Michael Myers is back in a new Halloween movie – a 2018 version in a long line of sequels that everyone my age grew up watching. I just watched the trailer. I’m now turning on every light in the house. As scary as those movies were back then, they seem scarier now. Maybe that’s because the world itself has become a bit more frightening in general since you and I were kids.
Just reading the newspaper is sometimes as hair-raising as the latest horror film. And these movies have changed, too. A Hitchcock thriller is a far cry from a new movie trailer boasting: one of the “most violent films ever made” with “21 scenes of puppet violence and sadistic cruelty graphically shown (DRC Aug. 16 “Evil Toy Story).” Really?!
C’mon! I’ve never been a fan of the horror movie genre, but it’s not all bad. Inducing fear has been used by Christians (by degrees) for centuries. Ezekiel 37 has zombies and skeletons. Aspects of John’s Revelation are terrifying, with dragons and outlandish beasts. Check out Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “Garden of Earthly Delights” (panel 3) for the Dutch artist’s chilling vision of Hell, or read Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus or Dante’s Inferno.
These frightening images remind us there is such a thing as good and evil in the world, even though we humans sometimes get confused. “Woe to those,” the prophet Isaiah cries out, “who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).”
Just the other day, my neighbor was visiting (she is 5) and pointed to the wooden jack o’ lantern on the porch. She’s a tiny stream-of-consciousness chatter-box, and says: “Do you celebrate Halloween? We don’t. We’re Christians. We love Jesus. Halloween is the devil’s birthday” (read without any punctuation or breaths taken).
I told her that I love Jesus, too…and I don’t like the devil at all…but I do like candy and pumpkins. She brings up a question I’m asked to field as a pastor at least once a year: Should Halloween hold a hallowed place in the church?
It is true that this “holiday” has pagan origins and is often tied to the occult, witches, devils and darkness. And beyond the funny snaggle-toothed jack-o-lanterns, there is a dark side that is alarming to us as parents . . . and rightly so. The Bible says of Christians: “For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night (1 Thessalonians 5:5).” The darker side of Halloween doesn’t mesh with a Christian view of the world any more than “sadistic puppet violence” does.
And yet, kids of all ages love Halloween. Some of my greatest childhood memories come from Halloween. At my house, we focused on fun . . . not darkness. My family was centered on the love of God all year long – and Halloween was no different (except there were costumes, candied apples, and loads of candy!).
Here’s what Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family says regarding Halloween:
“Even here [regarding Halloween] there is a place for some harmless fun. Kids love to dress up and pretend. If the Halloween experience is focused on fantasy rather than the occult, I see no harm in it …This side of Halloween can be thoroughly enjoyable for the little ones.”
In determining what’s right for your family, let me make a few pastoral suggestions.
First, realize that this topic is controversial to some. Some will participate, some won’t… so exercise grace with others who may not believe the way you do. Some churches (like mine) will use the day as an opportunity to reach out to the community with Fall Festivals or Trunk Or Treating. Others won’t. Likewise, if you prepare your home for trick-or-treaters, make sure it’s appropriate for all ages (there’s nothing worse than traumatizing little tikes!)
Second, God has created the family and given you, as a parent, the authority to make decisions for your own home. So, if you’re questioning whether or not your family participates in local Halloween activities, I’d encourage you to seek wisdom from the Scriptures, pray for God’s guidance, then stay true to your convictions.
Finally, I would encourage you to center your lives and home on the light of God’s love. Make prayer and the discussion of spiritual things the norm in your home. Make clear the distinction of good and evil. Celebrate the good. Shun the evil. It’s a dark and scary world out there and our kids make important choices every day. Having a home lit by the love of God will make the darker things this world offers your children much less appealing.
Jesus reminds us:
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness (Luke 11:34-35).” May God grant us eyes to see and light by which to walk.