scary halloween

unpluggedI almost removed myself from cyberspace this week.

First of all there was all of the TalkTalk panic. I am not a customer of theirs, but the fact that a company could be hacked and sensitive details taken is scary.

Then there was a moment during my week off when I gave into temptation and looked at my work emails. I actually needed to because there was something urgent and important that it was helpful to see but afterwards I was disappointed with myself for lacking the self-discipline needed not to look. Not being online would have been easier.

Then there was another hacking scandal.

And then, and this was perhaps the most significant, there was a lot of being told what to think by Christians. For some reason a lot of Christians decided to denounce Halloween this year. It happens every year but this year it felt a bit more judgemental. My Facebook feed seemed to be full of Christians quoting Bible verses that said it was evil, proclaiming that Halloween was the start of a slippery slope to satanism, saying that Jesus would not celebrate it, that you couldn’t be a proper Christian if you celebrated Halloween and so on. It almost felt oppressive (ironically).

Now before some of you unfriend me or unsubscribe to this blog because of the above paragraph let me emphasise that this is not a pro-Halloween comment. Neither is it an anti-Halloween comment. It’s a comment that is asking for a little less vitriol and a lot more grace in how we communicate with one another, especially on social media in view of the fact that a lot of not-currently-Christians will be reading those comments. I wonder how many of them will decide that they want to follow Jesus as a result of those comments?

Polemic and vitriol has a tendency to polarise and antagonise. By all means take your faith seriously. Definitely seek to discern what God has to say about life, the Universe and everything (it’s more than 42). And it’s good to tell other people what you believe (the Bible rather encourages it). But there is a difference between telling people what you believe and telling them what they have to believe. There’s a difference between sharing your faith and imposing your dogma. And, dear Christians, let’s try to work out what’s essential to believe to be a Christian and what isn’t. Be certain about the former, but be gracious how you share it; and certainly be gracious about the latter.

Please.

Be blessed, be a blessing

troubled by halloween

Halloween troubles me. Not because of the ghosts, ghouls, witches and pumpkins. Nor because I fear that it is a gateway to hell. Not even because it encourages extortion (‘trick or treat?’). What troubles me is that I am not sure of the best way to respond as a Christian.

  • Some churches go all out to condemn it and proclaim it as the work of the devil.
  • Some churches put their fingers in their ears and close their eyes and wait for it to go away.
  • Some churches put on alternative Halloween events and invite children from the surrounding area to join them for a ‘light’ party or similar, but tell them that they can’t wear scary costumes (which makes them stand out a bit).
  • Some churches embrace it as an opportunity for fun.

And I don’t know what to do. All these positions are flawed in my humble opinion. Let me say at the outset I am not downplaying the existence of evil in the world. It’s real and it can cause serious damage. You only have to open a newspaper or watch the news on the TV to be convinced that there is evil out there.

But does it really inhabit the costumes and make-up and pumpkins and sweet-collecting? The response to Halloween from some Christians resembles the response to Harry Potter: it will open the door to the occult. But (and I may be naive here) I did not sense evil there. Indeed the values that were at the heart of those books would be ones that Christians ought to embrace – loyalty, love and standing up against evil and oppression.

Maybe I am being naive here too, but if there is the possibility of evil influence in Halloween isn’t it possible that God can use it, redeem it, transform it? If it awakens some people to the existence of evil in the world doesn’t it also awaken them to the likelihood that there is also a God who loves us? Surely to believe in the possibility of God you also have believe in the possibility of evil?

Does our response sometimes do more to reinforce the prevailing stereotype of churches than to illuminate people about the dangers of evil? At the moment I think a lot of people who don’t go to church think that church is for killjoys who are against what most people in our society have accepted. Being against Halloween could be another example of that.

I do warm to the ‘alternative’ approach. It’s more positive. But should we be consistent and also have alternatives to other major events like the celebration of a New Year (because it focuses on time not the creator of time), Valentine’s Day (because it is not about God’s love), and events like the annual cheese rolling in Gloucestershire (because it might have roots in pagan rituals)? How far do we go? I suspect I do the ‘alternative’ thing because instead of giving sweets to trick or treaters I perform a magic trick for them as a treat…

[cries of “burn him, he’s a witch, he does magic!”]

But if I embrace it fully am I unwittingly endorsing something that could be harmful? Am I supporting an event that frightens some vulnerable people (either the concept itself that is not understood or through the fear of answering doors at night)? Am I being naive?

What’s the best way of being a free sample of Jesus at this time of year?

How about instead of getting too upset about Halloween, Christians emphasise November 1 as ‘All Saints Day’ instead? How about we hold our ‘light parties’ then and we emphasise how followers of Jesus have tried to be good free samples of him through history and today? How about instead of getting our theological knickers in a twist about Halloween we put our energies into showing God’s positive alternative. Let’s redeem the event from its origins – the Eve of All Hallow’s Day. 

Be blessed, be a blessing.