Is Halloween a Healthy Holiday?

Title: Is Halloween a Healthy Holiday?

Text: Philippians 4:8, Acts 19:18-20, 1 Timothy 4:1

Time: October 24th, 2012

 

I just read in Time magazine that spending for this year’s Halloween season is up one billion dollars over last year, from $7 billion in 2011 to $8 billion in 2012. I noticed over the last few years how Halloween has grown in popularity, from just my own observations. For example, I see more houses being decorated with scary decorations such as tombstones, skeletons, skulls, witches and ghosts, to name just a few. I’ve also seen stores selling more Halloween paraphernalia in recent years, although, strangely enough, I haven’t noticed any more kids going door-to-door lately; they may well be going door-to-door as much, it’s just I haven’t noticed it on the increase, like I’ve noticed the commercial aspects of Halloween increasing. Is the growth in Halloween the sole creation of big business trying to cash in on anything that has the potential for making them money? No doubt there is the profit motive for driving some of the popularity of Halloween, but I get the feeling there’s something more going on. It’s no news that traditional, historic Christianity is declining in our country, as well as all Western nations, particularly in Europe. That’s not to say that churches are not growing and that there isn’t activity in some quarters of Christianity still today; there is enthusiasm in some spots. But the general trend is a decline in conviction and commitment to historic Christian doctrine and morality all around. While at the same time there is an increase in the world of the occult, that is, in the world of spirituality outside the bounds of traditional religion, particularly Christianity. People are turning away, generally speaking, from historic Christianity, and turning towards other forms of spirituality, including the world of the occult. Halloween is exciting for many people today because it allows them to dabble in the occult without being labeled fanatical about it. To be interested and pursue knowledge of ghosts and witchcraft, for example, might quickly label one kooky, but to play around with these things at Halloween is perfectly acceptable in today’s society. One can even dress up like a witch today at Halloween and not raise any eyebrows, whereas as other times of the year it might make one appear fanatical or weird. So Halloween gives a population of people who are turning away from Christianity more or less an excuse to try out aspects of a different form of spirituality, namely, the occult. This, from a Christian perspective, is not a good thing; in fact, it’s pretty alarming. Chesterton was right when he said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t stop believing in anything – they are likely to believe in just about everything.” That’s true. As a Christian pastor, I’m aware that Halloween, for some, can be just a little harmless fun. But I’m also aware that for others, for a growing number in our society, Halloween is not a healthy holiday at all. In fact, it’s becoming a very unhealthy holiday. Let me explain.

 

First, the themes of Halloween are far from healthy mentally and emotionally. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” The Apostle Paul is trying to teach Christians to meditate or reflect on mentally, emotionally and spiritual healthy things, as opposed to dwelling on things that cause us harm. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” says another passage, Proverbs 23:7. Halloween, in this respect, is a most unhealthy holiday. Actually, it’s anything but a holiday, because the etymology of the word “holiday” is holy-day; and Halloween is anything but holy, for the most part. It’s the opposite of holy – it’s mostly unholy. Take for instance the themes of Halloween. Death is a major theme of the Halloween season; but it doesn’t stop with death as a general concept. The season develops the death theme further by bringing in ghosts and ghouls and goblins. It promotes witches and black magic. The devil and demons are themes that Halloween embraces also. Of course, along with the major symbol of death, there’s the tombstone, coffin and graveyard. If you survey the whole Halloween season, you’ll probably find most all of the themes of the occult coming up at least a few times somewhere along the way. Halloween has become, essentially, one great big recruitment for interest in the world of the occult, whether people realize it or not. Is it any coincidence that covens of witches, neo-pagan groups, and the church of Satan all see October 31st as particularly important to their cause? Is this a healthy cultural development, honestly? Of course not! Hollywood cashes in on interest in the occult during Halloween and produces scary movies; television, trailing not far behind, makes a point of running horror movies during the same time period. But is the sick desire to be scared out of one’s mind a healthy urge? It certainly isn’t, especially for younger children. What healthy benefits come from children, or even teens, being frightened and scared in movie theaters or in front of the television screen? Is something that produces anxiety, fear and nightmares during sleep something anyone could realistically see as healthy? No. There is no question that people are interested in occult subjects, but is it something that we should actively participate in promoting? I’m disturbed these days in seeing adults, parents even, promoting interest in the occult without thinking much about what in fact they are doing. Under the guise of encouraging youngster to read, adults pushed and hyped the Harry Potter craze a few years ago. Ok, now that has passed. But why encourage other aspects of the occult by increasingly promoting more and more Halloween celebrations? It’s unhealthy to overemphasize something that perhaps shouldn’t have even being accepted in the first place. Ok, we have Halloween; it’s here to stay. But let’s just leave it at that instead of increasing our participation in it. If anything let us, as Christians, decrease in it.

 

Second, the themes of Halloween are far from healthy spiritually. Acts 19:18-20, “Many also of those who had believed kept coming confessing and disclosing their practices. Many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it 50,000 pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” Here’s an early scene of what happened when pagans converted to Christians – they brought their occult objects and instruction books and burned them as a sign of their rejection of the occult. Now the verse says they brought their magic books and burned them, but we shouldn’t think that they were bringing how-to guidebooks on doing magic tricks, like we might find in the bookstores today. They weren’t burning books that revealed how to do card tricks or slight of hand magic. No. They were burning occult literature that explained, for example, how to contact the spirit world, how to talk to the dead, how to cast spells, and so forth. This was occult magic; it was the real deal. Now these early believers, these new converts knew enough that in order to follow Jesus properly they had to give up occult practices. How ironic that these early Christian converts knew this, but we co-called sophisticated Christians of the twenty-first century think it harmless fun when we or our children dabble with occult themes around the Halloween season. It wasn’t fun and games back in the early days of Christianity, and so it shouldn’t be seen as fun and games today. Yes, there is a harmless way to have fun around October 31st. Children can dress up in different kinds of costumes that are unrelated to occult themes. They can attend fall festival parties, bob for apples, ride on fire trucks, and generally have fun, for example, in a corn maze or pumpkin hunt. It isn’t necessary to bring in occult themes or images in order to have fun. As Christians we need to make sure that we don’t bring in dark or occult themes, especially in respect to children. Do we really want to promote these dark spiritual things? Do we really want to get kids interested in the dark side? We need to remember the words of Jesus when he warned, “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes on of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea,” Matthew 18:5-6. Let us never be guilty of leading anyone astray, especially children, by our loose and casual attitude towards potentially dangerous things. Let us never be guilty of promoting any occult themes during Halloween. It’s just too spiritually unhealthy.

 

Third, the occult themes of Halloween can present teachable moments for us all. 1 Timothy 4:1, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” There is one main redeeming quality that Halloween brings, and that is it can serve as a time of reflection and education about how as Christians we are to deal with the dark side of the spiritual world. In other words, Halloween provides a teachable moment each year for us as Christians to learn and teach once again how “greater is he (God) that is in us, than he (the devil) that is in the world,” 1 John 4:4. The many occult themes that come up during the Halloween season can serve as an introduction for us to learn in a deeper way how Christ is Lord over all, including all the occult spiritual powers. It’s almost impossible for children to go through Halloween season without running into characters like witches and ghosts. It’s natural to be curious about such strange things. So let’s explain from the Bible what these things are, in terms of theology and the spiritual reality. Let’s not leave it up to Hollywood to explain the nature of, say, witchcraft. Let’s do a good job of teaching while people are already interested in the topic. During Halloween season there will no doubt be many movies and television programs on occult related themes. Ok, let’s talk about these topics with our children instead of just letting television, or worse yet, their friends, try to explain what is right and wrong in connection with these topics. It’s sad but many pastors and church teachers refuse to deal with any of the themes related to the occult, even though during the Halloween season many people are curious and interested about them. Some Christian leaders are so sensitive to potentially disturbing someone or generating controversy that they play it safe and ignore the whole subject of the occult, either in the pulpit in front of adults on Sunday morning, or in teaching and warning children about it in Sunday school. But church leaders must not be fearful; they must be courageous and address topics that are in the popular and public eye. What better time to teach on this or any subject as when students are interested? If the secular world is promoting occult themes in connection with Halloween each year, then by all means let the Christian church respond with sound and solid instruction, instead of simply letting the people hear only a one-sided and sympathetic angle on a very dangerous subject. The world sees the occult as harmless fun; it’s not. It’s dangerous, mentally, emotionally and most importantly, spiritually. We need to warn people of it. Why not do so during the Halloween season?

 

One of the reasons why the occult is growing in traditionally Christian societies, like the United States and in Europe, is because Christian churches aren’t teaching the truth concerning the occult. How many pastors ever mention subject topics as séances, the Ouija Board, spirit mediums, fortune telling, ESP, parapsychology, witchcraft, Satanism, and so forth? Not many. Why not? Because it might cause controversy, it might disturb some people, it isn’t “positive” or “nice” or “uplifting.” But if the Christian church fails to equip people to deal with the reality of the world of the occult, who will? If someone asks us about Halloween we’ve got to be able to say why we don’t go in for all the occult symbolism, but can appreciate some of the more harmless fun aspects of Halloween. We should be able to explain why the occult themes are not simply harmless fun; that they contain very dangerous content. As Christians we don’t have to be party poopers! We don’t have to oppose all of Halloween. I once was pasturing a church in Chicago during the late 80s around Halloween season when a woman came up to me after church one Sunday and asked me why I didn’t condemn Halloween in my Sunday message. I told her that I have nothing against Halloween per se if it’s mostly about kids dressing up in costumes, passing out candy and carving pumpkins. I told her I oppose any kind of occult themes during the Halloween season, but if parents can steer their children towards the harmless fun aspects of the season and away from the dark themes, then I have no problem with kids participating. She still didn’t like it because I didn’t condemn the whole thing at once. But I think as Christians we don’t have to be party poopers in respect to Halloween. We can enjoy the fun stuff and avoid the serious stuff. But not only that, we can explain to people why we don’t get into the other stuff because of the potential dangers involved. We can help people who are unaware of the really serious occult stuff that is connected with Halloween understand that it’s really not healthy to expose kids to such dark spiritual content. A lot of the darker occult stuff connected with Halloween is really inappropriate for adults to deal with, let alone children. The occult themes that are regularly promoted around Halloween need to be exposed for what they really are – unhealthy and potentially dangerous attention-getting topics that can hook impressionable children into a lifelong fascination with dark spiritual powers. We need to explain that these are not things children or adults need to be getting sucked into. They are spiritually dark themes that take us away from a solid relationship with God not towards him. They should be discouraged. This is one way we can be a witness for the truth during the Halloween season.

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