Monday, July 26, 2010

Growing in Grace on Halloween?

I really had no intention to write about this today, but since I posted a link on FB about my new Halloween goodies in store at zazzle, I guess I surprised and even confused few folks who've both commented publicly and emailed privately. For the sake of clarity and in hopes that this may help someone else who still struggles with this north American tradition (I can't call it a holiday, it doesn't fall into the parameters of holiday for me, personally) I hope this helps.

While I have written quite a bit on this subject over the years, I purposely did not write about it last year on my blog. To be perfectly honest, I chose not to write about it because Christians and non-Christians alike are quite often less than gracious or understanding when it comes to this subject. No matter where you stand on this issue, you will inevitably find yourself on the defensive sooner or later, by someone who will practically demand you lay out all your reasons for your position. In very much the same way as the subject of homeschooling, the subject of Christians and Halloween (and Christmas, and Easter) is very hotly debated, in pretty much every corner of Christendom.

I suppose this post would be best titled The Evolution of Carla's Worldview When it Comes to Halloween. That's a little long winded though, isn't it?

When I first became a Christian I did what a lot of new Christians do. I brought with me a lot of the degenerate hobbies and habits to be sorted out and wrestled with over time and sanctification. Celebrating Halloween was one of those things. As a child we always celebrated Halloween, and my favorite costume several years in a row was my Casper the Friendly Ghost costume. I have a lot of fond memories of dressing up, trick or treating with friends, visiting local "haunted houses" and the pillow cases stuffed so full of candy you'd be pushing it to finish it all by Christmas. The last year I went out trick or treating as a kid I was 12, and was mugged in my own yard, after a very successful night of filling my pillow case completely full. It was the only negative experience I ever had of the night. As I grew into an adult and was married to a man (ironically enough our second date as teenagers was to the KISW radio station's haunted house in downtown Seattle) very involved in artistic special FX, my observance of Halloween took on a rather dark, gory, wicked tone. Long gone was Casper the Friendly Ghost, replaced with a (more realistic every year) Tom Savini/George Romero type of zombie. If you've never been a zombie, it can be very complicated to pull that off. Not unlike many unsaved people who glorify fear, gore and violence on Halloween. For us, that was normal, and fun.

After conversion, I took a lot of heat from fellow Christians for celebrating Halloween. I struggled with it and my involvement in it for several years until I finally made the decision to make a clean break from it and never celebrate it again. For several years after that, I was quite likely the most legalistic person you would have ever met, when it came to this subject. In my zeal to be living right and glorifying God, I went way over the line and without ever realizing it at the time made the effort to play the role of the Holy Spirit in everyone else's life.

It was only after reading for several years, the back and forth arguments between Christians online, that I began to earnestly and prayerfully consider what the fair, right and balanced position on this subject really is. I will not pretend to have arrived at the full understanding yet, but I have left the legalistic attitude behind. Yes, we're all thankful for that.

Here is essentially where I stand today:

Our family still does not celebrate Halloween, but we have no issue with those who do. For the most part, folks that celebrate Halloween do so with the same motives they have when they celebrate a birthday party, backyard barbeque or host a stag & doe party or baby shower. It is simply a fun thing to do, everyone is happy, kids get goodies, adults get goodies (admit it, we all love goodies) and fond memories are made. Of course there are some folks that celebrate Halloween because it's an excuse to indulge themselves in gore, violence or frightful things, or to host a party and get stupid drunk, but those aren't the people I'm talking about. I'm talking about the folks who are into it for the family-friendly kind of fun that it is. Not one of those people are glorifying Satan, paying homage to ancient pagan gods, or corrupting their children's minds with satanic rituals (as some of the googlicious material would have you believe).

The reason I cannot celebrate it is for the very same reason a former alcoholic cannot enjoy the occasional glass of wine, or the former metalhead can not listen to secular music, or the former porn-addict has a program like Covenant Eyes installed on their computer. For me personally, after I became an adult, Halloween was an excuse to indulge my unregenerate mind and heart and I did exactly that. To go back to "celebrating" it would create a disturbing spiritual turmoil for me that I simply want no part of. I don't want to be reminded of who I was and what I did, and that's exactly what would happen. In case you're wondering, no, I didn't get into the more serious forms of gore and violence that you might read about in the papers, but it was serious enough and each year we made a dedicated effort to out-gross the year prior. I shudder to think where we would have gone, had the Lord not grabbed hold of us when He did.

The reason I don't want my kids celebrating it is because of the very fact that even Christians will nearly kill each other over this subject. If you're a Christian and you do celebrate, you're a fake, a fraud, a hypocrite and a liar... if you're a Christian and you don't celebrate, you hate your kids, your neighbor kids, your community, and you should be turned in for being an unfit parent. In case you think I'm making those accusations up out of thin air, or being overly extreme, I assure you I am not. I have seen those accusations made (repeatedly) on both sides for many years now. This is one of those complicated subjects that even many mature Christians don't really have a grasp on, so how can we expect our kids to understand it? While it's certainly possible I may regret it later in life, Kev and I have simply decided it is in the kids best interests at this point to just avoid it. When they're older and can understand it better, they can make their own choices about these things - just as the older kids now do. Just as we all did, when we became older, and understood things better. Of course we have talked to the kids and explained that most people who celebrate it do it solely for the fun stuff, and that even though we don't engage in that kind of thing, we need to respect those who do. That's just a given.

To summarize, I strongly believe that if the Holy Spirit is not convicting fellow Christians who are celebrating Halloween, it is most certainly for a reason, and it is most certainly not MY job to try to do His work for Him. The flip side to this is of course, if you are someone who like me, is bound by your conscience to abstain from celebrating (even just the family fun stuff) then I completely understand and respect that. I have long suspected that were it not for my former involvement into the darker aspects of Halloween, I may still celebrate it to this day and would be in strong support of it as being a harmless, fun thing for families to do. Of course that's pure speculation, but something I've considered as I've tried to get to a right and balanced view on this. As freakish and ironic as it may sound, the Emergent Church Movement actually had a lot to do with my thinking on this. What so many of those nutty young men and women did was to clearly see so many things that are SO wrong with the traditional church, but instead of moving slow and balanced, they did what most would do when attempting to avoid hitting an animal on the road. They swerved too hard to the right or the left and ended up running off the road. Avoiding hitting the animal was right, but swerving too hard caused more damage than anything else. I did the same thing with Halloween, I swerved too hard to avoid it and have been trying to work my way back to a reasonable, God-honoring worldview ever since.

I don't pretend to have all the right answers about this, I only know where I am right now. Maybe this is where you are too. Maybe it helps to know you're not the only one still struggling with this? I sure hope so.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe