Costumes, Candy, and Courting Evil

“But examine everything carefully, hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”  — I Thessalonians 5:21 (NASB)

I’m not really into Halloween. Haven’t been for years. Sure, in my early years, I did the whole trick-or-treating thing. I remember, when I was around 5 or 6, I went out dressed as a cheetah, with drawn-on whiskers. I was so cute. I think I wore the costume, minus hood & whiskers, as pajamas for awhile afterwards. Another year, I went as a generic-brand pseudo-Batman, complete with purple mask & cape. (I guess the DC licensing division hadn’t wised up to the marketing possibilities of putting out the real deal. Or maybe they were available but more expensive. I dunno.) I thought I was so cool!

Peanuts characters Halloween picBut, as a newly “born-again” Christian at the time, my Mom was becoming more aware of the pagan and satanic connections to Halloween. Neither she nor I quite remember the details, but apparently she decided it was not a good idea to be involved in the traditional celebrations, so we stopped. I think I remember staying home and playing board games. At least once, I think we went to a “Harvest Celebration” or some such thing at some church, where the kids could dress up as Bible characters, play games, and eat sweets in a physically and spiritually safe environment. I seem to remember giving out candy and Christian tracts to the kids that came to our door on Halloween night — assuming we were home. When I got a little older, there may have been Halloween parties that I wasn’t allowed to go to, but I don’t really remember. (And, as far as I can tell, the deprivation didn’t have longlasting effects.)

Now, as a single adult, Halloween has just become that one night of the year that little kids (and big ones) come knocking on my door, while I “hide” in the dark and hope they go away. That’s right. I don’t even give out candy. I’m such a grinch! (No, wait. Wrong holiday.)

Yet, I have to admit that I sometimes envy people having fun in their costumes, goofing around, etc. So, would I join in, if the opportunity presented itself? Can a conservative Christian like myself, who believes in demonic entities and the “spiritual warfare” going on about me, in good conscience participate in Halloween parties, trick-or-treating, or celebrations of any sort? Well, it depends….

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on the origins of Halloween or all the weird (sometimes criminal) stuff a very few people do or have done on that particular night. We won’t be doing an in-depth exegesis on scriptural passages that talk about fleeing evil and pursuing holiness. I’m not even going to quote any Bible verses! But, before going any further, we should acknowledge a couple of foundational things:

* Much of what we think of when it comes to Halloween — e.g., ghosts, goblins, witches, vampires, etc. — is occultic, and this is a reflection of the holiday’s origins.

* Christians are commanded to a) avoid “all appearance of evil” and b) be ambassadors of Christ to the world.

Given those things, how should we proceed as responsible followers of Christ during the “witching season”? I will try to boil it all down and give a few suggestions for a balanced approach:

1) Beware of the genetic fallacy. This can occur when you recognize one or more unsavory characteristics about a thing’s origin and assume that they apply equally to its modern form. (E.g., “Halloween started out as evil/pagan, so it is just as bad nowadays.”) This is not logical. I’m not saying that everything about Halloween these days is harmless, but neither does it all automatically lead to Satan worship. There is a large range of both liberty and danger in between.

2) Don’t get, or let your children become, too obsessed — either pro or con — with ghosts, ghouls, vampires, zombies, death, and the like. When one has a solid scriptural foundation, I think such things can be enjoyed in moderate doses without danger. I, for example, occasionally read or watch material with that stuff in it, but it isn’t a particular fascination. It’s just a part — a subgenre, really — of the larger sci-fi/fantasy realm that I enjoy.

classic "Ghostbusters" image3) If you know, perhaps from activities or associations in your past, that you have a “weakness” for occultic phenomena, then by all means avoid it. Even if that’s not you, it’s wise to generally avoid things like palm readings, astrology, Ouija boards, seances, etc., which may seem harmless but can open you up to spiritual oppression. It is very real and quite seductive!

4) On the other hand, unlike the abovementioned activities, simply wearing a creepy costume, trick-or-treating, and/or attending a typical Halloween-themed party does not in itself constitute “courting evil” or participation in the occult.

5) Teach your children from Scripture early on about the realities of evil and the spirit realm. Also, take due precautions re their (and your) physical safety on Halloween night — everything from watching for traffic to unsafe candy & apples to avoiding potential kidnapping. Then, pray up a storm! (Well, not literally….)

6) A Halloween party can be a great opportunity to have discussions about spiritual matters with unbelievers. I don’t recommend railing against all the “ghosts”, “witches”, et al., and telling them that they’re going to Hell. (Though, if you get far enough into the conversation, Hell and the Devil are bound to come up.) Also, don’t think that quoting a bunch of Bible passages is going to be very effective. Rather, use good conversational tactics and exhibit the traits of a winsome ambassador for Christ — knowledge, wisdom, and character. Give yourself the modest goal of putting a stone in someone’s shoe (as Greg Koukl likes to say) regarding worldview and spiritual matters.

7) Lots of Christian parents limit their and their kids’ participation to “harvest festivals” and Reformation Day celebrations. That’s great. But, if you choose to participate in traditional trick-or-treating, too, it’s certainly not unreasonable to make off-limits any costumes or activities of an occultic nature. (On the other hand, one visit to a well-done “Haunted House” may cure your kids of their curiosity about that stuff once and for all! And, it may provide another patient for the local child psychologist, which is good for the economy.)

8) Finally, be careful not to be too judgmental of other Christians who are either more strict or less strict (re themselves and/or their children) when it comes to Halloween participation. After all, these are secondary issues at best, and it comes down to a matter of conscience (and, perhaps, spiritual maturity) for everyone. So, instead, pray for wisdom and spiritual discernment for both of you.

Alright, that’s my 2 cents (or, was it 8?)…

Happy “All Hallows’ Eve”!

Happy Reformation Day!

Stay safe, everyone!!

P.S.  If you would like to read a few articles by respected Christian thinkers that do go into a few of the details I avoided, while also taking a balanced and reasoned approach on the topic (as I attempted to do), then check these out:

“Halloween and the Power of Evil”

“Halloween for Christians?”

“The Tricky Topic of Halloween”

“What about Halloween?”

“Halloween Worries, Doctrine Apathy”

“Of Halloween and Rubber Tanks”

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