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For the last couple of years on Halloween I’ve posted an excerpt of this great post from Tim Challies, and I’ll do so again:

I am guessing my neighbourhood is all-too-typical in that people typically arrive home from work and immediately drive their cars into the garage. More often than not they do not emerge again until the next morning when they leave for work once more. We are private, reclusive people who delight in our privacy. We rarely see our neighbors and rarely communicate with them. . . . In the six years we have been living in this area, we have never once had a neighbor come to the door to ask for anything. . . .

Yet on Halloween these barriers all come down. I have the opportunity to greet every person in the neighbourhood. I have the opportunity to introduce myself to the family who moved in just down the row a few weeks ago and to greet some other people I have not seen for weeks or months. At the same time, those people’s children will come knocking on my door. We have two possible responses. We can turn the lights out and sit inside, seeking to shelter ourselves from the pagan influence of the little Harry Potters, Batmans and ballerinas, or we can greet them, gush over them, and make them feel welcome. We can prove ourselves to be the family who genuinely cares about our neighbours, or we can be the family who shows that we want to interact with them only on our terms. Most of our neighbors know of our faith and of our supposed concern for them. This is a chance to prove our love for them.

The same contributor to the email list concluded his defense of participating in Halloween with these words: “One night does not a neighbor make (and one night does not a pagan make), but Halloween is the one night of the year where the good neighborliness that flows from being in Christ is communicated and reinforced. We are citizens of another Kingdom where The Light is always on.”

The truth is that I have several convictions regarding Halloween. I despise the pagan aspects of it. I am convicted that my children should not dress as little devils or ghosts or monsters. But I am also convicted that there could be no worse witness to the neighbours than having a dark house, especially in a neighbourhood like ours which is small and where every person and every home is highly-visible. We know that, if we choose not to participate, the neighbors will notice and will smile knowingly, supposing that we feel too good to participate.

. . . Our door will be open and the light will be on. And we trust that the Light will shine brightly.

My encouragement to you today is to think and pray about this issue. I do not see Halloween as a great evangelistic occasion. I do not foresee it as a time when the people coming to your door are likely to be saved. But I do think it is a time that you can prove to your neighbors that you care about them, that you care about their children, and that you are glad to be in this world and this culture, even if you are not of this world or this culture. Halloween may serve as a bridge to the hearts of those who live around you who so desperately need a Savior.

(An updated version of Tim’s article is here.)

Al Mohler offers a post containing his usual, helpful historical background and cultural analysis. (Upshot: “Christian parents should make careful decisions based on a biblically-informed Christian conscience. Some Halloween practices are clearly out of bounds, others may be strategically transformed, but this takes hard work and may meet with mixed success.”)

Can I make a small plea? Can we try to keep any blog comments about this issue respectful, civil, and gracious? This is a topic upon which godly believers can disagree. Let’s practice charity in how we interact on it.


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Comments:


23 thoughts on “Halloween and Leaving the Light On”

  1. Chad A. Moore says:

    I think this is a great point. There are often much greater concerns than informing the world of what we disapprove of, such as being hospitable, open, kind, considerate, all in the interests of community and Gospel-sharing.

    Each family will have to decide on their own how they handle Halloween, but I think this suggestion to be excellent and wise.

  2. Kyle says:

    If you’re going to have a post that is going to convice me to change my actions, you should allow enough time for me to do so. Posting this on the 29th or so would have allowed me time to run out and get some candy.

    This is the type of response to culture that we need to see more of from Christians. Not blindingly embracing it and not reacting to it, but interacting with it for the glory of God. Thanks for this excellent repost.

  3. Jayson says:

    My first responsibility in this context is to guard my children. I think part of that is to guard them from evil not invite it into my house. My 2-year old is scared of “Leo the Lion” at the pizza place in town. Frankly, he gets a little freaked out seeing HIMSELF in a costume in the mirror :-) I’m not willing to open my door to whatever grotesque and evil thing may show up. Many people are out for more than just fun and candy but to really scare and traumatize others. I would feel horrible if my son couldn’t sleep tonight because of something that I allowed to come to the door of HIS house…a place where he should feel safe and protected. I’m all for showing love to my neighbors but I have to show my kids I love them too.

    And I’m not sure I want my kids to be de-sensitized so they can simply join in the fun when they get older. Death is evil and it is God’s enemy. It should not be trivialized or made out to be “fun and games”.

    Humbly submitted…Jayson

  4. SK says:

    I absolutely love Halloween and it’s one of those days I refuse to be away speaking. My wife and I do exactly what Tim suggests–we leave the lights on and meet everyone we can. One of us takes our kids out, the other stays home to greet arriving families. I think we may be known for passing out more candy than everyone else–and we pray it brings God glory.

  5. Bryan McWhite says:

    Great post, Justin; great thoughts, Tim.

    Jayson,

    What is it that is “evil” about a Halloween costume? Does scary = “evil“? I’m asking this honestly – I just do not ever remember being encouraged toward acting in evil ways nor contemplating evil things as a kid when a saw a kid in a skeleton outfit or a goblin mask. Do the parents of these kids intend evil, do you think?

    I honestly am not trying to pick a fight, I just do not see the connection between a goblin mask and “evil.” To me, it smacks of a fundamentalistic (not that you’re a fundamentalist – I don’t know whether you are or not) tendency to label something as “evil” without really asking why you think it’s evil, simply because it strikes you as evil.

  6. Jayson says:

    Bryan,

    Good question and I don’t perceive a fight being picked…good job.

    Death is evil. It is the result of our sin. Therefore, anything that makes light of death or tries to make it silly is wrong in my opinion. For instance, there is a house near ours that has two dummies hanging from a gallows. This is making light of death and killing. Costumes that depict death (like a fake ax in the head with blood and brains, etc) as being silly and funny make light of what God calls “wages of sin.”

    It isn’t necessarily that Halloween encourages evil acts per se…although I do think purposely instilling fear in others for the sake of our own entertainment IF that is what we’re up to (and many are) is evil…but it is intrinsically evil in the fact that it desensitizes us to death and turns it into a game.

  7. John & Mindy McCracken says:

    I was really hoping to find something to help me sort out the practical applications of my convictions regarding this holiday. This helps. Thanks for posting.

    Mindy

  8. Loren Eaton says:

    I really like Halloween, and here’s why: It’s one of the few times our youth-obsessed, obscenely wealthy and comfortable society actually acknowledges death on a wide scale.

  9. MQ says:

    I realize that Halloween is a subject that evokes a broad range of reactions (as previous posts suggest.) My wife has seen her share of evil. She has experienced satanic ritual abuse. This is a very rare thing and many people deny that it happens. She suggested that I think about Phillipians 4:8. “Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise, think about these kinds of things.” Most things I have seen related to Halloween don’t fit this ideal. Of course we all have to make a decision on how we will handle God’s other commands like making disciples and loving your neighbor in relation to Halloween as well. Much to think about, but we will not be participating in the festivities.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Lots of thought provoking comments and I do understand everyone’s position (I think) as for your article it did bring up a good point and I guess I only had one point that I disagree with and that was not to use it as a “witness” or “evangelizing” time. I’m not sure how you wrote that comment. I am 73 and have always just given out the candy and enjoyed the neighbor kids and their parents. My recently deceased husband used to put on a Frankinstein full head mask (he really enjoyed Halloween) We weren’t into any “evil” intent here. I presently am staying with my 50 yr old daughter in another state from where I live and just helped her fill 100 bags with pencils, candies and a cute story about a pumpkin and how it is like being a Christian. It is very well written and at the end refers to John 8:12 “Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” She has been doing similar things each year and the neighboring families relate good comments each year as they anticipate what she will be giving out “this” year. If weather permits she sits out in her illuminated driveway amidst fall decorations and yes a pumpkin with stars cut in its body and greets each one with love. I LIKE THIS AND AM LOOKING FORWARD TO JOINING HER TONIGHT.
    Oh well, TO EACH HIS OWN and it is great to live in a country that still allows freedom of speech and religion. Helen

  11. Gary Horn says:

    In our culture, Halloween is as far removed from its original meaning as Christmas and Easter is from theirs. All three Holidays need to be redeemed by the way we participate in them, not by the way we avoid them.

  12. centuri0n says:

    The last time I got into a bru-ha-ha over a holiday, well, let’s just say I don’t mention “s@nt@” in public anymore because of the fall-out.

    I think we’re a funny people, we Christians, when we don’t want to hand out candy to the children of our neighbors because they might mistake that for love and respect for them personally.

    That’s all I can say without resorting to sarcasm and other rough stuff.

  13. Anonymous says:

    From the UK– Congratulations on the tone of the comments; and warm thanks for the potential of transforming this evening into something better.

    We don’t have here all you do in the US but the commercial pressurizers would like us to!

    Tony

  14. Anonymous says:

    Scripture says,

    “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Col 2:16”

    As there are good and Godly people on both sides of this issue, no one should infer that anyone who participates in Halloween is in anyway approving of evil.

    “Let every person be fully persuaded in their own mind.”

  15. Jayson says:

    Anonymous said “no one should infer that anyone who participates in Halloween is in anyway approving of evil.”

    Absolutely agreed.

    Likewise, no one should infer that anyone who does not participate doesn’t love their neighbors. I think that’s what you are saying so thanks!

  16. steve b says:

    If I may interupt the conversion for a moment and say.

    Happy Reformation Day.

  17. Matthew R says:

    Seems to me a lot of this issue really goes back to the “weaker brother” issue from Romans 14.

    “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.”

    To me, it’s basically the same as eating meat sacrificed to idols (which is in the same passage). If you’re convicted not to participate, you must obey. If not, you can participate, as long as you do it “in honor of the Lord.” I think using the day as an opportunity to show your neighbors you care is honoring the Lord.

    For others, they feel they are sinning by participating at all, and, if they are truly convinced of this and are not persuaded otherwise, they shouldn’t.

  18. Anonymous says:

    To Jayson

    Exactly!

  19. Mike Riccardi says:

    May I comment by highly recommending each of the following:

    - An article by John MacArthur on the Halloween issue.

    - Yesterday’s Post from TeamPyro, as well as the comments.

    Both of those — as well as Tim’s article — have helped me form an opinion of what October 31st should be about.

  20. Brian Trapp says:

    I think that at some point cultural customs like the celebration of Halloween transcend and abandon whatever their origins are. Just because the origins of Halloween are in some dumb pagan ritual does not mean that if Christians engage in Halloween practices that they are somehow endorsing that pagan ritual. If just about everyone is celebrating Halloween according to cultural custom (i. e. as a fun time to dress up and eat candy), and no one is celebrating it according to its pagan origins, then what’s the danger? What magical causative powers are the now-abandoned pagan origins suppposed to be exercising on the customs of our culture?

    Here’s an analogy. Many of our days and months are named after pagan gods. The origin of the word “Thursday” is literally “Thor’s day”. And yet no Christian who uses that word is worried that he or she is somehow giving honor to some two-bit Norse god. At some point the origins just seem to be irrelevant.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Regardless of what any of us thinks, there are evil people (witches, etc.), who do celebrate the paganism of this so called holiday. Some even go so far as sacrificing children. This is a fact. There is much evil done on October 31st throughout the world by those who follow paganism. We Christians would do well, I think, to use this day to pray for protection for innocent ones who may be harmed, and against the demonic realm. I cannot laugh and be joyous knowing that there are innocent children and adults be harmed and killed on this date every year.
    “We do not war against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of the air.”
    (In my opinion, one of the failures of Christianity today is the trivializing of beliefs and traditions which are contrary to biblical guidelines. God told the Israelites to tear down the high places of the pagan peoples that were conquered, not to attempt to “change” them into uses attempting to glorify God. In today’s “feel good” and “compromising” attitudes, the Church continues to slip further from our Creator.)
    I encourage all Chirstians to use the day for prayer and fasting.

  22. Matthew R says:

    Anonymous (above):

    While that may be true, those kinds of evil things happen in the world everyday. If we focus on everything evil going on, we’d never to anything but pray for it to stop. While we should definitely pray for this, it cannot dominate your life. You would never enjoy the gift of life God has given.

    Also, there is quite a big difference in my opinion between deciding to hand out candy to kids and ceremonies to worship Baal in the OT. The point, I think, is that Halloween has become so secularized that Christians are able to participate to a point without reaching that level.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Regarding the comment: “We can prove ourselves to be the family who genuinely cares about our neighbours…”, if we are really concerned about being families that that *genuinely* care for our neighbors, why is so much focused on Halloween?

    Shouldn’t we be “genuinely caring for our neighbors” throughout the year, not just on a day where people dress up like freaks?

    To anyone who supports their view of it being okay to celebrate Halloween because it gives us a chance to reach out to our neighbors, I would kindly ask that you humbly ponder the last time you invited those neighbors over for dinner.

    How convenient that we (Americans) claim Halloween as a great evangelistic opportunity…when people come to us and knock on our doors.

    Respectfully submitted.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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