I’ve been up in NY this past week doing some maintenance on my sister’s house. Halloween is big up here. Houses across town are decorated to the hilt with all sorts of creepy/scary things. As it happens we are leaving town to drive back to NC on Halloween itself. We aren’t fleeing, it just worked out that way.
North Carolina, as part of the evangelical south, still celebrates this day; our neighboring town, Cary, was actually named the best place to trick-or-treat in the nation. But, in general, there are a lot fewer houses decorated like something from a horror movie.
A good portion of evangelicalism seems petrified of Halloween. A former pastor of ours assured us that opening our doors to trick-or-treaters was akin to inviting Satan into your home. He advised us to emulate him by turning all our lights off and retreating to the back of our homes so we would not be exposed to evils such as three-year-old girls in princess outfits. Another friend, thinking this was a good time for in-your-face evangelism, opened his door to kids but, instead of candy, passed out tracts explaining the satanic nature of Halloween and urging them to repent. Oddly, his success rate on this outreach was not good.
As foolish as it seems to me to be so wildly hung up on such a secondary issue as the theology of Halloween I have to admit that I am a bit uneasy with some of the way this day is celebrated. I saw an article the other day where a woman’s body hung from a fence for hours because everyone mistook it for a Halloween decoration. I’m not sure how celebration of death, murder, and all sorts of horrors can be seen as a good idea.
But the problem in seeking for some sort of measured middle ground on such matters is that it requires you to think. It is much easier to just slam your door shut and call the whole thing evil or, conversely, throw yourself into an “anything goes” celebration. Deciding what you are comfortable with while, at the same time, allowing others to differ is a delicate mix of empathy for others and a self-awareness that you are just trying to figure this out and no hard and fast rules exist.
And yet it seems as if it is secondary issues is where we evangelicals squabble the most, both with others and among our own tribe. We try to understand how to interpret the Bible on these matters and find it is not easy. The science of interpretation, hermeneutics, is never exact. Yet we often pretend that it is or, worse, that we are not interpreting at all; that we are merely saying “the Bible clearly says…”
I frankly don’t know what the Bible clearly teaches about Halloween but, assuming we don’t get stuck in traffic on the way down to NC, I am going to greet trick-or-treaters warmly and not worry about losing my salvation.