Knowing God better, figuring out marriage, investing in my kids, exploring the Scripture, discovering truth, savoring life's joys and writing about the journey . . . visit a while with me.

Search This Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Partying in the Hearse


I don’t want to be an angry evangelical. 

I don’t want to be most at home on my soapbox, frothing with vitriol over cultural drift and neglecting to show the love of Christ. 

Yet, there is nothing wrong with holding strong principles and even personal convictions which one can persuasively defend. The topic of Halloween is one that spawns great discussion and often, strong opinions. Some embrace it, some ignore it, some curse it, etc. 

What follows is my personal philosophy and my reasons for not celebrating October 31 as Halloween; it reflects my personal understanding and decisions. I respect that others may feel differently than I and hope that those who read will do so in the interest of discussion and growth.

Partying in the Hearse

My children used to be frightened by coffins and of course, what was in them. I didn't want them to be traumatized, but, as their mother, I felt it was my responsibility to help them see death in terms of eternity and the hope we have in Jesus. So, I would take them up to the casket with me. They would usually peek over the edge and draw back, and I didn't make them linger. Even at a young age, they were repulsed by death. And well they should be. Death is a result of sin; it reminds us of the brokenness of our world, of the curse that befell the entire planet. And most of us spend our entire lives fighting off death with medical checkups, annual physicals, routine testing and in more advanced scenarios with drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, transplants, blood transfusions and other intensive medical interventions. We know that death dogs our steps, and we avoid it like the plague that it is.

Except on one occasion.

October 31 has become the day to celebrate death, to party in the hearse. On this day in autumn, large amounts of time and money are spent to glamorize gore, ghouls and other ghastly themes. And yes, there are still sweet, little princesses and sturdy little clowns knocking on the neighbor’s door, but I am disturbed that Halloween has become, for many, a plunge into macabre revelry. I am concerned when I hear of those who are more excited about decorating for Halloween than for Christmas. And I am disgusted, okay appalled, at the delight with which houses are draped with spider webs, grinning skeletons, back-draped figures and creepy lights. A 2013 survey from the National Retail Federation found that two-thirds of Americans planned to take part in Halloween activities resulting in a national spending total of $6.9 billion on this “holiday.” [i] Why this joy for a celebration that centers on death? Why do we run from it all the rest of the year and then rush madly to embrace it and bring it close to our children on this frightful night?

As a mother, I have discovered at least three reasons why I have a big problem with throwing a Halloween celebration.

Occultist Origin

The word Halloween is derived from the phrase “All Hallows Eve” which was the title given to October 31, the day before the New Year on the calendar of the ancient Celts. On this night, they believed that the lord of the dead, Sanhain, gathered the souls of the evil dead in preparation for reincarnation as animals in the coming year. The Celts taught that, on October 31, “ghosts, evil spirits and witches roamed the earth.” [ii] To frighten away these apparitions, they built large bonfires on hills. And “On this night, evil or frustrated ghosts were also believed to play tricks on humans and cause supernatural manifestations . . . As part of the celebration, people dressed in grotesque masks and danced around the great bonfires, often pretending they were being pursued by evil spirits.”[iii]

Even “trick or treating” has a strange origin. According to an article on Smithsonian.com, “ . . . in the Middle-Ages, children and sometimes poor adults would dress up in the aforementioned costumes and go around door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers, often said on behalf of the dead.  This was called ‘souling’ and the children were called ‘soulers’.[iv]

I have taught my children that it is best to stay far away from anything which ties to the occult. We have even been known to skip parts of Disney videos which show occultist practices (scenes from The Princess and the Frog and Frozen come to mind). I don’t want my children to witness voodoo magic even in animation, and I don’t want them to think that trolls could possess healing powers. I believe that parents must take seriously this matter of guarding our children’s minds and eyes and ears, and I’m convinced we must help them establish good principles for their adult lives. And in light of that, why would I promote a celebration with seemingly undisputed ties to the occult?  There is too much at stake to give Satan even a toehold.

Black Themes

Halloween glorifies fear, darkness and death; Jesus came to abolish all of these.

Fear is a result of the fall of man and woman in the Garden. Adam and Eve felt fear only after their disobedience. And this cloying emotion has invaded the life of every human since.

In His earthly ministry, Christ often spoke the words “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid.” In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul wrote these inspired words “God has not given us a spirit of fear. . .” God, the One who is perfect Love and Holiness, never gifts us with fear. In fact, I John 4:18a states emphatically that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” (NKJV)

 The God of the Bible cannot be associated with torment; it is Satan who wears that identity. As a mother who wants my children to know the peace of God in their lives, how can I embrace a day which is built on fear?

Darkness plays a central role in Halloween observance. The Druids of the past tried to stave off evil spirits by lighting the night with bonfires; revelers today visit haunted houses which use darkness to create greater fear and many of the more insidious deeds done on October 31 are done during the night hours.

In Scripture, darkness is always associated with sin and evil. Matthew 8:12 describes the final place of eternal torment as “outer darkness.” Romans 13:12 says to “cast off the works of darkness.” Ephesians 5:8 says “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” and 1 Peter 2:9 says that we should “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied that Christ would come “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:79)

Darkness is never celebrated in the Scriptural record. And as a mother who wants to raise my children to follow the God of that Bible, how can I celebrate a day in which darkness plays such a significant role?

Death is one of the enemies Jesus defeated on the Cross. Revelation 1:18 tells us that Jesus has the keys of death and hell.  Hebrews 2:14-15 says that “he [Christ] also became a human being, so that by going through death as a man he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might also set free those who lived their whole lives a prey to the fear of death.”  (Phillips) [emphasis mine] Because of Jesus, we don’t have to fear the predator of death. So as a mother whose most passionate goal for my children is that they have the assurance of eternal life in heaven, how can I celebrate a day which exalts torture, blood, mutilation and violent, godless death?

Destructive Result
I believe the rising prominence of Halloween in our American “holidays” points to a troubling, societal desensitization. Look around at the popular skull symbol which decorates so much of the clothing sold to teens and children (Do they know what they are wearing? The most well-known group of guys who adopted that icon worked for Hitler.) Muse on the popularity of “vampire” novels and “paranormal” stories (Why would young girls especially be drawn toward this kind of bloody literature?) Contemplate the sensational promotion of horror-themed movies and digital games. It’s true; we have become a culture enamored of death.

Practical Decisions

So, in light of all this, as a God-follower and I hope, a conscientious parent, I have made the decision not to embrace October 31 as Halloween, a day to celebrate death and fear.  Instead, I will purposefully explain to my children why we don’t keep this “holiday”; I will point them to the One who came to take away our fears, deliver us from darkness and conquer death so we might live eternally with Him. And, if there is any partying in the hearse which carries my body someday, may it be because I am finally in His presence and the legacy I have left to my children is one of life and light through Him.





[i]“The Long and Short of American’s Consumer Holidays,” accessed September 29, 2014,  https://nrf.com/news/the-long-and-short-of-americas-consumer-holidays
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-history-of-trick-or-treating-is-weirder-than-you-thought-79408373/#xUhGQ0VoWqfV2OTR.99 , accessed October 30, 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All content on this site is protected under personal copyright by Valorie Bender Quesenberry. Please ask permission to reprint.