Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Responding to Halloween

I was amazed last year at the number of people engaging in Halloween related activities here in Harrogate. Evangelical Christians tend to be suspicious about Halloween and over the years have tried to offer children alternatives on the night itself. I am, and have been for some time now, a bit disturbed regarding the lack of reflection and prayer that goes on amongst Christians to do with this. We need to know why we say no to Halloween and make our response a positive one.
Why don't we support Halloween?

The menace effect
There is a degree of menace at times to do with Halloween that goes beyond 'mischief'. Even though most trick & treater's will not respond by doing something nasty - there is a threat in the air, some fear sown into people's lives. To some people (not all) there is a fear of harm at Halloween.

The overemphasis on darkness & the celebration of the representation of evil
We are familiar with the contrast in the Bible of light and darkness. We are not supposed to have anything to do with things that are dark - we are children of the light. We don't need to be afraid of the dark because light overcomes darkness (John 1) but we can't be found to be relating to or colluding with things that represent darkness (that which is not God). Halloween continually overemphasises things that can only be associated with darkness.
Lets take the previous thought one step further... the 'fruitless deeds of darkness' - things that are evil are not to be celebrated. We need to focus on good things, on the giver of all good gifts.

What to do?

Look for the opportunities of Halloween as well as the threats
We need to recognise that there have to be times and places of connection with good and evil - people are continuously telling us, and indicating that they are spiritual... but they have less time for religion. If we have a religious response to Halloween it will come over as negative and unhelpful but if we can engage with the issues of good and evil, have a good theology and practice of the kingdom coming and invading people's lives and a dark world and some creativity then lots could happen.

Earn the right to speak into people's lives
Back to the danger of being 'religious'. People do not want us to be telling them that they are wrong, bad or sinful. They see these things in our lives anyway - they know that we are not perfect and believe that in many ways we are hypocrites. Through relationship and consistency of contact and authentic effective Christian living we will earn the right to speak into people's lives.

Hold a gentle but firm, principled line
We always need to be prepared to give an answer on where we stand and why we stand there regarding Halloween - work out what you are going to say. Don't condemn someone elses thoughts or responses. I think people respect principled stands they don't respect hypocrisy or flakiness.

Develop a ministry and not a hit and run event

An event without connection to good ongoing kids and youth work is not useful. What happened to engaging with whole families? All our events at Halloween seem to be primarily children based? Things to do with good and evil, the right approach to death and thinking about death, light and darkness are all things that we need to equip young and old to deal with throughout their lives not occasionally at Halloween.

Final thought
Over the last couple of years we have bought a pumpkin and carved it with the children and put candles in it. Shock horror! We have always carved christian symbols as well as faces in the pumpkin and it has always proved to be a good way of discussing Halloween with the children.

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