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Home > 2013 > October Web Exclusives > Where Does a Christian Belong on Halloween?

Halloween. Who would have thought that a national costume party would be such a complicated endeavor and an unexpected opportunity for Christians?

I have a friend named Jason. He was an under-pastor at a fairly large, successful church in the Midwest. A couple of autumns ago, Jason's boss pulled him aside and asked him to represent the pastoral team at the church's Harvest Party (a sacred replacement for the pagan Halloween).

Jason was a natural choice for the festive responsibility. He was popular in the church. Everyone knew and liked him. He had young children, so his "official" responsibilities could be easily harmonized with his family duties. You would think that Jason would have jumped at the opportunity, but it didn't sit right with him.

The problem wasn't the event. Not at all. It was both an appropriate and enjoyable opportunity as a young pastor. The thing that needled him was the thought of leaving his neighborhood on the one night of the year when his neighbors came to his house unsolicited, knocked on his door and, even if just for a moment, acted like neighbors.

Jason understood the church's reason for a "Harvest Party." Halloween was about zombies, ghouls, and witches, things that celebrate darkness and evil. Are those things appropriate for children? On the other hand, who could argue with the theme of "harvest"? Even Jesus told stories about harvesting … like the one about the wheat and tares, which tells of eternal judgment and damnation … which is clearly a children's story … wait a minute. Where was I? Oh yes, Jason.

Jason wondered, "As a person of faith, is it my calling to be the chief religious person on my block (focused on religious events and ceremonies) or is it my calling to be with my neighbors in a faithful way?"

This is a false dichotomy of course, but you get the point.

The Sacred Secular

As a sacred person, am I called to avoid "pagan" or "secular" events, or is it my responsibility to bring my sacredness to them?

Certainly the prophet Daniel would have something to say about this. He was only a boy when he was taken to Babylon. While there, he fully participated in society and was able to study and understand magic and astrology better than his Babylonian teachers (Daniel 1:18-20). But apparently, all in the service of God. He was a faithful participant in the most pagan of societies.

Recently I sat with a group of wonderful folks from The Parish Collective (a group committed to expressing Christianity through integrated neighborhoods). We studied the story of Tabitha from Acts 9. Dr. Dwight Friesen of The Seattle School was leading our discussion.

The story of Tabitha—called "Dorcas" by her pagan neighbors—is a lovely story of healing, hope, and neighborly participation. One of the things that really shocked us was how beloved Tabitha was by her Greek (pagan) neighbors. The widows who lived all around her wept uncontrollably over Tabitha's death. This sorrow was not the product of a fleeting or momentary relationship. The story says that the widows displayed the evidence of Tabitha's long and serving presence with them (Acts 9:39). She had practiced "faithful participation." Keep in mind that this faithful participation among pagans was before Peter's vision that took him to Cornelius' home. In this vision God clarified to Peter that the Gentiles were truly part of God's gospel commission. Peter's vision happens in the next chapter, Acts 10, and one must wonder if the profound example of Tabitha had prepared Peter's heart for his change of theology.

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Tony Kriz is a writer and church leader from Portland, Oregon, and Author in Residence at Warner Pacific College.

Posted: October 28, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 8 comments

Rod Hewitt

November 06, 2013  1:07pm

if or not originally a church thing I am not sure, I will say that in the U.K now children dress up in all kinds of terrifying costumes, ,a lot of focus now is on Zombies, and other horrific ideas to do with Death and Evil ,I am not sure what we are trying to do to our youngsters here, I do not find any of it good just evil. I for one would like to see it banned, there are other good ways surely to meet people, not by dressing up in wicked costumes to terrify the old and threats of horrid things if they do not get treats. .Just my opinion.

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Marshall Shelley

November 01, 2013  8:40am

An odd thing happened last night as I sat at home waiting for trick-or-treaters. Only 5 showed up at the door all afternoon and evening! My Kit-kats are still in the bowl this morning. What's odd is that last Saturday, literally thousands of trick-or-treaters were at the mall, going store to store for treats. And at our church's "Trunk or Treat," there were hundreds there in the afternoon. Makes me wonder, Tony: if fewer parents are taking kids door to door for Halloween, and more are willing to go to the community's "safe places to trick or treat," then where is the best place for Christians to be on Halloween? I'm stumped.

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audrey ruth

October 31, 2013  11:59pm

Daniel did not study magic and astrology. This is what he DID do: "And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel [and his friends]. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom." NOTE the words "wisdom and understanding" were BETTER than what the world had to offer. Yes, Tabitha's (Dorcas') Greek friends loved her. This does not mean that she violated God's Word in any way to be their friend. Jesus said we are to be IN the world but not OF it. I can see giving out candy with child-friendly Gospel messages if one has no children, but when my children were young I didn't find it appropriate for them to see horrific masks and sounds at our door all evening long. The Lord led us to focus on October 31 as Reformation Day, the day Martin Luther's 95 statements made history.

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Tony Kriz

October 30, 2013  10:04am

Daniel, Thanks for contributing to the conversation. -tony

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Daniel Fender

October 29, 2013  4:47pm

To be more specific we do two things: 1. While we trick or treat we give buy 2 dozen roses & with an invitation to a neighborhood Christmas party. We focus on neighbors we know and those closest to our home. This last year we had a great Christmas party. Not one car pulled up but the house was packed with 35+ neighbors! Halloween is one of those rare times when you can expect your neighbor to not only open the door but give you & your kids time to meet & enjoy the sweetness of being neighbors! Of course that sweetness involves candy as well! The counterintutive part of giving an invitation & a rose is that people don't expect it, are surprised & love it. Ironically my kids remember Halloween as the time we invite neighbors to celebrate Jesus’ birth! 2. We then come back home & set up a fire pit in the front yard & a canopy if the Portland drizzle has begun. We share hot cider with neighbors & hang out late into the night. We usually invite a handful of neighbors a few days before.

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