By Jacqueline J. Holness
As a candy-corn-loving minister’s daughter, this time of the year always made me more excluded than any other when I was growing up. In addition to learning the Ten Commandments as a child, I also learned the unofficial 11th Commandment: Thou Shall Not Celebrate Halloween. I already felt different in my neighborhood because I attended a private Christian school some distance away from our home instead of the public school across the street. But at Halloween, the difference felt more pronounced.
When the other kids started chattering about what costumes they were going to wear on Halloween, I either changed the subject or said nothing because my parents did not celebrate Halloween. My church hosted Hallelujah parties, but it was not the same as gallivanting from door to door with your best buddies in the neighborhood at dusk to discover what delicious treats each household would dole out. Instead, I would snack on whatever treats my parents handed over to me to compensate for not being allowed to officially trick or treat. I would watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, one of the few Halloween traditions for children that I was allowed.
As a child I thought all Christian parents were against Halloween, but I’ve learned as an adult that not all are. Last year in an interview for The Christian Post, Christian actor Kirk Cameron, who is a father of six children, said that Christian households should have the “biggest party on your block. . . . Halloween gives you a great opportunity to show how Christians celebrate the day that death was defeated, and you can give them Gospel tracts and tell the story of how every ghost, goblin, witch and demon was trounced the day Jesus rose from the grave. Clearly no Christians ought to be glorifying death, because death was defeated, and that was the point of All Hallows Eve.”
Scott Dickison, minister of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, has a similar opinion according his 2014 article on baptistnews.com. Dickison said that “All Hallows’ Eve” or Halloween is a church holiday. “Within the greater tradition of the church, All Hallows’ Eve and All Hallows’/Saints’ Day are actually the first two days of ‘Allhallowtide,’ with ‘All Souls’ Day’ being the final holiday of this three-day ‘season.’” He further explained that Halloween can provide an opportunity to “demystify death” by visiting places that can be seen as scary, such as a church graveyard, a cemetery, or a funeral home.
Some churches are redeeming Halloween by hosting Christian-themed scary attractions. Eastside Baptist Church in Stockbridge, Georgia, is host to “Tribulation Trail,” a one-mile outdoor trail in which actors portray “seven years of the Tribulation as presented in the Book of Revelation.” According the tribulationtrail.org website, “From 1993 to 2010, the Tribulation Trail ministry saw the salvation of more than 17,000 souls, more than 51,000 re-dedications to follow Christ, and made a tremendous spiritual impact on countless lives.”
In 2001 the documentary Hell House featured youth members of Trinity Church Assemblies of God in Cedar Hill, Texas, who organized a “hell house,” depicting the ghastly results of drunk driving and other ill-fated decisions.
Still, not all Christians believe that Halloween can truly be redeemed. Abby Ohlheiser, a reporter for The Washington Post, criticized Kirk Cameron for ignoring the true origin of All Hallows Eve in her article “Actor-evangelist Kirk Cameron and the War on Halloween.” Ohlheiser wrote: “What Cameron could say is that the more enjoyable traditions of the holidays can have a place within the practice of Christianity, something that has been true since the church set All Saint’s Day during a pagan harvest festival of samhain.” She concluded that All Hallows Eve wouldn’t exist without Samhain.
Christian blogger Alyssa J. Howard, who has two daughters, said “If most of your Halloween plans include fear, death, and the supernatural, you may need to rethink where your heart is at. The Bible describes these things as demonic and not of God” in her 2014 blog post “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?” She also referenced Deuteronomy 18:9-13 and Acts 16:16-18 as reasons for Christians to not celebrate Halloween.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum of the Halloween debate, all Christians should agree that we should always be looking for ways to redeem our culture. For some that may mean supporting Christian-themed haunted houses or other “holy” Halloween celebrations and for others that may mean bypassing Halloween altogether.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service, an online, national news service for attorneys. Read more on her website (afterthealtarcall.com).