Today I’m taking a break from all things body image and exercise. Inspired by thoughts I read from non-church going friends every October I’m asking: What does it mean to love my neighbor on October 31st. Here are my thoughts:
WWJD…What Would Jesus Do? If you were a teenager in the 90s I know you had the bracelet. But, while youth groups were pumping a message of living as Jesus would live in this culture, the evangelical church began to amp up efforts to create its own counter-culture.
Enter the alternative Halloween celebration…
So WWJD? Would he go to first church of whatever’s “Fall Festival” or would he stay close-to-home and be a part of the Halloween night activities of his village?
My opinion: I think Jesus would trick or treat. Okay, maybe he wouldn’t actually dress up and go door to door asking for candy. But, I think his porch light would be on. I think he’d hand out the best candy he could buy. I think he’d cancel other activities to make sure he was home to participate.
Why? Because Jesus was love. He commands us to love our neighbors. (It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command). He cared about people. He showed us by example that to love others means to engage them. He went to sinners’ parties. He touched the unclean. He associated with those that the religious of the day wouldn’t get near. He didn’t cloister himself in the temple. In fact, the people he most often ran from or reprimanded were the religious. His message of love, grace, and hope was for everyone. And, to reach them with his message he had to get close to them.
Sadly though, in neighborhoods across the country it’s the Christians that ruin trick-or-treating for their neighbors. It’s the Christians that hide in the dark or rush to their church so they can have a legitimate “God-approved” reason for not spending the money on candy (for people they don’t know).
On the one day of the year when people are actually outside, knocking on neighbors doors and interacting with others around them, the Christians leave. We make it harder for our communities to enjoy trick-or-treat night because we’re not home. We “show them” how much “more spiritual” we are because we do all of our ritualistic candy handing-out in the comfort of our church multi-purpose rooms and parking lots.
We don’t let our lights shine…in fact, we make sure our (porch) lights are off.
And, what do we communicate in that? Tell me…is it love? I don’t think so.
Sure, I understand that there is a “community outreach” aspect to some of the Fall Festivals out there. I’m certainly not against that. But, why hold them on Halloween? Why expect those who don’t believe to come to you? Why not be a part and go to them? And, are we really giving people a taste of Jesus when we have our anti-Halloween events? Why do we think that anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus would be drawn to a God who (apparently) is against kids dressing up like their favorite characters and exchanging candy?
I’ve heard all of the “it’s safer” rhetorical justifications, too. But, if this is where you hang your hat, do some fact-checking. A kid hasn’t been actually poisoned by candy from a stranger in 30 years. There were a few reported cases where razor blades or pins were put into candy to scare children, but frankly the numbers on this are pretty low too– like 80 total cases over the last 60 years. By and large, trick-or-treating isn’t dangerous if parents are involved and alert. And even so, why not be the one house in your neighborhood that other parents feel confident going to?
I know this may sound edgy to some of you who may have been raised and indoctrinated in certain ways. You may still even be battling confusion as to whether or not participation in Halloween is engaging in some sort of devil worship. I’m not an expert — so if you are looking for more evidence —I found this article to have some really good perspective on Halloween’s history and how we, as Christians can redeem the holiday.
Bottom line: Jesus called me to love my neighbor. He wants me to be a beacon of light to those who live around me. He wants my reputation in my community to be that of one who cares, one who loves, and one who can offer hope because I know in whom my hope rests. Sure, it’s going to take more than giving out a few hundred Snickers bars to actually communicate all that, but it’s an easy way to start getting to know those whom I’m commanded to love.
What do you think?
**Update please read before you comment! I am in shock at the number of people who visited this post during each Fall. Before the debate continues, I want clarify that this piece is likely true only for the cultural context in which I live –which is Dallas, Texas. I appreciate all the comments I have received from people in places other than the Bible Belt where Halloween is a completely different type of “celebration” that Christians of all kinds should obviously not take part in.
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I know this article is a year old, but I heartily agree with your point of view. Over the last decade, my view of Halloween has evolved from no big deal, to only attending church-approved activities, to hiding in my house with the lights out, to actively engaging my neighbors and visitors with candy and gospel tracts. When I first came to Christ I didn’t give one thought to Halloween, we even went trick-or-treating a few times. When I started becoming uncomfortable with that we started attending our church’s Halloween outreach, unfortunately it was more about entertaining folks in a “safe” environment than about reaching out to a lost world, I became quickly disillusioned with it. After that, we just stayed home with the lights out, but I soon realized I was passively judging my neighbors, which of course was not loving at all. We now spend our resources on quality candy(which the neighbor kids are very grateful for) and clear gospel tracts. My children look forward to our family outreach and I even let them dress up if they like. They love interacting with our neighbors and my neighbors know where we stand, but it is in love, NOT judgement. It has even sparked conversations with our neighbors over our reasons for what we do and why. I so remember my days before Christ and the many judgmental, hypocritical, and holier-than-thou Christians I ran into who did nothing but feed my antipathy towards God, I don’t want to be that person to another lost soul. Thank-you for this post and God Bless!
AMEN and AMEN. It’s only the ‘devil’s holiday’ if that’s what you allow it to be. God created every day. Why should we hide ourselves away and hand this particular day over claiming it as Satan’s? Use this day to love your friends and neighbors. Don’t use it to make them feel like they are doing something wrong and you are holier. I hate that kind of ‘christian bubble’ life.
What would he have dressed up as?
Dear Heather, you summed up so much of how I feel. It is the one evening a year when kids come to our house and we meet the parents of these kids. I miss the times when my kids were young enough to trick or treat. It gave me an opportunity to stop and say hi to each of my neighbors.
When I was in my early 20s, I visited a friend’s house, and they felt it was the “Devil’s Holiday”, and they lived in a townhouse row, where the front lights automatically went on each evening. So the kids would ring and ring the doorbell, get annoyed because no one answered, so he would answer the door and tell them that he was not celebrating the Devil’s holiday. The problem was, the tone of his voice, as he stated this, came off as rude to these kids. To me, that was more damaging of a testimony than passing out candy. It’s precisely because of that person, that I changed my viewpoint. I want to love my neighbor, and to me, that is an opportunity to have the kids at my house, even for just a minute.
Tonight, the rain made it so that most families had kids carrying umbrellas, but I didn’t really see any “Scary” costumes. Yes, a couple of frankensteins, and some Spider Man, or Batman costumes. The one zombie I saw, had no blood. But almost all were cute costumes. I don’t even recall one bloody person this year. One grandparent took one grandson around and explained that his sister was sick, so she was trick or treating for her. The families that come to our house are kind, and their kids are appreciative of the candy.
I agree with you Heather, it is so hard most of the time to find times when the neighbors are out for more than the few seconds it takes to get from car to door. I believe in engaging the culture around me rather than hiding from it. That doesn’t mean I promote the evil aspects or decorate our house with evil symbols. It does mean building relationships with my neighbors (not just on this one night a year), being a part of the community on my block, passing out candy (the main interest of most children), and, most years, passing along age appropriate Christian tracts along with the candy. Jesus was known as a friend of notorious sinners, went out of His way to interact with them, and I try to follow Him.
Interesting article. I am a lights off type and am going to have to seriously rethink this. I have about 2 hours…I bet I go buy some candy.
What would you say to someone who says that ‘children’ come to their door dressed, literally, as whores and pimps and while their children are young, they don’t want to expose the children to that?
I think you have to use your own judgement in your own cultural context. We live in the Bible belt. My husband sits at the end of our driveway and hands out candy and engages our neighbors. We don’t have anyone come to our door — in part because we want a longer interaction and some interaction with the adults too — but also because we don’t want our children to be surprised by something scary. For the most part, our neighborhood is filled with super heroes and non-scary costumes. But, we do have a responsibility to protect our children and if you know that is what you’ll interact with during Trick-or-Treat, I’d say follow your own convictions. Recognize that Jesus didn’t avoid people because they did things that were inappropriate…but do your children have to be exposed to that? Certainly not…
I think there is some truth to the “Halloween is Evil” mindset, but I don’t think that should stop us from having fun, allowing our children to have fun, or greeting people in the name of Jesus. Our church has a “Hoedown” every year. It used to be on Halloween but has grown so large that the city has asked us to have it on another night. (traffic from 20,000 people on one night makes for a hectic evening) We now have it the Sunday before Halloween. It’s an opportunity to greet thousands of men, women, and children, and hand them candy, but do it with the love of God. As for those people who say “It’s evil and I won’t subject my child to such a demonic celebration.” I will not sit in my house, leave the lights off, and miss the opportunity to let every child know that God loves each and every one of them. Handing a day over to satan to allow him to have more power over one day in my life than God does, is absurd. He surely didn’t make me turn the TV off when I watched all my shows last night and those are rooted in just as much evil. If I can overcome a few hours of the sex, lies, and horror of TV, then I can overcome a little boy in a devil costume. Happy Trick or Treating!
Thanks, Karen! I’ve noticed many of the fall festivals in our area this year have moved to different nights and I think that’s great. I was inspired to write this (last year it was published) – because so many churches were doing their festivals the same night as trick or treat and comments I heard, over and over, from unsaved and unchurched neighbors were wondering why the Christians had to ruin trick or treating for their kids. That made me sad. Everyone should follow their own convictions though. Thanks for your comments.
I think there are some decent points here but there are some major problems as well. First, Christ did not attend sinners “parties” he attended their homes and had meals and spent a lot of time with sinners but he in no way partook in any sinful activity in those situations! Second, Halloween was first celebrated for good reasons but look what we have turned it into. This holiday has turned into terrifying people as much as you can. Dressing up like a princess is not what the problem is it is dressing up like Freddy Kruger and nasty witches. Third, I do not agree that closing up your home and hiding is wrong but I think there are more productive ways to show the love of Christ on Halloween without doing this in some situations. If you have children and they need to be protected from the evils of the world then close up shop and have a family night but if you children are old enough to understand you are not celebrating the satanic things that are celebrated than hand out a candy bar wrapped in verses, have a fall festival and encourage people to dress up (appropriately) but it takes more than just handing out big fancy candy bars to show love. Finally, Christ did call us to love our neighbors and that is why having an alternative to halloween is such a great idea, what a great opportunity it could be to show people in your community the Gospel, and have fun in a safe and friendly environment. Christ said be in the world but not of the world.
i agree for the most part. i have very little kids (3 & 4) one who gets scared very easily by scary images. so i dont really want her exposed to ghouls and zombies and hatchets coming out of skulls. the other thing is that im not really ok with sending my kid up to a stranger’s door for candy. they are just too young to understand if that person who handed them candy on halloween tries to offer you candy in a few weeks…you shouldnt take it. they are still a stranger. and my last issue is giving strangers in my neighborhood access to my kids. right now we live in an apt complex until we find a home…so lots of people we don’t know, don’t know if they are safe or freaky and now they know i have two little kids and it would only take them a minute to know where we live. i think that when we move into a house we will be a house that hands out candy 🙂 and when the girls get older maybe we will take them trick or treating. im not sure. but i totally agree that it is a great opportunity to socialize with the neighbors and interact 🙂
Halloween is a Holiday bound up in witch craft and ghosts, and vampires. Take a survey and asked is Halloween God’s holiday or the devils holiday. What will people tell you? I know the answer and so do you. you can say Jesus would participate. But your wrong. sin is dulled down. Halloween is the devils holiday, so go on pollute your worship, evil is never called good. Jesus never sacrificed to a pagan image.
I hope you’ll read the link enclosed in my piece about redeeming the holiday. We do not endorse or participate in anything evil. You could say that for many Easter is bound up in bunnies and candy too -but that’s not what we celebrate either. I do believe we should all follow our convictions though. I think scripture tells us the Holy Spirit leads us that way. In our cultural context participating in Halloween is simply a decision as to whether or not we let our kids dress as super heroes and give out candy. It’s nothing more than that.
This is a great article and really makes you think about the loving our neighbor part.
We always used to have a very welcoming front porch on Oct. 31. But, over the several years before we started getting involved in our church’s Fall Festivals, we noticed a quick decline in the number of kids coming to the door and out on the street. Why? Because the kids were going elsewhere. If they weren’t going to a church event, they would go to an event at the mall or other advertised “safe” location. Once we started taking part in our church’s Fall Festivals, the number of people from in and around the church’s neighborhood that we had contact with and could share the message with was many times more than ever came to our door. Our current church’s event is combined with a church down the street, and we block off traffic for a whole city block and fill it with games and food and bounce houses and candy being handed out. Literally thousands of people come, and we have meaningful, purposeful contact with each and every one.
How many of us really actually ever shared the message of Christ with a trick-or-treater at our own homes? Most of us don’t. We see the kids for 2 seconds while we give them candy, then they run off. Their parents often stand at the curb, if they’re there at all, and we never connect with them. But with the Fall Festivals, you can interact with both kids and parents for fairly long stretches of time. And lots of them. And the church gets to connect with people that it might not otherwise ever see.
Now, I’m not trying to downplay your point of view at all. I agree we need to be lights of hope and grace within our own neighborhoods. But that should happen every day. Not just Oct. 31. Invite your neighbors over for dinner, or talk to them while their and your kids play together at the neighborhood park. But, looking at my own experiences, I have to ask myself: would staying at home with the small handful of kids I barely get to say a word to really be as effective as being involved in an event that’s really connecting in a meaningful way with thousands of others’ lives?
Thanks, Mike. I think it all depends on where you live. I wrote this piece last year in response to the fact that many of my unsaved neighbors were complaining that trick or treat wasn’t fun anymore because there were too many lights off… The reason…the Christians were doing their own trick or treats without the “challenge” and “risk” of engaging their neighbors.
In an era where so many work so hard to be loners and not know their neighbors – I think this is one time of the year when neighbors are outside and chatting with each other. My husband sits at the end of our drive way and chats with the parents as they go by. Does he get to tell them about Jesus in that 2 second interaction…no. But, has he been able to engage someone who is uncomfortable going to a church and start a conversation that may be able to be continued later…with a dinner invitation or when we see them at the playground… I think so.
But, bottom line is – every neighborhood is different! Thanks for your comments.
I found the attitude conveyed in this article repugnant and holier-than-thou, so to speak. I have to wonder how many Christians you’ve actually talked to about their reasons for not participating in Halloween activities. I think you’d find that your lumping of all Christians into one basket, the over-generalization, to be in the minority. I’m trying to figure out how you equate handing out candy as “love”. You are right, Jesus did come to save sinners and He did hang out sometimes with those people who weren’t practicing the religion of the day…but that’s a completely different thing altogether. Is handing out candy wrong? No (except for the toxic effects of it on our bodies-but I digress). Is dressing up like someone you are not, wrong? Probably not. Is participating in events that desensitize our children (and our selves) to real evil, showing incredibly scary images and actions, glorifying and decriminalizing the disgusting evil all around us….is this love????? Um, I think not. Halloween is disgusting. Zombies are not trendy…well at least they shouldn’t be. Mummies, skeletons, ghosts, goblins, witches & witchcraft, werewolves, experiments on human bodies gone wrong, mutilation, torture….these things are not glorious. They are disgusting. What have we become as so-called Christians that we find these things acceptable? Am I saying they don’t exist? Of course not, they do exist. Should I bury my head in the sand? Should I hate those who practice such things, who glorify such things? No, of course not. But should I participate in such things? There is a difference between loving someone who is in the darkness & participating in the darkness itself. Before I became a Christian, I was a green witch. I worshipped the trees. I had spirit guides (who were demons) that I invited to live in me, to guide me and (I thought) enlighten me. I hated Christians. I hated the way they said one thing and did another. They didn’t seem to really stand for anything at all. They said what I did was wrong, but celebrated Halloween just like any other heathen. They cuss, they smoke, they drink. Just like I did. All I could smell was hypocrisy. Was I right? No. Not every Christian is that way. Some are, but not all. But that is what I saw as a non-Christian. What brought me around? It was the love of a couple co-workers who never judged me, who always invited me to church on Sunday, who didn’t care that I cussed, smoked, drank, had tattoos & worshipped demons. They saw thru the dark spiral I was in, they didn’t judge me (although they did tell me I was wrong), they loved me into coming to church. If they would have participated in just one seance with me, just once read palms or horoscopes, just once went to the bar…I wouldn’t have gone to church with them. You see, what I saw in these two people was a DIFFERENCE, a light. They weren’t like other “Christians” I had known, who said one thing and did another. They were different, set apart. And I wanted what they had. Do you see what I’m saying here? As Christians we are set apart from the world. We don’t hide from the evil, but we don’t participate in it either. We don’t go to the bar to show the drunkard we don’t judge him. But we can go to his house and share a meal. There’s a difference. Do you really want to make a difference to the neighborhood kids & show them the love of Jesus? Don’t just hand out candy at Halloween. How about throwing a big party, for no reason at all, just because you want them to have fun, on some random weekend? Are you inviting them to church…over and over again? Are you shooting hoops on the sidewalk with them? Are you making a batch of cookies & taking them to the neighbors house? Are you taking them for walks to the playground? Inviting them over to play? Buying or making random gifts? Really, what are you doing? They are so many ways to love people into the kingdom…and participating in a dark, disgusting holiday really isn’t one of them.
Wow, Tara. I really respect your perspective and opinion. The link enclosed in my post talks about following your convictions and based on your background I can see how you would feel strongly that any association with Halloween would be negative. Evil is evil and it should not be celebrated. I agree. I think what is missing between your comments and my piece is cultural context. I live in the Bible belt. This piece was written to stir people that I know who do not necessarily have convictions against participating in traditions of dressing up and getting candy – but choose to do that with their own cliques in the church versus with their neighbors whom they don’t know. We do believe that the holiday can be redeemed. We do not participate in anything evil, scary and would not endorse that anyone do that for the sake of Christ. That’s preposterous.
Our family has chosen to do life differently. We try to reach out to our neighbors. Take care of them. Invite them to dinner. Watch their dogs. Meet their needs. We have thrown many parties on our front lawn to get to know people better… We do not believe that simply giving someone a piece of candy will tell them about Jesus. But, we do believe that there is one night of the year when our neighbors who usually do their best to hide in their homes come out and engage each other. And, in the cultural context in which we live here, in our neighborhood, to not be there with candy is to snub them. It’s not being set apart…it’s being rude when most of the neighbors whose lights are off are simply participating in their own groups’ parties in the comforts of their church.
Thanks Heather. Your response does, in fact, put things into perspective. I think this may be a case where we agree to disagree.
Tara, I really like your opinion and your point of view. I went through a lot as a teenager and as a young adult and experienced a lot of hypocrisy within the church community. When I left home it took 20 years before I set my foot back into the door of the church. The people that made a difference in my life were the ones who accepted me with my flaws and didn’t judge me. I needed that because I had always been harshly judged by people who claimed they loved me, 6 times a week churchgoing people. They made me feel unloved and unacceptable not only to them but (in my mind bc they didn’t love me) to God as well. That was devastating to my heart, mind, and soul. It took unconditional love, years of therapy, support, and acceptance before I could understand the love of God and Jesus. Thank you for sharing your testimony. Hugs and love back.
Good job, Tara. I was the same until I came to Christ and I’d be so ticked off by the hypocrites that would say they were one thing but convey another by their actions. Wish I knew you better because I think we’d probably have a lot in common! Bless you sister!
I sooooo agree with you. We are Christians (young adults ministers and I’m a preachers kid) but we do not participate in Halloween. We view it as a satanic holiday (the true meaning behind Halloween) therefore, we don’t participate in anyway! Instead…we decorate Christmas. Do I look down on others no. Don’t agree with but don’t look down on them for doing it. You love the sinner, hate the sin.
I do not celebrate Halloween for the same reason – it is the most high holiday for those who workship satan. I do not believe in giving him any honor by celebrating him. I do not hide in my house or go to church and hide. My daughters, whom I did not allow to celebrate Halloween, do allow their children to do so. I decorate to celebrate Fall, but nothing connected to Halloween.
I am a Christian but I am so disappointed by the Christian responses, stating that Halloween is disgusting, satanic, evil but in the same statement stating that they hold nothing against families and children who do trick or treat…. A lot of backhanded comments! It is so nice to know what “Good” non-judgemental Christians are our there.
I am a Christian but I am so disappointed by the Christian responses, stating that Halloween is disgusting, satanic, evil but in the same statement stating that they hold nothing against families and children who do trick or treat…. A lot of backhanded comments! It is so nice to know what “Good” non-judgemental Christians are out there.
Totally agree with you Tara and beautifully said….”As Christians we are set apart from the world. We don’t hide from the evil, but we don’t participate in it either. We don’t go to the bar to show the drunkard we don’t judge him. But we can go to his house and share a meal. There’s a difference. “
Thanks for your comments, Amy. I tied to distinguish cultural context…and I hope that you can see that handing out candy, in my cultural context is hardly participating in evil. Rather it’s a way to love my neighbor versus snub them. Jesus did go to the homes of sinners…but he also went to the places sinners congregated. He attended their parties. He was in the presence of all kinds of immorality, and yet, he remained sinless but was still able to love the sinner. In my context – handing out candy to neighbor children is hardly evil…rather it is the loving thing to do for my neighbors.
This is amazing! I plan on sharing it with everyone I know. Amen Sister!
Thanks, Mission MIghty Mom! Hope you all had a fun night showing love last night!
Nicely said, Heather, I agree. Love, Dad/Granddad Creek