The Trouble With Halloween

Q: I appreciate the ministry of PTM, and the great work you do for the Lord, and I very much enjoy your teaching and advice. I have a question about the holiday of Halloween. In your opinion, is it wrong to dress up in costumes, have a party or give out candy to trick-or-treaters?

A:Some Christians see nothing wrong with Halloween as a time for families to take children, who love to dress up in costumes, into their immediate neighborhood, and, with careful supervision, receive goodies and treats as they go from house to house. Some of these parents avoid witch and ghost costumes for their children in favor of cowboys, action heroes, angels, clowns or Disney characters—because they don’t want to glorify or encourage the grotesque or occult.

Other Christians participate in Halloween by handing out not only candy when youngsters come to their door, but Scripture cards and biblically-based greeting cards to those costumed trick-or-treaters. I think this activity is of little benefit—its primary “good” may be making the people who hand out Scripture cards feel good about themselves. But that’s just me.

As with virtually any other celebration, in my opinion parents should try to capitalize on the theme and emphasis of the occasion to teach—not to give an hour-long, sit-down sermon, but to gently and naturally discuss the subjects that arise when Halloween occurs.

There are some Christians who see no redeeming value in Halloween whatsoever—they believe that any involvement whatsoever is a celebration of an evil time when the occult is glamorized, when Satan and his demons are promoted and when wickedness and nefarious deeds are encouraged.

Accordingly, they refuse to have anything to do with Halloween. In such cases some parents, so that their children may not feel that they are missing out on the fun of dressing up and going trick or treating, go to elaborate lengths to arrange alternative parties and gatherings for children on this evening.

The decision to avoid any and all Halloween activities is, in my mind one issue—and I understand the perspectives. However, to go one step further and create an alternative “universe”—I believe that there are many reasons, in the long run, why such efforts can prove to be detrimental to children rather than helpful. But perhaps that’s another subject.

There is no question that Christians cannot compromise with nor encourage witchcraft or the occult. The Bible is clear that we are to avoid the world of darkness and all of its sorceries, incantations, mediums, fortune telling and demonic activities. See Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6,27; Acts 8:9-24; 13:6-11; 19:19.

If you and your family completely avoid Halloween, that’s fine. But if you do make such a decision, I believe it can be a mistake to make a big deal about how right you are and how wrong everyone else is.

Halloween is simply not, in my view, a cut and dried, right or wrong decision. If you attempt to make it into an absolute then in effect you are claiming that God is on your side and that he definitely is “against” others who are involved, in some way.

I believe such efforts can easily become spiritual pride and arrogance—and then we do have a real spiritual problem. There is no clear biblical mandate to either celebrate or avoid any involvement in Halloween. Don’t misrepresent God by turning this issue, which is a non-essential mole hill, into a mountain of self-righteousness.

As I understand God, based on a Christ-centered and grace-based interpretation of the Bible, I see nothing evil about a four or five-year-old dressed up like a princess or Mickey Mouse walking around their neighborhood, with their parents and family, asking for candy and goodies.

At the same time, based on that same understanding of God, I believe there are definitely many themes that surround Halloween that are opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, many teens and adults use this evening as an excuse to set aside normal scruples and standards, casting inhibitions and morals aside. In such cases immorality and destructive behavior can be a result of getting “into the spirit” of Halloween.

Bottom line—what we and our families do on Halloween is ultimately our own personal decision—and as with any decision we make as Christians we should look at our involvement (or lack thereof) from a Christ-centered perspective, being careful not to condemn those who might have a slightly different perspective. Halloween itself is not the problem, the evening itself is not a sin nor is it pagan. But what we do and how we behave might be—that’s our decision.