Well, I’m glad that’s over. Halloween is one time of year I just don’t look forward to, and I’m always glad when it is gone. I’m sure some of that is because I was raised in New Zealand, where Halloween isn’t a part of the culture. But most of it is about my personal values. As a believer in the God of the Bible, I find nothing about Halloween that is consistent with my Christian faith.
Ghouls, goblins, demons, devils, webs and witches, tombstones and terror ... decorating my yard with them today doesn’t seem to fit with going to church the next day. I really struggle with the idea of Christians "celebrating" Halloween. I don’t have the same issue with non-Christians participating in what is a very un-Christian event. But for me, people who claim a connection with the Prince of Peace dressing up as vampires, mummies and devils is a bridge too far.
I recognize that for many people, Halloween is a night of fun. Some might call it "harmless" fun. But trivializing evil, sin, demons and death is not harmless. Evil was responsible for ending the life of Jesus. Hardly something you’d want to dress up your children to celebrate.
Death is a grim reality that will confront every person who ever lives. With a tragic frequency I hold the hands of the dying and comfort those who even moments before have lost loved ones to death. And I’ve found that there’s nothing like death to sober up even the most casual person.
Unfortunately, death is a subject that has been incredibly confused. Ever since the serpent told Eve in the Garden of Eden that "you shall not surely die," the truth has been muddled and the tales have gotten taller. Which is why, today, there is an astonishing variety of beliefs about death: reincarnation, immediate departure to heaven or hell (or purgatory), sleep until the resurrection, the end of all things ... One thing is certain: every belief can’t be right. It would pay to know what the Bible actually says about death.
The one thing Halloween does is remind me that the Bible is full of good news about death — very good news! The Bible tells us that death is not the end for those who have faith in God. It tells us that, through faith in Christ, people can live forever and will not die eternally. It says that one day, death will be destroyed. The Bible proclaims that Jesus has triumphed over the grave, and that those who "sleep the sleep of death" will be resurrected on the day when Jesus returns to this earth. That’s the a message I don’t mind hearing, or sharing.
Trivializing death, and dismissing the reality of good and evil is not only imprudent, it ultimately has negative repercussions, for families and societies. Don’t be surprised if your children get involved in destructive behavior if you’ve told them that evil isn’t evil after all. Presenting witchcraft and horror and demonic activity as something playful diminishes the terrible reality of evil, and reduces the truth of the Bible to a caricature. Tell a society that evil is just a laughing matter and that demonism is a joke, and the results will be disastrous.
And there is a larger issue. Think outside of Halloween, and you’ll realize that even Christian parents buy "Twilight" or "Harry Potter" books for their children, even though those books make heroes out of practitioners of the worst forms of wickedness. One of the most popular movies in the country right now is a horror movie, trafficking in fear and dread. Demons and wizards — outlawed in the Bible — are lifted up before children as icons and role models.
What a world we’d have if the people who believed in Biblical values actually committed themselves to reflecting those values in their daily lives. Imagine if those who claim to believe in honesty (and there’s a commandment about that) committed themselves to being honest in business and honest with the tax man? What would society be like if those who claim to believe in a Saviour who said "Love one another" actually put that into practice? What if the people who make the most noise about the 10 Commandments actually kept them? I’m confident that, if all of God’s people began to practice what we preach, a lot of those who now do not believe in God would be moved to do so.
With Christmas looming on the horizon, it would be wonderful if everyone who said "Merry Christmas" purposed to live out the spirit of the Christmas story. In fact, there’s an old song that expresses that same thought: "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
Whatever your religious persuasion, I hope you’ll be encouraged today to live it, to be committed to it — to practice what you preach — and to seek sincerely to genuinely model faith in God.
I hope that’s not a scary thought.
John Bradshaw is senior pastor of the College Place Seventh-day Adventist Church at 12th and Larch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 526-8312, or email@example.com.