Today is Halloween. Depending upon your religious upbringing…this day can mean any number of things to you. To many it is a seasonal holiday and a time to decorate houses and yards with pumpkins, haystacks, and scarecrows. To others (mostly children) it is a time to dress up in costumes and go door-to-door asking for candy. Some like to break out the horror movies and darker decorations in an attempt to scare folks. There are some who avoid the day at all costs…with the assumption that it is one of Satan’s most unholy days of the year. If we are honest…there are even those who DO view this as some sort of dark holiday on which they practice whatever it is they practice. I am not writing this to tell you which of these groups is right…or wrong.
I have read many historical articles detailing both the pagan and Christian roots of the day we now call Halloween. If you are interested in that…Wikipedia has a pretty good entry that goes through the evolution from its earliest days to the modern day commercial holiday that is has become. As a Christian who is not opposed to folks dressing up and having a good time I think it is important for me to at least acknowledge that there are pagan origins (the feast of Samhain) that pre-date Christianity. I do not deny that but I think it is also important to recognize that the overwhelming majority of people who will dress their kids up tonight and go trick or treating are not deliberately (or even accidentally) paying tribute to pagan gods or goddesses. They are getting candy and having fun.
I am 43 years old and have always had fun at Halloween. I have wonderful memories of dressing up in those cheap, plastic dimestore costumes made by Ben Cooper. I can still smell the plastic and feel the little elastic string that went behind my ears. I still love the little peanut butter candies wrapped in black and orange paper that will rip your teeth right out of your gums. I remember going to haunted houses sponsored by local Jaycees chapters. I can recall being terrified of the classic Universal monsters…especially the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
As a teenager I graduated to the bloodier slasher movies that were popular at the time. I have dressed up as Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th), Michael Myers (Halloween), and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare On Elm Street). I am not necessarily defending those films…but as a sixteen year old I had no malicious intentions when I put on the masks. I was just having fun. Perhaps I will deal with the morality of horror movies at a later date…but for this post I only want to show that there was nothing inherently evil with donning costumes. I will say that I do not think it is proper for me to dress in those things now…but I am getting to that.
I do admit that my attitudes and beliefs have evolved somewhat over the years. For one, I now have children. I am very conscious of what they are interested in. I am also very involved. My kids know that there are some things that are off limits…even on Halloween. I am not a fan of devil costumes, or demon costumes, or even the psycho killer costumes that I used to wear. I don’t want my kids wearing some of them. My daughter (even though she is only 8) knows that some of the more “racy” costumes that they market to little girls are a no go. My boys know that there are some monsters that we just don’t dress up like.
Some may think I am being hypocritical by making such distinctions and they are entitled to do so. They see no difference in Frankenstein’s monster and Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Honestly…I see and understand their argument. On a surface level they are correct. Both are fictional characters created to elicit scares. I get it. However…even the most vehement supporter of horror movies (and I have been one of them) must admit that the content of Frankenstein is a far cry from that of the recent remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But to many…there is still a lot of gray in that area. I guess that is why a lot of people avoid it altogether. I have no problem with that either.
It comes down to this…I have decided that in my walk with God…there are many things that are permitted. But…not all of these things are beneficial (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). Ever since I got serious about my faith several years ago I have tried to keep that in mind. I know my faith and my salvation are not contingent upon what others think about me…but the effectiveness of my ministry and my witness can be. Is it wrong for me to put on a hockey mask and lumber around with a machete on Halloween? Probably not. But what will those who know I am an elder and a minister think about me if they see me doing it? Some think that it doesn’t matter. I used to think that. I had no problem exercising my freedom in Christ…even if it made others think less of me. I’m not there anymore. Like I said earlier…people do not affect my faith or my salvation if they do not like what I am doing. But I do not want to give false impressions or make others think that I am immature.
I don’t hold others to that conviction. This is where my faith journey has led me. There are others out there who are MUCH more conservative on this issue than I am. I still let my kids dress up. I still let them go out trick or treating. They understand what it is all about. Today is Halloween. I don’t know how you observe it…if you do. The only thing I really have to say is whatever you do…even if it dressing up and goofing around…do it such a way that God is honored. That is just my opinion.