If I’m honest I’ve never really cared much about Halloween. Sure, it was fun to get candy when I was younger, but my neighborhood was spread out and we walked a lot for our candy. I got a little more excited about the festivities when I started passing out candy to the little kids who came to our door. I thought (and still think) it is fun to interact with the kids, asking them about their costumes and laughing with the parents about the crazy things kids do. I am still helping pass out candy at my church as we attempt to contact the families of our community. I am also still dressing my kids up and sending them off to fill their bags with whatever treats the neighbors give them. Though I am participating in the traditions of Halloween I am growing more concerned about the celebration.
First, I am slightly bothered by the amount of money people send on Halloween. The average of $82 is significantly lower than other holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really why do we spend that much to scare people? I worry about a culture that is so happy to scare and be scared. People pay large sums for realistic costumes which are meant to frighten or depict horrific scenes of gore. Doesn’t all of this simply betray our desire for violence? We live in a world where on Saturday we are outraged by violence and by Wednesday we celebrate violence and death. I have heard different individuals say that once you are touched by violence, you have a difficult time seeing depictions of violence. In other words, a society that celebrates violence for entertainment has never truly touched the depth of pain caused by that violence. I am concerned that such gory celebrations hurt our ability to grieve and mourn the passion of violence. In particular, I worry about those adults who have no problem exposing children to these scenes. I do not want my children desensitized to mutilation, dismemberment, and other atrocities before they have left their elementary school. I find this general behavior somewhat troubling and I am on guard about what aspects of Halloween to which I expose my children.
But why I am growing more troubled about Halloween is because I am starting to take the Bible more seriously in one area, the unseen realm. I have grown to in the Church and the tradition I grew up in would laugh at the suggestions of other Divine beings besides God. Yes, we technically believed in Satan, but Satan was a rather undefined being, he was generally only mentioned as the cause of my bad behavior. Demons were not active, perhaps they possessed people, but I think Hollywood influenced my beliefs far more than the Bible did. What I am beginning to understand is that the world of the Bible is far wilder and full of strange creatures. And worst of all, it might be right. These beings quite possibly exist and embody the type of evil we cartoonishly depict. If this is true and demons are real, how foolish are we to celebrate in such a way? Think about it, there are only two outcomes to the grotesque celebration of Halloween. The lesser worry is that we become numb to the presence of this evil we do readily spoof. But another real possibility is that in our attempt at partying we literally align ourselves to this evil. I shudder to even consider that possibility, but it is real. The New Testament seems to make this point. Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”, who is the enemy of humanity, evil spirits. Or read 1 Corinthians 10 who are the objects of pagan rituals, evil spirits. Part of Paul’s argument there is that these spirits are not to be trifled with. We should not be so blind as to walk into their home turf and participate in their ceremonies, because they are very real and very evil. Paul may have said these beings were not gods in the sense that our God is God, but that does not mean we can simply dismiss them or their power. If 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Is correct then this power should frighten us beyond what any costume or haunted house can. A lion will use stealth and camouflage to get close enough to its prey to ensure success. The point of camouflage is to convince your prey that you do not exist so that it will let its guard down and come within range to be killed. What better camouflage than to convince your prey you do not exist?
These evil spirits have always desired the praise and worship of humanity, they wanted people to participate in their cultic practices. Now we do so as a game. The blind participation in these rituals is what Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians, as we read the whole of the letter we discover that Paul is not concerned with the meat sacrifices because in simply eating the Christians were not participating in cultic practices, but in going to the temples they were. When Paul says that these idols are not gods he means they are not beings to be worshiped, he does not say they do not exist. Read through Acts we see Paul believes in evil spirits and that these spirits have power, though not over Christ and those who stand with him. But, standing with Christ means not participating in evil and the question is are people making a game of something real and inadvertently participating in worship of evil?
Halloween started as people recognized these real evil spirits moving in the day before All Saints Day, and they tried to combat these spirits (albeit in the wrong ways). Today we laugh at these spirits and lock them, or else we praise then in tribute of emulation. I know that some of this is borderline goofy for some, and others might read the part about violence above and wish I had stayed there and developed that idea more. But I think that both of these areas are related, and our naturalistic worldview has been a blind spot for modern Christianity. I sincerely think we must become more aware of what we are participating in when we celebrate Halloween. I will still participate tonight in the ways I am accustom to, but I hope to be more aware and, in more prayer, as I engage the community.