So, last Friday’s post was a departure from my usual anti-halloween posting. With most of what I post here on Faithful Stewardship, there is a battle of sorts, a grappling with the text and with my opinions and biases that rarely makes it into a post. The episode of IssuesETC shared last Friday was good for those seeking to refute the notion that October 31st somehow belonged to pagans and that the Church tried to baptize the date to make it holy. The post points out that the Church already had a holiday on that date (well, the eve of OCT 31 and the day of NOV 01). So, if the goal is to rightly understand the history of the observances of men, then I recommend treating the Church’s observances as separate from whatever pagan/occult customs happen to be at play. However, once we step out of our academic bubble, we have to deal with a real and fallen world that HATES Christ.
Halloween in American Culture
The historicity of All Saint’s Day (or Feast of the Martyrs) is completely foreign to the majority of American Evangelicals. I was clueless, and by evangelical standards, I grew up in the church. We don’t go to Church on Halloween, we go to haunted houses, costume parties, or door-to-door asking for treats (for our kids, naturally). Sadly, our culture is one that doesn’t go door-to-door for anything other than halloween and/or fundraisers. Despite the sizable representation of American adherents to the Roman Catholic Church, very few venerate the saints of old, much less of recent times past. Airborne troops may wear a medallion of the patron saint of Paratroopers, but for the most part we in the US are completely removed from a Christian observance of Oct 31/Nov 1. I think there is plenty of room to discuss the merits of observing All Saint’s Day or Reformation Day as a holiday, that is a conversation that must take place completely separate from Halloween as it is observed in American Culture.
Things that don’t matter. Seriously.
The day. Whatever day is showing on the calendar is irrelevant in the big picture. God is still in charge, Christ still died for our sins, the Holy Spirit still draws us to Him, and Enemy is still defeated. There is no point on any calendar that is any more or less holy than the next. Demons and unclean spirits are no more or less troublesome on any day of any calendar. What matters is whether or not we walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit by Faith.
Romans 14:5-9 (ESV)
5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
The Food. Again, from the same chapter in Romans, whatever we eat on whichever day is irrelevant in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether candy, pumpkin-spice whatever, or cookies, apples, bacon… chocolate, or bacon (worth mentioning twice), what we eat or abstain from isn’t nearly as important as how we eat or abstain from it.
Romans 14:17 (ESV)
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The Party. As Christians, we don’t mourn like the world does, nor do we “party” like the world does. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. We observe funerals and memorial services and we enjoy a wedding reception and feasts. I know it must seem odd that I include funerals in this, but I wanted to cover the whole experience… having a party is fine. NOT having a party is fine. In this sense, the issue of having a party or not having a party is irrelevant as far as the Faith is concerned. Bridal showers, baby showers, bachelor parties, funerals, wakes, birthday’s, harvest, planting, mortgage burning,… if there is a cause for celebration, then have the party… or don’t… totally up to you. Now, having said that, how the party is conducted is still a matter of Law and Gospel. A bachelor party done in celebration of lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, sexual immorality, and debauchery is an abomination.
Costumes. I love a good costume party. I love seeing my kids play “make believe” around the house… but there’s something really cool that happens when you give them a costume that sparks their imagination. That’s why we give them toy weapons, tea party kits, play kitchens, and jungle gyms. Watch and listen to them play… you think that’s a slide? No, it’s a mountain. Costumes are also a great way for adults to set aside the anxieties and frustrations of “everyday life” and just enjoy some good fun. We wear uniforms when we engage in team sports, some fans go a bit crazy with costumes to cheer on their favorite teams. Even at home sometimes we have set “work clothes” for disconnecting and just doing some gardening/lawn care to forget the weekly 9-to-5. Or maybe it’s our favorite bath robe and fuzzy bunny slippers to let everyone else know “I’m chillin’ for a bit today”. It can be good fun, it can be great for breaking the ice between professionals so they can just be themselves for a bit. But, these can be abused, and generally are abused during Mardi Gras and Halloween. It should come as no surprise that the spirit of Halloween (and Mardi Gras) in America is Lust of the flesh. Recently there was a story on a mom who was upset by the sexualized costumes at Party City… for her 3 year old (NBC’s Today Show). We’ll address this more in a bit. As a fan of costumes and costume parties, I’d like to see more costume parties throughout the year so that it can be further divorced from halloween. My kids don’t need halloween to look forward to a costume party.
What Really Matters… Seriously.
The god of Halloween in America is Self-Gratification. Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Our culture seeks to pleasure itself in whichever way it wills in the moment, and demands that everyone not only allow it, but celebrate it with them. Everything is about sex and pleasure. Halloween (and Mardi Gras) are the pinnacle of the self-indulgence when it comes to the spirit of Lust. Gluttony has largely been normalized in our culture, so the diabetic nightmare that is Halloween is generally limited to children and their parents. Once the kids are tweens, they are encouraged to explore every imaginable sexual immorality and blood lust imaginable in the name of “harmless fun”. I’ve known many who look to Halloween to play out their cross-dressing fantasies long before “coming out” as homosexual, or suffering from gender dysphoria. Vampires and even zombies have become sexualized in our culture. Mysticism has taken on a very sensual and even sexual nature in stuff we sell year-round in so-called Christian book stores (Theological Erotica).
Even if we manage to strip away the eroticism and sexual immorality, there is the issue of practices that were Abominable to God in the Old Testament… and remain so today (yes, even in 2015).
Deuteronomy 18:9-12 (ESV) | Abominable Practices
9 “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.
Acts 19:11-20 (ESV) | The Sons of Sceva
11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
I decided to include the reference to the Sons of Sceva to indicate that the practice of magic arts is something to be repented from and gotten rid of. What these believers turned in and burned was valued at 50,000 pieces of silver. If the reference to “piece of silver” is a denarius, we know from the New Testament that a denarius was a day’s wage for laborers. That should help approximate the monetary value of what was collected, repented of, and burned. My point here is that whatever Scripture declares to be an abomination, doesn’t stop being an abomination simply because we are under a New Covenant. Throughout the Scriptures sexual immorality and idolatry are tied together. So, when we have modern-day evangelicals participating in a unholiday that is rife with both idolatry (witchcraft, spiritism, sorcery, divination, etc.) and sexual immorality intertwined there is much cause for concern and a need for repentance. I don’t care about what day any of this activity falls on a calendar (whether Halloween, Mardi Gras, or April 25th), where there is sin it must be rebuked and the sinner called to repentance.
If you choose to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, or Reformation Day, or even American Halloween, be very careful about what it is you are honoring and for what reasons. The concern isn’t a day on the calendar, nor is it some over-realized sense of “spiritual warfare”; rather, it is about how we are living out our lives as Christians. We are encouraged to walk according to the Spirit, no matter the day, or the hour, or the social environment.
Galatians 5:13-26 (ESV) | Keep in Step with the Spirit
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
I highlighted those works of the flesh that reign over American observances of Halloween. In the Spiritual, these things are no more or less destructive on Halloween or Mardi Gras , but in the natural, they tend to take more Christian casualties because the worldly society actively seeks out the pure and innocent to engage in these activities on these days.
Therefore, let us encourage one another in Christ to walk in a manner worthy of Him and His Gospel. Let us build each other up in the faith and inspire one another to keep step with the Spirit.
Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,