Of all the holidays on the callendar, there is none as controversial as Halloween. There is even a Hindu holiday which just went by which incorporates idol worship. Even that is not as controversial as this.
For some of us, Halloween is a happy time. A time when we don costumes, go to parties, watch scary movies and gorge ourselves on hershey bars and neco wafers. Others of us refuse to have anything to do with it because of its origins.
Now I'm not going to tell you what to do either way. But I am going to give you some facts and then take you to the bible. After that, I will offer my opinion, which you may take or leave.
Halloween is formally known as "All Hallows Eve". The day before all Saints Day. Yet all historians agree that the celebrations have their origins in pagan practices. The druids and the celts combined their harvest celebrations with their new year. As they harvested meat (The celebration of this harvest was known as samhain) they would also honor the sun, whom they imagined to be the lord of death.
During this time, these people imagined the barrier between the realms of the living and the dead to be extremely thin. The good deceased would be encouraged to stay while the evil ones were frightened away. Some, it was believed, would be forced into animal bodies to atone for sins they had committed in life. By sacrificing the animal, sometimes a human, the celts believed they aided the spirit in its quest for atonement.
As they had their feast, it was believed that ghosts would hang around the table. As soon as the feast was over, the people would dress up in costumes representing the dead in order to drive spirits out of town.
In the year 601, Pope Gregory 1 issued an edict that the church was to stop destroying local traditions and instead consecrate them to Christ. I suppose in man's eyes, this might have been a wise move. I can only think of what happened when the Israelites tried to do the same thing with the ways of the Egyptians while Moses was up speaking with God. Let's just say that you do NOT want to prospect for gold there today. Yuck. No.
But what was done was done. Samhain (which, I am told is pronounced "SOW-en" Celts have always spelled things weird.) was incorporated into All saints Day over the course of many years, culminating when Pope Gregory 3 overlaid the pagan celebration with all Saints day. 500 years later, the next day would become "All souls Day". This was a day for honoring the souls of the departed, which mixed readly with the celebration of samhain.
In the 1800's, Halloween began taking its familiar shape as German imigrants looked at Irish Halloween and recognized elements of their own "Walpurgisnacht", a "witches' sabath" which had already begun to be turned into a sanitized and fanciful occasion.
Now if I have made any errors in my research, I invite you to correct me in the forums or on the mailing list. I do prefer to get the correct information to the public.
In our modern society, Halloween has been pretty well scrubbed up. It's now considered largely a children's holiday, and while there are some die-hard pagans who insist on clinging to their old ways, pretty much none of the old pagan elements exist in what we know as Halloween today.
So here's the big question: Is it okay to celebrate Halloween or should we eschew it because of its origins?
Let's examine a similar question which has already been addressed in scripture.
The subject is eating meat offered to idols.
Now in many of the biblical eras, including the time of Paul, the common practice was for a butcher to offer his meat first to his gods and then to the public. Thus, if you wanted to eat meat, you were hard pressed to find something that had not been offered to an idol. Most Christians and pre-Christians, including the most notable examples of Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah, saw meat that had been offered to idols as irrevocably defiled. in the case of Daniel and company, they refused to eat the king's meat for the sake of purity, and God honored their decision by making them grow strong and fit on a diet of vegetables. Clearly, their decision had merit.
But take a look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 8.
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
Then down in verse 8...
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
To paraphrase- idols aren't real gods. They're pretend. There's nothing they can do to our meat one way or the other. If we refuse to eat it, we really aren't any better off in our standing with God. If we eat it, we aren't any worse off.
But there is a caveat.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.To paraphrase- if someone THINKS that eating meat offered to idols is wrong, for him, it is. And if he sees YOU doing it and becomes emboldened to do it himself, He's going to be in trouble. Then YOU'RE going to be in trouble for causing HIM to get in trouble.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
In Paul's estimation, it's far better to be a vegetarian than to encourage someone to sin.
So is it okay to celebrate Halloween? In my opinion, yes. I think we can safely say that none of us is going to worship the sun god or make human sacrifices. For us, Halloween has a very different meaning than it once did. After all, the Lord is our God. We have no reason to fear evil. For me, Halloween is a time to celebrate the fact that we don't have to be afraid of evil. Can anyone here enjoy a story about something they truly have reason to fear? You'll never see a movie about a plane crash ON an airplane. You don't show a slasher movie to someone who's ACTUALLY afraid that someone's going to kill them. The fact that we can poke fun at evil should be a reason enough to do it in celebration of the fact that our God protects us from it. So if you feel like dressing up as a goblin or watching "It came from beyond the other dominion part 3: a slap in the belly with a wet trout", go for it.
If it seems to you that you should not be participating in such things, by all means, find something better to do with your time.
If you have any indication that by your actions, you might offend a brother or sister, consider carefully what you do. I'm not saying that you have to give up the celebration altogether, though in some cases, that might just be the wisest thing. But one thing I encourage you to do is let people know what you're about if you do celebrate Halloween. Make it clear that you are not celebrating evil, but your freedom from it. THIS is the way to consecrate it to Christ. Not by adopting the ways of the pagans, but by completely changing them into the polar opposite.
As for me, I'll be wearing one of my fursuits and stuffing myself with candy, diabetes be hanged. I shan't be watching horror movies or playing games with cackle demons in them. I'm going to be having fun on that day, but I don't want to be doing anything that might confuse or cause anyone to stumble.
I've no challenge this week. Instead, I urge you to look to the Holy Spirit for direction. In this particular case, the right thing to do is going to be different for everyone based on their conscience and faith.
May God bless you and keep you this month, and may the Great Pumpkin shower you with gifts.
Pastor Oren Otter
September 30, 2006
Today's reading: Romans 14:1-14
14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
14 I know,and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.