I knew that I’d written something on the whole issue of Halloween before. And so, like an old but rediscovered piece of clothing, I dusted it off and decided to bring it into the light of day. I hadn’t realised that I was quite so strident only two years ago! I’m not sure I’d put it exactly the same way today. I may have mellowed a little, And so I’m not going to attack those who choose to observe Halloween as though they’ve just denied the deity of Christ. But I I continue to have three issues with the celebration of Halloween. For what it’s worth, here they are.
1. When we celebrate Halloween we mainstream the morbid
I think the Bible allows a place for imagination. I think it has a place for pretence. And I don’t think it has an issue with fantasy per se. JK Rowling is not the antichrist. But Halloween encourages elements from the dark side of spirituality to be accepted in mainstream culture as though they’re perfectly acceptable. And the Bible’s less keen on that. Halloween has become a holiday of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. It’s not alone in doing that; Buffy was Slaying Vampires a decade ago and Robert Pattinson is doing something in these ‘Twilight’ years. Usually we’re very careful to keep the stuff of death and dying out of the public eye. And often that’s a good thing. There are some things that it would be best not to parade. For example, a curtain passes in front of the coffin as it’s wheeled away. The body is burnt in a furnace out of sight. The morgue is in a distant, inaccessible part of the hospital. It’s not in reception or on the main thoroughfare. We put distressing scenes of death and decay on our screens once the nine o’clock watershed has passed. And we give horror films an 18 certificate. There’s a reason that we do those things. We don’t normally mainstream the morbid. We recognise that exposure to such terrifying images may be traumatic. And yet at Halloween, all bets are off. It’s open season on the morbid. I opened the front door last year to a six year old boy dressed as a zombie. Surely the instinct to protect people from things that will terrify them is good. And yet the supermarkets are awash with spiders, ghosts, witches, vampires, Satan and so on. The Balham Sainsbury’s had a face painting witch in store for half term. But any parent who’s had to comfort a child suffering nightmares doesn’t want frightening images etched indelibly onto their child’s imagination. They don’t want them to be the things their kids see when the lights go out. There’s wisdom in keeping those things out of the public eye. But at Halloween we throw caution to the wind when we mainstream the morbid.
2. When we celebrate Halloween we trivialise wickedness
Halloween is a celebration. We get excited by its’ arrival. We have parties. We encourage others to join in the festivities. We mock those whose sensitivities mean that they refuse to participate. We stigmatise them as killjoys. But have we ever stopped to ask just what it is that we’re celebrating? Wickedness; whether we mean to or not. We’re delighting in things that most of the time we’d have nothing to do with. And the reason that we normally have nothing to do with them is that we recognise that they’re inappropriate. What’s remotely appropriate (for a Christian) about going to a party dressed as Satan or one of his minions? Whilst an attractive woman dressed provocatively as a witch might be physically alluring, the truth is that were we to meet the devil himself, one of his demons or one of his devotees there’d be nothing that we’d find attractive about them. When we (unwittingly) celebrate wickedness, evil is portrayed as innocent and fun. And it’s neither. We trivialise it. But the Bible teaches that the devil and his demons are real. We have a real spiritual adversary who seeks our destruction. If we belong to Christ then we have nothing to fear from a defeated enemy. Colossians 2:15 is very clear; he triumphed over Satan by the cross. But nevertheless wickedness and evil ought to be something that we detest not something that we celebrate.
3. When we celebrate Halloween we domesticate evil
The place for a lion is in the wild. That’s because (to state the obvious) it’s a wild animal. It has no place in the home. Some people might decide that they want one as a pet and so they’d bring it under their roof. For a while the lion is small, cuddly and playful. But then it grows up. And there are just some things that can’t be domesticated. The lion may tow the party line about not attacking and eating humans. But do you really trust it? Would you leave it alone in a room with a toddler? Evil is one of those things that ought not to be domesticated. Many say that Halloween is a bit of harmless fun. But that’s like saying that a lion cub isn’t dangerous. It’s not. But it’s on a trajectory to being terrifying and destructive. We mustn’t forget the wickedness of evil. We bring the demonic under our roof in the guise of Halloween. And in so doing we may encourage in ourselves and especially in our vulnerable children an unhealthy interest in the dark side of spirituality. I want no part of anything that stimulates fascination with something that’s enslaving and ultimately damaging. Like a lion, we ought to keep evil at arms’ length. We have nothing to fear from Satan so long as we treat him as he deserves to be treated. According to 1 Peter 5:8&9, he will always prowl around looking for someone to devour. But he has no power over us except that which is given to him by God. But God does not expect us to entertain him and domesticate him. He expects us to resist him, standing firm on the gospel promises that he has nothing of good to offer us.
So this Halloween, rather than mindlessly going along with the crowd lending our support to the celebration of wickedness, let’s make so much more of Jesus’ victory over the powers of evil, death and sin. That’s surely worth getting excited about.