The Black And White Of Halloween

The only genuinely “gray” issue described in the Bible was the decision whether or not to eat meat offered to idols, and that, as it turned out, wasn’t gray at all.

Paul brought the issue up in his letter to the Corinthian church. He said, in essence, idols are nothing but a hunk of wood or metal shaped by man. They have no power and offer the Christian no threat. Therefore meat offered to them is not tainted or evil and eating of it is not an endorsement of the false gods.

However, some people who are not strong in their faith may be swayed into idol worship. If they see a mature Christian eating meat offered to idols, they may feel a freedom to involve themselves with the idol worshiping culture and eventually slip into paganism.

Consequently, Paul says, for the sake of these vulnerable Christians, a mature Christian should stay away from meat offered to idols.

However, that doesn’t mean he has to go to the extreme and conduct an investigation every time he eats at someone else’s house. He doesn’t need to ask a potential host before accepting an invitation if the menu includes any idol meat.

If on the other hand, someone volunteers that information, the mature believer, for the sake of the one telling him, was to refrain from eating. (See I Corinthians 10:19-33).

Acts 21:25 sums up the position of the church leaders in Jerusalem:

“But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication” (emphasis mine).

Now how am I tying this discussion with Halloween? In yesterday’s post, I suggested that celebrating Halloween is a genuinely biblical gray area (unlike other issues that have been shoved into this category today because of our cultural tendencies – i. e. A Christian shouldn’t say dang because a weak believer might then think it’s OK to swear.)

Without a doubt, Halloween has pagan underpinnings (see Wikipedia), though Catholics and Anglicans also see it as having religious connotations. What’s a believer to do?

Is this day wicked because pagans hundreds of years ago said it was? Are all the trappings and traditions associated with it evil because they once were (and in some circles, still are) wrapped in pagan worship?

Or, as C. S. Lewis believed about myth, can Halloween be “redeemed” because of Christ’s work on the cross? Can Christians use the holiday, as Morgan suggested in her comment to yesterday’s post, to reach out to our neighbors and show the love of Christ?

A third option. Can Halloween be as innocuous as, say, video games? 😈

Ah-ha! Most people know there are video games and there are EVIL video games. Seriously.

Might not Halloween be viewed in the same way? Some people enjoy it as a cultural event, a fun time with family or friends, a chance to create memories around traditions such as carving a pumpkin or dressing up in a costume. Others see the side of Halloween that promotes violence and gore and glorifies evil spirits.

Both are right. Both are present in the celebration. Consequently, a believer might choose to stay away from the holiday altogether or to participate in the “sanitized” version of it.

The key thing in what a Christian decides about Halloween, I think, is grace, not legalism. What I decide does not have to be what my neighbor decides. In other words, if I choose to open my door, distribute candy and hand out tracts in the process, I must not look down my nose at my Christian brother who only hands out candy.

Nor should the believer who decides to stay away from the holiday hang a sign on their door chastising everyone else for choosing to celebrate it. Conversely, the Christian who celebrates Halloween with gusto must not treat those staying away from the holiday or substituting a harvest festival for it with a superior attitude.

The only movement away from a personally held belief about the holiday should be by a mature Christian on behalf of a believer who could be at risk, either because of violent images or pagan influences. I think that covers many parents and teachers. For them, Halloween may end up, just like the “gray” area in the Bible, being pretty black and white.

Published in: on October 6, 2010 at 4:33 pm  Comments (12)  
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