Darkness and Light Don’t Mix
My office overlooks a number of neighbor’s front lawns. One of them has a zombie in a cage on it. Yes, a zombie in a cage. The neighbor has gone to the trouble of erecting a spiked prison of sorts on his front lawn and placing a life-sized zombie in it. Not only is it clearly meant to be an undead person, but it is also a horrifyingly realistic zombie. I won’t elaborate on its appearance but it is terrible to look at. My younger children get scared as we get near the house. I frankly hate looking at it as well as it gives me the creeps. Yet, this is not unusual in my area. The sicker and more twisted the decoration the better it will look on the front lawn seems to be the thought process. Severed heads, zombies, dark and menacing skeletons – these are regular sights around here. Everything dark, evil, grotesque and horrifying seems to take center stage and be delighted over.
This embracing of all that is dark and depraved is why we choose not to celebrate Halloween as a family. We certainly don’t judge others who disagree, this is our decision. What once was a fun dress up day to eat a bunch of candy seems to have transformed into a season that brings the twisted out in people. Not that it was an easy decision.
Our Journey with Halloween
It seemed like such a big deal to think about not celebrating Halloween. My wife and I frankly agonized over the decision for a few years. Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays as a kid. I thought it would be a huge thing if we stopped trick or treating. We felt were 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. That is, until the one year that we came face to face with the twisted ugliness of evil that seems to be promoted by Halloween. God made our decision very clear for us and we have not regretted for a moment since then.
When I was a kid, my costume reflected my hero at that time. I was Superman or Batman most years early on. One year, I wore my father’s old fireman uniform, complete with heavy coat, helmet, and boots. My friends wore similar costumes – policemen, fireman, baseball players, and army men for the boys. For the girls, Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, princesses, and a good number of policemen and firemen were all the rage. There was the occasional ghost, but it was of the white sheet Caspar the Friendly Ghost variety. I know it sounds cliche, but it really was a simpler more innocent time.
After having kids, we 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, plus getting to eat candy is pretty awesome for everyone involved. There is nothing wrong with dress up and the idea that we would not continue seemed very wrong, perhaps legalistic.
As the kids got older, though, we began to see a change in the nature of the celebration and the nature of costumes. Young children started showing up for 2nd grade Halloween pageants dressed as zombies, complete 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 slender man, a mythical creepy killer. 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 kids dressing up like serial killers, deranged monsters and other expressions of evil. Super sexualized versions of older costumes also were added in after a few years. It was as if the kids were directly reflecting the changes in a society that has embraced sin and darkness as time passes.
It was not just the costumes changing either. The decorations in the neighborhood went from cartoonish at worst and goofy at best to despicable. Who in the world 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!”
Despite this, we still clung on to the idea that Halloween was required for our kids to be normal. We just 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 disputed origins of Halloween. We rationalized that it was associated with All Saints Day so it’s not bad in itself. The earth is the Lord’s and just because pagans may have used the same day for something different previously, doesn’t mean it is bad we concluded. This is true of Christmas and other days the pagans co-opted, so why not Halloween?
The problem was 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 celebrate Him while going along with it?
The Night we Met Cowboy Bob
The answer for us was clearly no, but our emotions and memories kept us from admitting this until the night we met Cowboy Bob. This was the moment God used to get His point across very clearly to His struggling children. Though it still gives me the willies, I am thankful for it.
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 are going for on Halloween so we just ignored the creep factor. We sent our then very small son walking up the sidewalk to the darkened doorway despite the feeling that the house was just wrong. 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 for free stuff.
Our son was dressed as a sweet innocent little cowboy. He waddled in that little kid kind of way 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 ok, just knock on the door even though it feels weird”, we had been telling him. He just wanted to be a brave and strong cowboy and eat some candy. He trusted his mom and dad.
When the door opened, a very different type of cowboy answered. There was nothing sweet or innocent about this cowboy. The door was answered by an adult who dressed up in a costume as Cowboy Bob, a fictional serial killer from the movie Silence of the Lambs. 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 skinned people to death.
Trick or treat, Mr. Serial Killer.
If that wasn’t enough, the man responded in character as Cowboy Bob and 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 from a horrible movie.
Ok, wrap it up, that’s it – we are done. Sometimes it takes really clear messages from God for us to understand what He is saying.
Times have really changed. Where once Halloween may have stood for All Saints Day or a harmless time of dress up and candy, those days are long gone. As evidenced by the caged zombie that stares in my general direction, they have been replaced by horrors and darkness. Another former neighbor sets up an entire backyard of terrible scenes that he guards with a chain saw and invites people to tour. Sickeningly realistic displays of the worst man can do to one another – one day only, come and enjoy!
When looking at what Halloween looks like, what it celebrates and what it brings out in people, it just became a contradiction. We are seeking to walk every day with Christ in the light and then willingly join in this type of celebration. We cannot say for 365 days that we love the light and then choose to embrace darkness for even a minute.
What fellowship does darkness have with light?
We would much rather just stay home and watch tv now. Our kids play dress up all the time and already eat enough candy. Truthfully, the change was not a big deal in our home. The parents had way more trouble with it than the kids.
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. We will not join in with the world and celebrate the evil that the world is calling fun.
Again this is how the Lord has led our family and based upon our area. Christians can lovingly and reasonably disagree.