Apathetic Followers: A Look at Halloween
â€œThe real danger for the majority of people,â€ Andrew told me, â€œis not that they are going to turn into human sacrificing Satanists, but into apathetic followers of whatever comes along, believing it to be harmless.â€
Weâ€™ve all participated. Weâ€™ve all run from dressed up monsters trying to make us scream â€œmommy!â€ Many of us have memories of the lunatic with the chainsaw chasing the poor neighborhood kids down the streetâ€”all in fun, of course. Some of us have spoken to skeletons, and some have debated whether or not to reach beneath a guillotine to grab that wonderful candy bar. Weâ€™ve dressed up and knocked on strangersâ€™ doors and repeated the infamous phrase â€œTrick or Treat!.â€ But is this holiday, this â€œday of the dead,â€ something that believers should participate in? And does a decision to not participate mean that we are legalistic right-wing conservative fanatics?
â€œTest everything,â€ says Paul in Thessalonians, â€œHold on to good. Avoid every kind of evil.â€ Would we be correct to surmise that what most of us celebrate on October 31st of every year is not good, but something evil that we are to avoid? Or perhaps, as Christians, weâ€™re just seeing the bigger picture. We see the celebration of evil, but our culture only sees a day to get more candy.
That is what we are going to look at â€“ what Halloween has been and is today, what the Bible says about this holiday, and what our response as believers should be.
A Brief History
The history of Halloween is hard to trace, and in many cases is contested at all levels. It is a mix of many different traditions of the past, but one solid story seems to emerge from each account â€“ a history of paganism, Christianity, and a fusion of the two to form one day at the end of October.
Halloween began with a Celtic festival of the dead. This festival was called Samhain (prounounced Sah-ween or Sow-in), and it was a celebration of the beginning of winter. It was a time when the Celtic people believed that the ghosts of the dead were mingling amongst the living. The Celts gathered together to sacrifice their animals and their crops. They lit bonfires to honor the dead, to aid them on their journey, [Wikipedia], and to make sure that the dead would not haunt the living. It was a time of great darkness.
Christian missionaries, or rather Roman Catholic missionaries, transformed this celebration to what we see today. They combined the elements of pagan worship with that of Christian elementsâ€”perhaps attempting to be all things to all people. Yet were these missionaries doing the right thing by bringing together two completely opposing belief systems and smashing them together? One might wonder whether this would be equivalent to bringing two positively charged magnets together or attempting the old science experiment of mixing water and vegetable oil.
A Biblical Understanding
The Bible does not say much about Halloweenâ€”at least, not specifically. But many verses in Scripture teach us to avoid all evil. Psalm 101 has always stood out among many Scriptures as an example of this:
I will be careful to lead a blameless life
when will you come to me?
I will walk in my house
with blameless heart.
I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.
Men of perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with evil.
That last line is absolutely amazing, and utterly astounding. The Psalmist will have absolutely nothing to do with evil, no matter what. Never will he stoop to the level of faithless men. The standard is astounding and stunningâ€”someone who is willing to have nothing to do with evil. How many of us can say that we have this thought pattern? Instead, many Christians today are seeing how close to the line they can get, instead of running as close to the holy throne of God as they can.
A Biblical Response
It is a tough situation. We could quickly respond to the idea that we should avoid â€œeverything evilâ€ with an argument just as strong. One reader said, â€œWe should not be distancing ourselves from a society that needs us more than ever.â€ Another said, â€œAtheists participate in Christmas, whatâ€™s the difference?â€
â€œJesus commands us to be in the world but not of it,â€ said another man, â€œTo me, distancing ourselves from a holiday that demonstrates that people need God even more is not a good idea. We need to use this holiday as an example of what Godâ€™s love meansâ€”no death, no pain, no suffering in Heaven, but in Hell.â€
What we end up with is Christian discernment. When the Scriptures do not speak specifically on a topic, it is left up to the Christian. He is to follow the Spiritâ€™s calling to him on the specific issue, not his sinful self. He is to search the Scriptures for insight and understanding, instead of apathetically going with the flow of the culture that surrounds him. When he does this, God is glorified.
In the end, Halloween today could be just a day to get free candy. Perhaps it is not a day to worship Satanâ€”the Wiccans even consider it an offensive day. So, whether you decide to participate or not, neither side should be considered sinful or arrogant. But when we consider an issue like this one, we need to keep in mind that we must not apathetically accept what our culture deems acceptable. That is not how a Christian is to live