“I’m the fruit of the Spirit.”

Words no child should have to utter; yet, there I was, at a church-sponsored Halloween event, answering the question on everyone’s mind: “What’s that boy in a beige sweatsuit with wooden apples pinned on it supposed to be?”

For those of you who were raised like me, trick-or-treating on Halloween was never an option. We were the house that turned it’s lights off to make sure all sinful children and parents celebrating the devil’s day knew they were not welcome. No, we do not have candy for you; and yes, it is a bit confusing that we are condemning you while wearing costumes. But we are heading to church to walk around to various cars with their trunks filled with candy while wearing costumes. We most certainly do not celebrate Halloween!

The Problem of Fear

Although events like trunk-or-treat appear to be identical to trick-or-treating, there is a noticeable difference. Unlike the gruesome costumes and scary appeal of traditional Halloween, church events are all about family and fun. I will admit, though, that it is somewhat humorous to watch the church saints’ outrage over the one child who didn’t get the memo about dressing up in a ‘Christian’ costume.

So from what I understand, Christians are typically opposed to Halloween based on the fact that it celebrates fear, which is evil and from the devil. The Bible is clear enough about fear:

“There is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18)

As a little boy, I really struggled with fear. I can remember staying up all night, terrified of the unknown nature of the dark. The only way I could get relief was to sleep in my sisters’ room, or, if I was too embarrassed to do that, to wait until the first light of dawn, which always put me at ease.

Oddly, though, you know what I was most afraid of? I can sum it up in the words I heard hundreds of times at church:

If you were to leave here tonight and die in a car wreck, would you go to heaven or would you burn in hell for all eternity?”

There were times I would have to get out of bed and literally jump up and down to stop thinking about dying and possibly being tortured in hell for all eternity, which seemed to be a certainty based on the pastor’s sermon.

And you know what made matters worse? I didn’t have to imagine what hell would be like, because we regularly discussed it at church and because I regularly saw productions about. How did “Judgment House” become a Christian alternative to evil, fear-filled Halloween? And who decided that children were old enough to watch “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames“?

So you’ll have to forgive me if I do not condemn Halloween because, as so many Christians proclaim, it is antithetical to Christianity. Sadly, fear has been integral to the Christian evangelistic effort. And if we’re calling fear a ploy of the devil during Halloween, then maybe we should reassess some of our preaching and evangelism techniques instead of taking a holier-than-thou posture toward those who do enjoy Halloween.

The Problem of Halloween

But that does not mean Halloween isn’t sinful. In fact, it is one of the most sinful aspects of our society, but probably not for the reasons we go to first.

Heather and I spent a long time talking to our kids about what they’d like to be for Halloween. We’re cognizant of the negative fear aspect of the holiday, but there’s a special event for the chaplains’ kids here on campus that takes place days before Halloween, so we are less concerned about that.

What we are concerned about, however, is the fact that we’ve all been tricked into believing that this holiday has anything to do with fear or fun. One quick Amazon search for Halloween costumes will produce hundreds of results, all ranging from $30-$200.

I’m often distraught by how Christmas has become a celebration of consumerism; but what I’ve overlooked is how Halloween is perhaps worse. Because let’s say you do lay down $50 for a Halloween costume; unlike getting a new outfit for Christmas, that costume is done after one night. It’s truly a celebration of consumerism for us to toss something out after one use. And unlike Christmas, which typically includes a family dinner, Halloween pushes candy.

Honestly, who has ever had a rational conversation with their children about the proper amount of candy to eat? Whose child has agreed that perhaps they have had too much candy? And what kid has eaten candy, and then been a productive member of the family?

(Btw, we went with reusable dinosaur hoodies and a Goodwill find for our kids’ costumes)

To Celebrate or Not?

If you’re wondering if celebrating Halloween is okay for Christians to do or not, I’d encourage you to consider the basis for that question. It is reasonable to be concerned about the fear associated with the holiday; personally speaking, our family is.

However, my issue with fear is due to my upbringing in the Pentecostal church. It’s one thing to be afraid of ghosts and the like; it is a whole other level of fear to lay down at night, wondering about eternal fire, or to wonder every time you get in a car if this could be the trip it all goes south (pun intended).

So, dress your kid up like the Fruit of the Spirit if you so desire; I can say from experience that they won’t win the “Best Costume” prize, though. I can also say from experience that your child’s whole, “Well, if I win the contest then maybe my mom was right; maybe I do look cool in beige sweatsuits with wooden apples pinned on” thought-processing will continue 25-years later.

Then again, maybe we should all consider the actual monetary cost of the holiday. Maybe we’ll find that there are more pressing concerns in our neighborhood and world that could benefit from our financial support. Maybe we’ll also find that modeling Christ-informed spending habits impacts our kids more than condemning or celebrating the consumeristic holiday known as Halloween.

Love casts out fear. Perhaps the best way we can celebrate Halloween, then, is to be a part of loving our neighbors in need who might fear what another day without adequate essentials like food, water, and access to healthcare might bring. By doing so, we can truly cast out fear as witnesses of Christ’s love; and that, my friends, is worth celebrating.

Note from the Editorial Team:
Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.

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Joel Daniels

Author: Joel Daniels

Joel is currently a Chaplain-in-Residence and Ph.D. candidate at Georgetown University. He studies religion from a global perspective through world Christianity, particularly Pentecostalism, Chinese religious philosophy, interreligious dialogue, spiritual formation, and comparative theology, philosophy, and ethics. More importantly, he is the husband of a superstar and father of three world-changers. He's ordained through the American Baptist Churches, USA, closely affiliating with the charismatic branch of the denomination.

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