic understanding of the church, they are left to take what the pagans do for Halloween and “clean it up”.

The problems in this are manifold, but I’ve run out of time and I’ll have to pick this back up another day. For now, I would simply like to point Evangelicals back to the historic celebrations of the church. These are sufficient for what is needed.

For some more elaborate thoughts on Halloween, here is James Jordan’s essay about it.

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