Satan, The Imaginary, And Halloween

Every year around this time Christians begin a discussion about celebrating Halloween, but perhaps speculative writers, more so. The conversation is justifiable, especially in light of the fact that Halloween has become a highly commercial, and therefore, visible, holiday in the US. As a result, television programs, movies, and certainly commercials have some tie in to the weird, the supernatural.

For Christians, there seems to be a great divide when it comes to celebrating Halloween. Are we taking up the cause of the enemy if we carve a pumpkin and hand out candy to Trick-or-Treaters? Should we offer alternatives—a harvest festival instead of a haunted mansion—for our church activities? Should we seize the moment and build good will in our community by joining in wholeheartedly, or should we refuse to recognized the holiday, turn off the porch lights, and decline to answer the door when masquerading children arrive?

Satan

As I see it, there are two critical issues that dictate our response to Halloween. The first is our attitude toward Satan and demons. Is he (and are they) real? How big a threat is he? How are we to respond/react to him?

Scripture gives clear answers to these questions. Satan is a real being, one referred to as the father of lies (see John 8:44) and as a being masquerading as an angel of light (see 2 Cor. 11:14).

In response to something Spec Faith co-contributor Stephen Burnett said in his article “Shooting at Halloween pumpkins”, I laid out an account of Old Testament references to Satan and his forces. Here, in part, is that comment:

Satan was abundantly active, starting in a certain garden where he brought his devilish behavior before Man and his wife. Another vivid depiction of Satan’s activity is detailed in the book of Job.

In Egypt, Moses faced Pharaoh’s conjurers. Certainly their source of power was not God, yet they duplicated a number of Moses’s miracles.

On the way to the Promised land, God instructed the people “They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot” (Lev. 17:7 a). Forty years later in Moses’s farewell speech, he described how the parents of the current generation had behaved:

      They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
      To gods whom they have not known,
      New gods who came lately,
      Whom your fathers did not dread. (Deut. 32:17)

I think it’s clear that the gods Israel continued to worship—and the ones worshiped by the neighboring people—were demons. Hence the admonishing to excise sorcery from their midst.

Unfortunately they didn’t obey but continued to involve themselves in demon worship:

      But they mingled with the nations
      And learned their practices,
      And served their idols,
      Which became a snare to them.
      They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons (Ps. 106:35-37)

Then there was this verse in I Chronicles: “Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.”

I could give you verses from Daniel too, showing that Satan was active in standing against his prayers, and that he was in fact “the prince” of, or had cohorts who were, known locations. Isaiah, too, and Zechariah had prophecies involving Satan.

The point is, Satan was very active in the Old Testament.

Scripture is also clear that Satan is a threat. He is described as an adversary and as a lion seeking to devour (see 1 Peter 5:8). He’s the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), the tempter (Mark 1:13), the one who snatches away the Word of God (Mark 4:15), the one who can bind (Luke 13:16) and destroy (1 Cor. 5:5) and torment the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7), who comes against us with schemes 2 Cor. 2:11), who demands to sift some (Luke 22:31) and possess others (John 13:27), who hinders believers in their ministry (1 Thess. 2:18).

Satan is real and he is a threat, but he is not greater than God. In fact his doom is sure. Scripture instructs us to be on the alert against him, to stand against him, to resist him, but Satan is a defeated foe (Col 2:15 and Rom. 16:20). We are never told to fear him.

The Imaginary

The second critical issue when it comes to deciding how we are to deal with Halloween is our understanding of the imaginary. Dragons, vampires, cyclops, werewolves, zombies, goblins, orcs, trolls, and such are imaginary creatures from the pages of literature. Witches and wizards that wave magic wands and/or fly around on brooms are imaginary. Ghosts that float about like bed sheets and are friendly or who pop in and out of sight at will or move things about with a word are imaginary.

Are Christians ever instructed in Scripture to stand against the imaginary?

On the other hand, most of us recognize that these various creatures are or have been representative of evil. The question then becomes, are we handling evil correctly by giving attention to the things that have been used to represent it?

Along that line of thinking, I believe it’s fair to ask if we should avoid representations of snakes, because Satan entered one, lions because Scripture said he is one, and angels because he appears as one.

The greater question, it seems to me, is whether or not dressing up in costumes of creatures that have an association with evil might trivialized evil. For instance, the “red devil with horns and a pitch fork” image of Satan trivialized him so that fewer and fewer people believe he is a real being—not a good thing at all if we are to stand against him.

Halloween

These two issues—what we believe about Satan and what we believe about the imaginary—collide in this one holiday. But there’s another element that must enter into the discussion because ultimately, what we do on Halloween is done in front of the watching world. We need to ask, what does our culture believe about Halloween?

As other comments to Stephen’s post reveal, some studying the holiday see its historical underpinnings—either pagan Celtic practices or early Church traditions. But what do ordinary people today see? Are our neighbors celebrating evil? Or are they having fun dressing up as something spooky? Are they going to haunted houses because they want to invoke the dead or because they want a shot of roller-coaster-ride-like adrenaline?

While we can’t deny that a fringe element—perhaps even a growing fringe element—see Halloween as a celebration of evil, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that the majority of people in the US view it as nothing more than a reason to party. The activities are consistent with the day but have little or no meaning, much the way most people celebrate Christmas.

How we as Christians celebrate Halloween, then, hinges on these three factors—our view of Satan, our understanding of the imaginary, and what we want to say to our culture.

Is there one right way of doing Halloween? I don’t believe so. I do believe we should avoid pointing the finger at other Christians and saying that they’re doing it wrong. Paul speaks to this issue in Colossians 2: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath Day” (v. 16). Those who choose to celebrate are just as clearly not to point the finger at those who choose not to celebrate.

The only way we can insure that Satan has his day is by our disunity, our unloving attitude, our angry arguments over whether or not we celebrate Halloween.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared at Spec Faith in October 2011.

Advertisements

14 Comments

  1. […] via Satan, The Imaginary, And Halloween — A Christian Worldview of Fiction […]

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on femidadaadedina.

    Like

    • Thanks for passing this article on, femidadaadedina.

      Like

      • Thank you too. It touched a core in me.

        Like

  3. That was good Becky. I agree, fighting over it is stupid. I haven’t personally celebrated it since I became a believer, but that’s just me. I don’t need that sort of influence in my life. Just like I don’t listen to a bunch of the music I used to listen too, either. Again, that is only because I know the areas where I am weak and need to avoid those.

    Some of my family loves Halloween. So, they do what they want, but leave me out of it. Peace among us LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We never celebrated in UK when I was a child 65-70 years ago. I still think it’s not big in my family living there. The Brits enjoy Nov 5 th Guy Fawkes’day. We used to play games like ducking for apples on Oct 31st and getting wet faces.That was fun. The winner got a toffee apple. we often played sardines and hide and seek indoors with my cousins and just were a bit spooky.
      Now we rarely get children here because there are church parties and prizes for Biblical costumes and pretty/bold ones.
      Jane in Ontario

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was really interesting Jane.

        What is sardines if I may ask?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting to learn how different cultures deal with or ignore the holiday. I like the church parties, Jane. I know some that put on elaborate harvest festivals here. I think those are good alternatives that avoid offending those who might have reservations about the spooky part of Halloween.

        Becky

        Like

    • And peace is a powerful witness! And for the record, I don’t celebrate either. I used to give out candy, but as it has become more and more dangerous for kids, even when accompanied by their parents, fewer are trick-or-treating, so a few years ago I just decided to keep the light off and be a non-participant. Not sorry for the decision, though I love the pretend of it all.

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha, well we live out in the country, so no kids come by anyway except maybe a couple whose parents we are friends with. So, they just come in and visit anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. To explain sardines:- One person hides in almost darkness( usually in a cupboard and when another finds him she says sardine? and he nods yes and she stays. The next does the same thing till they are all squashed together like sardines in a tin! It is fun for ages 7-13 I think. Younger ones may get frightened.
    we also live in the countryside and have no takers on Oct 31st. They go to the local church party .

    Like

    • Okay….now THAT was pretty funny! Makes perfect sense. That is actually what we did last night ourselves. We had the kids down to the church for hot dogs, frito chili pie, a short devotional, and they watched Gods Not Dead II

      Like

  5. Rebecca I needed to edit this and pressed too soon.Sorry!

    Like

  6. I like your analysis.
    From a fellow writer, I bought a book entitled: Taking Back October (by Beth Vice). I avoided it for a while, then picked it up and began to read, finding myself nodding ‘yes’ at points she made. At the same time, my devotions were in the Old Testament, particularly about the Israelites and idolatry and sorcery.
    All of this to say, I decided to skip Halloween this year. That week, we gave full-size candy bars to a few chosen neighbor kids and the grand kids. We just told people we weren’t participating this year, then turned the lights off and didn’t answer the door. It was easy, and I felt so much better. From now on, I want to really notice when I compromise with the culture when deep down, I don’t want to.
    Thanks for writing about these subjects, Rebecca.

    Like


Comments are closed.