Every year as the holidays approach, the Christian corner of the Internet erupts in a frenzy over whether or not a particular holiday should be celebrated. No holiday is more vigorously disputed amongst Christians than Halloween.
Typically, I ignore the debate, but this year I read something that made me feel a response is warranted. It wasn’t anything new, and perhaps that’s the problem. The rhetoric around Halloween seems stuck in the Satanic Panic era worldview. It’s high time we moved past Jack Chick apologetics.
For those folks who are honestly trying to sort out whether or not to participate in Halloween or any other holiday, there are a few important points to consider.
1. Truth cannot be founded on a logical fallacy.
Those who oppose Halloween typically point to the ostensibly pagan roots of the holiday. In other words, they point to what it once was. A long, looooong time ago. This is a typical Jack Chick tract tactic.
In doing this, they commit a logical fallacy called the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.
We need only consider the calendar to see why pointing to the ostensibly pagan roots of Halloween fails as an argument. You see, the days of the week are named after Norse gods and goddesses. Do you worship Thor because you use a calendar that includes the word Thursday (Thor’s Day)? Do you really mean “Thank Goddess it’s Freya’s Day” when you say “TGIF”? Whether you meant to or not? By owning a calendar, are you worshipping Norse deities now that you know that the days are named after the deities they were dedicated to? Of course not! Yet these same kinds of arguments are used by opponents of Halloween.
What’s worse is that an appeal to historical precedent might ultimately work in the favor of Christians who participate in Halloween. Consider the following from Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis:
“It seems no coincidence that cultures all around the world in both present and ancient times have had a holiday when the dead were remembered and animals were sacrificed. We can make a pretty strong argument that this holiday goes back to a time when all the peoples lived together—and then they took this holiday to various parts of the world.
Otherwise, it seems strange and difficult to explain how these cultures developed celebrations that are so similar. This would likely push the true origin of “Halloween” and these other “days of the dead” to the time before the dispersion at Babel (Genesis 11), over 4,200 years ago, after which different early cultures began to vary in its practice.
…Was it a day to remember those who died in the Flood and a continuation of the sacrifices that Noah made after coming off the Ark? Because the celebrations call for the remembrance of the dead and have sacrifices, it is reminiscent of the large sacrifice that Noah and his family performed after the Flood. This would also explain why many other cultures have a variant of this regular sacrifice. When Noah and his family exited the Ark, they offered sacrifices to God (Genesis 8:18–9:1); of course, deviations in the manner of this sacrifice over the years and its meaning would have varied down through the ages. Based on the evidence, this seems to be the most likely explanation.”
For most of us, Halloween has become a day where we dress up in costume and eat a lot of candy. The same commercialism that causes Christians to lament that we need to “Keep Christ in Christmas” has likewise infected Halloween.
In fact, I found it telling when a recent Charisma article by Michael Snyder cited the National Retail Federation when supporting his claim that Halloween is now America’s second most popular holiday. Halloween has been commercialized into something completely removed from its origins… just like much of Christmas. In fact, it’s interesting that the argument doesn’t work in reverse: no one says people are worshipping Jesus by exchanging gifts at Christmas despite Jesus being the “Reason for the Season.” Truth is not founded on logical fallacies.
2. Participation is not worship.
A quote often attributed to Anton Lavey (I could not nail down an original source for the quote) reads:
“I am glad that Christian parents let their children worship the devil at least one night out of the year. Welcome to Halloween.”
Jamie Morgan chimes in similarly. In a 2015 Charisma magazine article with the heavy-handed title, Why Christians Absolutely Should Not Celebrate Halloween, Morgan writes:
Halloween is a sacred, high holiday for Wiccans (the official religion of witchcraft). Is this a holiday Christians should celebrate alongside Wiccans?
Putting on a costume and going Trick-or-Treating is not an act of worship. Worship requires intent. I know avowed atheists who love to sing even the overtly religious Christmas carols around the holidays. They are not worshipping; they are singing lyrics.
It’s funny how we have sermon after sermon on why it’s important to not just go through the motions but to really worship God in spirit and in truth but we pretend as if participation in any tradition associated with Halloween must necessarily constitute worship. This well-intended overreach paints a false picture of what worship means.
3. You are not putting yourself in spiritual danger by participating in the pageantry of Halloween.
The Satanic Panic is over. No, really.
Yet last year, John Ramirez, another self-professed deliverance ministry expert whose “much-needed” teachings are for sale, wrote an article for Charisma magazine last year called Former Satan Worshipper: I’m Shocked Christians Celebrate Halloween. In his wild-eyed article he makes the following claims:
“We see no harm in Halloween, because we think it is fun. We paint our faces, we wear our innocent costumes, we dress up our doorways—even churches dress up their entryways for Halloween with pumpkins. These actions are like giving the devil license, saying, “Here’s my church. You can have it.”
We think because we are not performing any demonic rituals or human sacrifices that we are on safe ground, but did you know that as soon as you dress up, whether you color yourself or put on a costume, the enemy owns you? Because by doing so, you have turned over your legal rights, and you have dedicated yourself and your kids to celebrating the devil’s holiday. You have just made a pact with the enemy, and you are already sacrificing your children spiritually by dressing them up and changing their identity.”
John Ramirez literally has no Biblical warrant to claim that putting a pumpkin in the doorway of your church makes it the Devil’s church. This is a horrible overstatement that someone should have roundly rebuked him for by now.
Neither does Ramirez have any Scriptural justification for saying that putting on a Halloween costume constitutes a pact with the Devil and changes your identity from Christian to Satanist. This theological overreach is simply false teaching. You are not disqualified from being a Christian by participating in Halloween. You do not open yourself to dangerous attacks from Satan by doing so. These are the same scare tactics used by ministers and deliverance ministry experts during the Satanic Panic.
There literally wasn’t ANYTHING of substance to the Satanic Panic. Despite the claims of scores of Deliverance Ministry and Cult Ministry experts during the 1970s and 1980s that there was a vast satanic conspiracy and that rock music, role-playing games, Halloween, and all sorts of other cultural artifacts were gateways into that world, there exists not a shred of objective evidence of that world’s existence beyond their claims, dire warnings and anecdotes. Most of those Satanic Panic era experts were exposed as frauds. Why is it that so many Christians still want to hang onto their teachings as if these bad trees bore good fruit after all?
4. You are not celebrating evil by participating in Halloween. One of Jamie Morgan’s arguments deals insists that Halloween is a celebration of evil.
“What if my child dresses in a wholesome fireman costume? Romans 16:19 says that we need to be wise to what is good and innocent of evil. If I let him participate in Halloween, even while dressed as a fireman, aren’t I sending him a mixed message by allowing him to participate in a celebration of evil?”
Frankly, she’s begging the question. Context matters. Most of the folks going out Trick-or-treating aren’t celebrating evil. They’re celebrating imagination.
As Jeri Massi reminds us:
“Remember, To the pure all things are pure. If I’m allowed to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, a thing of demons, how can trick or treating at my neighbors house harm me?
Nobody mistakes a group of neighborhood kids out trick or treating with Mom or Dad as Satanists or pagans. We all know that Halloween is a completely secularized holiday. It’s the great candy grab bag day of the year for kids. Christians CAN innocently eat candy, dress up, and put on fake mustaches in good conscience, no matter what the pagans do. Or did.”
Satanists and Wiccans may celebrate evil on this day, but they’re in the minority and Trick-or-treating isn’t a part of their religious practices.
5. You aren’t celebrating fear or death by participating in Halloween.
One of Morgan’s other arguments is:
“God is a God of life, but Halloween focuses on death. Should I celebrate a holiday where people decorate their front yards with tombstones?”
The Scriptures tell us to put away deeds of darkness (Rom.13:12) and that light has nothing in common with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Is celebrating a dark holiday something a child of the light should be doing?”
Morgan’s first argument is base hypocrisy from a religion that proudly decorates their churches, homes, vehicles, hymnals, their very Bibles, and just about everything else with symbols of torturous death. Or did we forget what those crosses designate?
As for dark holidays, Passover (celebrated by Jesus Himself) commemorates the last plague of Egypt, when the angel of death killed the firstborn son of everyone except those who had applied sacrificial lamb’s blood upon their doorposts. And pretty much every child must be instructed on what makes Good Friday good, especially if they’ve watched The Passion of the Christ and seen the graphic details of the event we commemorate.
And last time I checked, US Christians still observe Veterans Day, Independence Day and especially Memorial Day, where celebrating the dead who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country is included as a part of the celebrations.
Morgan is just using manipulation and an ad hoc Biblical varnish to try to bully people into his viewpoint. And I really don’t like bullies.
She also ignores the fact that Halloween doesn’t celebrate death so much as provide an opportunity to face our fear of it. Dr. Jerry Duvinsky makes the following observations:
“So why is it that we watch horror movies, go on death defying roller coasters, attend haunted houses, go bungie jumping, parachuting and so on. Halloween itself may be a manner in which we confront our fears of death, the night, monsters, demons and other fear drenched archetypes in a controlled manner. My guess is that humans of all cultures engage in some behavior or rituals that at least in part serves a function of confronting fear.”
Instead of using the night as an opportunity to introduce folks to the One who overcame Death, folks like Morgan want to keep the Gospel safely tucked away in the pew of a Church with its porchlight turned off.
6. You are not unequally yoked together with witches and Satanists by participation in Halloween.
Morgan browbeats his readers with these nuggets:
“Witchcraft is clearly detestable to the Lord (Deut 18:10-13). Shouldn’t something that glorifies witchcraft (just take a walk through the Halloween store) be detestable to me as well?”
This guy acts like the only costume available in the Halloween store is a witch’s hat. You can be a fireman, a superhero, a vampire (and by the way, both Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the Cullens are based on a Christian worldview), a steampunk pilot from an alternate reality, a cartoon or video game character, a President, or… You get the idea. They do not simply sell occult paraphernalia. They are not promoting witchcraft; they are promoting a commercialized parody of witchcraft. They are selling costumes, masks and paraphernalia of fictional movie characters, not realworld religions. The Halloween store celebrates imagination and make-believe. If anything, it makes witches seem as fake and fantastic as werewolves.
7. Passing out tracts on Halloween is still participation.
Later Morgan adds:
“Setting aside a day to celebrate evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death and the demonic brings disdain to God. Period. A Christian celebrating Halloween would be like a Satan worshiper putting up a nativity scene at Christmas while singing, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” The two just don’t go together. Jesus has nothing in common with Satan (2 Cor. 6:14), and neither should we.
She then goes on to recommend witnessing and handing out tracts on Halloween …which still counts as participation in most people’s books. Only it’s usually received with tight smiles and comments under one’s breath like, “Oh, goody. I was hoping for a Snickers, but a tract is so much better than candy” or “Looks like the Christians like a good scare too! They’re trying to scare the hell out of our kids this year.” Especially if it’s a Jack Chick tract.
The Chick Publications website is rather cynical about its suggestion to pass out tracts along with candy. After condemning actually participating in the costumed gathering of candy end of Trick-or-treating, Chick Publications recommends this concerning the giving end of the practice:
“But what if you had a way to spoil Satan’s “holyday” by making everyone in your neighborhood think about God for a few moments? Closing the door and turning off the porch light isn’t likely to do it. “That’s just those ‘Christian’ spoil-sports at it again.” If we go hide, Satan wins.
Well, what about those candy bags? Those cuties behind the masks are looking to have some fun. Fun is part of joy, so show the joy of the Lord and give some fun candy, but add the joy of sins forgiven.
For just a few cents you can give them a little booklet with an engaging story —and the God-glorifying Gospel— all in 24 pages that will fit in the bags, too. And is any parent going to let it go by without checking out what propaganda this kid came home with?
I know, right?
My point is that if you do decide to go through evangelistic route, do it right. Find some lovely tracts that aren’t quite so… Jack Chick-ish.
And if you decide to dress up, have fun! Be creative! I can’t help thinking our Creator, the paragon and fountainhead of creativity, meant us to be so much more. Yet if Christians are called to walk “in His steps,” why aren’t churches at the vanguard of creativity?
Halloween is basically the world’s biggest masquerade ball. With candy.