Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.Acts 16:16-18
Halloween, or All-Hallows-Eve, is upon us. Kids are excited to dress up in costumes and get obscene amounts of candy. Inevitably, this time of year, people in the church begin to discuss whether Christians should participate in a holiday that seems to celebrate witchcraft, darkness, satan and masked murderers. Some of these Halloween traditions seem to stem from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which was later supplanted by a church celebration on the eve of All Saints Day.
As a pastor and a parent, I usually advise parents that they need to make their own choices for their families. Yet, those choices should be informed and based in truth (not exaggerated fears or naive ignorance). What follows is a conversation between a Christian who has questions about all of this and their pastor. We’ll name the curious Christian “CC” and the pastor “P.”
CC: Why do some Christians get so uptight about Halloween?
P: I don’t know that I would call it “uptight” as much as I would call it “cautious.” There is some evidence that there used to be a pagan holiday where people dressed up in costumes to avoid getting harassed by the spirits of dead people. The belief was that the spirits of the dead would wander the earth for a year and that on their final day (the last day of the harvest season, just before the first day of the winter season, a.k.a. October 31st) they would haunt people in order to get revenge. The solution was to dress up in costumes to either hide or scare off these ghosts.
Some historians believe the Catholic Church, in an attempt to Christianize this pagan holiday, absorbed some of these traditions and beliefs and placed the celebration on the day before All Saints Day (which is on November 1st). The evidence for all of this is a little murky. Not all historians agree with this theory of the origins of Halloween. But, some parents don’t like that it is possibly rooted in a pagan holiday.
Other parents don’t like the emphasis on death and witchcraft that you see around Halloween. It is true that Wiccan groups, the church of satan, covens of witches, and others who participate in the occult do have satanic rituals that are celebrated on or around Halloween. These rituals often include animal sacrifice and other unseemly practices.
All of this leads to a kind of hesitation about wanting kids to participate in that.
CC: But isn’t Halloween just about kids dressing up in costumes and getting candy? I mean, all that witchcraft and satan stuff isn’t real, right?
P: Well, there are sort of two Halloweens that happen simultaneously. Yes, much of it is just kids dressing in harmless costumes and getting candy. There is definitely a fun, family aspect to Halloween. However, there is also a dark side to this holiday. Witchcraft is real. Satan is real. Demons are real. I’ve personally cast demons out of people in the name of Jesus. These things are not mythological. They are very real, and we can’t be naive about their reality.
CC: So, you don’t let your kids celebrate Halloween?
P: My wife and I do let our kids get dressed up in costumes and go door to door to get candy. As a family, we have fun walking around the neighborhood together. However, we don’t let our kids dress up as serial killers or mass murderers. We also don’t let our kids dress up in costumes that are demonic or overly sexualized. Again, demons are real. I’ve interacted with them on more occasions than I can count. They are evil and want only to steal, kill and destroy people. It’s not something to take lightly. (In Christ, it’s also not something to fear. Jesus has given us His authority over them.)
My question to you is this: Would you let your child dress up as a Nazi for Halloween? If not, why not? Most parents would not let their kid dress up like a Nazi because it makes light of something that was horrific and evil. It’s not something to joke around about. Evil has victims. And making light of that evil doesn’t honor those victims. The same is true when we make light of things like the occult, the demonic, mass murder, etc. That level of darkness has real victims, and I have see it firsthand. It’s not mythological or hypothetical. It’s real.
CC: Whoa, that’s intense! How often do you run into demons in your ministry?
P: More often than most people want to hear about. I’ve created a prayer ministry at my church that we call an intensive prayer ministry. In 2 to 3 hour prayer sessions, we address people’s deep need for inner healing. On a regular basis during these prayer sessions, we run into demons who are either “attached to” or “entrenched in” a person. These demons create havoc in a person’s life. They make a normal level 2 temptation feel like a level 8 (where it feels impossible to overcome). They harass and torment a person’s mind, emotions, and body. They foster fear, terror, and anxiety. They promote addictions. They breed self-hatred, depression, and bitterness. They hate their host and are assigned to oppress and, eventually, destroy their lives.
When people finally get free, when these demons are cast out, they feel completely different. They experience a level of freedom and lightness they had only dreamed about. This freedom is made possible only by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Only by His power and His authority is this possible.
So, like I said, this isn’t something to take lightly. Caricature costumes of the demonic are only acceptable when you don’t think demons really exist. But they do.
CC: So with everything that you just said, I’m surprised that you let your kids do Halloween. Why are you okay with it?
P: Well, I’m not okay with certain costumes, and I’m not okay with the darker side of Halloween. But I am okay with my kids dressing up as movie characters or cartoon characters and getting candy. I compare it to how Paul addressed food sacrificed to idols. Think about it. There were bulls and goats literally sacrificed in pagan rituals to pagan demonic gods. Then Christians in the first century had to decide if they were okay eating that meat. Paul’s conclusion was that he was fine eating the meat because of his freedom in Christ. His main concern was not causing others to stumble who were less mature in their faith. If Paul was okay eating meat that was literally sacrificed to a pagan god, I think I’m okay with my kids dressing up and getting candy.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it‘”(1 Corinthians 10:25-26). He went on to say, “If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?“(1 Corinthians 10:30). His main point is that Christ has given us a freedom that allows us to enjoy certain things, even things that have been co-opted by satan and pagan worship. In other words, satan doesn’t get to steal things that are God’s in the first place. For me this includes costumes, candy, and the family fun of Halloween.
CC: What do you say to parents who don’t let their kids do Halloween?
P: I totally understand that decision and respect it, especially based on everything I’ve already said about demonization and the occult. I think those of us who are Christian parents who do allow our kids to dress up and go trick-or-treating have to be careful not to fall into a kind of blind, naive, indifference or ignorance to the real evil that exists in the spirit realm. And we need to know that the day of (and the days around) Halloween are days of intensified spiritual warfare due to the increase in satanic rituals.
And I think those of us who are Christian parents who do not allow our kids to dress up and go trick-or-treating have to be careful not to fall into a kind of legalistic, religious fear that gives satan too much credit. Some things, even things rooted in paganism, can be redeemed and enjoyed by God’s people.
Back in Paul’s day, in the early church, there were some who were fine eating meat sacrificed to idols and some who were not. Both existed in the church together.
CC: Any final advice to parents about Halloween?
P: Yes. In a word, “Taxes.” That’s what I say really loudly just as I reach into my kids’ Halloween candy and steal some. I reach into their Halloween bags and yell, “TAXES!” I then take and eat some of their best candy. And then I remind them about how if the government can take 30% of our income, then surely parents get to take 30% of their kids’ candy. I tell them I’m just trying to prepare them for the real world. So, parents, don’t forget to collect “taxes” from your kids this year!