Halloween is one of those cultural events that splits opinion amongst believers. Is it a terrible evil that we’d all do better to just avoid? Is it a harmless cultural event that we can enjoy like Christmas? Is it something that might not be done the best way, but can be culturally redeemed? All these opinions and more are on offer at a church somewhere near you.
For the record, I am not ideological about this. I am not one who thinks your children will be lining up to join the Church of Satan because they put on a cat costume and knocked a few doors asking for sweets. At the same time, whilst I understand the close-the-door-and-pretend-we’re-out brigade who don’t want to engage at all, it is so sad that one of the only times unbelievers come knocking on your door to engage with you, and the various ways on offer on this particular night to engage with them, we are more scared of what might happen to us if we engage than we are of what we know will happen to them if we insist on not engaging them with the gospel. Much silliness gets said in churches on all sides at this time of year.
Whatever position you take, it pays to remember that we worship a sovereign God who is in control of all things. We have God’s Spirit in us and, whatever our view of Halloween, he that is in us is greater than he that is in the world, so my Bible tells me. We are called to engage the world with the gospel and it seems sub-Christian to worry about how the Spirit will cope either with the Halloween going on out there we refuse to engage with nor the Halloween, for the sake of the gospel, we have decided to engage with. All of which is to say, I don’t think we have anything to be frightened of and we are able to parse the issues, land in different places, and not ultimately worry too much about it.
Nevertheless, there are some issues to be parsed. And, cards on the table, my parsing leads me to conclude that Halloween – certainly as our culture gets about it – is not something I want to involve myself in and nor do I want my children involved in it either. I don’t think they need to be frightened about it. I don’t think we need to wage a campaign against it, like some Halloween moral majority. I don’t think Christians who fall differently to me on the question are endangering their souls or liable to wake up on 1st November as born-again occultists. They may view the matter differently to me, but God is sovereign and they answer to him, not me. If they love Jesus, they aren’t seeking to defy him, they think they can redeem it or jump in or whatever without trouble, given the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell them not to, that is between them and the Lord and I am in no way here to judge them for it. All I’m saying is, as for me and my house, we aren’t keen to jump into it lock, stock and barrel (you can read this for specific cultural reasons why).
Given our reticence to do as the pagans do, we are left with two options. We either batten down the hatches, turn off the lights and pray that none will knock on our door. Otherwise, we must engage with Halloween in some way, but essentially as outsiders not doing the same as those around us. Gospel compulsion leads me to do something with the multitude of people willing to engage with believers one night of the year rather than closing our doors and pretending we’re out. The question is, what should we do to engage?
We could sit at home, clearly not getting involved, and give out a tract to any little urchin that dares to knock on our door. Far be it from me to knock that, but it doesn’t seem to me to commend Jesus and his gospel nor do I think it likely to be very effective. You could do the same but with more of a smile, engaging a little bit and even giving out sweets along with your tract. I certainly think that is better, but I suspect isn’t going to have a great gospel impact. In the end, if what we’ve got to offer is far better than whatever Halloween is about, it doesn’t help much if it doesn’t in any way look like it.
Instead, we prefer to have a Light Party. This, we think, strikes a balance between engaging people with the gospel, making the best use of the opportunity, not engaging on the terms of the culture and presenting Jesus as superior. It is also a particularly effective approach in our community being as many Muslims do not want anything to do with Halloween, being as they are caught up in a folk-Islam terrified of jinn – and many white working class in our area are involved in folk-Catholicism and spiritism, much of which makes Halloween more scary than inviting for them. Many in our community are equally not keen to be involved with Halloween but, unlike us, are genuinely quite scared of it.
Given that we have good relationships in the community already through various other ongoing means of outreach, lots of people are happy to engage with us through a Light Party. Many who come to our English Class, Food Club, dialogue events or who know us from our involvement in other things in the community are more than happy to come and engage with us this way. Our children, rather than remaining home scared about what is going on out there or sad that they may be missing out, are able to have fun and engage with something just as enjoyable but that makes much more of the Lord Jesus. Rather than celebrating what is dark and evil, we are celebrating the light that overcomes the darkness and welcoming people in to see the light of the world. We neither want to sit in the dark with the lights out, capitulating to Halloween, nor do we want to involve ourselves in the whole thing without concern. A Light Party lets us celebrate something, let’s us make much of someone, let’s us invite others in to hear the gospel and allows our children to see that Jesus is far better. Because we want to celebrate the fact that light is superior, the light has come into the world and the light has overcome the darkness – and we want others in our community to know it too – we prefer a Light Party.
If you’re around on 31st October, why not pop along and see for yourself why we do it. If you’re not, why not run one yourself? Do some games, have some food, share a short gospel talk and invite as many people in as you can to hear why the light is greater than the darkness. You might just be surprised what the Lord may do.