Darkness and Light Don’t Mix
Halloween is not a holiday we choose to celebrate as a Christian family. We haven’t dressed up, trick or treated, or decorated our house for years. We are not legalistic. We are not trying to ruin other people’s fun or deprive our children. We once did all of the Halloween things. Yet, there came a point where we could no longer join in with the world in this holiday. The wholesale celebration of all things evil, ghoulish, and ungodly became just too much to honestly join ourselves with as a Christian family. We cannot love what is evil while we seek to follow God.
My home office overlooks a number of neighbor’s front lawns. One of them has a zombie in a cage on it. Yes, you read that right, a zombie in a cage! The neighbor has gone to the trouble of erecting a spiked prison on his front lawn and placing a life-sized gore covered zombie in it. It is horrifyingly realistic. It is terrible to behold. My young children get scared as we get near the house. Travel a mile or so further up the same road and you will run into further Halloween themed decorations. There is a large billboard advertising the local Halloween corn maze. Seems innocent enough, right? What could be wrong with that?
This giant billboard is for the gruesome monsters corn maze. It depicts realistic figures on it that were once confined to age-restricted movies. They are awful to look at. Yet, this is not unusual in my area. The sicker and more twisted the decoration the better it seems. Severed heads, zombies, dark and menacing serial killers are regular decorations around my town. Everything dark, evil, grotesque and horrifying seems to take center stage. It is even worse because people enjoy them.
This embracing of all that is dark and depraved is why we choose not to celebrate Halloween as a family. It is inconsistent with our call as Christians to rejoice in what is good, noble, holy, and righteous.
We certainly don’t judge others who disagree. This is our decision for our family. We also understand it may be different where you are, dear reader. But for us, what once was a fun day to dress up and eat candy seems to have transformed into something new. It is a season that embraces the twisted and evil in people. There is too much celebration of all things evil for this Christian family to take part in good conscience. As our 4 year old expressed it,
“Halloween is about dead people and we are alive in Jesus.”
It seemed like such a big deal to think about not celebrating Halloween. My wife and I agonized over the decision for a few years. Halloween was always one of our favorite holidays as a kid. We felt would be taking away something hugely important from our kid’s lives. So we kept on dressing up and hitting the streets for a time even after the Lord was convicting us and telling us to stop. This continued until the one year we came face to face with the twisted ugliness of evil that can be promoted by Halloween. God made our decision very clear for us and we have not regretted for a moment since then.
Our Journey with Halloween
When I was a kid, my costume reflected my hero at that time. I was Superman or Batman most years early on. My friends wore similar costumes – policemen, fireman, baseball players, and army men for the boys. For the girls, they were Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, princesses, and a good number of policemen and firemen. There was the occasional ghost, but it was of the white sheet Friendly Ghost variety. I know it sounds cliché, but it really was a simpler more innocent time.
My wife and I continued the Halloween trick or treating even after we came to Christ. While the little ones were still small, pageants at school were cute and fun. The children proudly marched in their princess costumes, their fairy wings, and their fireman’s ax. They were innocent and joyful in playing dress up like all kids love to do Eating candy is pretty awesome for everyone involved. There is nothing wrong with dress up. The idea that we would not continue Halloween seemed very wrong, perhaps legalistic. We had plenty of voices in the Christian community who thought we were crazy for even thinking about stopping trick or treating.
Darkness Took Over
We began to see a change in the celebration, though, as the kids got older. Young children started showing up for 2nd grade Halloween pageants dressed as zombies with carefully drawn in rotting flesh. First, it was the one kid whose parents were super permissive. Eventually, it was most of the class. Babe Ruth was replaced by serial killers. Cartoon vampires were replaced with super realistic blood covered ghouls. Everything undead became all the rage. Dress up changed from innocent kids dressing like their favorite superheroes to killers, monsters and other expressions of evil. Super sexualized versions of older costumes also were added in after a few years.
The kids were directly reflecting the changes in a society that embraced sin and darkness.
It was not just the costumes changing either. The decorations in the neighborhood went from cartoonish to despicable. Who thinks realistic decapitated bodies on the front lawn is a good idea?
“Hey honey, this will be a lark, let’s give the neighbors nightmares and cause counseling for the local children!”
Adults changed as well. Halloween became like a mini-Mardi Gras. Drunk parents roaming around the neighborhood in full costume became commonplace. Adults began to get in all sorts of mischief on Halloween they were way too old to be involved in. Halloween brought out the worst in people, young and old.
Despite this, we still clung on to the idea that Halloween was required for our kids to be “normal”. We could not even contemplate depriving them of the joy of going to strangers doors and asking for free stuff. “Don’t take candy from strangers”, we tell them, “except if you are dressed up in a costume then go directly to their doors and ask them for it.” It is a weird message.
My wife and I researched the origins of Halloween. We took the Bible seriously and concluded that there was nothing explicitly banning the celebration. For our results, read 39 Comprehensive Bible Verses on Halloween. It is clearly not a salvation issue. It is also a generally secular holiday. We are free to take part and should never argue with other believers about their decision on the subject.
We also rationalized that since it was associated with All Saints Day it is not bad in itself. The earth is the Lord’s, the candy is the Lord’s, and simple fun is the Lord’s. There was nothing stopping us. Just because pagans may have used the same day for something previously, it doesn’t mean it is bad. This is true of Christmas and other days the pagans co-opted, so why not Halloween?
The more we told ourselves this, though, the more it still felt just…wrong. Something was not sitting well with us and we couldn’t figure out what. If it is not outlawed, why should we stop? If it is fun and not sinful, why would we not do it?
We were wrestling with the conviction of the Lord. His question for us was simple. Could we look out at the drunk people roaming our neighborhood, the evil costumes on small children and the celebration of darkness and honestly honor Him while going along with it? What fellowship does light have with darkness? Yes, we have freedom, but is this how we wanted to use that freedom bought by the blood of Jesus on the Cross?
The Night We Met Buffalo Bill
The answer for us was clear. Yet, we kept fighting it. Our emotions and memories kept us from admitting this until the night we met Buffalo Bill. This was the moment God used to get His point across very clearly to His struggling children. Though the incident it still gives me the willies, I am thankful for it.
Welcome to Buffalo Bill’s House
The house that ended our trick or treat experience felt wrong from the very beginning. It was dark and eerie. It felt just yucky and evil. This is the mood people give off on Halloween so we ignored it as we approached with our then very small son. The Holy Spirit warned us the house was wrong but the theme of the night embraces that wrongness. We sent our then little boy walking up the sidewalk to the very darkened doorway. We ignored the flashing warning signs that parents would run from on just about every other day of the year and told our child to ask the owners by himself for free stuff.
Our son was dressed as a sweet innocent little cowboy. He toddled up to the front door all proud of his cowboy hat and vest. He knocked on the door, opened his candy bag and waited for someone to answer. He was obviously put off by the house as well, but we had been prodding him all night. “It’s okay, just go to their door and do it on your own” was our message. He wanted to be a brave and strong cowboy and eat some candy. He trusted his mom and dad as we went along with society. We put him in a physically and spiritually dangerous position just to go along with a tradition and not offend.
A very different type of cowboy answered the door. There was nothing sweet or innocent about this cowboy. He was an adult dressed up in a costume as Buffalo Bill. If you are not familiar with that name, this is the fictional serial killer from the movie Silence of the Lambs. The character did unspeakable things to people in the movie without remorse. He is a fictional version of the worst evil in humanity. Yet, we sent our 4 year old to encounter an adult was greeting children dressed as him. We put our son, the sweet and innocent cowboy, into the position of looking up into a half-darkened house at an adult who took joy in dressing like a cowboy character who murdered people.
Trick or treat, Mr. Serial Killer.
If that wasn’t enough, the man responded in character. He tried his best to get my very small son to understand his costume. He tried to get him to see that he was playing the serial killer character.
“Ok, wrap it up, that’s it – we are done with this holiday.”
It takes really clear messages from God for us to understand what He is saying sometimes.
Where once Halloween may have stood for All Saints Day or a harmless time of dress up and candy, those days are long gone. They have been replaced with a holiday of horrors as evidenced by the caged zombie that stares in my direction. It is filled with ugliness and evil. All things are lawful, but not all are profitable says Paul in 1 Corinthians. This day was not only not helping us excel in Christ. It was also harming us as a family. When looking at Halloween, what it celebrates, and what it brings out in people, it just became a contradiction for us.
Our family seeks to walk every day with Christ in the light. Why would we one day willingly join in this celebration of dark? We do not want to say we love the light and then willingly choose to embrace darkness for even a minute.
What fellowship does darkness have with light?
We stopped joining in Halloween celebrations and haven’t looked back. The change was not at all big deal in our home despite our fears. The parents had way more trouble with it than the kids. We would much rather just stay home and watch tv. Our kids play dress up all the time and already eat enough candy.
Though it certainly is an issue that we as followers of Christ can disagree in good conscience, we have not missed Halloween at all and have no plans to join in. It is just too much darkness, evil, and debauchery for us. It does not help us to run the race Christ laid out for us.
This is how the Lord has led our family. I pray you are blessed by it.