Is it OK for followers of Christ to celebrate Halloween? Should Christians participate in festivities that seem to do nothing more than glorify evil? Most importantly, can the Gospel win out on this day? How should we respond to this time of year? That’s what I want to address.
Halloween is largely based off old superstitions—right down to the carving of pumpkins. As much as all of that fascinates me, I will spare you the history of Halloween and simply address the issue as it comes to us today. My desire is that this would help us creatively navigate our own culture.
I have noticed that most Christians feel they have two or three options when it comes to how they handle Halloween:
1. Embrace all of Halloween (jack-o-lanterns, witches, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, decorate with eerie lights and skeletons, satanic rituals, etc.) It’s all good fun. Just don’t hurt anyone.
2. Create alternatives to compete with the culture through “fall festivals” (i.e. Christian carnivals) and “Christian” haunted houses (e.g. “Hell House”).
3. Reject everything and stay home. Pretend you’re not home when little children come to your door for candy. Try to put it all out of your mind and ignore it, or sit in your living room upset about it.
Let’s briefly think about each of these options with serious consideration of what the Gospel of Jesus means to us. The way you view the Gospel and the person of Christ will steer you in one direction or the other.
Think About It
Option #1 – Can believers embrace all of Halloween? Would the Jesus who casted out devils, dress up like one? Would Jesus pretend to be a devil to scare people? Would Jesus sport symbols of witchcraft for fun? The early church witnessed the conversion of witches and sorcerers (Acts 19:18-20). I don’t want to be a party pooper, but the Scriptures do not allow for a “fun” Harry Potter version of witchcraft and sorcery (Deut. 18:10; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8). It seems to me that believers could not possibly embrace all aspects of Halloween—not if you’re taking serious the life of Jesus and his Gospel.
Option #2 – What is the motivation to create “alternatives” to rival what is evil? Was Jesus proclaiming an “alternative” message? If churches want to design a carnival for children to enjoy, fine. I see nothing wrong with that. But if it’s done out of anger, fear, and the belief that Christians shouldn’t carve pumpkins and trick-or-treat, I think it sends the wrong message. It gets a little silly when we do “alternative” events for the sole purpose of sticking it to the world. “Christian” haunted houses like “Hell House” just goes to show how confused we are about the Gospel of Jesus. Fear isn’t of the Lord.
Option #3 – Did Jesus have the attitude of a spiritual elitist? Did he retreat into the hills with the Essenes and communicate the attitude that he wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world? We learn a great deal by taking notice of the religious traditions Jesus did reject—like those of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes. Jesus was not afraid of being accused of being a “sinner” or being caught hanging out with them. He was not motivated by fear, anger, or self-righteousness. His zeal led him to be light in the darkest of places. I can’t see Jesus choosing option #3. So where does that leave us?
Is There Another Option?
Is there a way to participate in Halloween while upholding good over evil? I think so. In our American culture, I think there is another option that allows the Gospel to creatively and intentionally engage Halloween.
Truthfully, I think Halloween can be one of the most memorable childhood experiences! I think it can be real healthy fun.
It is a great opportunity to teach children about good and evil.
I don’t think that means we should make our children dress up like Bible characters (nothing wrong with that of course!), but it would be inconsistent to encourage or to allow them to glorify evil with their actions, costumes, behavior, etc. Surely we all know this to be true.
Evil can be appealing. That’s a great lesson children and adults need to learn. The real appeal of evil is only in the costume, of course. It’s worth remembering that the devil masquerades around as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
There are many lessons we can teach our children and be soberly reminded of ourselves. Primarily, there is a cosmic battle of good and evil going on every day we live in this present age. That which is unseen is made visible on Halloween. It’s a perfect time to be reminded that we battle not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12).
I’ve been married for almost 16 years. My wife and I have two boys: a 5 year old and a one year old. We have settled it in our hearts that we want to use the culture to teach our children biblical truths, instead of sheltering them from it entirely when and where good can and should triumph. Sooner or later our children must live in the world on their own. Teach them to confront evil, not run from it.
Working with students as long as we have, we are convinced of this much: Engagement with the culture is inevitable, and frankly, we’ve been called to do it. Halloween shouldn’t be any different than the rest of the year. Every day belongs to God. I seriously question the effectiveness of “alternative” festivities and the creation of “Christian” options in any area of living. And retreating from the world is unthinkable. The Gospel engages the darkness.
Some parents worry that they are going along with the glorification of evil if they let their kids participate. I personally don’t agree with this thinking. I believe we should be more concerned that we are not teaching our children that there is one night of the year (or any night of the year) when evil gets the upper hand. What kind of Gospel is that? It’s not the hopeful message of Christ.
It seems to me that fear is not what you want to teach children, but I do acknowledge that parents may choose to do whatever based off their convictions. I assume each Christian home will do what they think is best for their children. You have this right and responsibility. I would never base a person’s commitment to Christ on this issue.
After working with students for 15 years and observing their parents, I’d say that the only “bad” parents are the ones who are not intentional in leading their children to know and love Christ. Those who are intentional about serving Christ and leading their children in the way of Jesus are good parents in my book. And I think there are many acceptable ways of doing that.
Conclusion—The Gospel of Jesus
If a person has reduced the Gospel to having their sins forgiven and sees us escaping earth for a spiritual existence on the other side of the cosmos, I submit that this will greatly influence that person’s response to this and many other issues. I have actually noticed that this view propagates an attitude of fear, anger, and self-righteousness. Escapism is their gospel.
However, if the Gospel is about heaven coming to earth, that Jesus has defeated evil and plans to transform this world—starting with us in the here and now—then this most certainly comes into play when responding to Halloween.
Understanding the greatness of the Gospel message (i.e. heaven coming to this earth) will free us up to see ourselves as agents of new creation. God is transforming this world now and the fullness of his coming is just around the corner. This worldview changes everything!
We have been called to declare that Christ is Lord of the day and night. We are called to live in this world where “the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 Jn 2:8).
So, how do you understand the Gospel? How you answer this question will shape your living. I believe that it will make a difference in your response to the culture where it glorifies evil and refuses to acknowledge Christ as Lord.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Jesus, Matt. 5:14-16
D.D. Flowers, 2010.
[Updated & Revised – October 2017]