Apathetic Followers: A Look at Halloween

October 30, 2007 — 7 Comments

“The real danger for the majority of people,” Andrew told me, “is not that they are going to turn into human sacrificing Satanists, but into apathetic followers of whatever comes along, believing it to be harmless.”

We’ve all participated. We’ve all run from dressed up monsters trying to make us scream “mommy!” Many of us have memories of the lunatic with the chainsaw chasing the poor neighborhood kids down the street—all in fun, of course. Some of us have spoken to skeletons, and some have debated whether or not to reach beneath a guillotine to grab that wonderful candy bar. We’ve dressed up and knocked on strangers’ doors and repeated the infamous phrase “Trick or Treat!.” But is this holiday, this “day of the dead,” something that believers should participate in? And does a decision to not participate mean that we are legalistic right-wing conservative fanatics?

“Test everything,” says Paul in Thessalonians, “Hold on to good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Would we be correct to surmise that what most of us celebrate on October 31st of every year is not good, but something evil that we are to avoid? Or perhaps, as Christians, we’re just seeing the bigger picture. We see the celebration of evil, but our culture only sees a day to get more candy.

That is what we are going to look at – what Halloween has been and is today, what the Bible says about this holiday, and what our response as believers should be.

A Brief History

The history of Halloween is hard to trace, and in many cases is contested at all levels. It is a mix of many different traditions of the past, but one solid story seems to emerge from each account – a history of paganism, Christianity, and a fusion of the two to form one day at the end of October.

Halloween began with a Celtic festival of the dead. This festival was called Samhain (prounounced Sah-ween or Sow-in), and it was a celebration of the beginning of winter. It was a time when the Celtic people believed that the ghosts of the dead were mingling amongst the living. The Celts gathered together to sacrifice their animals and their crops. They lit bonfires to honor the dead, to aid them on their journey, [Wikipedia], and to make sure that the dead would not haunt the living. It was a time of great darkness.

Christian missionaries, or rather Roman Catholic missionaries, transformed this celebration to what we see today. They combined the elements of pagan worship with that of Christian elements—perhaps attempting to be all things to all people. Yet were these missionaries doing the right thing by bringing together two completely opposing belief systems and smashing them together? One might wonder whether this would be equivalent to bringing two positively charged magnets together or attempting the old science experiment of mixing water and vegetable oil.

A Biblical Understanding

The Bible does not say much about Halloween—at least, not specifically. But many verses in Scripture teach us to avoid all evil. Psalm 101 has always stood out among many Scriptures as an example of this:

I will be careful to lead a blameless life
when will you come to me?
I will walk in my house
with blameless heart.

I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me.

Men of perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with evil.

That last line is absolutely amazing, and utterly astounding. The Psalmist will have absolutely nothing to do with evil, no matter what. Never will he stoop to the level of faithless men. The standard is astounding and stunning—someone who is willing to have nothing to do with evil. How many of us can say that we have this thought pattern? Instead, many Christians today are seeing how close to the line they can get, instead of running as close to the holy throne of God as they can.

A Biblical Response

It is a tough situation. We could quickly respond to the idea that we should avoid “everything evil” with an argument just as strong. One reader said, “We should not be distancing ourselves from a society that needs us more than ever.” Another said, “Atheists participate in Christmas, what’s the difference?”

“Jesus commands us to be in the world but not of it,” said another man, “To me, distancing ourselves from a holiday that demonstrates that people need God even more is not a good idea. We need to use this holiday as an example of what God’s love means—no death, no pain, no suffering in Heaven, but in Hell.”

What we end up with is Christian discernment. When the Scriptures do not speak specifically on a topic, it is left up to the Christian. He is to follow the Spirit’s calling to him on the specific issue, not his sinful self. He is to search the Scriptures for insight and understanding, instead of apathetically going with the flow of the culture that surrounds him. When he does this, God is glorified.

In the end, Halloween today could be just a day to get free candy. Perhaps it is not a day to worship Satan—the Wiccans even consider it an offensive day. So, whether you decide to participate or not, neither side should be considered sinful or arrogant. But when we consider an issue like this one, we need to keep in mind that we must not apathetically accept what our culture deems acceptable. That is not how a Christian is to live

Tim Sweetman

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Tim Sweetman is a young writer, blogger, and student who lives near our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. He has been much more widely known by his “code-name,” Agent Tim. This name also served as the name of his popular blog, which received over 750,000 visits between 2005 to 2007. In 2005, he quickly rose to become a leading teenage spokesperson and cultural critic within the booming blogosphere, taking on issues such as MySpace, alcohol, homeschooling, pride, racism, tolerance, and other topics relating to our culture today. His blog has come to the attention of people such as Albert Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Alex and Brett Harris, and La Shawn Barber. Tim’s written work has appeared in Lifeway’s Living With Teenagers (February 2012), Lookout Magazine, FUSION Magazine, The Brink Online, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Virtue Magazine, Regenerate Our Culture Online Magazine, and on many other blogs and websites across the internet like Marry Well and the Lies Young Women Believe Blog. He has also been featured in WORLD Magazine, The Towers Magazine, and Maryland Newsline. He is scheduled to have an article appear in Veritas Magazine this December. Most recently, his work can be found on Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine. His personal interests include writing (surprise!) and sports, both watching and playing. He is a die-hard Washington Redskins fan.

7 responses to Apathetic Followers: A Look at Halloween

  1. I just want to let you know that you have given some misleading information.
    You make it sound like a Catholic is not a Christian. This is not true. A Christian is a person who believes in Jesus Christ. Am I not right? Jesus Christ himself appointed the first Pope, whom, I remind you is Catholic, and since then, there have been several Popes.
    You also point out that Catholics put pagan beliefs in with Halloween. Here’s a funny fact, most Catholics don’t call this ‘holiday’ halloween, we call it All Hallows Eve. This day is the eve of All Hallows day, which is a day where we pray for and remember all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us. Before you write about Catholics, maybe you should go to some Catholic resources so you can find the truth, and not mislead your readers. Also read some history books, after all, Catholics were the first Christians…maybe we aren’t so weird after all.

  2. I really liked your 2nd to last paragraph. An approach I have personally found useful is going back to the word Halloween itself. It essentially means all hallows eve, the word hallows means holy, so translated it is the eve of the holy day. From there the conversation is easily turned to Christianity.

    Joanie,

    I believe your comment stems from a basic missunderstanding of Catholic history. The original use of the phrase “catholic church” (lowercase) was refering to an alternate definition of the word catholic which means universal. It was not until closer to the reformation period when the name Catholic(capatilized) became an actual religion/denomination and was differenchated from Protastant. Also the holiday most certianly did originate from pagan roots, regardless of the name it now holds, just look at the date, the 31st of October. This is the day when darkness again reaches equality (light and dark hours in a day) and begins to overtake light.

  3. “Christian missionaries, or rather Roman Catholic missionaries”

    Are you implying Roman Catholics are not Christian?

    Are you not making an historically anachronistic distinction? Were there, perhaps, Protestant missionaries in the said era that were going about and evangelizing the Celts?

    “They combined the elements of pagan worship with that of Christian elements—perhaps attempting to be all things to all people. Yet were these missionaries doing the right thing by bringing together two completely opposing belief systems and smashing them together?”

    I dunno… it seems to have worked well enough for Christmas, wouldn’t you say?

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/02/is-catholicism-half-pagan.html

  4. You are very right in that Catholic means universal and it most definatley did not just pop up at the time of the reformation. Jesus Christ started his church when he was here on earth and a characteristic of that Church is that it would be universal – for everyone, everywhere. Before the reformation there was only One, Holy, Universal church and it did not need a name because it was the only Christian faith. After the reformation, with so many interpretations popping up, it became more commonly known as the Catholic Church.

    As to Halloween, through history it is quite common to place Holy Days around pagan holidays so that people can maybe put Christ into their celebrations. You can agree with that philosophy or not but it is how it was done. Christmas being a good example.

    Keep up all your wonderful research. I pray that we all continue our journey on our search for truth and come to know Jesus better and better.

  5. With all due respect, I suggest that you go read a book on Church history before discussing it. I would suggest a few relevant chapers from “Church History in Plain Language” by Bruce L. Shelly

  6. You bring up a good point. The Catholic church has history books that go back 2000 years. I can look at history that goes back much further than the 1700s. It’s common knowlege that the Catholic church is the longest standing Christian faith. Just go look it up in the Almanac.

  7. Dear Mine
    I was wondering if you are even Catholic,I mean you are suggesting books for Catholics to read it would look odd if you were not Catholic.
    As a Catholic I party on halloween, but everything has its limits.I think that people have the right to choose how they celebrate different holidays,I mean their are people who belive that the dead wander on halloween,I personaly don’t belive that.I pass out candy to all the childern and maybe watch a funny movie.I think that people worry to much about how halloween can hurt you, as long as your not acting evil or going to evil places whats to worry.I mean your not acting badly on halloween are you????

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