I hear there is a run on fireman suits and police uniforms for Halloween this year. No one seems to be in the mood for gore, blood, or horror, perhaps because our daily lives have already been interrupted too many times with images of these things that we know are real. When each new nightly newscast brings another level of terror, it’s hard to get excited about facing little gremlins at my door.
But I will. Especially since I live on the most popular street in my neighborhood on October 31. We happen to live two doors down from a “haunted house” that has become a tradition, trying to outdo itself every year with more and more elaborate scares. That means children and adults flood our street, making it almost impossible to leave our house during the early evening hours. Our first year here, I was caught unprepared, and had to make two runs to the market for more sweets. I could barely drive my car through the press of people. It was like driving down Main Street, Disneyland, on a crowded day.
Many Christians haven’t had to face anyone at their door on Halloween for a number of years, ever since it became prevalent, in Christian circles, to boycott the event. They simply weren’t home.
The reasons seem reasonable enough. It’s a dangerous night. Reckless drivers, adolescent vandals, and hidden razor blade scares might make anyone leery. Then there is the glorification of the macabre and the personification of evil—all hard things to imagine a Christian partaking in. But most of all, there is a sense that Halloween is Satan’s day, and Christians rightfully want no part in that celebration. Christians know that there is a real devil who commands real demons, and nothing involving his activity in the world is to be toyed with. Thus was born the growing trend toward alternative “harvest celebrations” at church.
This issue, however, is much bigger than Halloween. What we do with Halloween is a kind of microcosm for our positioning in the world as Christians. Over time, we have attempted to wrestle a number of cultural events away from the world in the process of creating a safer experience for our families and especially our kids. In my upbringing, this goes all the way back to stuffy junior high church group banquets when we dressed up, got all choked up asking a date, and went through all the same agonies that accompanied everyone else’s prom night, just without the dancing. Then there was “movie night” at the church and “church skate night” at the roller rink to keep us out of the theaters, and card games like Rook to protect us from the evils of poker.
But what good are we in the world when we are constantly reacting to what is wrong with it by providing for our own alternative entertainment—successfully removing ourselves from the world instead of being in it with the light and love of Christ?
It all comes down to why we are here. Are we here to enjoy life in as safe an environment as possible? Are we here to recreate the world as it should be, or as we might want it to be? Or are we here to bring Jesus to the world, however dangerous that might be? All this protective activity is counter-productive to the Gospel. We are trying to be safe from the world when Jesus has promised only to keep us safe in the world, while always assuming that it is a dangerous place to be. “My prayer,” he said, “is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
Admittedly, the Halloween question is not an easy one for Christians. Still, something needs to be said for the decision to stay home, put on your Ghostbusters CD, and stock up with goodies. I, for one, will be out on the street again with our two-year-old for as long as he can handle the penguin suit his Auntie Gay made him, which will probably not be very long. I hope, though, that it will be long enough for me to renew relationships with neighbors I know and meet some others I don’t know yet. If anything is good about this day, it is a day that brings people out. It would be a shame for Christians to be absent from the neighborhood when this happens.
But what about the Satan issue and the occult? We hear of practices on this day that use real blood, real seances, real calling up of the underworld. For some, this is serious business. But for every one house in my town that sees Halloween as this, there are hundreds who do not. Why allow those few to drive me away from my home on a night I am guaranteed to have visitors? Which is more of a victory for Satan, I wonder—a shining Jack-o-lantern and five costumed kids at my door, or a dark house where the light should be?
Are we not lending credibility to the devil by denouncing Halloween as Satan’s day when most of those around us see it as nothing more than a day to dress up and have fun? We know Satan is real, but try telling that to the three-year-old knocking on your door in a fireman’s suit. Nor do we need to announce it to everyone by not being home. Yes, spiritual warfare is a real thing, but if Christians are off having their own party in church on October 31, we must reconsider who really is winning this battle.
This would be a good year to join the party at our doors and in our streets. If the sales of costumes are any indication, there will likely be more little heroes on the street than ghosts and goblins. Though some families will hide inside, most parents will be getting out with their kids and wanting to reassure each other that the neighborhood is safe. Though there is caution, there is also a desire to get back out after being holed-up for too long. The current crisis has made us all draw closer and appreciate what we have, and that should include not only our own families, but our neighbors as well. Let’s not add fear to the list of things Christians are known for.
So cancel the party, or put it on another night. Or if you must, have it at your house and invite the neighbors. Many will be doing that this year as an alternative to going out. This is not the time to be absent from home—a non-participant in a community that needs to touch and be touched by the presence of hope. Light the pumpkin, light up the fireplace, load up on Snickers, and welcome the little masqueraders to your door.
Now, more than ever, the world needs Christians home for Halloween.