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October 30, 2006

Re: Redeeming the time

Candybowl Kristine, today's Christian Science Monitor has an article echoing your encouragement to participate in Halloween festivities:

Halloween, long associated with pagan traditions, is now high season for an old American tradition of evangelizing through tracts. The nation's four major publishers of tracts say they sell more at Halloween than at any other time of year, including Christmas and Easter. And the push is on to grow the seasonal market. This year, thanks to new glow-in-the-dark tracts, the Texas-based American Tract Society expects to set a new Halloween record by shipping out more than 4 million tracts.

Also, this past column by John Fischer offers thoughtful ideas on how believers should think about October 31:

What we do with Halloween is a kind of microcosm for our positioning in the world as Christians. Over time, we have attempted to wrestle a number of cultural events away from the world in the process of creating a safer experience for our families and especially our kids. In my upbringing, this goes all the way back to stuffy junior high church group banquets when we dressed up, got all choked up asking a date, and went through all the same agonies that accompanied everyone else’s prom night, just without the dancing. Then there was "movie night" at the church and "church skate night" at the roller rink to keep us out of the theaters, and card games like Rook to protect us from the evils of poker.

But what good are we in the world when we are constantly reacting to what is wrong with it by providing for our own alternative entertainment—successfully removing ourselves from the world instead of being in it with the light and love of Christ? [emphasis mine] . . .

It all comes down to why we are here. Are we here to enjoy life in as safe an environment as possible? Are we here to recreate the world as it should be, or as we might want it to be? Or are we here to bring Jesus to the world, however dangerous that might be? All this protective activity is counter-productive to the Gospel. We are trying to be safe from the world when Jesus has promised only to keep us safe in the world, while always assuming that it is a dangerous place to be. "My prayer," he said, "is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15).

Read the rest of "Home for Halloween."

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Michael Liljenberg

Way back when I was the waterboy for our college basketball team, on the long way home from an away game, the guys in the van began a crass/dirty joke contest. I joined in with one of my own. I wanted to be "one of the guys". I wanted to show the guys that I identified with them, that I wasn't a total geek, dork, nerd, goody-two-shoes or whatever derisive term you want to pick (I'd been called 'em all).

What I did that day was destroy my witness.

I was shocked at the disapointment in those guys. I thought I had done something that would win me respect in their culture. What I did was loose my reputation as the guy who could stay clean in the locker-room world of a college baskeball team.

I hear this line, that we've "removed" ourselves from the world by developing alternatives to things like rock music and movies. But we developed those "alternatives" to protect our children.

I don't let my kids play with matches. I don't let my kids play with paganism and the occult like it was harmless fun.

I hesitate to let my kids celebrate a "holiday" that exhalts death, fear, witchcraft, and satan. I will tell them that because we are Christians that we don't need to be afraid of death. I will tell them that "greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world". For that, at least, Halloween serves as a good object lesson.

In the end, you'll find me at my door with a bowl of candy bars, saying "hi" to the neighborhood kids and their parents. But you won't see spiders, ghosts, and skeletons plastering my house anymore than you would see a beer in my hand at the neighborhood bar-b-que. I won't be wearing a Jason-style hockey mask. And you won't find my kids at their friend's Hellraiser movie marathon.


Michael, sounds like you're doing what Fischer suggests: showing hospitality, a welcoming Christian witness. That's wonderful! Perhaps with hymns or praise music playing in the house when the door opens, you may spark conversations as well. ("So, where do you go to church? Let me tell you about mine ... ")

Katharine Eastvold

I think you've got it exactly right, Michael - actually, you're not removing yourself from the Halloween holiday at all, but just refusing to participate in the objectionable parts.

It seems to me that the most appropriate activity for a family with young children would be to have the children dress in non-scary, non-supernatural costumes and stand with you at the door, handing out candy (or better, something nutritious!) and tracts or Bible verses. That way, you protect your children while also teaching them that the correct Christian response is not to hide from the world in fear, but to lovingly engage it to win it for Christ.

Personally, I don't see what's wrong with spiders, spider webs, bats, and other scary, slithery real-world things - as long as they're not so scary as to send the neighborhood children running away crying...

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