Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dick Soule writes an excellent occasional e-newsletter called "Ekklesia Then and Now." Today in my inbox was an insightful look at Halloween and a Christian prescription for redeeming the opportunity that Halloween presents.

Soule, like myself, is aghast at the way some churches have seized the opportunity to put a spiritual spin on the traditional haunted house, with everything from "Tribulation" houses to "Trip to Hell" houses. Here's Soule's take:

Most reprehensible of all are the "Hell Houses" that have arisen in the past decade or so. These pseudo-haunted houses, with their grotesque images and presumptuous judgments are the invention of misanthropes who are the antithesis of Christ Jesus. Hell Houses are designed to "scare the hell out of children," and promoters claim substantial spot-conversions of attendees. Show me one example in Scripture of anyone converted to Christ through such fear and intimidation tactics. Those who are, sadly, are likely to either fall away quickly or become carbon copies of their creators. As I've stated before, the Bible does not call on Christians to judge non-believers - only to love them in such a way as they will see Christ in us and be drawn to God's call.

Soule goes on to offer a prescription for how to deal with Halloween despite the pagan roots of the "holiday."

So here are my suggestions, some of which I cannot implement with my own children, but perhaps I can with my new grandson if my daughter and her husband agree. I offer these while fully cognizant of Paul's command to "abstain from very form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). We can readily participate in many aspects of Halloween while still following that command.

1. Let children dress up in homemade costumes and go treat-or-treating with parents in their own neighborhood. Perhaps we might actually learn our neighbors' names and develop the seeds of a relationship that would allow us to share Christ when the time is right. They won't be interested in interacting with us if we're busy vilifying their behavior. We might even form a neighborhood group before Halloween to discuss ways to ensure safety and fun.

2. Hold Halloween parties where we uphold the ancient human tradition of gratitude for the harvest. Celts may have attributed that to pagan gods and goddesses, but we know who's really responsible and can give the appropriate attribution.

3. Hold a prayer vigil to thank God for the courageous men and women who paid the ultimate price for their faith. While not wanting to dwell upon death, we can tell the stories of people like Stephen, Perpetua, Polycarp, and Blandina to our children without being morbid. By learning that others died so that we would have the opportunity to know Christ, they can develop genuine gratitude for the freedoms we experience today.

4. Completely avoid participating in any pagan practices, such as divination games. When my daughter was little, a friend brought out a Ouija Board. Knowing nothing about it, my daughter participated and was terrified by the results. Delving into such superstitious practices is dangerous, but we need to tell our children why.

5. Glorify God in everything we do on Halloween rather than retreating to the closet or offending everyone around us. Jesus was so effective with people because He was among them.

6. Oppose misguided efforts like Hell Houses and tracts in trick-or-treat bags. Such tactics only serve to reinforce the world's negative attitudes toward Christians.