Six Thoughtful and Practical Responses to Halloween

Six Thoughtful and Practical Responses to Halloween

Photo: ©Kristen Prahl from Getty Images via Canva.com

From a degree of difficulty perspective, Halloween is the most challenging of all our American holidays. We must give a little mental energy to this tradition for a few days every October. The good news is that this makes Halloween no different from any other opportunity to make God’s name great as we engage our culture. It is just another discipleship privilege for missional-minded Christians—a privilege the Lord gives us to bring a fitting response to this annual interruption.

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Christian Benefits

Mercifully, God does not leave us alone to figure out the concerns that are important to us. We have all the resources we need to think through any problem or perplexity in our lives. The Spirit of God gives us clarity (2 Peter 1:3). The Father’s authoritative and sufficient Word comes alongside us to guide our thoughts (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have each other to bounce off our ideas (Proverbs 11:14). This interconnectedness of God, Scripture, and community provides us with unassailable wisdom to formulate a biblical response to Halloween, which is excellent news because collective perspectives and approaches can be all over the map like every other secondary issue.

Perhaps you’d like to take advantage of these “interconnected privileges of grace” as you think through how to respond to the Halloween dilemma. If you have questions, consider seeking out those who are competent in God’s Word and have the courage and compassion to communicate those truths with common sense clarity. You may also search our sanctification center for questions that are vital to you, whether about this holiday or other matters. Knowing how to respond is essential because your friends have different views than yours, so you want to be ready to engage them with charity and clarity. Let me share with you a few of those diverse perspectives using fictional narratives.

What Shall I Do?

  1. Flight Approach – Biff leads his family by declaring Halloween as movie night, and he herds his family upstairs. The lights are off, and the family is huddled around the television, watching The Sound of Music for the fourteenth time.
  2. Engage Approach – Bart calls Biff a legalist. Bart allows his kids to dress in costumes for a night of harmless fun. “You only live once; let them enjoy it. Besides, they can share Christ with the other kids.”
  3. Ignore Approach – Mable pretends it does not exist. She is a single mom, multitasking at a level few of us can comprehend. She does not need another battlefield to walk on with her children.
  4. Succumb Approach – Brice and Marge struggle with the fear of man: “What do others think of us?” (Proverbs 29:25). Though they do not care for Halloween, they typically succumb to their nagging children as well as the pressure they perceive from their friends.
  5. Passive Approach – Then there is Bert. He is your stereotypical lazy, passive dad. He does not care. As long as it does not interfere with his life, he’s good. “What’s the big deal? When I was a kid, (blah, blah, blah).” He then goes off on a rant about how hard he had it as a child and then ends with, “. . . look at me. I turned out okay.” Madge (wife) has never been courageous enough to honestly tell him what “turned out okay” looks like from her perspective.
  6. Arrogant Approach – Billy waits for the discussion to turn to him in the men’s group. He loves throwing down the Reformation Day card because he is pretty sure most of his friends have not thought about it. Though his answer is logical, the self-righteousness that flows out of him and his disdain for those who do not see things his way are stifling.

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Self-examination

What did you think when you heard the fictional stories about the different responses to Halloween? I am asking this question for two reasons: you probably have friends who represent most, if not all, of them, and how you think about your friends affect how you engage them. Emoting over Halloween in nonconstructive ways is easy and tempting but non-productive. Passion is fantastic, but humble self-awareness—an awareness that reminds you of who you were without Christ in your life—should temper any wayward enthusiasm.

  • Who were you before Christ found you (Ephesians 2:1)? Dead in sin; for by grace, God saved you.
  • What are you apart from His persevering grace (1 Timothy 1:15)? The biggest sinner you know, especially as you think about your friends.

Without humility, passion creates disunity in our communities, which is why it’s helpful to consider that even if you are categorically opposed to Halloween and confident that you are right, everyone does not hold your perspective. Perhaps you are correct, and they need to change their minds. If so, ensure you have the relational bridge to communicate your view and the biblical clarity to share it. And above all, do so with humility.

Stewarding Pontificating

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

Part of our humility finds moderation because we know we have yet to reach a state of perfection in our hearts or deeds. My appeal is for us to guard our hearts before we pontificate about Halloween. Ironically, it’s not wise to speak about evil as though we do not participate in evil somehow. The darkness of Satan impacts our lives throughout the year, not just on October 31. If we do not sprinkle our minds with grace, our communication will be harsh and non-redemptive. Halloween should not be about winning arguments, splitting hairs, or flaunting theological knowledge. Our primary goal is to position ourselves before God, asking Him to use us to redeem lives, even while making Halloween an opportunity to put Christ on display through our attitudes, words, and actions.

Dear Lord, I have an opinion about Halloween, but you know me. Will you guard my heart and control my tongue as I speak on this subject? I want the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be acceptable in your sight (Psalm 19:14). I also want to help, not hurt people.

Different Strokes

If I were close friends with Biff, Bart, Mable, Brice, Marge, Bert, and Billy and had the context, time, and relationship to speak with them, here are a few things I would want them to consider that I trust will benefit all of us.

#1 – Flight ApproachBiff will have to deal with Halloween. He cannot bury his head in the sand and pretend it does not exist. He can herd his children upstairs while they are young, but they will not be forever young. They will eventually tire of The Sound of Music. He needs to be wiser in his parenting approach, which should incrementally introduce them to the world. Biff needs to lead his children by teaching them about life and culture. Halloween is an excellent opportunity for him to do this. If he does not, the culture will teach their ways as they pressure his kids to follow their worldviews and practices. It could be that some of his children may not be able to withstand the pressures placed on them by their culture, mainly if they have not received teaching, encouragement, and discipleship or if they are susceptible to fear of man (Proverbs 29:25). Though they may be able to recite and even act out The Sound of Music, they will be at a loss regarding cultural engagement.

#2 – Engage Approach – Bart is overreacting to Biff’s unwillingness to engage by letting his children become the anti-legalist poster children. I have encountered many Barts in my life. They usually come out of legalistic environments and are easily tempted to over-correct their practices through misuses of grace. The “grace mistake” is where grace becomes an excuse to live how you want to. This view does not mean you should leave Bart just as he is, as though he is correct. A close friend should come alongside him to help him work through his thought processes. For example,

  • Harmless FunHalloween is not benign because it teaches his kids a worldview. Halloween, like all things, comes with a worldview—a presupposition. Van Til taught us that there are no neutral facts. He is right: Halloween is not neutral.
  • Only Live Once This statement is part of Bart’s fun worldview, which could stand a little God-centered reshaping.
  • Sharing ChristUnless his kids are little apostles, I am sure their fixation will be on the candy they receive rather than the Christ they should share. Even if they were to evangelize, Bart could find a better venue and time for them to do it. His overly spiritualized, fun-centered worldview is more of a justification that releases him from the hard work of parenting. The “hit and run, shove a Bible tract at someone” approach has seen better days.

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#3 – Ignore ApproachAll alone in this world is asking too much from anyone. This problem is part of the reason there is a local church. Mable needs the body of Christ surrounding her, helping her to parent her children. Her local body needs to perceive her struggle and come alongside her to care for her family. She is too overwhelmed to think about Halloween while hoping it will not be a big deal this year.

#4 – Succumb ApproachSomebody must come alongside Brice and Marge and carefully walk them through the underlying issues in their collective lives. How to respond to Halloween is not their primary problem. Halloween is a seasonal litmus test they fail each year. If they cave to Halloween’s cultural expectations and pressures, you can bet they fail in other areas. But this failure points to the broader issue of insecurity, which leads to their frail relationship with God. Like Mable, they need biblical friends who love them enough to help them mature in Christ.

#5 – Passive Approach – Bert is slowly losing his family, but he does not see it. He may not care. Bert will be difficult to help because he needs a compassionate kick in the seat of his unbiblical pants. Motivating a passive person is hard. Bert is the anti-gospel man. The gospel is about going, giving, intruding, impressing upon, and getting to the heart of the problem while seeking to transform lives. Bert is not doing any of those things. Bert is about Bert, the only thing that he’s not passive about.

#6 – Arrogant ApproachBilly is Bert’s opposite. Billy loves being right, being in control, and coming across as impressive. Pursuing, creating, and sustaining redemptive relationships are not his strengths. From the outside looking in, he appears to have the best answer, but his heart is in dire need of gospel-centered transformation. The apostle Paul spoke to people like this in 1 Corinthians, who were more about being correct than redemptive (1 Corinthians 8:1-3). Some people in Corinth knew eating meat was not a big deal, but their attitudes were wrong. Having the correct answer is only part of the solution. Having the right attitude is essential, but knowledge can puff up the inflatable mind, while love can build up the needy soul. Our friend Billy should be more careful, engaging, involved, and humble.

Call to Action

  1. Do you see Halloween more as a point to be right or an opportunity to be redemptive?
  2. Are you willing to engage your friends redemptively, or are you tempted to refrain because of fear?
  3. How does your self-awareness govern your perspective?

Personally Speaking

A few years ago, one of our small group members humbly asked about our views on Halloween. We had different opinions, which they knew. Rather than making them feel dumb, unusual, or wrong, it was an opportunity to walk through what we believe, why we believe what we believe, and how we practice our beliefs while anticipating the Lord to work in their hearts in whatever way He wanted to. It was not our desire to manipulate or make a mandate on what they should do. It is a secondary Christian conversation, not one that rises to the level of gospel integrity.

Also, I chose a different approach for this Halloween piece. Many arguments are already circulating during this time of the year about how “Halloween is of the devil and why you should steer clear of it.” I could have written from that angle, but it would have been rehash-ad-infinitum. That information is public domain and easily accessible. I typed “Christian perspective on Halloween” and got over 3.5 million possibilities in 0.17 seconds. If you want to gain a Christian perspective on Halloween, please take the time to do the research. It will benefit you. My point in writing this piece is to discuss how our attitudes toward others differ and the need to submit our minds to Christ. If you are living out humility, you will redemptively position yourself to compassionately and competently engage each other in culturally-related issues.

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