The scary thing about Halloween

Out on assignment in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, I came across an announcement for a special Halloween service at an area church. It read, "Out with Satan, in with Jesus." The service, it suggested, was a way for good Christian kids to avoid celebrating a pagan holiday.

It's not an uncommon reaction to what is both the most vilified and enjoyed of cultural celebrations. And the issue here, I'm afraid, is not a new one. It's another example of Christians with good intentions avoiding the very culture they are trying to transform.

Paul understood this. During one of his missionary journeys, recounted in Acts 17, Paul visits Athens. While there, he spends a little time getting to know the city, studying its idols, its philosophy and its art. Only then did he attempt to persuade the "learned men of Athens" about the Jesus he'd discovered.

The lesson? Paul didn't come in blindly, ignoring the customs and traditions of the city he was trying to transform. He made it a point to talk to these people using words and philosophies that they understood. Don't misunderstand. He didn't capitulate on anything. He still told the truth of the Gospel, unflinchingly revealing Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. What he didn't do was present himself ignorant of all things save his knowledge of the one true thing.

The result? "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, 'We will hear you again about this.' So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed ..." (Acts 17:32-34a)

Therefore, my contention is that we do a disservice to our reputation in culture by ignoring those things culture finds enjoyable. Again, like Paul, we shouldn't engage culture to the point of sin. I can't walk into a bar, get blasted on gin and tonics and then explain to God that I was only engaging culture as Paul did. That's sin. What isn't sin is becoming conversant and understanding of things culture holds dear. Worse still, what does culture think of us when we deny our children a little fun because someone thinks something is evil? We only ratify the images the world has of us as backward, culturally ignorant and helplessly intolerant radicals.

Were the old traditions upon which Halloween is based evil in nature? Maybe. But that doesn't change the fact that the holiday we celebrate now bears little resemblance to those traditions. Also, don't misunderstand. There are aspects of Halloween that we shouldn't celebrate. We don't celebrate death. Sin is the separation from God, and scripture says the wages of sin is death. Death comes from sin. Therefore death is one of a Christian's foremost enemies.

But, please, don't deny your kids some Laffy Taffy just because you think it's Satan's day. Instead, have a little fun watching your kids transform into lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) Just make sure that afterward, you tell them about Jesus, the only one who can make real transformation possible.

Here's some interesting Halloween-related links ...

Sorry. They don't exists. Paul wrote, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." End of story.

(You can find out various takes on the history of Halloween by clicking the links here, here and here.)