We've been talking for a bit about culture, the world, and the church and how exactly we're supposed to engage without entertaining, while also evangelizing (often without words) and keeping our hearts pure. And if that's all got your head spinning, well...this is a great week for it.
Because we can pull a lot of these things together - and even go deeper - with a little thing called "Halloween."
Ah, Halloween. A day that has been dividing Christians and the world for quite a long time. Or so.
The Christian fear is that Halloween is a day of devil worship. It's a day for demons. It's a day for celebrating everything that is dark and demonic and the antithesis of everything that Jesus lived for. It's a day when the world sets itself on fire and dances in our faces, flaunting everything that we've worked so hard to eradicate. Celebrating wickedness and debauchery.
There are witches, for crying out loud. Didn't God say something about not having witches?
We don't know what to really do with Halloween sometimes. On one hand, we don't want to celebrate what the world celebrates. We don't want to participate in the paranormal, in the ghost hunts, in the ouija boards, in the summonings. And for several generations, the church has simply chosen not to participate.
The church has chosen to sit this one out. The church has chosen to raise its children to not celebrate this day, this devil's day. This holiday of the world. We have taught our children that it's just no good and that God doesn't like it and so we don't do it.
On the other hand, as Halloween has continued to develop culturally over the years, it's...fun? It's a great opportunity for fellowship. There are parties with fun costumes, a chance to get lighthearted with ourselves and with those we love. There are fun games like bobbing for apples. There are opportunities to knock on neighbors' doors (or have them knock on yours) that we haven't met before or that we don't spend enough time with. The little cartoon ghost cut-outs, the black cats, the hand-carved jack-o-lanterns are cute. And they're fun. And we want to have fun.
The whole world seems open on Halloween in ways that it's just not on any regular day on the calendar. The world is open, and it's the church that has historically been closed. It's this weird sort of thing because on the major two holidays on our calendars - Easter and Christmas, which the world celebrates right along with us (although in different ways) - it's the church that is open and draws the world in. But on Halloween, it's the world.
Can we get drawn in?
Is it okay with God if we get drawn into something that the world is doing? Is it consistent with our Christian values to dress up and ring doorbells, or to flick on our porch light and hand out candy? Can we go to a party? Can we put a giant skeleton in the yard? (I hear the 12-foot skeleton is the thing this year.) Can we carve a pumpkin?
*Okay - slight interjection. I have seen some stuff going around on social media for a few years about how we, as Christians, are just like jack-o-lanterns because God comes along and scoops out our icky insides, carves a new smile on our face, and puts a light in us for us to shine. Puke me some pumpkin guts, folks. If you've been around this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about the church trying to "baptize" culture. If you haven't been here for long, know this: I hate it. It's junk theology.
Anyway - can we? What do we, as Christians, do with Halloween? Obviously, we can't summon demons or invoke the name of the devil. That's foolishness. But is anything else on the table?
Do you see how this question relates so much to the things that we've been talking about for several weeks already? Well, we'll put some skin on it in the coming days.
The short answer is...there's a lot more to even culture's Halloween than you probably realize.