"It seems like Halloween is a bigger holiday than Easter in this country", is a quote from my prayer partner who grew up in eastern Europe. Its always interesting when someone can see something with fresh eyes that are not conditioned by the repetitiveness of our yearly experiences.
The Christian community has been divided in regards to Halloween. Many see it as clearly demonic, with its fascination with death, the occult, and darkness. A second opinon within Christian circles is to treat it as a cultural celebration and just go with the flow. Further still, other Christians see it as an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God, and embrace it. These opinions represent a continuim beginning with avoidance/denouncing to embracing/celebrating.
While people along the continuium have valid arugements and sound conclusions, I think we are missing the point of discussion. Take a step back for a moment and consider my prayer partner's initial statement and just run with it for a second.
There is no other holiday where entire families walk around the community together. No other holidays where we are so generous with people we do not even know. There is no other holiday where the community bonds together for the safety of our children. No other holiday encourages this degree of celebration (possibly Christmas and Thanksgiving in some circles).
Is there a way of redeeming this holiday for the purposes of the Kingdom of God? Is it possible to take its concentration on darkness and turn it into light? I think that the activities that most families participate in, are not only consistent with Christian community, but represent some of the core aspects of community. Making time for neighbors, being generous and celebrating were key traits to the earliest Christian communities.
How do we redeem Halloween so that we are not partners with darkness, but partners in the community with our neighbors and friends? It depends on your culture and neighborhood. It may mean avoiding customs that focus on death, destruction, and evil. It may mean educating neighbors on the evils of "casual violence" that is portrayed in movies, while still identifying with their need for community and generosity. It may mean holding a party or gathering where fellowship, generosity, and safey occurs as an alternative interpretation of All Saints day. One note on the party option: invite people to the party who are outside of your church and belief systems so that you can actually influence someone who is desparately looking for truth.
Halloween is an opportunity for the church to reveal its desire to minister to the community by being missionaries in our own neighborhoods. I challenge you to begin to redeem Halloween. Avoidance simply isolates, but God is calling for a deeper penetration.
Let me know your thoughts,
Pastor M Traylor