Growing up a kid in a Christian home in the 1970s, the one day each year I was trained to fear was Halloween. It was the Devil’s day after all–the one day out of the year that evil was at its peak, mayhem was rampant, and somehow Satan’s “power” was able to supersede over that which was good.
As a matter of fact, the Devil was a very popular subject in conservative churches during the 70s and 80s. I can remember having guest speakers come talk to us impressionable young teens about witnessing animal sacrifices, demon possession, and satanic covens hidden in our community. And one can’t forget Satan’s control over the rock music world with “back masking” messages. Sometimes it felt like we talked as much about evil as we did redemption. It can really reek havoc on a kid’s worldview.
Instead of seeing those outside of God’s kingdom as people who were desperate for God’s love, I saw them as “those people” who were against God. If I didn’t see you at my church, that was reason enough to be scared of you. After all, you might be in that secret coven in my neighborhood. I can remember being scared of babysitters, neighbors, and when Halloween came around, the strangers whose doors I had to knock on and ask for candy.
Since Halloween was Satan’s holiday, it was the one day a year his followers would hide razor blades in candy and drive slowly through neighborhoods looking for a stray kid separated from his mom. It doesn’t matter that I never found a razor blade in my pumpkin bag or that my dog never ended up on a sacrificial altar, I knew they were there and this was no day to celebrate.
I hate it that all that baggage, whether emotional or theological, that we acquire in childhood comes along for the ride when we grow up and have our own family. When my kids were young I felt conflicted each year when Halloween was approaching. Did I really want my kids taking part in such a wicked holiday?
At the same time, God was doing a work in me. No, not to change my perspective on Halloween, but rather to change the way I see people. Okay, maybe my views on Halloween have been greatly changed too.
The big question I’ve had to ask myself is, “Did love win at the cross?” If the same love that Christ displayed on the cross and offered to me through his redeeming sacrifice is good enough for me to receive, then is it good enough for me to live? If the answer is yes, which I believe it to be, then it requires a lifestyle of love from me and my family.
My neighborhood is important to me. My neighbors are important to me. Very few of them are Christ-followers, but they are looking for significance and meaning for their suburban lives nonetheless. They are worried about their kids’ futures, get frustrated with local government, and cut their lawns–all just like I do. And they celebrate Halloween.
I’ve never seen any seedy characters in our neighborhood on Halloween, but I have seen plenty of young kids roaming the street. Oodles and oodles of kids, all of them with their cheap face paint and fire-retardant costumes are out laughing and enjoying overstuffed bags filled with candy. Most of them are being accompanied by a parent or two.
This is the one night a year that Christians have an opportunity to meet more spiritually searching people they live near than any other day. You can meet more neighbors in two hours on Halloween than visitors at most churches in an entire year.
So this year, just like in recent years, my family and I will celebrate Halloween. It’s not a celebration of evil or darkness or anything remotely creepy. For us, it’s a celebration that we get to partner with God in loving a broken world. We get to live in community with and love people that are far from God.
Halloween has become one of the days I most look forward to. Be sure to come back for Part II and I’ll share with you all the things our family has done to make Halloween a big deal for our neighborhood.