Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What About Halloween?

Halloween is here again. Every year, I somehow always get asked my opinion on whether or not Christian parents should let their children participate in Halloween activities. I personally think that the Holy Spirit convicts each family differently and uniquely about this issue. I thought I would post my thoughts on this topic here today. I wrote this just a couple of weeks ago in response to a dear friend's request for opinions on this matter.

We have always let our children participate in Halloween activities ever since they started preschool. We dress up in costumes, bring treats to school, go trick-or-treating on our street, and also go to our church's 'alternative' event. We even decorate our front porch with friendly Halloween/Fall decorations!

We understand the whole argument of the 'evil' or pagan origin of Halloween, but really, what happens at school and on our street, is hardly any of that. It is really just a day for children to dress up, get some treats and have fun. We’ve explained to our children the origins of Halloween and why that is bad, and we’ve stressed the importance of dressing up in 'fun' and 'happy' costumes because we want to stand out --- like a light in a dark world, as Jesus would have us do. This year, my daughter wants to hand out gospel notes along with treats to the children who come to our door. Some years, I have even made the kids’ costumes myself because we couldn't find anything good enough that they will stand out in. This year, my daughter will be a hula dancer (with full clothing underneath the hula skirt, of course!) and my son will be Luke Skywalker (the Star Wars Jedi from the light side).

Tim Kimmel's book Grace-Based Parenting starts up with 'Why Well-Meaning Parenting Falls Short' in chapter one and I think it sums up our position on Halloween quite accurately. I was really glad to read this in his book. It gave me the reassurance that we are doing the right thing for our family. Let me quote him:

"Let me use some broad brushstrokes to categorize a few of the typical parenting methods I see in the Christian community - methods that have led us astray. The first one on my list is the most pervasive model that I see: Fear-Based Parenting. We're scared of Hollywood, the Internet, the public school system, Halloween, the gay community, drugs, alcohol, rock 'n' roll, rap, partying neighbours, unbelieving softball teams, liberals, and Santa Claus.

Our fears determine our strategy for parenting. I see it everywhere I go. I hear it echo in the back of a parent's concerns. The moms or dads begin their statement or question to me with the words "I'm afraid of..." When I look at how the standard evangelical family has formatted their strategy for parenting, most often I see fear behind the steering wheel.

If you took all the categories of advice that Jesus gave us in the Gospels, you'd find that the longest list is made up of verses where He says, "Don't be afraid." If we have put our faith in Him, we should be the last people afraid of just about anything! Fear-based parenting is the surest way to create intimidated kids. It's also the surest way to raise Christian kids who either don't have any passion for lost people, are indifferent to the things of God, or out-and-out rebel against their parents, their church, and the Lord."

We have always believed that as Christians, we should 'go into the world' and let our light shine. And that includes Halloween. On the whole, Halloween is a fun children’s event, a part of childhood that should really be viewed as such.


This year, we are discussing what the significance of going to the church’s 'alternative' event is. We are debating whether that sends a mixed message to the children. If it is OK to participate in Halloween activities at school and in the community, then why are we going to an 'alternative' event at church as well? We are still debating --- so it is 'status quo' for this year. We will be going to our church's 'alternative' event tomorrow night. Really, the explanation is more this: we are not going to the church event because it is an alternative, but because we want to support programmes that the church runs and offers. In my opinion, the church should really take out the word 'alternative' from its promotion of this event, because I think it sends a negative message to non-believers whom we are trying to invite to an event such as this --- it sends a 'holier-than-thou' message.


In our discussion/debate on whether we should attend the church's event this year, somehow the question of WWJD - 'What Would Jesus Do?' came up. My daughter summed it up quite nicely. She said that Jesus would be out and about in the community shining like a light in a dark world sharing about God's love, rather than hiding out in the church building attending the 'alternative' event in order to avoid what's going on outside. Now, that's some food for thought!

My devotional today was coincidentally about this very topic. Check it out here!

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."
---Matthew 5:13-15 NIV

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