Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Demons and Devils

What's the worst thing that happened to you ever on Halloween? Demonic possession? Tripped on a black cat under a ladder? Saw a ghost? The worst thing that happened to me was when I dressed up as a wizard with a long cape. It was raining so my hair was dripping down over my face and some lady said to my older brother: "Oh, what a cute sister you have!"

There seem to be 3 Camps that followers of the Way fall into regarding Halloween:

1. Halloween is a day celebrating death and demons and Satan. Therefore, Christians should not participate or allow their kids to participate. This will be called Camp Rejection.

2. Halloween is just a cultural construct--we just dress up for fun and there is no deeper meaning. My kids can be puppy dogs or witches or cheerleaders (SCARY!) for a day, it won't affect their souls. In fact, I just read a book about a guy who tried to find Satan and couldn't so how bad can it be to put on red horns and carry a pitchfork? (The Devil Wears Nada, by Tripp York. Read it if you dare, it's funny but it will probably offend you more than once. Especially if you know any Unitarians.)This we can call Camp Meaningless.

3. Halloween is essentially evil, but as long as we don't ACTUALLY worship the dead or summon spirits we're ok. So our kids can dress up for Halloween as long as they dress up as harmless things like mice or kittens or maybe superheroes. This way, we aren't being 'weird' because we're still letting our kids celebrate the holiday, but we're still being faithful because, well, demons are evil. We could call this Camp Middle Ground.

People who know me would probably realize I most likely won't fit into any of the three camps. I would rather reject Halloween because it is a cultural construct that has no real meaning--sort of like how we don't celebrate Valentine's (i.e. Hallmark or be guilty if you're single. Btw, no one knows if a St. Valentine really existed, and if he did he was a martyr, probably killed in a gruesome way. Here's some flowers and chocolates to celebrate...Maybe we should dress up as dead St. Valentine for Halloween?) day. But I let my kids participate, largely because I like sharing their candy afterwards.

So the bigger question here (there's always a bigger question with me) is: is what I do normative? In other words, if I do this as a Christian am I claiming that all Christians everywhere have to do the same thing? People in Camp Rejection would have to argue that everyone who participates in Halloween is following some Satanic ritual--which would obviously be hard to prove. Meaningless campers run the risk of offending those in Camp Rejection, whom they no doubt believe to be 'weak minded believers' like Paul describes. The people in Middle Ground Camp just come across as epistemologically weak. I threw in a big word there. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. People in the middle ground seem to be admitting they really don't know why they do what they do but they want to do the 'right' thing.

So the bottom line, the point I'm trying to make, is that I think what we do with our kids at Halloween shouldn't be seen as normative. The more important thing is that we are engaging with our kids and explaining why we believe what we believe. I think we can use days like Halloween as opportunities for discipleship with our kids. Maybe it's even a time to engage in some critical thinking exercises with your young ones and ask them whether or not they think they should participate. What are the pros and cons? What does the Bible seem to say? What Would Jesus Do? (Ok, just kidding on that one. We have no idea what He would do.)

I think our kids would come up with more creative responses than the three camps listed above. After all, in order to enter the Kingdom we have to become like them...And please, our actions are not normative so let's not judge our brothers and sisters on this one.



  1. Great writing and persepctive. And, I also agree that dressing up my daughter as a cheerleader quite possibly would be the scariest thing in this lifetime :)

    Scott Martin

  2. Well, a UNL cheerleader might be ok...Then again, maybe not...