Making Peace With Halloween (v1.2)

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I posted this a few years ago, and since there are new readers who have gathered in the rabbit room since, I thought I’d repost (and revise) it. I hope it’s helpful and edifying.

A couple nights ago, as I was in the throes of carving our family’s final jack-o-lantern – feverishly cutting out the stripes of Charlie Brown’s shirt (we often fashion our pumpkins into Peanuts characters) – my wife Taya gave a gentle, reflective laugh. “I love what you’re doing right now”

“What?”

“I love how you’re really digging into that pumpkin”

“What are you talking about?”

“Remember when we were first married?” she asked, and then brought our boys into the conversation. “When we were first married, you guys, your dad didn’t want us to have pumpkins, dress up, or even have candy to give out.”

“Really dad, how come?”

Taya continued, “As I recall, you didn’t even want us to have a Christmas tree that first year.” She said with a gracious smile, remarkably without a note of contempt.

“Why?” one of the boys asked again.

I was having to put my elbows into it now, hollowing out the flesh of the pumpkin so the candle would better show through the carving. “Ahhhh, you guys…” I said with a tone of regretful concession…

“I grew up in a pretty legalistic environment where they believed Halloween was the devil’s holiday, and if you participated in it at all, you were guilty of devil worship. And then because of some obscure verse – in Jeremiah or Isaiah I think – about bringing a tree into your living room… well, because of this I didn’t want your mom to get a Christmas tree either.” Then looking at Taya I said, “I’m sorry” with an apologetic smile. Returning to the work at hand I said, “I’m glad you hung in there with me.”

I guess you could say my convictions on these kinds of things have taken a different shape over the years. There are those from my legalistic past who might say I’ve gotten soft, but in fact it actually feels like my theology on these things has sharpened, helping me better divide soul and spirit, “judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” For it’s in the heart that’s what’s really at stake comes to light in times such as this.

This post would take much too long to definitively state all that could be said about Halloween, and I’m writing this less as a comprehensive manifesto than as a humble perspective that I hope might make for enjoyable reading and maybe even aid in a grace-full observance of a holiday that comes with some baggage and leaves some of us with mixed feelings (you know who you are).

And it’s not hard to see why, what with all the images of death and darkness that go along with the day. But in my case, most of my personal hang ups concerning Halloween came from the same place that all my legalistic instincts come from: fear. Fear always distorts the way I see the world and tempts me to be reactive–to circle the wagons and take a strident, defensive stance. Fear shrinks my world and can even make me doubt grace and it’s hold on me.

Fear that if I listen to secular music, my mind will be darkened and I’ll become a sex crazed reprobate. Fear that if I have a sip of beer I’ll become an alcoholic. Fear that if I enjoy something it must be inherently bad. Fear that if I go trick or treating with my kids or put up a Christmas tree I’ll inadvertently cast us headlong into paganism.

And so on and so forth.

But fear is what love intends to cast out, because to act out of fear is very different than to act from love. If fear is reactive, maybe we can understand love as being pro-active–and this thought excites me.

One of the more humbling and awe-inspiring theological traditions is the idea that we are called to be co-creators with Christ. Of course we can’t create as God did, ex nihilo, out of nothing. But God has called us to be re-creative with what he’s already made–and there isn’t anything that exists that wasn’t made by him. Bent and broken as a thing may be, there is the possibility for its redemption, and we get to play a part in the unfolding beauty of this ongoing redemption and reclamation. At least that’s how I read it.

In this way, I believe that as co-creators with Christ we’re also given the privilege of being co-sanctifiers, or “little Christs” as C.S. Lewis might say–participating in Kingdom Come, reclaiming what otherwise might be lost, bringing it into submission to the knowledge of Christ.

Do you remember the worship wars in the 80’s and 90’s when church people were debating over things like whether or not you could have drums in a sanctuary and everyone was arguing about which style of music was God’s favorite? Well, at some point we had to realize that music is more often than not what we make of it. Heavy metal or easy listening, both or neither can bring honor to God. It depends on the intention of the heart that is driving it. It was the human heart, after all, that lusted for the forbidden fruit, meaning that it was with our hearts, more than our hands, that we reached to take the fruit and fell. And it is still within the human heart where motives are determined and identities revealed.

An example from scripture: food sacrificed to idols is not necessarily evil when placed in the hands of the true worshipper of God. Purified and repurposed in the heart and conscience of the believer, it is restored to its original state of being simply food. If it’s the heart that defiles or purifies food (1 Cor. 8:7), I guess I’ve come to believe that it’s also the heart that defiles or purifies a certain day of the year. That means a day is what we make of it. So what kind of day will we make of it? My conviction is that if it’s God’s will for me to play a redemptive role in all of this, I want to start trying out for the most beautiful part available to me.

Much of my religious formation took place in a milieu of shame, fear, and guilt, leaving me at once affirmed in my self-righteousness, alone in my sin, and burnt out on the holiness-works-guilt treadmill as I tried to prove my devotion to God, to myself, and to those around me.

Into that milieu, God visited me with a grace awakening many years ago through authors like Brennan Manning and Frederick Buechner as well as a renewed filter through which to read my bible. Texts that once barked their austere demands at me slowly began to whisper and hum with secrets of a Love so outlandish and scandalous that I could hardly take it in. Books like Galatians and of course the gospels came alive for me with colors and notes I’d never noticed before. And slowly, ever so slowly, the bondage of fear began to break and the world was given back to me. The difference between legitimate and contrived definitions of sin and devotion began to come into focus, too.

In the matter of Halloween, I began to see that my own reservations about the day had more to do with my own baggage than that of the holiday itself.

(What I suppose I should mention here is that I take evil and the occult very seriously. A part of my history that I don’t often speak about is the fact that for many years I lived with a stepfather who was deeply involved in the occult. I could tell you stories, but I’ll spare us both. Suffice it to say that a lot of what gets passed off as “occultic” or satanic has very little to do with the real thing.)

Much is made of Halloween’s ties to the occult, though further research reveals that a lot of its association with the holiday might be more a matter of hype, opportunism, and aesthetic than anything else. Do distasteful and evil things take place on Halloween night? Regrettably, I’m sure of it. Is it really the devil’s holiday? I don’t think so. It could be, if that’s what you want to make of it, but to say October 31st is inherently evil is maybe to give more power to a calendar day than is warranted.

Some of Halloween’s roots come from the Celtic “Festival Of The Dead” – a day to mark the end of the harvest season as well as the months of extended light before heading into the darker months. It was also a time to remember and even honor the dead. It was believed by the superstitious to coincide with a time when the barrier between the physical and the spirit world was thinner, leading to all kinds of bizarre notions of dressing up in fearsome masks in order to scare away any evil spirits that might have broken through.

I’m reminded of the hulking statues of fierce warriors that Taya and I saw guarding the gates of the Buddhist temple in Asakusa in Tokyo who were posted there to scare away evil spirits that might want to crash the party and harass devout temple goers. This kind of stuff reveals misguided ideas of good and evil, but is relatively harmless, I suppose–except to the degree that it distracts us from the truth of how the world really works.

So it’s not my intent to diminish the reality of Satan and his work–I’m sure the devil is pleased when we don’t believe he exists. But I imagine he is equally pleased when we are distracted by distorted and misguided notions of who he is and what he’s doing.

I’m not convinced that Satan is as determined to recruit worshippers as much as he’s content to influence us to worship ourselves, which is the very thing we are most eager to do. The temptation in the Garden, if we remember, was that we would “be as gods”, that we would be central and in the driver’s seat. Are there those who devote their lives to actual devil worship? Yes, I’m sure. But let me suggest that whenever any of us serve ourselves–when we are self-centered–we serve Lucifer’s agenda and participate, intentionally or not, in the work of the devil. All the hurt, war, poverty, dissension, and deceit that are born of our selfishness has brought more hell on earth than the relatively small number of sincere Satanists, whose religious identity seems more or less driven by a desire to be counter-culture and empowered, which in the end is more about self-service than genuine religious devotion anyway. Marilyn Manson is less a devilish threat than he is a pitiable attention seeker.

In other words, it’s probable that my misguided attempts at taking a stand against Halloween, rooted in my own fear and self-righteousness, may have done more to distract myself and those around me from the more legitimate and potent works of the devil. One thing I do know for sure is that they didn’t do a thing to make the gospel look beautiful. They probably just made me and my faith look small, foolish, and full of judgment.

And this brings me back to the matter of carving jack-o-lanterns. When Taya and I were first married, I was reticent about such pagan practices in our home, assuming there to be something inherently sinister about carving a face in the flesh of a pumpkin. When kids would come to our door that first year, I’d awkwardly explain that we didn’t have candy because we didn’t participate in Halloween (until I couldn’t stomach it anymore and just stopped answering the door). And though it pains me greatly to admit this, I will confess in the interest of truth telling that I even handed out some gospel tracts to trick or treaters that year.

Yep. I was that guy.

I’m sure the kids really appreciated that! I’m sure they couldn’t wait to find out more about this stingy Jesus who doesn’t let his followers hand out candy to kids. Score one against Ol’ Scratch, right?

A lot has changed since then, and these days my guiding conviction is that my job as a co-sanctifier with Christ is to take what is broken and do my part in reclaiming it, perhaps even making it beautiful, by God’s grace. My earlier attempts of disavowing Halloween were neither redemptive nor beautiful. At best they might have been neutral, but I suspect they did more damage than good.

And all the while my poor wife Taya suffered from my misguided religious zeal! That is, until we had kids. And then she put her foot down.

My resolve was beginning to crack by that time anyway, and my first venture back into the world of trick or treating was timid (though I had loved it as a kid). Our twins were two and we dressed them up as Charlie Brown and Linus (it was awesome!) and went to the Barnes & Noble Halloween party where they toddled around asking workers for candy. It was fun, and I even made it through the experience unscathed by legalistic guilt!

Since then, Halloween has become one of our favorite holidays in the Gray household. We try to avoid “the appearance of evil” by eschewing costumes that strike us as “dark” or otherwise distasteful, choosing instead to hit the streets as a whoopee cushion, bottle of ketchup, or a ninja warrior, walking the two blocks of our neighborhood freezing in the late October chill.

When the twins were little and their hands would get cold, they’d each slip them into my gloved hand to warm them up as we’d walk door to door. It’s one of my most cherished memories of being their dad. Then I’d stand back as they would timidly take the steps of a neighbor’s house, knock, and with little voices say “trick or treat” and then “thank you”. Taya would stay back at our house to greet trick or treaters, handing out copious amounts of candy (everyone knows us as the “gospel singing family” and she wants to build a reputation of generosity for us. Perhaps she’s also making up for the “lost years”…) Over time it has grown into a Halloween party where we invite friends over and Taya makes cookies in the shapes of fingers and eyeballs, and we laugh and enjoy each other immensely. You see, these days I’m more interested in reclaiming things and repurposing them than I am protesting.

All this to say: I’m excited about our Halloween plans this year.

I’m excited to have friends and family to our house to laugh with and enjoy.

I’m excited to spend time in my community with my neighbors.

I’m excited to don our homemade robot costumes.

I’m excited to hold my little boy’s hand in the warmth of my glove when his gets cold.

I’ve even come to value the way the spookier accoutrements of Halloween affords us the opportunity to face our deep rooted fears of mortality and to even poke a little fun at death. It could be that hidden beneath the ragged clothes and garish make-up of our zombie costumes is the universal hope that death doesn’t really have the final say…

And I’d be lying if I didn’t also say that I’m excited about finger and eyeball cookies.

Of course Paul reminds us that all things are permissible, though not everything is beneficial, and it’s true there is hardly a thing under the sun that we aren’t able to justify if we put our minds to it. Whether Halloween is permissible or even beneficial for you is ultimately a matter to be worked out in your own heart.

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord as best we know how, imperfectly, with humility, and with friends and family and costumes and candy this October 31st.


161 Comments

  1. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    In a word, Jason, FEAR. Fear of anything but the Lord (the reverent kind of fear) ruins our lives. Christians are afraid of sex, afraid of drink, afraid of dancing, afraid of Halloween, afraid of Harry Potter, afraid of Obama, afraid of a ministry that re-forms young drug/alcohol addicts moving in up the road. The list is endless.

    I’ve said this before, but to LAW our kids (“NO HARRY POTTER! OR ELSE’) will quite often create Preacher’s Kid Syndrome – kids who read Harry Potter when their parents aren’t looking, who are obsessed with Harry Potter. Or they will become legalistic anti-Potterites, judging those who read it. I’ve used Harry Potter as a catalyst for talking to my son about Story, about Satan, the reality of the Dark Side, possession, etc. Halloween can be the same – it can become a study of the origins of Halloween, abuses of it, and right use.

    Nearly everything has a right use and a wrong use. Halloween is one of those many things.

    My son has at times been a carrot, a young Obi Wan, complete with beard, a zombie, and a skeleton. I went that year as The Grim Rapper.

  2. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Ron Block – as usual, thanks for getting to the heart of it.

    For what it’s worth, I think you’d make a great grim reaper. I wish I lived in your neighborhood.

  3. JJ Mahoney

    My thoughts on Halloween have changed a lot over the years. I attended a church for many years that was very anti-Halloween. I was told Christians should NOT participate. We were encouraged to come to the church Harvest Carnival instead, and bring our friends. I have great memories of that church, and they loved Jesus. But I would have to disagree with their view of Halloween.

    Where my feelings first started to change was an article I read where the writer said that some of his best memories of childhood was trick or treating with his siblings. And how he thanked God for those memories. My heart changed in that instant. Yes eventually God worked His way into that idea, and your article Jason reaffirms all that I’ve felt in recent years. But I don’t want to be “that neighbor” who just turns all the lights off as if I’m hiding from something.

    But what am I hiding from? A 5 year old Dracula? Is my God too small? My Lord defeated death. When Jesus emerged from that tomb, everything changed. Why not stand in defiance of the glorification of death on this day and joyfully open our door to our neighbors and their children and give them candy and good fellowship? Why not dress up my 18 month old and take him door to door and spend some sweet time with Mom and Dad and meet our neighbors and their little ones? (Probably not this year since he’s too little, but you get my point).

    I’ve been that neighbor. I hate that I was that neighbor. I turn my lights off on Halloween and my neighbors never see me. Then the next week invite the same neighbors to a function at church. How do you think that looks to them?

    Back to the article I mentioned. It reminded me of the great memories I had with my brothers. Scrambling to throw together a Freggy Krueger costume with knives from the kitchen and sculpting putty (I ended up with just a stocking on my head and no knives). But that time with my brothers was priceless. The fact that I can still remember what I wore (or tried to wear) and the neighbors we saw shows the impact it had.

    I want my son to have memories like that. Maybe not of going as Freddy, but having the kind of fun my brothers and I had. And actually being able to teach him about the day and how we can redeem things that the world and sin have twisted. As N.D. Wilson said in Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, “The world is beautiful, but badly broken.” (may not be an exact quote)

  4. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason, I became distracted during my post. I forgot to say that the reason we fear all these things is because we are not faith-ing in Christ. We fear all those things because we don’t trust Christ within us to be our temperance, our purity, our spiritual safety, our true King even when we don’t like who is elected President. What drives our lives, then, is fear, and the idea that if we control all the variables that cause fear, we will be “good Christians.”

    So we build gigantic fences around sins. “Drunkenness is wrong, therefore don’t go near a beer or anyone drinking a beer or any place where they serve beer. Movies sometimes have bad parts; don’t go in a movie theater.” Of course we’ve got to use our heads; “If you are going to be a Christian, it is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.” If we have struggled with alcohol, of course there is a time in which we can’t be around it. But my point is that by living in fear we drive our children, and others, to the thing we fear; we drive them away from Christ.

    What they want to see is a humble, relaxed confidence in Christ, expressed in our daily life as temperance or patience or purity or love or goodness. That is the magnet – and living by all these fence laws actually keeps people from experiencing the reality of Jesus through us.

  5. carrie luke

    You had me at “Peanuts Pumpkins.”
    I love Snoopy(have my whole life) Halloween, and Jesus.
    The latter more than the former’s, but the former’s none the less.

    And about the eve of Oct. 31st. What other night of the year are your neighbors(believers and non believers alike) delivered right to your door or you to theirs? It is an amazing tool for getting to know people in your hood in hopes of building relationship, which is where Love can be made visible.

    Even if it is dressed as Hermione Granger, which is what I’ll be this year.

  6. amanda

    Dear Jason,

    I struggle with this topic on a yearly basis….. But I have to say it just feels like trying to get the fun out of something that we really shouldn’t be a part of. We are to be set apart. Wanting to let our children enjoy the dress-up and candy gathering doesn’t seem like it is worth it. I feel like I would be teaching them, “You can dabble in the fun parts of this, but don’t really love what it is based on…” Seems like a mixed message that could trip them up.

    I rest in Colossians 2:8 “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.”

    It should be noted that I too come from a childhood steaped in extreme legalism. And even as I write this, I fear I am not truly seeing the subject without those glasses on. Did anything I said seem a worthy arguement to you?

    ps- Looking SO forward to BTLOG with you this year!! 🙂

  7. Drew Zahn

    I think your points about motivation are key. If it’s fear, or legalistic adherence to some stance without principle, then it’s true, rather than fighting the “evil,” you’re in bondage to it.

    As for me and my house, however, we choose to take no part in a holiday that celebrates paganism, death, witchcraft and, most especially, fear itself. There’s a principle behind our choice of what to do and not do.

    But even so, principles quickly become legalism if rules replace the reason for the choices we make. In our family, why would we shun carving pumpkins? There’d be no reason for such a rule. Unless of course, our goal was to decorate our home in a way that makes it appear like some kind of haunted house to creep out the trick-or-treaters. That would violate the principle. But pumpkins, costumes, candy? Got no probs with those.

    “It’s Halloween, so let’s dress up like demons, play tricks on our neighbors and attend a seance for fun!” – That, I would have a problem with. So we have to stop and think, even and especially in our family – Halloween isn’t “evil,” but because some of the things done in the name of the holiday clearly are, we choose carefully what we will and won’t participate in.

    Thanks for your post, Jason.

  8. Tammy Davis

    Jason,
    Thank you so much for honestly sharing and getting to the heart of the matter. I always get a huge lump in my throat when I read your posts. You have put into words what I have felt for many years. Halloween has always been one of my family’s favorite days of the year.
    Many churches hold “harvest festivals” as a safe alternative to Halloween. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it always bothered me a little that we expect the world to come to us. My husband and I talked about how it seemed crazy for Christians to leave their homes on the one night of the year when tons of their neighbors would come knocking on their door. Last year, our church decided that small groups would get together and create the best trick or treat houses possible. We put together bags of candy from our church and groups had games in their driveways, bouncehouses, popcorn, you name it. Our small group played a movie on a big screen in our garage and rented a cotton candy machine. Everyone had a great time and I was so glad we openly “claimed” this holiday for Christ. I tell my kids that this is not “Satan’s day” because every day belongs to the Lord. Again, thanks for your humility, honesty, and wisdom on this.

  9. Lee

    As someone who’s just beginning her journey out of the bonds of legalism, I must say this article (and the above comments) came like rain falling on a dry land! Never before have I seen the link between fear and legalism so clearly, though I surely experienced it a lot. Thank you for your insight as well as for your refreshing honesty!

  10. Gramma Ross

    Well said Drew. May I add….
    You can’t mix light and darkness… some things are essentially incompatible.

  11. Ashley Elizabeth

    Clicking on this post this morning had me holding my breath, fearful I was going to read my beloved Rabbit Room folks and disagree. Not that disagreement is bad, mind you, but too much for a Monday morning and too hard from a heart that loves all this community has become. Much to my relief, I don’t disagree, but seek only to add to the idea of what Halloween is for me.

    In my faith, Halloween falls the night before one of the neatest days of the liturgical year- All Saints Day- a day where we come together to give thanks for those who have gone before us and walk now with the Almighty. It is a day to honor the Christian legacy they left for us and ask them to pray for us that we may leave such a legacy of Christ. The night before? The night before is one of laughter. It is a time of mocking the devil for all he is not and will never hold. He will never take those souls from the hand of God and with the Lord’s protection, he will never take us- for we have been bought, paid for, and rescued by His son.

    In an age where, since the fall, the devil is in the details, the ballot box, and almost everywhere in between, it is a mighty thing to mock him for what he cannot take away, what he cannot hold, what he cannot and will not ever be. Much like most Holy days, men of ill will have made them about evil instead of holiness, fear instead of faith. But for me, for my faith, Halloween is a reminder that I already hold the victory and will taunt the devil in the war he has already lost.

  12. Kaitlyn

    This was one of my favorite posts by you when you posted it last year, so I’m happy to see it resurfacing.

    After reading Ron’s comments above…I can’t say anything else. He hit the nail on the head.

  13. Ashley Barber

    Thanks for this post, Jason. Your thoughts struck a cord with me. I can’t stomach much of anything driven by fear anymore. I find so much beauty and redemption in “reclaiming and repurposing” ideas and things that I used to be afraid of. Hurray for peace and joy!

  14. Tammy Davis

    One more thought and I’ll shut up. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” On October 31st I will turn on my porch light, turn over my “bowl”, fill it with candy & greet my neighbors. Because when the light shines in the darkness, light wins.

  15. Deb

    I agree with Kaitlyn it really struck us last year and we found it timely. Tom & I were struggling with the holiday because of our own issues with it being the first after our son passed – in our grief we didn’t know if we could handle seeing all the neighborhood children and were afraid that it would be too hard for us.

    After reading your post we were encouraged to get outside of ourselves and our issues and embrace the idea of being the “generous” neighbors…we had a great time with it and loved to hear the neighbor children say “You guys are AWESOME!” 🙂 We would have missed that, but your post encouraged us and we intend to repeat it again this year. Thanks Jason.

    Thinking of you & Taya… I’m sure you would love to be home with your boys carving pumpkins…hoping you can make it home in time for trick or treats this year.

  16. Lisa

    Although I can understand everyone’s point of view with regard to this subject, I thought i needed to put my two cents in. We choose a “no participation” in Halloween, Fall Festivals, etc. And i do not tell my children that they will go to Hell if they celebrate Halloween or that the churches Fall Festival is bad, etc. I tell them that God has put it on people’s hearts what to do, and He put it on my heart to stay away from all that stuff. She knows there are kids in our church that will go to this Festival, she knows that she will not be getting candy, and she is OK with that. She has, in addition to looking at Halloween to be all about, at the very least, a holiday where the main thing is to get candy and dress up, and at the worst, well you all know what the worst could be. I believe the church is available every other day, why this day? why this holiday? I have the thought that we should not have to come down to the worlds level and do the things that the word does, like someone said above, we are to be set apart. I do understand that it can evangelize, but God can use anything, we do not have to participate in something that does have much evil in it…

  17. Louise

    I too did not celebrate Halloween as a child. As an adult I don’t celebrate it either. Not out of fear- I just don’t see the point. What would I be celebrating? Dressing up? Candy? The harvest?
    Dressing up might be fun if you have kids (we don’t).
    I don’t like candy that much to have a special holiday for it.
    We already have a holiday to celebrate the harvest- Thanksgiving.

    For the past five years we have had candy at our house ‘just in case’. Besides our niece we have had a grand total of one trick or treater (we live in a rural area). This year we won’t even bother turning our light. My husband and I don’t go around disavowing Halloween- we simply don’t do anything to celebrate it and leave it at that. Having never celebrated it there is no pull for me; I don’t feel that I’m missing out on anything.

    Thanks for not fearing to discuss this controversial issue. 🙂

  18. Ann Crutchfield

    Jason, Thanks for sharing your blog, you helped me understand why some celebrate. This is one of those areas where we need to decide what is best for our family and our children’s hearts. Although we generously give to anyone who comes knocking on our door, we try and keep our focus on the witnessing part and the kids seem to get pretty excited doing that. We don’t dress up, decorate, trick or treat, or put any effort into any other part of Halloween. Because, I feel, that our motive would change, especially in my children.
    Anyways, like the poster said about mixing light & darkness, there is no room for that and I agree. We don’t need to dress, or act like the world to win the world. There should always be a distinction. There are too many Bible examples of when that distinction is crossed and then what happens? It has to come from your heart though – whatever you choose, to celebrate or not. Why are you celebrating Halloween? Or, Why aren’t you?
    Like Drew said, whats the principle behind what you do?

  19. Christina

    As a preacher’s kid (turned preacher herself) whose birthday is Halloween, I’d just like to say thanks for the thoughtful post AND comments by other readers. I didn’t grow up in a legalistic household or church but it was just as hard to explain to my other Christian friends why it wasn’t a big deal to us. My parents always said that October 31st was one of the holiest days to them because it was the day the Lord blessed them with me. I just figured everyone was celebrating along with me…who else gets a costume party with FREE candy on their birthday?? 😉

  20. Jenn C

    Thank you for re-posting this – I didn’t see it last year. It’s wonderful to see written many of my thoughts about Halloween. I always feel unsure about the whole thing, but you’ve given me food for thought and a bit more peace for my soul!

  21. Gail Hafar

    And therefore we need to put the light into the darkness!!! =-)
    As one of my friends so beautifully put it – BOOYAH, Satan! In yo’ face! This is the day the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!!!

  22. Jill

    Thanks for posting this!
    Halloween is my favorite holiday 🙂
    (I can hear the boo-hiss-es from some of you)…. but I have always loved the fall, pumpkins, and halloween.
    This year, our family will host our 10th annual pumpkin party. camp fire, chili, pumpkin carving contest and a ton of family and friends.
    I look forward to it every year.
    I think it’s all about FUN and FAMILY.

  23. Gramma Ross

    Alright now I’m just sayin’ that I am probably quite a bit older than most of ya’ll, but has anybody noticed that this halloween stuff has sort of evolved over recent years into something that is not only for young children in Mickey Mouse costumes ? ? Check out some web sites for adult costumes … I am pretty sure there is not a mouse amoung um’… and then there are the adult fun and games ideas… really ?? So where exactly would you draw the line ? My children now have beautiful children of their own, but at this point in my life, I can attest to the fact that children imitate what they see more than what they are told. “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”
    1Cor. 10:31 end of sermon 🙂

  24. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Gramma:

    If each Christian really knew Christ in an intimate relationship, where Christ is the inner source of all goodness within the believer, all we need do is affirm Christ, exalt Him as that within us. So if I am in a temptation situation, He is the way of escape – He is the particular virtue I need to remain strong, because He is my strength.

    That’s the line. That and the Word is how I determine most things. There is a line, of course. But the source of ability for staying off a particular line is Christ.

    So regarding Halloween, for me it’s basically a holiday where my children dress up as various things and ask for candy at other people’s houses. Then, when they’re not paying attention, I throw away a handful of the candy each day, and occasionally eat some of the better quality chocolates. I sacrifice myself to save them from a lifetime of health problems and bad teeth. Halloween also gives me a good inroad to talking about the occult with my kids, a subject that usually doesn’t come up during breakfast unless I am in a really weird mood.

    I would say most of the Rabbit Room readership would of course draw a line at things unacceptable. Seances are probably out of the question, as is asking demons to inhabit our bodies just for kicks, or attempting to channel Shiva or other deities. I’m not really tempted to dress up at all, though sometimes I do for my children’s sake. I probably wouldn’t go to a grown up Halloween party at all, much less dress up as Satan, a bordello madam, or a banjo player, unless I got paid for it.

  25. Andy G

    Ron – so you would dress up as a bordello madam for money? For shame!

    I am not as “spiritual” or “smart” as Ron, but at least I draw the line somewhere.

    I love Halloween. I love my neighbors and enjoy being a part of that community. Halloween is an easy excuse to spend time together. I feel the same way about Halloween as I do about the folks saying yoga is demonic. Most people don’t go to yoga for ancient spiritual advice. They go to be healthy and it makes them feel better. I think of the possible origins and intents of Halloween while I am handing out candy as much as I consider wayward explorers on Columbus day – not at all. I dont see any reason to be afraid. The point of Halloween isn’t to bring darkness into the world – unless that darkness is a tooth cavity.

  26. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    I really like Halloween, and while my parents kept us from participating in it publicly (we watched scary movies instead!) when I was growing up, I just never could not like it. But I also like to read books about vampires, zombies, and watch horror movies. People have questioned my commitment to God because of these things, but I can’t say that reading vampire, zombie, or werewolf novels has destroyed my faith or my relationship with God.

    I think Halloween is a time when we acknowledge death in our culture and try to deal with it, however ridiculously.

    Now regarding yoga…I was always of the mind that all truth is God’s truth sort of thing, if it’s a great way to exercise so be it. Until I talked to a Hindu friend who was really offended by the American tendency to claim yoga is not spiritual when to them it is DEEPLY spiritual. So, I thought I had a pretty relaxed attitude about it when really I was just supporting cultural appropriation. You live you learn!

  27. Tim Stromer

    I wonder if Christ ever celebrated one of mans Holy days, er holidays? He celebrated passover, we know that one, but He set that one up. Carnival? Go to the dedication of the new Roman bath house? He draws the lines, He puts forth the works for us to do, all we have to do is walk in them. John 10:27, My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
    It’s supposed to be obvious, it’s His voice, not ours, or the voice of the past, He speaks now! Isaiah 5:20
    20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
    Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
    Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

  28. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    If we want to talk about what Jesus did, how he was, how he lived, we can read the Gospels and see some amazing facts. He kept very bad company. Adulterous women, thieves, braggarts, egomaniacs. He ate well and drank wine at dinner parties and weddings, so much so that he was called a glutton and a drunkard (though he was not). He went into the church, threw the furniture around, and whipped Robert Tilton’s rear end. The best, most godly people in the world, the group perceived as above everyone else, he called vipers from Hell, sons of the devil, and whitewashed tombs. For Jesus, it was not the righteous who needed a doctor, but the sick. That’s why he dove in among the world; the self-righteous were convinced they didn’t need him, and they were annoyed at him for acting in such an ungodly way and having such ungodly friends.

    Yet in these things we don’t imitate Christ. Why? Because sometimes we don’t know him as well as we suppose. The further we go into appropriating our inheritance in Christ, the more we will care about people – lost people, and believers not yet walking in their inheritance in Christ. We will love the lost and love our brothers and sisters. To know Christ is to be like him.

    People make the same argument for Christmas and Easter, which are both pagan holidays grafted into the church and renamed. Halloween is more overtly pagan because it is not disguised. But it comes down to whether our desire is to seek an unblemished holiness record, or to have a great excuse to walk around the neighborhood and get to know our neighbors. Like I said earlier, I doubt if anyone reading the Rabbit Room is interested in seances or channelling, or Ouija boards which do in fact often culminate in demonic oppression and even possession.

    There is a Day coming where every person walking around at Halloween will stand before God. They will be either found in Christ by faith, and stand before his judgment seat to determine their level of reward for their reliance on him, or they will have to go through the Great White Throne judgment, not being found written in the book of Life, and cast into the Lake of Fire.

    We can affect the outcome for many of the people around us by simply knowing Christ, having a deep union with him, and then going out into the darkness with that beautiful light. We can encourage believers to come deeper, and draw unbelievers to the beauty of Jesus Christ, simply by being around people and available to God. When we know Christ, really know him and are walking in that union, our presence changes the spiritual atmosphere.

  29. Becca

    This is what kills me.

    Halloween spending in 2009 = $4.75 billion

    Total expenses for Compassion International in 2009 = $395,774,500

    I miss Halloween 1978. Kids making their own costumes out of stuff they found in the house. Carmel apples. Homemade decorations. School festivals. Spending $7 on a bag of candy.

    I am sick of American buyers gorging themselves in Wal-Mart aisles full of ridiculous decorative crap. I’m sick of Pottery Barn Kids selling costumes for toddlers who need to learn the creativity of construction — for elementary school kids who would flourish after spending three hours with Dad turning a cardboard box into a robot body.

    America performs modern holidays via shopping cart while missionaries are living in need, Christian brothers are starving overseas, and orphans need homes. Where is moderation?

  30. Tammy Davis

    OK, OK I thought I was done but this conversation is way too interesting. Andy G. you crack me up. Ron B.- I agree wholeheartedly. As my wise friend Arron says, “JESUS CARED MORE ABOUT SAVING SOULS THAN SAVING FACE”. After reading some of the comments I’m going to risk being a little tacky here and shamelessly plug his book at EATSWITHSINNERS.COM. I have nothing to gain from this, but I sincerely feel that for some of you this would be a life changing concept.
    Grace and Peace to you all

  31. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca: That’s an entirely separate issue. But here’s the thing. If most believers gave hilariously (“the Lord loves a cheerful – hilaros – giver”) there would be plenty. New Testament giving goes way beyond tithing.

  32. Becca

    Agreed, Ron. I guess I just hear so much ruckus about worshipping evil on Halloween. But to me, the grotesque consumption of American holidays seems like a more prevalent idol.

  33. April

    Thanks so much for your honesty and eloquence. Your true devotion to God is revealed…for us to Live as Christ is necessary…Jesus sat and ate and communed with the tax collectors,(whom his politically-correct society hated) He healed a woman who was bleeding to death( It was against the law for her to be in public as she was bleeding) he forgave the woman at the well (who was not a pure jew therefore not respected…plus she was caught in adultery).His love is what nailed him to the cross-no one could enforce it with out His permission…how is it so many religious Christians, don’t understand that the only thing that separates us from the one who doesn’t follow Christ, is our response to His Love. We are but sinners saved by His amazing Grace…I’m with you…live in the world and amongst them but don’t be of the world…for they have not the Love of Christ!

  34. Peter Br

    Ron: For that matter, if most believers gave a tenth, there would be plenty to go around.

    Also, forgive me in advance if I appropriate that costume idea. It’s just too good not to appear in all 50 states.

  35. Jonathan Rogers

    Becca makes a good point. If we’re looking at the problem of idolatry as it expresses itself on Halloween, I think we might ought to pay more attention to materialism than to devil worship.

    I once had a fellow tell me that he had burned a picture of me at a Halloween devil-worship ritual. He felt bad about it later, which is to his credit.

  36. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Becca – thanks for the clarification, I think you’re on to a significant idea here! And this is part of the point I was making about the possibility that we may be getting bent out of shape over the wrong thing, and that it’s the subtler versions of “satanism” and idol worship that we all (even Christians) participate in that should be a cause for concern. In the case you’re making, it’s the consumerism of it while so many go hungry – which I agree with.

    But even to make a stand against that is to run the risk of being labeled killjoys and only succeeding in alienating our neighbors who don’t understand and share our convictions, nor would we succeed in converting them to give to missions. It’s my hope that each of us, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, can discover pro-active and effective ways to show Jesus as beautiful – even in the mixed bag of Halloween.

  37. Ann Crutchfield

    I read a couple of posts that made it sound like people that shy away from Halloween, Harry Potter, dancing…etc… are doing it because they are afraid of the evil that takes place. I think there is a BIG difference between staying away because you are afraid and staying away because you are trying to live a life pleasing to the Lord.

    I also think that we really need to watch what we are doing in our lives, what we watch, what we read, because we don’t want to entertain ourselves by things that God hates. His Word tells us what He doesn’t like.

  38. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Amanda – what a refreshingly humble response (post #6)! You demonstrate a genuine desire for conversation that I’m so grateful for (and can learn from).

    Yes, I do believe you have some worthy ideas to wonder about and wrestle with there, and that’s really what this post is all about.

    I guess I fall on the side of suspecting that our ideas of being “set apart” may be tainted by fear and legalism. I worry that our attempts at “set apartness” can be misguided and risk casting a shadow on the gospel and the beauty of Jesus Christ.

    I also have a growing conviction that I’ve tried too hard to manage my kids spirituality. There’s more to be said about this than can be said here in the comment section, but basically I realized that I haven’t trusted the Holy Spirit (and therefore have tried to be the holy spirit to my kids). And this curious thing happens where our children respond to the fear of their parents. I want to do a whole blog on this, but the short hand version of it is basically this:

    If I’m driven by the fear of failing my children, the fear that I’m ultimately responsible for their walk with the Lord, that I don’t DARE let them hear secular music, or participate in Halloween for fear that it might taint them or lead them astray, they will react to this fear.

    Now, I can do the same things – guard their music listening, bow out of Halloween, etc. – in the spirit of faith and it’s a different thing. But by and large I usually only see people doing these things out of fear. More often than not, people do things out of fear but call it faith. I would ask people to really dig down deep and ask the Holy Spirit to discern what their motives are. Fear is the real problem – and the thing I struggle with the most and that leads me into all kinds of sin and bondage.

    People do thing all the time in the name of faith and holiness, but at the heart it’s driven by some kind of fear. Fear of failing the Lord, fear of not pleasing him, fear of not living up to His standard, etc. This is the fear of the servant, not the faith of a child. The church of Jesus Christ is plagued and crippled by this. I am plagued and crippled by it. I do good things for the wrong reason all the time – I do good things to please my Master instead of doing good things because I love my Father. But that’s a whole other subject…

    I think I heard in your comment a fear of tripping your children up, sending a mixed message – and I so relate! I would hope for all of us that we move beyond fear – whether we choose to participate in Halloween or not – into faith. It’s my conviction for our household to be sober minded, intentional, and free from fear. I discovered that my ONLY reason for reacting to Halloween the way I had for years was fear – fear for my kids, fear of displeasing the Lord, fear of being judged by other believers, fear of being mistaken.

    I will tell you that my kids were starting to be affected by that fear in adverse ways. Our fear shames others (more on that in a future post!). But perfect love casts out all fear, and I’m delightfully free.

    In regards to the scripture you mentioned – you’re right! And that’s why I concluded my post as I did, acknowledging the possibility that my claims could be “high-sounding non-sense.” And yet in truth, I don’t think my assertions are very high-sounding.

    On the contrary I suspect they are low-sounding and I hope they demonstrate the holy idea of condescension. What could be more of a compromise than the Holy Christ being born a human?! As if that weren’t enough, he hung out with drunkards and prostitutes as Ron so ably pointed out.

    There can be, in my opinion, a lot of “high-sounding nonsense” in our self-righteous denunciations of Halloween that shames people around us who have no context. They don’t get why we’re so angry about it and instead of engaging in conversation with our neighbors we just bow out and can come off as kill-joys. This does little to nothing for our witness (except confirm to people their suspicion that we think we are better than everyone else).

    Now, I know there are times when taking a stand is a way of starting a conversation and that the Holy Spirit sometimes directs us to not participate in certain things in order to send a message. But it’s my opinion that we presume that too much of the time.

    Ugh… there are so many layers to this conversation that we can only scratch at the surface of…

    But what I had hoped to set forth is the biblical concept that we are called to be co-sanctifiers. That food sacrificed to idols can be made pure in the heart of the believer. And of course that goes for more than just food.

    This is the essential truth that I hoped to explore here, that a day can be what we make of it – so what can we make of Halloween? By hiding away in our homes we abdicate the day to our culture (as Gramma Ross pointed out, Halloween has gotten icky-er over the years with adult costumes, etc. – which I would argue could be because we have abandoned the day, refusing to be salt and light, abdicating it to the world, therefore enabling the day to become more worldly), but by infiltrating it we have the power to reclaim it, by God’s grace.

    How do we do this? I’m not sure. Halloween is admittedly complicated… At this point it feels like the most we can do is make the most of a bad situation – but at least that can be a pro-active place to start. What think ye?

  39. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    May I meekly add one more idea here that seems relevant to me?

    too often I’m guilty of writing people off when I don’t agree with them. (I can’t tell you how much artists suffer at the hands of people who do this – if a fan reads something they don’t agree with, guess what: they stop buying your CDs, etc. It hurts financially, but you also lose the ability to speak into their lives anymore – the conversation is effectively cut off. This is tragic to me, because I take very seriously the privilege of the conversation I get to have with you! I guard it and try to honor it. It gets tricky, though, when it comes to certain kinds of truth-telling. A post like this feels very important to me – like it gets us in a conversation that will hopefully help us clarify significant truth. This is the kind of conversation I feel called to have with my audience, but it’s also the very kind of conversation that will potentially alienate people, tempt them to write me off as liberal, and leave the conversation. My record label always gets nervous when I post these kinds of blogs. But the alternative is to be so careful that you end up never saying anything particularly relevant or true. This is what discourages me about most of Christian music – it’s so safe and vanilla that it never risks touching upon the deeper more life-changing truths. But I digress…)

    How would our conversations be different if we decided to trust Christ in others more? Here’s what I mean. I’ll use Ron Block as an example, because he’s an easy target ;-).

    There are few people I know who are more passionate about the word of God and our identity in Christ than Ron Block.

    And then he comes along and says that he dresses as the Grim Reaper for Halloween. I’ll confess that a part of me was bugged by that at first. It goes against my sensibility (that I mentioned in my post) of eschewing morbid costumes.

    There was a time in my life when I would have judged his decision as unspiritual and I might have dismissed him, or allowed it to cast a shadow over my estimation of him, causing me to invalidate his voice in my life. In a subtle way, I would have responded in fear – circling the wagons to protect myself and shut him out.

    However, I know Ron better than that, I know Christ is in him, and I can trust Christ in him. Also, I’m at a place in my journey where I know it’s not right to respond to people this way. A better, more faithful response, I believe, is to humbly wonder if Ron maybe knows something I don’t know.

    How would our conversation be different if we gave people the benefit of the doubt and trusted Christ in them more? For starters I think we would grow and be more effective as the body of Christ, every part supporting the other.

    So here’s what I mean. I hear Ron say that he’ll dress as the Grim Reaper. I resist the instinct to judge him and instead wonder “does Ron know something I don’t know about the gospel that sets him free to do this?” It’s not that we necessarily know more than one another, it’s just that we know different things.

    And if we trust Christ in each other and be curious, we can learn from each other. Judgement and fear are halted, dignity is given and affirmed, and Christ is trusted. And hopefully I learn something – my understanding of grace and the glory of God expanded – that I didn’t know before (as I did from Ron today).

    But too often this doesn’t happen because each of us carries a measuring stick for righteousness every where we go – a stick that we use to measure ourselves, the standard we attain to in hopes of pleasing our Master. We subconsciously measure others with our measuring stick, and they subconsciously feel shamed.

    Do you see the evil twist in this!? The devil can even use our desire to be Godly against us!

    This is why our measuring stick must daily be broken and thrown away and why Christ must become our measure.

    This enables me to be delighted (instead of judgmental) by the idea of Ron dressed up as the Grim Reaper (or even as a banjo player!) and be curious about what knowledge he has that would lead him to do this – because I know he is sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. It enables me to learn from him because I trust Christ in him, and I know Christ loves both him and me, and this love is trying to cast out all fear in me.

    (Of course I know there are times when people are just wrong and acting carnally – but I fear that we assume that WAY too much of the time, and that assumption will cut short our ability to be curious about the knowledge of Christ that each other has and that we can learn from)

    I hope this makes sense.

  40. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    It comes down to living our convictions, Jason. Paul says that the one who will not eat meat sacrificed to idols is not to judge his brother who does, and the one who eats not to despise the weaker brother. If someone thinks Halloween is bad and they shouldn’t participate, there is nothing wrong with that. If someone believes Halloween is fine within certain parameters, and participates in his neighborhood with candy and such, there is nothing wrong with that either.

    The trouble comes when the weaker brother judges the stronger, or the stronger despises the weaker. Or, the stronger convinces the weaker to go against his conscience and convictions. Someone who thinks Halloween is sinful is committing sin if he participates. To him it is sin – and so it is. To the one who participates as a relational festival with the neighbors and children, it isn’t.

    It is complicated because we want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Since Halloween has pagan origins, and concerns evil spirits and such, we need to abstain from participation. The thing is, if that is how we’re to live the Christian life, we’ve got to carry it the whole way. Christmas and Easter are out. Movies and television are out. All junk and processed foods are out (for our bodies are temples of the living God).

    Being a Christ-follower involves more than throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It involves the whole man, brains and all, as Lewis said. For instance, when we talk to an unbeliever who may be anti-Christian, we look for the truth in what he is saying; we don’t get defensive simply because he seems to be attacking Christianity. We look for commonality, truth, and then go stand on that cleared bit of ground. Then we set about clearing more ground. But it is only from this starting point of commonality that we can do anything. It is the latch-point with people.

    Halloween is, or can be, a latch-point. We’re out there, with our neighbors, for one time a year doing this common thing – sharing something in common, out in the open. We don’t have to participate it that at all, no. We can stay home, and miss out on what God may be doing there. Or we can participate, but do so using our heads and hearts. We don’t need to be at a party where people are trying to do a seance (I would probably split that scene real quick. I’ve read too many books about possession and exorcism). We don’t need to be out getting drunk. We’ve just got to use our heads and keep our hearts connected to Christ – by reliance, by trust, by abiding in him, and then he will cause us to walk in his ways and keep his statutes.

  41. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    And that it was I learned from you, Ron – when I stopped to wonder about it, trusting Christ in you, I assumed it was something like that.

    I am offended, however, by the idea of you with dread locks.

  42. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason, a relevant quote from Major Ian Thomas. It is long but I quote it in its entirety because it is so dang good.

    “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). No matter what it is that threatens you, if you walk in the Spirit, you can turn around and face your enemy…In other words, to walk in the Spirit is to assume by faith the victory with which He credits you, and God will vindicate your assumption, and make it real in your experience.

    Now the devil loves to invert truth and turn it into a lie, and probably what he has been saying to you is this: “Try not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and then you will walk in the Spirit,” as though the latter were a reward for the former. He knows that in this way, he will keep you preoccupied with yourself, instead of being preoccupied with Christ.

    There is nothing quite so nauseating or pathetic as the flesh trying to be holy! The flesh has a perverted bent for righteousness – but such righteousness as it may achieve is always self-righteousness; and self-righteousness is is always self-conscious righteousness; and self-conscious righteousness is always full of self-praise. This produces the extrovert, who must always be noticed, recognized, consulted, and applauded. On the other hand, when the flesh in pursuit of self-righteousness fails, instead of being filled with self-praise, it is filled with self-pity, and this produces the introvert. A professional “case” for professional counsellors!

    The devil does not mind whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, whether you succeed or whether you fail in the energy of the flesh, whether you are filled with self-pity or self-praise, for he knows that in both cases you will be preoccupied with yourself, and not with Christ. You will be “ego-centric” – self-centered – and not “Deo-centric” – God centered!

    So Satan will seek to persuade you that “walking in the Spirit” is simply the consequence of your pious endeavor not to fulfill the “lusts of the flesh,” of which he himself is the author, and thus by subtly confusing the means for the end, he will rob you of what he knows to be your only possibility of victory.

    Is that not what you have been trying to do? You have been trying not to fulfill the lust of the flesh, in order to walk in the Spirit – fighting a battle already lost. What God has said to you is this, “Walk in the Spirit,” in an attitude of total dependence upon Him, exposing everything to Him, “and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” – for you will then be enjoying through Him the victory that Christ has already won. To walk in the Spirit is not a reward – it is the means! It is to enjoy the Saving Life of Christ!

  43. Nick and Susan

    I’ve found this whole thread very interesting and the theme of the original post regarding the roots of fear, our upbringing, and the influences that shape us as young believers (that often seen to strangle us!) etc. worthy of discussion.

    And yet part of me has felt a little unnerved at the vibes from the ensuing posts that “If you’re a Christian and deliberately don’t do Halloween, then you’re a bad Christian”, which seems just as offensive as the more common accusation that ‘If you’re a Christian and deliberately do Halloween, then you’re a bad Christian”also. Both camps, pointing the finger at the other camp for making what they believe to be a wrong choice.

    All that to say (as has already been said by the Grim R..I mean Ron Block!), that as I’ve been reading this thread, Romans 14:3 immediately came to mind. “Don’t look down on/despise/regard with contempt those who don’t do xyz and don’t condemn/judge those who do xyz”.

    Discussions like these are good for wrestling out what you believe or why you do certain things, and the Rabbit Room is a great place for thrashing things out, and being challenged like this helps you grow, of that I’m quite sure. And yet when all the discussion is through, and we’ve made our choices, I really feel those verses, if not the whole chapter are worth keeping in mind, whether you be dressed up and out on the streets or sitting by the fire with a cup of tea.

    Susan

  44. Becca

    Jason,

    Good point. Modern Christianity has largely defined itself by “making a stand against” too many things. This is sadly ironic, considering clear NT exhortations against legalism.

    Weekly I receive conservative political spam asking me to be angry for righteousness, asking me to be disgusted for righteousness, calling me to spew venom in the name of righteousness. Quasi-religious political forces spread the myth that hostility and defensiveness can redeem faith in America.

    I would never take an angry stance against Halloween (for spiritual or material reasons) among my secular neighbors. I’d never ask them to give to missions instead. But also, I wouldn’t spend hundreds of dollars buying festive knick-knacks, promoting non-creative consumption. I think there’s something refreshing (even among non-religious folks) about living in joyful moderation — about finding a responsible way to tap into festivity. Which brings me to my second point…

    The biggest travesty I find in modern Halloween is its lack of creativity. Does anyone else here remember when Halloween was the singular time of year to imagine, create, pretend, and innovate? I was five or six when I spent an entire afternoon stapling hundreds of cut-out paper feathers onto a sweatsuit to make myself a duck. Another year, I spent hours turning footie jammies and an old juice jug into a praying mantis getup. I drew posters for the walls. We baked homemade food for the season. Halloween was something made instead of purchased.

    Materialism has stolen so much empowerment out of childhood. Kids’ parents are spending $60 and five minutes turning their daughters into cupcakes?

    http://www.potterybarnkids.com/pages/halloween.html?cm_type=gnav

    What the heck? This little girl would be SO much better off spending four hours with her mom figuring out how to make this. Even if the end result isn’t as fabulous.

    This grieves me. We are teaching our children that they can buy imagination. We are teaching them that being “cute” is more important than being resourceful. We’d rather drop dough on a quaint photo-op than teach our children how to turn an impossible idea into reality.

    In this, we disciple them to consume instead of create. We teach them that their ideas and abilities aren’t good enough.

    I know, I’m an idealist. But somehow all of this is even more of an offense to my understanding of how humanity was made to function than the holiday itself. It’s grotesque. Not just the spending. But what the spending replaces.

  45. Peter Br

    Becca, you’ve hit something important here. How enriching to use this as an opportunity to exercise our sub-creator abilities! And how deadening and unattractive it is when we and our elected officials rant on and on about things like “the institution of marriage”. As our pastor recently put it, “Who wants to live in an institution?” If we would spend more time living the joyful life of beloved sons and daughters (living out what marriage is intended to be), this fear and hatred would have no such power over us is it seems to wield at present.

    As yet another fear-trained reader, I can identify with the journey that this post illustrates. Thankfully, through the RR and the saints placed around me, my own excavation is steady and encouraging.

    Thank you, Jason, Ron, et al.

  46. amanda

    Hi Jason,

    Can I first just say thank you so much for responding to my post (#6)!

    Thank you for your insights. They are so rich that, frankly, I think I’ll have to chew on them for awhile….. I am going to be actively praying on the question of whether I am reacting in fear or not. And also asking for wisdom about trying to be the Holy Spirit for my children. You don’t even know me and you definately hit the nail on the head with a tendency of mine, I think.
    Again, thanks for your kind response. I have to say, conversing with you all has been a great conversation between brothers and sisters in Christ. How beautifully refreshing!
    As an album-buying fan, please note that I love that you put youself out there and post things that He has laid on your heart. You are not expected to be perfect, just another one of us striving for that goal.

    Blessings!

  47. Tammy Davis

    Becca, take heart. There are those of us who still make our own costumes. We have 4 kids and do our best to get creative. In fact, one of the reasons I love Halloween is because it encourages my children to use their imaginations.

  48. Tim Stromer

    Haloween Express in Mankato, donate $10 to Kids Against Hunger and get $10 off a costume, that feeds 43 starving children…
    Ron, what if we did do all those things, stopped watching what we should feel bad about, stop doing all the man made traditions that just cause divisions, and spent all our time and money feeding the hungry, would that really be so bad, and would we really be all bound up, and isn’t that really what the body should look like any way? Why draw as close to the line as we can, to see how far we can go, instead of staying by the Shepherd who’s voice we’re supposed to be listening for? We have such a consumerish methodology going here, I don’t think Christians would struggle with whether or not to celabrate a pagen fest out in the bush of a third world country where people are so bound up in the reality of spiritual warefare.

  49. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tim:

    On lines.

    The question isn’t whether or not to draw as close to lines as we can – implying a rebellious, ungodly motive. For me its the difference between writing off large amounts of people that I could be around and possibly have Christ affect their lives through me, or not. I go to a big bluegrass convention every year. Sometimes, in some of those hotel rooms where we’re playing music for fun, some people are getting drunk, or they’re stoned, and sometimes obnoxious. Should I draw a line and choose not to be associated with that? Or should I hang around and see what God does through me, trusting that I have a Holy Spirit in me that will keep me from debauchery, a Spirit that is much more powerful than any sin I will encounter and possibly be tempted by?

    Regarding “lines” in general:

    Jesus continually stepped over lines – the lines drawn by the religious folk who thought that in order to keep from sin we have to draw a huge, wide line around the sin. Thus, if people don’t drink, they won’t get drunk. If they don’t dance, there will be no unplanned pregnancies. If they don’t watch movies, they won’t see any movies that have bad stuff in them.

    I don’t think Jesus considered sin as having any power. He seemed to walk right through all those fence laws of the Pharisees. He had such reliance on the Father within himself that he didn’t consider potential sexual sin as having any power over him – thus, he talked with prostitutes. He didn’t consider drunkenness as having any power to pull him in, because his Father lived in him as his power source. So he drank wine at parties.

    The problem with all this is that, while holding to a form of godliness (“trying not to sin”) it denies the power of true godliness (Christ within the human, the human relying, Christ living through the human by faith). Instead of Christ-expression and fruit production, we can easily end up with dead works, wood, hay, and stubble, and call it righteousness – ending with a huge bonfire as we stand before the dreck-burning eyes of Christ at his judgment seat.

    I’m not arguing for those who believe Halloween is bad and wrong to start celebrating it. They shouldn’t. If you believe something is a sin, it is a sin for you to do it. Don’t celebrate Halloween if you feel this way, no matter what anyone tells you. Live your convictions.

    What I am saying is that it is easy to start codifying things as “Bad” (Halloween, Harry Potter, or whatever) or “Good” (this music or that music, or often badly produced Christian movies) and then want to set down hard and fast rules for all Christians of what everyone should and shouldn’t do. It’s the “If you were really sold out to Christ” syndrome. Pretty soon we are saying, “Yes, Suzie is a sold-out Christian for Jesus because she doesn’t do A, B, or C, and instead does D, E, and F. Billy is a carnal Christian because he does A, B, AND C, and doesn’t do D, E, or F.” Tsk tsk.

    The problem is we’re setting up our own life as a standard when we say “Christians should do this and do that and not do that.” Well, we’ve got to first ask the question, “Am I living and being everything I should be in Christ?”

    To anyone reading this:
    There is really only one thing that is necessary. Be a Mary. Sit at the feet of Jesus on a daily basis. Eat his Word. Ask him to illuminate the Word – because the Word studied apart from his inspiration is a dead letter. It cannot feed us without the same Spirit that inspired it.

    We are Christ-indwelt, in a living, eternal union with Jesus Christ. A focus and reliance on that union will produce the righteous life God desires for us – but, like the Pharisees and Jesus, it will not always look that way to others.

    We can codify the heart right out of Christianity and end up with a Christian subculture that is like the world with all the good parts left out. Oh wait, that’s already partly happened.

  50. Lynn

    I always remind the women in my small group to look back and see the spiritual journey that God has taken them on and celebrate the “newness” He has begun and continues in their lives. This is truly an indicator of that in your life. Blessings and thanks for allowing us a peek into the journey.

  51. Sharon

    When my kids were small (they’re grown with their own small kids now), I started feeling uncomfortable with the celebration of Halloween. As best as I can know my thoughts and beliefs and motivations, I don’t think it was because of fear. My church wasn’t legalistic. In fact, one year they put on a Haunted House, which I did not agree with.

    I hated Halloween’s emphasis on death and fear. But as a Christian, I believed I should participate in what I can. There are two extremes that I believe both hinder God’s kingdom being advanced in our sphere of influence: we can be too separate and lose our connection to those who don’t yet know HIm; or we can be too identified and lose our witness.

    I love John Fischer’s book “Real Christians Don’t Dance” (the word “Don’t” is supposed to be crossed out, but this comment box wouldn’t do the strike-through). He has a poem called “The Ins and Outs of It,” about Christ’s call to be in, but not of, the world. You can read the poem on-line here: http://www.ccel.us/dance.chap36.html

    The last verse says:
    While way up in heaven they lament these conditions
    That come from changing a few prepositions.
    “Not in it, or of it,” Christian One thought.
    But who is the world will know that he’s not?

    “In it, and of it,” thought Christian Two.
    But who in the world will know that he knew?
    “Not in it, but of it,” thought Christian Three.
    But who in the world watches Christian TV?

    And Jesus turns to Gabriel, shaking His head.
    ” ‘In it, not of it,’ wasn’t that what I said?”

    I have a lot of unbelieving family and when we get together, I try to enter in to their activities as much as I can, but I don’t tell lewd jokes or use God’s name as a cuss word. They are part of my “mission field,” and I try to identify with them as much as I can. But there is a line beyond which I believe I would cease to be God’s person to them.

    I believe there is a middle ground between withdrawing and fully participating. I chose to make fun costumes for my children–scarecrow, Raggedy Ann, cowboy, astronaut, hobo, etc. We went trick-or-treating, carved jack-o-lanterns, and passed out good candy.

    I chose not to celebrate the spookier side. I told my kids that I wanted us to dwell on the positive, as the Bible teaches: Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    I’m all for having fun at Halloween and engaging with the neighborhood. But I stop short of the focus on ghouls and goblins.

  52. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Sharon – a good, balanced approach. We don’t need to be participating in seances.

    That book is in my library upstairs. I dig the poem.

    You also are not drawing lines for everyone. You’re saying what you are willing to participate in.

    I myself liked being the Grim Rapper complete with scythe. I could poke fun at the culture and at the same time be a reminder that “shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming, coming for you and for me.” (old hymn).

    I don’t mind the reminder of death. My wife grew up on a farm/ranch. On a farm, one is reminded of death on a fairly regular basis. Animals die. Weak calves are fed in the porch for days. Sometimes they die. My wife tells me she remembers seeing the light die out of a calf’s eyes at a fairly young age.

    Up until 50 years ago much of America had the same death-education. When a relative passed on, they didn’t always immediately go to the funeral (and now, straight from the hospital). Death was a lot more obvious. That’s why a lot of those old bluegrass songs are about death. I think that’s good for us, to a certain degree, even though Jesus has given us life. We need reminders that there is a day in our life when mortal life stops.

  53. dawngreen

    Thanks for re-posting this year and getting this discussion going. Some of my best memories of this time of year include making all manner of costumes for my kids. We’ve had cowboys, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer, mice, knights and Steve Irwin to name a few.
    We live in a small town and it’s 3.5 miles around the block so trick or treating has almost always been at a local church’s Trunk-or-Treat party. Now that my boys are older we have discussed the darker side of Halloween in light of the truth of the Story…….
    Death could not contain Him. Hallelujah!

  54. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Ron – regarding your post #54. Man, that’s exactly the kind of conversation I hoped this post would get to, and in my opinion you’ve succinctly described what’s at stake.

    For other readers here, I would love for you to re-read Ron’s entry (comment #54) over and over again, to get to the heart of what I believe the Holy Spirit is speaking to us through Ron.

    I’m newer to this understanding Ron expresses there, so he expresses it better, but this is really what my original post was trying to get at. The whole idea of the bankruptcy of “fence laws” and “trying not to sin” and how our fear and shame can lead us to react with the “if you’re really sold out to Christ syndrome…” Thanks especially for always bringing it back around to trusting the in-dwelling of Christ.

  55. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    This has been a delightful discussion! I hope everyone knows that I care very little about Halloween – it’s of little significance to me – but the topic does offer a chance to examine fear, legalism, conviction, motives, self-righteousness, and many other things that I do care very much about.

    If anyone feels at all like Susan suggested that I or anyone else is shaming anyone who chooses not to participate in Halloween, I am truly, deeply sorry. That is not my intent. I honestly couldn’t care less about who participates in Halloween or doesn’t. Be free and be blessed!

    However, I do care very much about the bondage of fear and legalism and the way that it can make us reactive, the way that we act out of fear without even realizing it, and the bad fruit it can sometimes produce (it produces terrible fruit in my own life). I am grateful to those reading who let me poke around at that a bit, stirring the pot to see what comes to the surface.

    It was my hope to get at those kinds of things in this conversation, whether we land on the side of pro or con. If in this conversation we were able to spot the culprit of fear lurking in the shadows – especially in the shadows of our righteousness – then it’s been a worthy little adventure.

    I can’t help but feeling that some replies were a bit re-active (on either side) – not in content (because again, whether pro-halloween or con, it doesn’t matter to me), but more in spirit. But maybe that’s just me. I’m in the journey as well, just trying to figure it out as best I can without doing damage either to myself or others in the process. Either way, I hope that we can all be sober minded about these things, humble, teachable and of course dependent upon the Spirit of Christ.

    If at any point in the post or the replies that ensued you felt your heckles go up, I would humbly suggest that it’s good to pay attention to that. Most times that I get defensive or my blood starts to rise – no matter how justifiable the cause – I find that I’m reacting to something carnal going on in me, something that’s not fully surrendered to Christ.

    This was fun, and I hope there’s more conversation yet to come! Thank you for the privilege of having this conversation with you.

  56. Nick and Susan

    Jason,

    I do believe it takes a topic like Halloween to really break up any ‘well trod ground’ in our hearts that needs examining. I didn’t feel you personally were shaming anyone! The gist of your post (like a well sharpened ‘hoe’ LOL) came across, as you said yourself as a starting point to ” examine fear, legalism, conviction, motives, self-righteousnes” and both my husband and I discussed those very things after reading your post.

    Halloween though is no where near as ‘exciting’ and certainly not a family friendly ‘holiday’ in England, like you lot have suggested it is in the States. Most people ‘groan’ at the ‘pesky’ children knocking on their door here!

    I’ll be sitting by the fire with a cup of tea on the 31st. I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, so wasn’t surrounded by a legalistic upbringing, but have several friends that make up for it! (and would have a fit at the books/films/topics discussed on here)

    Susan

  57. Kristi

    GREAT conversation. My husband and I wrestle with this topic. I think it’ll be one that we revisit tomorrow…I mean today 🙂

  58. Tim Stromer

    I Cor 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
    2 Cor 6:12-7:112 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. 13 Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.
    14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[a] are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

    “ I will dwell in them
    And walk among them.
    I will be their God,
    And they shall be My people.”[b]

    17 Therefore

    “ Come out from among them
    And be separate, says the Lord.
    Do not touch what is unclean,
    And I will receive you.”[c]
    18 “ I will be a Father to you,
    And you shall be My sons and daughters,
    Says the LORD Almighty.”[d]

    2 Corinthians 7

    1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

  59. Tim Stromer

    Hey Ron, I wish I knew you, not the written you, but the real you, I wish, like I wish for the same with Jason, that we could actually sit down and talk, it would be such a sweet thing. The problem is we love this world and the things of this world. We don’t follow scripture or sit at His feet, we instead sit at the feet of our TV’s and nice innocent books. If I can spend time in this world and it does not ever so slowly draw me away from Christ, so as I don’t notice, like a fox in the vineyard, then I am truly like Christ, as you suggested. But most Christians don’t live like Christ in the first place they live to please their flesh.
    Jason is a neat tex book case, he’s the sweetest guy in the world, a really big heart, but he grew up around so much legalism that if he saw Jesus tell someone Get thee behind me Satan, he’d run the other way, even if it were Jesus. And now everything is based on the past of hate and lies instead of the seetness and freedom of truth. I was saved from the horror of self that was leading straight to destruction, He saved me and now have given Him everything.
    Because we’re such carnal Christians the line that Christ draws get’s lost in the grey. If I am drawing lines I totally agree, it’s me. But Christ has to have the ability to say this is good and this is evil, if we can’t hear that, then what do we hear, just more tickling ears? Because He loves me so much He cares what I feed on. I do not separate my self from people, but from the world, there’s a really big difference. The reason Christ didn’t go to a roman bath house besides the fact it would DEFILE Him, is because he knew that wasn’t the only place he could find non believers, they’re everywhere! I was actually laughing in the shower this morning at the obvious feeding of our flesh that we’re all so good at and then try to justify by saying “I’m free” It’s true that we’re free to feed our flesh, but what profit is it?
    I saw what looked like a fat homeless guy sitting on a rock yesterday eating this food he had with his hands, looked like a total slob, and I thought that could of been me, sitting on a rock feeding my flesh, given over to my lusts, coveting most things around me. A little poem/ song seemed appropriate, one that no Christian label would publish!
    Hey fat guy sitting on a rock feeding his own flesh with his hands
    That could have been me, a stark realization of what I could be stands
    Fat guy sitting on a rock, what about me
    A fat guy in the mirror you have become me
    Given into the flesh I want to go wild
    Eating all the chocolate I can heaped ip in a pile
    Hey fat guy I’m looking at me
    Trade the ice cream for a seat by the sea
    Watch the waves roll from the horizon
    By the sea where He sits to teach me
    I go off on my fleshly indulgence
    And wonder why the time flies
    My clock tells me there’s only so much left before we die
    Spending the time on me instead of You
    What have I done with my self I’m through
    It’s the whole power of one that separates the men from the boys
    One is the Body all else is the noise
    We compromise all we do, should be plain to see
    Our lives are for You and not for me.
    Here’s to meeting in the Sky Ron!

  60. Tim Stromer

    We all draw lines, Ron you drew them at no sauces, well can’t I be a light there, can’t I worship Jesus and the ouija board? The answer is no, you drew the line, or did Christ? He’s OK with drawing lines that we are ALL to follow, He just hates it when we do it! What’s evil and good must be understood, it has to be or we are like lost sheep without a shepherd. He’s not OK with that, cause He loves us. Sinning, or the right to sin is not freedom, it’s bondage. Getting to do whatever we want Solomon calls vanity. We are not free to do whatever we want, we’re not even our own anymore, we are Christ’s, so we should act walk and talk like we’re His and not ours anymore. There is a separation between light and darkness, but it’s not so we can hold up and not be an effective witness, it’s because we’ve been brought from us and our side, to Him and His side. We are children of the light, we ought to walk as children of the light, that makes us different, it’s OK to be different isn’t it? But what makes us different? Live verses death, light verses darkness, it should be obvious, but we’ve compromised and made light darkness and darkness light.
    This is the rabbit room cause we chase around useless rabbits that we can never catch anyway!

  61. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tim:

    It has to do with what is actually sin. Is it a sin to walk around with the kids at Halloween so they can ask for candy at the neighbor’s house? That is one of the points under discussion. We are not talking about having sex with prostitutes or shooting heroin.

    In my personal life here’s what I do. I don’t watch television at all, and neither do my kids, because I don’t want the mental and spiritual mindset that comes from it. We have family movie night on Friday night and sometimes Saturday night. My children do not have a video game system. My son gets to play a video game on Saturday for a couple of hours. Most mornings will find me downstairs in my studio doing either Bible study or reading writings of the great Christian writers. I play banjo and guitar and write songs, mostly gospel songs, for a living, with a good band. I eat mostly raw food – salads, freshly extracted vegetable juices and such, because I believe that is what is best for my body.

    Most of the internal struggle I have had has come from playing music. Due to an emotionally rough childhood, I have had damaged areas in my soul that I used to try to fill up with being good at something; now I know, as I have known since the mid-1990s, that Jesus Christ really is the answer to every problem, every situation, every temptation. If I am tempted to impatience, he is my indwelling Patience, riches beyond anything I could ask or imagine, more than sufficient for what I need. If tempted to feel unworthy or “less-than” in some areas, he is my worthiness, my “more-than-able.” Slowly but surely he has been taking over these damaged areas in my soul, because one of my most common prayers in the last twenty years has been, “Lord, work your will in my life, no matter what the cost.” And also, “Lord, when I stand before your judgment seat, I want to hear ‘Well done.’ Do whatever you have to do in my life to achieve that end.”

    So, all I do, in every situation (unless occasionally I temporarily forget) is to magnify and affirm him as my righteousness. I have none of my own; I gave up on my own human righteousness a long time ago. When I forget this principle of recognizing Christ living in me, being my Source of virtue, I blow it and sin, whether through something like impatience or fear, or worst of all, through self-righteousness.

    All this – not watching television (which is not merely a spiritual choice, but for my brain as well), no video games, eating raw food, Bible study – all this has been the result of reliance on Christ. He has directed; I have followed. These choices are not going to hold true for everyone. We all have differing personalities, differing childhoods, and as such, differing needs. Some people will have video game systems in their house. It’s a personal choice, not a question of sinning or not sinning.

    You mentioned, “…we should act walk and talk like we’re His and not ours anymore.” But I don’t deal in “shoulds” or “ought-nots” anymore. There is no more “me” that has to conform by my human effort to God’s standard. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” “For I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God…”

    We’re always putting the cart before the horse. Reliance comes first; we’ve got to know our real identity in Christ, who he is in us, and then our behavior starts to change. Satan likes to flip that principle around, so we want to prove he’s in us by trying to behave. That makes us our own source, which is a short-circuit of our purpose and ultimately of our eternal rewards.

    I’ve got one rule: trust Christ within me. Everything else flows from that. And it isn’t even my faith that does that – it’s his faith within me that enables me to choose in the first place. That way I get no credit for righteousness (that’s why we cast down our crowns at his feet), so I can’t feel proud of “my choices” when I follow Christ. Also, when I blow it I can’t feel condemned, because I know I was never meant to operate as a human self, by itself, trying to be holy by its own self-effort. I was designed as a creature to live in a willing, faith-cooperation with its indwelling Maker. So I just get up, turn from the wrong way (which is what repentance is), and turn back to reliance on Christ living in me.

    John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much ​fruit; for without Me you can do ​f​nothing.”

    And often, when I say such things, people will say, “But the Bible is full of commands.” Yes it is. But the fulfillment of those commands comes through faith, trust, reliance on Christ, not by my human willpower or human effort. To me, those “commands” are really promises. “This is what you will look like if you abide. You will love your wife as Christ loved the Church. You will not be harsh with your children. You’ll do good work, as unto the Lord. If you’re relying on Christ, abiding in him, you won’t engage in porneia (sexual immorality) or pharmakeia (sorcery, drugs). You will have no other gods before me. You won’t lie, cheat, or steal.”

    So my prayer always is, “Lord, do it in me. Make me into what you want me to be.” It is pliability, surrender. And that weakness makes me strong. Again, if I forget these principles, I stumble over my own stupidity and sin.

    So all those “commands” are a benchmark for me. If I see things in my behavior or attitudes that are not in line with those commands, the last thing I do is start trying to pull myself up by my own bootstraps. The first thing I do is admit my human weakness and inability and go to Christ, because without going to the Source I am not going to be able to do a single, eternally relevant thing.

    These are not useless rabbits.

  62. Becca

    Ron, have you read Milton Vincent’s _A Gospel Primer?_ It reminds me a lot of what you are writing here. I think you’d like it, if you don’t know it yet.

    http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Primer-Christians-Learning-Glories/dp/1885904673

    Also, this article by Tim Keller seems to resonate with your thoughts:

    http://www.redeemer2.com/resources/papers/centrality.pdf

    Finally, I noticed you mentioned “Friday” and “Saturday.” Since the days of the week were named to honor pagan gods, do you guys mind using these terms instead:

    Moompa, Tuepsdoo, Wemling, Thermopsola, Fringling, Saterlosh, and BingBing?

    Joshing on the latter. ‘Straight on the former.

  63. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tim,

    As you have pointed out that Jason’s thinking, due to his legalistic upbringing, may be reactionary, could it not also be that yours is reactionary the other way? That being saved from the “self that was leading straight to destruction” has given you fears as well, and that now you are living in reaction to those fears?

    My own experience has been both sides of it. I grew up thinking God was a distant, irritated cosmic policeman, that I was supposed to please him by being good. I was reading the Bible, but missing large parts of what it meant. That culminated in a nine-month stint in a very legalistic church when I was around 17 or 18. I quit because I felt so completely terrible after every service; I knew God had to be more than following rules, and the legalism (I didn’t even know what it was called then) didn’t seem to agree with some things I read in Scripture. I told the pastor I was quitting, and I didn’t know what was wrong exactly but I didn’t think everything they were teaching was biblical. He of course said, “Let us study with you,” which I refused.

    During the next few years I went the other way, into license. I was “free in Christ.” For me at that time, I trusted God for my finances via Malachi 3 and Matthew 6, and to get me to Heaven when I die because “Jesus-paid-my-sin-debt.” So, I walked according to the flesh, though I didn’t even know all the ways in which I was doing that. Some were obvious. Some were not so obvious; I was getting my self-worth from playing music, and from being Mr. Nice Guy.

    The amazing thing was that God was still faithful to his promises. He still took care of my needs, because I trusted him in that area. He saved me from Hell, because I trusted him there.

    But the thing I didn’t know, in all this rebound from legalism to license, is that God has implanted his own Spirit in me, and not just a little tiny bit that might help me.

    I had to go through an inner death-resurrection experience in the mid-nineties to learn who I am in Christ; I had to fully crash on my worldly sources of worth and security and meaning. Until we are dissatisfied with our own self-righteousness, and dissatisfied with fleshly living, we aren’t going to look for the real Answer – Christ living in us.

    So I’m asking you – is it not possible, as you have pointed out for Jason, that you may be living in reaction to fear of living a fleshly life?

  64. Chris Whitler

    There are cute ghosts hanging from my tree in the front yard.

    There is a fake spider web in our bush.

    My daughter will dress as a kitty this year. My son wants to be a Rubik’s Cube.

    We will eat too much chocolate.

    I am a missionary who works with the homeless, drug addicts and prostitutes.

    I could show you actual scary places where death is celebrated.

    It looks nothing like my neighborhood on Halloween.

    But Jesus is victorious even there.

  65. Stefan Winther

    Jason: You’ve just costed me an hour or so reading in here… Thanks!

    Ron: Good postings (especially #54 – except from “If they don’t dance, there will be no unplanned pregnancies” 🙂

    A lot of my childhood and youth I’ve been told ”to give God first priority” and I’ve spend much time being afraid that he might not be first. And what that would mean for me.

    How do you compare God with materialistic things? Or with my wife for that matters. Listening to some preaching from Louie Giglio the other night clarified some things for me. God is not impressed by me squishing Him in on my list just before A and B and whatever He has to compete with for my attention. He want to live in me and me in Him. It’s a way of life and not a choosing of priorities.

    At least in my Church we need to constantly be reminded of the freedom in Christ so that He can fill our hearts and minds not because we fear doing wrong but because we love being loved be Him. But in some way it isn’t nearly as easy as it sound and I have to be reminded again and again (it seem that I’m not the brightest og minds :-)) so thanks to all of you who have shown me this in many new ways!

  66. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Also – Just read this quote that Andrew Peterson tweeted that seemed to address another facet of what we’re talking about here (on both sides). I thought I’d throw it in the mix here:

    “If Jesus isn’t Lord of your virtues, even your virtues can become vices.” –Rich Mullins

    This is in line with my experience of doing righteous things, but with the wrong motivation – motivations that deepen my bondage to fear and the mindset of a servant.

  67. Tammy Davis

    Going back and reading Jason and Ron’s comments I’m trying to gain a perspective on this. I certainly have absolutely NO problem w/Christians who choose not to celebrate Halloween. Like Jason & Ron stated, we all have to make those decisions for ourselves. I simply had a desire to share the positive ways we have joined in on this celebration.
    After re-reading Jason’s original post, I wondered why his words had me crying over my computer keyboard and here’s what I’ve come up with. Over the past 2 years we have watched the marriages of three of our close Christian friends fall apart, all involving children. I don’t say this as a condemnation on these people. We love them and pray for them continually. I’m saying this because being married to a youth/family minister I am well aware that Satan is at work attacking Christian marriages and families. And when I read about a guy who is carving pumpkins w/his kids & wife, creating & dreaming w/them, who is cherishing the simple act of walking hand in hand w/his child, who can be honest & humble enough to tell his wife & kids he’s sorry and be willing to make changes for them in order to be a better husband, father, and Christian then I’m saying YES! Praise God! I don’t see Satan rejoicing in this as a victory. I see God saying “Well done”.

  68. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tammy: If most of us began to understand what happens when we sin, we’d be a lot more vigilant to abide in Christ by faith. Sin is a temporary adulterous affair; we turn from our true inner Husband (we’re all female, in that sense, to God) and toward the tempting spirit, embracing that spirit, and engaging in an illicit way of being. To sin is to be satanically charged, embracing a false identity, misrepresenting God to others, and damaging our soul.

    Marriage is a picture, a shadow, a type, of this inner union with Christ. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, and gave himself for her. The wife is to respect her husband. Since this is a foundational representation of our relationship with Christ, it is completely necessary to Satan to attack it and bring down as many marriages as possible.

    If both husband and wife know who they are in Christ, abiding in him, and both have the vow they made as a permanent part of their inner furniture (“Till death do us part”), they will get through literally anything, and not only “get through” but positively reign in life through the one Man.

  69. Tim Stromer

    Ron – My salvation experience was really cool. My dad and mom got a divorce when I was young, so I didn’t have a dad. So when Jesus became my Lord when I was 15 He literally become my dad in a lot of ways. I didn’t get saved out of fear, I received Him because He showed me Love, and it was really sweet! The issue here isn’t any of that for me, it’s a lack of discernment, we don’t hear Him as well as we should, and because of that we have to rely on our own understanding.
    Jason – “Lord bless my friend Jason, and Taya, and the boys. Please cover them while he’s gone, and bless them when he comes back. Since we lack faith in certain areas, Lord please fill the gap for my friend in every way he needs it. Let him be a man of great understanding, let him pierce the darkness with Your light. Bless him in every way, in Jesus Name.”
    Love you Jason.

  70. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Stefan: That is so exactly true. Christ is a way of life and not a choosing of priorities.

    The thing is, if I’m playing the banjo during a show, I can’t continually be thinking “Jesus Jesus Jesus” every minute. It has to be a subconscious undertone, because my consciousness is taken up in the thing I am doing at the moment. But that’s where daily time with God, and a mindset that takes God into account as part of my mental, emotional, and spiritual furniture, is crucial. Christ becomes the foundation of our whole consciousness, not just relegated to Sunday and our little devotional times each day.

    When we do this, he re-orders our priorities.

    Life is not “God first.” It is “God only.” Everything else begins to fall into place after that.

  71. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason: loved the Mullins quote. Our “virtues”, unless they come from the wellspring of Christ in us, are deadly poison. It’s the serpent or the Savior, no in-between.

  72. amanda

    Ok- to be very transparent here, as I read Ron and Jason’s comments, it’s like you guys are at an entirely different dimension of faith than me. Like I can see the active affection and honest deep interest in Christ. I want to take a box cutter to the film that separates me from where I am and that next place.
    Jason-
    What advice would you have to trying to go from fear to freedom (be it with Halloween, modesty, Hannah Montana, etc…) with my 7 and 4 year old daughters. I am guilty of being their Holy Spirit. I am not sure how to navigate out of that role without seeming as though all I said before isn’t still truth.
    I realize how very far I’ve strayed from original topic here…but I have to say it again, How beautifully refreshing to speak like this!

  73. Shane Werlinger

    I don’t have anything to add here that others haven’t said better than I can, but I have to say that the wisdom presented here floors me. I just wanted to say thanks to Ron, Jason, Tim, and all the rest for allowing me to be selfish.

  74. Tim Stromer

    I have two more scriptures, hopefully to spur us on the good works! 1cor 5: 9 & 10 talks about not keeping company with sexually immoral people, but then in 10 it explains not the people of this world cause then we’d have to be moved out of this world, but of those the the Body! So as far as not neglecting the world that would be crazy.
    Philip 1: “…that you may abound more and more in ALL discernment…” 10: that you may approve the things that are excellent, and that you be sincere and without offense (Do we even believe this!?) till the day of Christ, 11: being filled with the fruits of righteousness…”
    Chapter 2:1-41 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

    Jason, Ron: What’s sad is when we’re led by our flesh, and not by the Spirit, it robs us of fellowship, and not being like minded in this; a very small thing, what does that mean in all the other REALLY IMPORTANT areas, this is a small thing, a matter of a fleshly heart, but it is a symptom of a much deeper shadow of our heart.
    Being of the same mind and heart enables us to sharpen each other, to get us back to the same heart, the same spirit, so we can have fellowship!
    The reason most TV, movies, books and the like are not fitting for Christians is because it comes from the spirit of this age and not from the Spirit of The Lord. But our flesh loves the stuff, so we’re drawn in. We should know the difference between something born of the Spirit verses born of the fleshed but we’ve dulled the Holy Spirit in our lives, and it usually started with something small, just a little thing.
    Example: A friend believed he was supposed to sell his TV, he believed he was supposed to focus on God, and not on anything else and to him the TV was a distraction, and God said get rid of it so he did. Then he later bought a little black and white…now to you and I that’s not a big deal, but to him it was a little sin (In my eyes, even though God sees all sin as the same) but it literally began a stream of disobedience and now because of a little black and white TV (What God said) he has now completely waked away from Christ, gotten a divorce, and his life is really sad.
    All the things that are not authored by Christ (And Halloween is one of them) we CAN participate in, as Paul says all things are lawful but not all things are profitable.

    All the things in this world born not of Christ is meant to take us away from Christ. The enemy is a real being whose sole purpose is to steal, kill and destroy, that’s it, nothing innocent, nothing grey, evil or good. What’s confusing is all us Christians doing things that seem to be mixture of flesh and Spirit. So if my brother lives for Christ one day, then lives in the flesh the next , or off and on, day in and day out, and then he produces something (Book. music, relationships) then we see a little bit of God, and a lot of the flesh, it’s weird, and Christ never intended us to live that way, but we choose that way, and gather others around us who believe the same way, so we can justify our fleshly living.
    It’s not the Spirit that tells us to do things that are not pleasing to God, it is our flesh, but do we even hear God? The scripture warns that in these last days we will become dull of hearing, which we are quickly becoming. But remember it all starts out with a little disobedience, but the enemy is never satisfied with a little of you, he wants it all, and like a fox in a vineyard he will steal a little bit at a time. (he is not patient, but is relentless)
    One of the main reasons we struggle in our faith is because faith comes by hearing, but we’ve dulled our hearing because of our fleshly living, and so our faith suffers, and if we can’t hear the Lord in this little stuff, how are we ever going to hear Him in the big stuff? (Luke 16:10) He who is faithful with little will be trusted with much.
    Jason has the amazing platform, which seems to only be getting bigger. Even though we may effect thousands, he literally can effect 10’s of thousands. Has God anointed us to preach halloween, or His wonderful, freeing, Mighty, Holy Word?
    I Love you so much Jason.
    In Christ,
    tim

  75. Becca

    Tim,

    I’d like to ask a question about the man who gave up TV. I don’t want to be judgmental, and I obviously don’t know that man. Also, virtual conversations are always limited to two-dimensions. However, I did feel a red flag arise as I read his story, and I wondered if you would mind to clarify something for me.

    Sometimes the Lord does tell us to abstain from a particular activity. (I see this as a branch of fasting.) However, lines like that guy drew can also be rooted in fleshly attempts to harness righteousness. It can be incredibly difficult to tell the difference between those two pursuits from the outside.

    I spent many years attempting to cull out distractions. I thought that “giving up” this or that could allow me to focus better on Christ. And my imagination was strong enough to think God wanted me to do those things. Each sacrifice and withdrawal from the flesh made sense, because I thought my obedience could produce greater holiness.

    I was not truly fasting, but (like the book of Galatians describes) I was trying to accomplish redemption through self-discipline and faithfulness. I didn’t understand how the gospel permeated sanctification as well as initial salvation.

    Perhaps your friend’s subsequent failures are not the result of his slippery-slope disobedience… but instead, they are the manifestation of a trajectory of fleshly attempts to “become” more righteous through not engaging in “distracting things.”

    I have lived in the midst of one of the most conservative parts of the Bible belt for almost a decade. Withdrawing from the world to produce holiness is regularly taught as the “gospel” here. I have noticed that crashes into spiritual oblivion (like your friend has experienced) commonly follow the extremism of restraint.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I have to wonder if there is a mercy in it somehow. Maybe God is not letting flesh accomplish the appearance of righteousness. Maybe such “righteousness” would promote a type of idolatry that we could never recognize without disaster. Do you think any of this might apply to your friend’s situation?

    Also, I tend to write passionately, so please don’t hear condemnation in my words. Sometimes I seem like I am more certain than I am, because of my writing style. I’m a seeker also. ‘Asking questions.

  76. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca: Any time we are attempting to use Law – that is, our fleshly self-effort – as a means to become more acceptable to God, or to get closer to him, rather than faith in this God who is Love itself, we’re putting the cart before the horse.

    Scenario #1:
    “I’ve got to do A, B, and C to focus more on God.” So we do A, B, and C. Then we go and tell other people, “You need to do A, B, and C to be closer to God!” And when they don’t listen, we get mad because it seemed to work for us. How dare they not listen. We have proof texts to back it up. But we write them off as “carnal Christians,” not realizing that by our carnal religiousness we are putting Law on them. This scenario sometimes works well for strong minded people with a lot of will power.

    Scenario #2: “I’ve got to do A, B, and C to focus more on God.” So we try, and fail, and try, and fail, and try, and fail. Eventually we slip further away from God because we feel God is no longer pleased with us. This is the case of Tim’s friend with the TV.

    The center and heartbeat of discipleship is God’s love for us as our Father, and our union with Christ, which has been put inside us by God’s grace. The more we recognize this inner union as Fact, and the more we rely on this powerful Christ who lives within us as our Source, the more we will be the kind of people God desires us to be.

    So it isn’t about “No TV, no movies, no books but the Bible, don’t go to the beach (bikinis, you know!), don’t go into a restaurant where alcohol is served.” It is about a moment-by-moment inner choice to trust an indwelling Person, who is there, available, whether we think we need him or not. The thing to do is go to him, not to man-made rules, and say, “Lord, what would you have me be, have me do?”

    Becca, you’re correct in that trying by flesh-effort to keep the Law is the source of sin in the life of the believer. It produces either pride or self-condemnation. “Look what I have done” or “I”m such a sinner, so terrible.” (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!). The Law, which is good in and of itself, is good if used rightly. It condemns the unbeliever and drives him to Christ. It shows the believer what it will look like if he is abiding. Jesus Christ is our refuge, not only from sin’s penalty, but from sin itself – from being a sin-kind of people.

    Preaching Law to the believer only brings a sense of condemnation and distance from God. “You oughtta do this you oughtta not do that,” apart from affirming the believer’s real identity in Christ, will do nothing but drive the Christ-indwelt person away from the very inner Source who is ready, willing, and able to be the wellspring of righteousness.

    We don’t watch TV at my house. Movie night on Friday, sometimes Saturday too. DVDs. If there are issues in the movies, we talk about them. But I don’t have the No TV rule because I thought, “How can I have a closer relationship with God?” I had kids and didn’t want their time wasted, and didn’t want my time wasted, with endless channel flipping, images that last less than 1 second flashed constantly, and the mindset that comes from it. Far from being a choice to “focus more on God,” it was my relationship with God, and his life in me, that prompted that choice. As I have gone along in this way of faith I have seen grave clothes fall off again and again. I’m at a point in my music where I am standing on the brink of seeing some things I’ve struggled with for years finally fall to the ground like a butterfly’s cocoon. Not because I am exerting effort (believe me, I have exerted effort on that account many times), but because I am finally turning my attention to faith-ing in Christ in that area of my soul.

    If we abide, rely, trust, we will not sin. If we are sinning, we are not abiding. But there are no verses that say, “If you abide, you will no longer be tempted ever again.” The main thing is to abide, not try to get closer to God by doing A, B, and C.

  77. Becca

    Thanks, Ron. This all makes sense to me.

    Funny, when I was responding to Tim, I didn’t even think to mention that we didn’t have a TV the first seven years we were married. (For reasons similar to yours.) We rarely use the one we have now, except for educational purposes and weekend relaxation. But I don’t think about not using it. We don’t avoid it in fear. And I don’t feel more righteous because we don’t use it. It’s actually sort of a non-issue, because our energy happily goes other places. Isn’t that interesting how freeing it is to not be bound by the law?

  78. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tim: On fellowship –

    I can see the desire for holiness you have. It is obvious, and that’s a good thing in us if it springs from Christ. I am sure a lot of it in you does spring from that Source.

    But the attitude “Act like me and see things my way exactly and then we can have fellowship” is not really a relationship starter. Neither is “If you go out with your kids and collect candy at Halloween, you’re a carnal Christian.” Assuming others are carnal because they watch a movie we wouldn’t watch is not a good idea. Again, we’re not talking about pornography or any other obvious sin here.

    I find fellowship easily when I first see that Life within myself, and then make the inner choice to see Christ in the other person. Every time I see one of these Rabbit Room people in real life I just love ’em because their desire to live in the love and grace of God is so obvious.

    Fleshly living does not just include sensual sin. Flesh living also includes religious self-effort. That is every bit as fleshly, and more dangerous, than getting drunk or fornicating. Dangerous because the real temptation is in thinking that by “trying not to be fleshly” we can hear God better. If my 12 yr old son was running around cleaning his room, washing dishes, trying to fix my van, in order to hear me better or gain a better relationship with me, I’d stop him and clarify things in his mind. “If you want to hear me better, come to me and we’ll talk.” It is the relationship with me (a sense of being loved and enjoyed, and of knowing that I know he has what it takes to be a man) that needs to drive his doings.

    The entire chapter of Romans 7, followed by 8, is about willing by willpower to do good. It creates evil. It creates a false dichotomy, a false “me” that does evil, though we hate it, and doesn’t do good, though we love good.

    It is approaching God saying, “Lord, look at all this stuff I’m doing” and also pointing out that others aren’t doing it. It is a comparison game the devil likes to play.

    I am all for “whatever is pure, lovely” etc. But it has to spring out of the relationship with Christ or it means nothing. It can look good, make us feel good, make us seem holy, but in the end it’s all gonna burn unless it was rooted and grounded in our union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

  79. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca: That’s the fact. Not bound by “ought-to” and “should” frees us up. Of course, as with Paul, grace can be used as license. But that doesn’t mean we should go back to the Old Covenant. It means when we sin, whether by sensual sin or self-righteousness, we need to look at what we are trusting in – ourselves, or Christ.

  80. Becca

    I love what you wrote, Ron. You have such a gift for expressing truth.

    This excerpt comes to mind from George Whitefield. It’s longer than this, but I will try to clip to the minimal meat. The last paragraph is the key, but it’s rooted in the first.

    “… before you can speak peace to your hearts you must not only be troubled for the sins of your life, and sins of your nature, but likewise for the sins of your best duties and performances. When a poor soul is awakened by the terrors of the Lord, then that poor creature being born under a covenant of works flies directly to the covenant of works again. As soon as he is awakened and senses a need for God he says, I will be mighty good now, I will reform. I will do everything I can then be certain Jesus Christ will have mercy on me. Thus the poor sinner when awakened flies to his duties and to performances to hid himself from God. But before you can be certain that Jesus Christ is in yoru heart, you must be brought to see not only that your sins must be done away with but also your righteousness. You must see that all your duties; all your righteousness all put together are far from recommending God to you. Your obedience and good works are no motive or inducement to have God have mercy on your poor soul. He sees them all as filthy rags and hates them and can not put them away if you bring them to him in order to recommend you to his favor.

    “I do not know what you think, but I can say that I cannot pray but sin. I cannot preach but sin. I can do nothing without sin. My repentance needs to be repented of and my tears need to be washed in the precious blood of my dear Savior. Our best duties are so many splendid sins. Before you can speak peace to your hearts, you must not only repent of your sin, but also of your righteousness. There must be a deep conviction before you can be brought out of your self-righteousness. Is is the last idol of the heart. Did you ever feel the need of the righteousness, not just the forgiveness of Jesus? And can you say, ‘Lord, you may justly damn me for the best duties I ever did perform’ Unless you repent of your righteousness you cannot speak peace to yourself. You must lay hold by faith of the all-sufficient righteousness of Jesus Christ, then you shall have peace.”

  81. Lauren

    I saw Jason had posted this on his facebook, and i wasnt planning on reading it. i had read the post from last year, and know where they stand ok halloween and thought that that was reason enough for me. Also, i knew what kind of debate would stir up from both camps. I knew that i would get sucked in, and old feelings of legalism would stir up again.

    Then Jason told me to read post #54 by Ron Block. I sat in the kitchen and cried. i shed tears for the beauty and truth that poured out from it. I was so thankful that someone would take the thoughts from my mind and put them into words. Not only words, but words from the LORD. Truth. Beauty. Grace~

    I grew up in a family with 6 children. In my early years, my older siblings were allowed to trick or treat, and then my parents decided that it wasnt good for us. So we stopped. However, by the time i was too old to go, my younger siblings were allowed to go, because it just wasnt a big deal anymore. Yep. im the only 1 who didnt get to go. sad.

    However, experiencing Halloween as an adult, and dressing up, and carving pumpkins, and drinking great halloween drinks, makes me feel like a kid again. I thought so much about how if Halloween is celebrated in the right and true context, that it brings nothing but joy to me and my friends. I like to think that my joy brings joy to the Lord as well~

    So when i have a family of my own, i will be celebrating halloween. Halloween in the sense of fun, and community, and silliness and whatever else is involved, and i hope that my love for the Lord will be evident to those who receive my candy.

    At the end of the day, isnt that what its all about?

  82. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca: Great quote. One of the benefits of reading many of the writings of the saints from centuries past is that we gain an overview of what Christianity is, not just the actions and reactions in our Christian subculture. Thus in the old saints we see a real desire to live a holy life. We see the admittal that it cannot be done by our own effort. We see them exalt Christ as their righteousness – not just “paying their sin-debt” but an actual, present-tense righteousness that they can access whenever they are in need of virtue in any given moment. In other words, many of the old saints point us to the Source. As Paul wrote, “For we preach Christ, and not ourselves.” We’re not preaching our own righteousness, our own effort to please God. Christ is “The Lord our Righteousness.”

  83. Nick and Susan

    Lauren,

    You said regarding Ron Block’s post #54 ” I shed tears for the beauty and truth that poured out from it. I was so thankful that someone would take the thoughts from my mind and put them into words”.

    That was exactly my reaction. I’m surprised Jason didn’t say ‘Just read ALL of Ron Block’s’ posts!’ I’ve been copying/pasting them in an email for my husband to read – we’ve found them refreshing to say the least.

    Susan

  84. Tim Stromer

    Hey Becca, sweet comment and question, if we could all season our words with grace we’d be better off. My fiend actually had the sweetest form of conviction, I’ve known too many people like you mentioned that try this with them selves. I fast quite often too, but every time I want to, or feel I “need to” cleanse myself or whatever, and it’s not the Lord, it always ends in disaster! No, this young man was convicted by the Lord, it was just an example of how a small disobedience turns into a larger one. Drugs and alcohol can do the same, but some have such great self control (Actually one of the fruits of the Spirit) that they can drink and it not turn into anything else. But often smoking can lead to drug use, and any type of alcohol abuse can turn into a strong hold, stats are pretty clear on one addiction leading to another. That’s all I was pointing out. Again, that’s the difference between us trying to do it with our understanding, and the Lord simply directing us, but as I mentioned that’s what is lacking, us hearing Him! That’s why many turn to self imposed restrictions, because they can’t hear the Lord, so they try themselves, it just doesn’t work.

  85. Tim Stromer

    Hey Ron, it is tough not knowing each other, we have to rely on what we’re reading to determine what’s in the others hearts. (Unless of course the Lord tells us!!) I agree totally that if I do any of these things in the flesh it’s useless, even if it’s right, but you again drew lines “it’s not like it’s porno” and called it an obvious sin, but imagine the fellow ship your missing with the boys…this would never hold, but yet many on this post have listed positives to something that started out as evil, saying now they can celebrate it because of the good that can be had…that does’t matter, what matters is most Christians don’t hear the Lord, so they have to rely on a preacher to tell them, or yours or mine understanding, instead of having that vital hearing them selves. When the people of Israel stood at the base of the mountain and the Lord spoke and they were terrified and told Moses no you go and hear Him speak, for we will die, we see the same playing out today. Go to Moses, (Pastor, priest, you, me) and they can hear God and you tell us. I don’t want that. I long to have people hear the Lord, the whole point of this to me is that if we think evil things are holy, we’re not hearing the Lord, or if we think something is evil and it’s not, we’re not hearing the Lord. We as His sheep need to hear His sweet lovely voice, or it’s all over.
    It’s like we like being like Moses, telling everyone/ good/ bad, being the judge is pleasing to us, but God is the judge, He wants that personal relationship with us so He can speak with each one of us!

  86. Tammy Davis

    Tim, I’m trying to understand some of what you’re saying, so please forgive me. I’m still not clear on what is evil about Jason or anyone else participating in good, clean fun on Halloween. Is it because the day has secular beginnings/evil roots? In that case there are many things we participate in that have traditions or practices which began based on society’s past superstitions (for example, wedding ceremonies, birthday cakes w/candles). I believe the bride held a bouquet to ward off evil spirits and the bridesmaids wore matching dresses to confuse the spirits. And in your last post are you implying that Christians who participate in Halloween don’t hear the Lord? Just trying get some clarification here. Thanks.

  87. Chris Whitler

    Well, since this is a place to share, like a cyber campfire (which will never take the place of an actual campfire but will have to do as we are all around the world), I thought you may enjoy a little silly garageband song I wrote for my wife for Hallowe’en (I also set up a link to this conversation there). You can use this url

    http://cwhitler.blogspot.com/2010/10/october-song-of-month.html

    or just click on my name up there and find “October’s song of the month” at our family blog.

    Enjoy and happy Hallowe’en!

  88. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    The whole Halloween thing has always baffled me. Maybe this has already been discussed, but what justification do people who dislike Halloween use to feel that they can celebrate Christmas?

  89. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Pete, that is exactly the problem with legalism. It tangles us up in a web, and unless we pick and choose what is “godly” we are soon to be breakfast in Shelob’s lair. Christ-Mass and Ishtar have pagan roots. In the legalism of Herbert W. Armstrong, JW’s, and others they abstain from participating at all. I go with Paul in Col 2. After stating that in Christ lives all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form, and that we are also filled full of Christ (and the Godhead, since where one is, the other two are), and that Christ lives in us as our Head, our Director, Paul goes on to say: ‘So let no one ​​judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a ​festival or a new moon or sabbaths, ​which are a shadow of things to come, but the ​​substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has ​​not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to ​​the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, ​​grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you ​​died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, ​​why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—​“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”  which all concern things which perish with the using— ​​according to the commandments and doctrines of men?These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and ​neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.’

    Religion, that is, pleasing God by self-effortish works, is not the way. The real way is to recognize Christ as our life, trust him to be that in each particular situation, and step out in faith expecting him to come through, to change our lives and so change the lives of others. “For we preach Christ, and not ourselves.” We preach Christ, and his love and power, and not fleshly effort in trying to keep the doctrines and commandments of men. These things have an appearance of wisdom – they look good, because “I’m trying to be HOLY!” And they are falsely humble, because at the heart of religion is a comparison game that is trying to feel above others. We can be ascetics all we want to, and hermits, abstaining from “worldly pleasures,” but this self-driven asceticism is “of no value in restraining fleshly indulgence.” Because in the very act of abstaining from “worldly” or “sensual” pleasures (as we define them, not as God does), we are setting up in ourselves the dictatorship of Pride (as Lewis put it in “The Great Sin” in his classic Mere Christianity).

  90. Tim Stromer

    The fun of halloween, the time with families etc. Do we really have that much of a lack of fellowship? That’s really sad! I had a friend that told me he only get’s to eat with his family maybe once a week, that’s sad too!
    Going door to door, seeing family and friends, all those things are great, who would say they aren’t!?
    Let’s try to break it down.
    Satanic holiday.
    Get as much candy as you can (As a kid I would really haul it it! That brown paper bag would last me weeks!)
    Dress up as something evil (You don’t have to but that’s the idea!)
    Try to scare as many people as you can (How come kids can see the truth in how messed up this is, and we can’t?)
    All the family stuff is not the base for halloween, we can take anything and put family and friends and all the great stuff with it, that doesn’t make anything right or wrong. None of the things mentioned are wrong, family friends etc, it’s what it is.
    Why do we call evil good and good evil? Cause we’ve compromised. Don’t obey God cause you have to, do what He says out of an intimate relationship with Him cause you Love Him. Our kids are really challenged with this today, obey your parents cause you have to, what type of relationship is that? You Love them, show them the truth, and correct them in love when it’s needed. If you don’t model unconditional Love, if you don’t show them the loving Christ we’re supposed to serve, then what is that.
    Horror films are kind of the epitome of Halloween. It’s evil, they scare you, that’s the idea behind halloween, how come we sanitize it and call it good? Cause our flesh loves it! I loved it, I thought it was a kick! But I knew it was evil, even when I wasn’t a Christian, everyone knows it’s supposed to be evil! That’s the whole idea!
    Christ wants us to have a child like faith, and we can’t do it by slowly hardening our hearts. As a little kid most parents have the common sense, as they say, not to allow their kids to go to haunted houses, horror films etc, but at some point we think them babies if they can’t handle it. (Especially their friends can be really cruel here) When we lose the sense that something is wrong that is, we’ve hardened our hearts. If something is scary as a kid and we on purpose expose them to this kind of thing, what are we doing? Keep that innocence, keep that child like faith, don’t worry, the world will expose itself in all of it’s hatred and evil, but don’t you as parents rush it at all…it will come, but pray when it comes they have the spiritual nature to recognize what it is, and know how to deal with it.
    Halloween is not playtime for Christians, it’s a spiritual battle, and too many of us make it playtime.
    The lost souls that are crying out is horror enough….let’s reach them not with compromise, but with unconditional love.

  91. Becca

    Tim,

    I’m trying to figure out how these same standards apply to other areas. For example, what about internet usage?

    Surely, most online activity is not above reproach. On the internet, people pretend to be what they are not through avatars. Predators seek to hurt children. Wickedness is endorsed through political, religious, and social groups. There is deception. Fear. Lies. Hedonism. Affairs happen easily. People are gluttons of materialism. Time is wasted. Innocence is ravaged. Daily, men and women get lured into pornography. And even with the filter on my computer, I can see Fox News’ article about sexy costumes and steamy bedroom tips.

    Even chat forums like this one we are using are rarely pure. The venue has sensual and unholy roots.

    Are we so naive to think that we can use the internet well? Something so thoroughly corrupt? Can we redeem something that time has proven inherently evil? Why would we even get close to something so dangerous?

    I know it seems like I’m trying to be sarcastic, but I’m not. I’m just trying to understand how standards like these apply to some traditions but not to others. And how do you make those distinctions?

  92. Tim Stromer

    Becca. We live in a world where evil becomes good, and good becomes evil, we have to be discerners of all of that through His Spirit, if we are not hearing Him speak, then there’s something clogging that hearing. The internet is not a very good example because it’s not an evil holiday. The internet is like our affection, it can be used for good or evil, that takes a great amount of discernment. Some discernment comes in the form of my family can’t handle any TV, others can watch more, but have to be very careful and discern, and still others don’t seem to show any discernment and watch whatever they want. One of the points I’ve brought up is that the main problems is we don’t seem to hear well, instead we’re left up to our own ideas of what’s write and wrong instead of relying on His Holy Spirit to direct us. Then we make bad choices, feel bad about it, but then struggle with wether or not it was bad or not, then justify it wasn’t, then do it with a hardened heart, that once heard the warning of the Holy Spirit, but ignored it, was deceived, and drawn away by our own lusts.

  93. Lauren

    “The fun of halloween, the time with families etc. Do we really have that much of a lack of fellowship? That’s really sad! I had a friend that told me he only get’s to eat with his family maybe once a week, that’s sad too!”

    Yes that is sad. My family gathered around together over TV. We watched Dr Quinn Medicine Woman, Lois & Clark, Early Edition, 7th Heaven, etc. That is what brought our family together. That was 1 thing that 8 of us could actually agree on. We are by no means a perfect family. We have our ups and downs, and disagree on more things than we actually agree on!

    However, if it takes Halloween for all of us to get together on our busy schedules, or Christmas, or lame TV shows, i think that i am safe to say that we would all be willing to jump in.

    Yes, we all love each other, but life just gets in the way. I am thankful for Christmas, and Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and lame 90s TV shows that bring the now 16 of us together~

  94. Becca

    Tim,

    More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month

    37% of pastors say cyber-porn is a current struggle

    47% percent of families said pornography is a problem in their home

    42% of Internet users aged 10 to 17 have seen online pornography in the past year. Of those, 66 percent did not want to view the images and had not sought them out. (2007)

    1 in 7 children who use the internet have been sexually solicited

    2 in 5 abductions of children ages 15-17 are due to Internet contact

    25% of all search engine requests are porn related.

    35% of all internet downloads are pornographic.

    20% of internet porn involves children.

    The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined.

    Which do you think will have a greater influence on America’s spiritual fabric this year? Internet usage or children dressed like SpongeBob eating too much candy?

    I posit that such a magnitude of evil has never happened on Halloween as what happens daily on the internet. Every second, 28,258 people are worshipping pornography via the internet. And yet, I give the internet access into my home. And so do you. You invite this vehicle of destruction into the rooms of your house.

    How can you justify participating in the internet, something so thoroughly saturated with darkness? Something that hurts so many innocent people every year? Something that destroys marriages and devastates children? (I don’t know a single marriage ruined by Halloween.)

    Sure, the roots of the internet were disguised in technological advance, but one look at the cultural fruit of the internet reveals its spiritual nature.

    Please help me understand why your standards shouldn’t apply to this situation? How can sincere Christians justify participating in such a venue? Why would we even dabble in something so awful? Surely we do it because it feels good. Because our flesh likes it.

    There are better options. We can write letters instead. (The post office still functions.) Or we can make phone calls. Or read books. Why would we even play with a line that represents evil on so many fronts?

    By using it, how are we not calling evil good? Thanks for helping me understand.

  95. Becca

    P.S. I’m not pushing on this idea out of disrespect. I’m just trying to understand why this argument isn’t also valid, using the logic you’ve provided.

  96. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    Okay I can’t help it. I have to ask, what’s the big difference between Halloween and Independence Day? I see Independence Day having the same problematic issues as Halloween.

    For the record, I really don’t have a problem participating in either. I like to go see fireworks and eat barbeque. I like candy and spooky things. Maybe both holidays could be inviting me to worship something other than God, but that’s my choice whether or not I do it, right?

  97. Edgar

    Hey all. very interesting points of view. one of the words that really stand out is FEAR. Personally, Neither myself or my family celebrate Halloween. Why? Well as you all mature Christians would probably know, Satan has no power. There is no reason why we as Christians should live a life of fear if the Almighty is with us. Halloweens origins descended from a very evil history and bottom line is that though it may be a very popular holiday, the true fact is that it continues to be a majorly celebrated day for the satanic church. God has called us to be different from the world. Many times we think that not celebrating certain holidays or doing certain things that seem normal to the world is being Legalist but has anyone ever asked themselves Legalist according to who? Remember that Jesus was different from the rest of the world when he walked this earth and sure enough it led him to death. Of course that was the plan all along, but had he been in fact another profit and not the son of God, the outcome would have been the same. As far as being in fear, i agree that a lot of Christians live in fear. but i have to say that a true follower of Christ should not live in fear but live on this world with the authority that God Himself has given us to overcome the pitiful forces of evil. We have nothing to fear for our Father in Heaven has strengthened us. Bottom line, Halloween and everything about it, does in fact come from a satanic origin and celebrating it today is not correct. Celebrating it would be like celebrating the holocaust: dressing up as Nazis or Hitler. not cool. Believers wake up! of course you will not tell your children that they are going to hell if they dress up because naturally we and our kids are drawn to follow the flow of the world. A lot of people don’t celebrate Christmas because they say that there is not a date in the bible that indicates when Jesus was born. Well that may be true. but the truth of the matter is that we don’t celebrate the day that He was born. at least i dont. My family and i celebrate the event. We know that Jesus was not born on the 25th of December. but lets be honest people. most of us don’t really appreciate the birth of Jesus until holiday season comes around. so though the date of our Saviors birth is not recorded in the bible, i think its a good idea to at least have ATLEAST 1 day. one single day to say remember what God has done for us.

    If you celebrate Halloween it does not mean you are going to hell. But, you are celebrating something that comes from a gory past. Be a follower of Christ and be light upon this world.

    Oh and “harvest” activities are not correct. It just serves as an alternative to Halloween. Especially at church people. Common really? . satan is watching the children of God celebrating an evil day and loving it. Ok….

    Anyway, God bless all of you. and after reading this if you still defend this satanic holiday, then you my friend need to be born again and brought out of your shell and mature. Read up on internet resources. And most importantly the BIBLE.

  98. Edgar

    Hey Jason. It almost sounds like you are mocking the Word of God. in alot of what you had to say. Be very careful with what you intend to say. I dont mean this in a bad way. what i say is that if you were truley a firm follower of Christ you wouldn’t post something that would cause contriversy. anyway may God bless you, your home all that surrounds you.

  99. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Edgar: I’m afraid the Apostle Paul caused controversy wherever he went. His letters still cause it, even within the Church.

    If we all agreed about everything, life would get pretty boring. Much light that comes through discussion would be lost.

    No one has yet addressed the pagan origins of Christ-Mass and Ishtar. Christ-Mass trees, Ishtar eggs, and rabbits as fertility symbols. The reincarnation of Nimrod through Ishtar, conceived by a sunbeam, giving birth to Tammuz. Is it proper to celebrate these man-made “holy days” and have a big fertility symbol in our living room decorated with colored lights?

    If we’re going to make one Law like “If you let your kids go ask for candy dressed as a pirate on Halloween, you’re displeasing God, so don’t,” and tell everyone they’ve got to follow it, we’ve got to follow all the logical implications through and keep them all ourselves. We can’t pick and choose, can’t have a treehouse in our eye when we’re trying to get the splinter out of someone else’s. If it is true we’re displeasing God in eating candy on Halloween, we’re displeasing him with fertility symbols and other pagan holidays. Also with the internet, which according to Becca has much more unholy use than holy.

    “He that stumbles on one point of the Law is guilty of breaking all of it.”

  100. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    “Halloween and everything about it, does in fact come from a satanic origin”

    Exactly the same thing is true of Christmas.

    Your second comment is out of line, Edgar. You are welcome to disagree but there’s no place here for calling another’s faith into question like that, especially when it’s someone so gentle, thoughtful, and gracious as Jason. And at no point has he ever come close to mocking scripture, nor would he.

    The idea that a Christian should not say something because it causes controversy doesn’t make sense. Not only is that what you are doing yourself, but by the same logic, Paul was no follower of Christ. Neither was Martin Luther, nor Martin Luther King, nor virtually any pastor that has ever spoken from a pulpit.

  101. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Edgar, that’s a remarkable statement to me (and it’s not my intent to be defensive, I’m not personally offended by your statement), since I find that almost everything Jesus had to say was quite controversial, and the majority of what Jesus spoke was to lead us to question religiosity and the motivation of our hearts. That was my intent with this post – I assure it was not to mock the Word of God.

    In fact, it was my desire to bring the Word of God to bear upon Halloween in what I hoped would be a relevant application. I think that the doctrine of being co-sanctifiers is important for us to consider here. I also feel, as my post stated, that the application of 1 Cor. 8:7 is relevant here and rarely preached. So I thought there might be an opportunity for us to let God’s word into an area that maybe we haven’t let it occupy much.

    As I read a lot of the replies, I honestly feel like my original post was skimmed over. I addressed the origins of Halloween as well as it’s alleged links to Satanism. I hoped I was clear too, that the meaning of this post was less to celebrate Halloween than it was to reclaim it and participate in God’s redemptive work, and to share from my own journey our initial baby steps in that direction.

    I feel like you missed my heart and my intent in all of this, and if that is my fault, I’m sorry for not being clear enough. But I would be grateful if you’d read the post again through the filter of understanding that I’m not championing Halloween in and of itself – I could care less about it as a holiday – and that what I’m really trying to get at is understanding a more pro-active, intentionally redemptive way of approaching the day guided by God’s word.

    I agree with you that fear is the real enemy, but I would offer (admittedly without knowing you outside of this post) that some of your statements sound fear based to me, especially the shaming statement at the end that draws a line in the sand and sounds like you’re saying that anyone who doesn’t see things your way isn’t born again. And it’s worrisome to me that after I tried to lay out what I perceive as solid biblical statements about our role as sanctifiers that you question whether I’m a firm follower of Christ – especially based on the assumption that posting something controversial is wrong.

    “Eat my flesh, drink my blood” Jesus said, and all but the disciples turned away from him because they were scandalized by the controversy of that statement. I could list many, many more examples – nearly everything that Jesus spoke was provocative.

    Again, I’m not defending Halloween – I just saw it is an interesting topic that might force us to explore how certain concepts from God’s word apply, in hopes that it might sharpen our understanding of scripture. If you feel like I was championing Halloween, I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough. But would you do me a favor? Would you read at least one more time?

  102. Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    It’s always hard to know what’s worth responding to and what ought to be ignored. Edgar, I’ll ignore your willful misreading of Jason’s post. But your personal attack on Jason is altogether unacceptable and unwelcome in this forum.

  103. Claire

    I’m not trying to provoke more discussion or arguments (There’s already 113 comments), but I heard from a Catholic friend that Halloween is very important for Catholics. I researched it more and found out more about this. What I guess I’m trying to say is that even though Catholics celebrate Halloween in a slightly different way, in that way, then how is it evil?

  104. Becky from NE

    Edgar, in regards to your comment about Halloween having a gory past, I think you should take a look at the history of the Church. There is plenty of gore in the Bible, starting in Genesis and proceeding right through to Revelation. Our redemption was bought by one of the most gory deaths imaginable. And then we have the Inquisition, martyred Christians and Christians who martyred others, the Crusades, Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, and I could list many more. I am not trying to say that Halloween is like the Church, except in this area of having a violent and bloody past.

    And controversy? Noone was or is more controversial than Jesus, who said himself that he came not to bring peace but a sword.

    I think that we need to be careful how we speak to others who do not share our opinions about this or any other topic. It is possible to express your disagreement in a manner that is polite and respectful. Even rebuking someone else is to be done in love. And love is patient and kind. It is not rude. As for questioning someone else’s salvation, God is the only one with the right and the knowledge to judge anyone’s standing with Him. He is the authority we answer to. He is the one who knows our hearts. I don’t even know my own heart most of the time, much less someone else’s heart.

  105. JenniferT

    Others are discussing the deeper aspects of this fascinating topic much more eloquently that I could, but I just wanted to clarify a few points of history that have come up.

    First of all: Easter (not the English word itself or all of modern practices, but the commemoration of Christ’s passion, the Christian Passover celebration) has its roots not in paganism but in the earliest celebrations of the church. By the second century, new converts were baptized after a special period of fasting that commemorated Christ’s last days (“Pascha,” held around the same time as the Jewish Passover). By the fourth century, the Vigil had expanded into an entire “Holy Week.” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/holidays/firewaterandrisensavior.html) This was centuries before any missionaries had to deal with Germanic spring rituals and gods (Ishtar etc.). We can happily claim this as the earliest and most important holiday of the church.

    Christmas: The early Christians observed Epiphany (January 6) to celebrate Christ’s baptism, and in the East the remembrance of Christ’s nativity became folded into this feast as well for various theological reasons. In the fourth century – for reasons that are only speculation – the commemoration of Christ’s birth was moved to Dec. 25 to rival and replace the pagan festival of the sun around that time, but the two Christian feasts were closely connected (hence the Twelve Days of Christmas between the 25th and Epiphany). Christmas trees originated in the 16th century as part of plays used in the church’s liturgy and symbolizing the “paradise tree” of the Garden of Eden, hung with wafers symbolizing the Eucharist (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/2006/issue92/2.11.html)

    Christian appropriation/conversion of pagan holidays and practices was a deliberate move by the church, in large part for missionary reasons. The gospel was being planted in new cultures: what practices in those cultures had to be rejected as harmful, what was good, what was morally neutral, what could be in a sense “baptized”? This was a constant struggle for missionaries in the early centuries, especially as Christianity spread across Europe. They converted former temples into churches, both literally and figuratively (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/2007/issue93/6.22.html). When Pope Gregory the Great sent missionaries to England in the early 7th century, he counseled them to allow the people their feasts and festivals, but turned towards the honoring of God: “If we allow them these outward joys, they are more likely to find their way to the true inner joy.” A large stream of the church has always believed that since Christ is the Lord of all, not only people but every part of culture can be redeemed and turned to his glory.

    I don’t know if any of the above is helpful, but let me just give another plug for church history here. This isn’t a Rabbit Room controversy, of course; for 2000 years Christians have debated how we should live “in” the world without being “of” the world. I’ve found that as I understand better how Christians in the past have dealt with these issues (there is nothing new under the sun), what they did right and where they went wrong, I am better able to discern how to handle these questions today.

    Sorry to ramble on!

  106. Aaron Alford

    I confess that I read a lot of the comments first, and then read the post. In that light, however, I find the theme of redemption all the more compelling. Where a tradition (or person) has come from is of far less concern to God as is His redemptive, Creative power to transform it (or him or her) here and now. This is why Christmas and Easter and even Halloween are so beautiful.

    The food mentioned by Paul which was sacrificed to gods obviously had unseemly roots. I mean, you don’t get much more dedicated to the ungodly than by, well, ACTUALLY dedicating some grilled steak to a pagan god! But the thing about grilled steak is that it’s reaaaally, really good. Like… really good. And God knows that. It doesn’t matter if the steak was dedicated to Karnak the Munificent, it still tastes delicious in a Christian mouth. It tastes even better if that Christian is sharing it with his family and friends. It’s shady beginnings don’t matter, because God is interested in the redemptive act of eating succulent steak with good friends. That’s where the steak’s redemption lies!

    Any holiday, from Christmas to President’s Day, finds its redemption in how we re-make it and redeem it. July Fourth can be a day to celebrate the pagan god of Nationalism, or a day to give thanks for God’s redemptive work despite the failings of our forefathers. Christmas can be a day to celebrate Christ’s incarnation or the god of Consumerism. Halloween can be a day to celebrate Satan or a day to celebrate innocence, creativity, treats, and a Life so powerful it makes a punchline out of death, our greatest fear.

    It’s also why it doesn’t matter that one of my good friends was in prison for a long time. It doesn’t matter that what brought him into my life was alcoholism and despair (I met him when he was just another drunk in the park). It’s who he is now, who God is making him to be, that matters. God is taking all the death and self that ever was and making him something new through the power of friendship and community.

    It is up to us, in every moment, to create and redeem in imitation of the Creator and Redeemer, to make a day holy. Thankfully, sometimes that involves candy.

    And maybe steak.

  107. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    JenniferT,

    Not my intention to get rid of Christmas or Easter. I realize what the Church was doing. Just saying, if we’re going to make a rule for everyone out of not celebrating Halloween, we’ve got to get rid of our Christmas trees and Easter eggs, televisions, internet, and live as hermits in caves with a cot and a washbasin.

  108. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Aaron, great points. Redemption. I loved this line: “It doesn’t matter if the steak was dedicated to Karnak the Munificent, it still tastes delicious in a Christian mouth.”

  109. Dryad

    Where is Karnak the Munificent? If his steak is so good, maybe we should go claim him for Christ.
    Just saying…

  110. Tammy Davis

    Exactly Aaron! The Redemption theme, I love it. Don’t want to beat a dead horse, but just some more thoughts here:
    “In the world”- going to the park to enjoy a community pumpkin party
    “Of the world”- using Halloween as an excuse to dress like a hooker
    It doesn’t feel like rocket science to me. (although I fear I might be simple minded in the midst of such great minds)
    I want to be careful in my life to not “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders”. The Christian walk is difficult & beautiful. Let’s help each other along.

  111. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    These arguments have gone on in the Church since the beginning, and they aren’t going to go away. Christ, our indwelling life, or trying to scrupulously follow a lot of rules. The Tree of Life, or the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Paul dealt with it in Galatians, rather ungraciously by modern standards. We can codify “holiness” into a set of rules or realize holiness is a Person, not a thing, an attitude, or even an action. Real holiness is Christ in a man. That holiness is in the believer whether he relies on it or not. Whether or not that inner holiness, Christ, is expressed through the man’s attitudes and actions is determined by whether or not the man is relying on that inner Power.

    It is always a marvel to me that posts on cussing in movies or Halloween have 100 comments. It’s easier to keep a particular law, and then point at people who aren’t keeping it, as unholy, when there are plenty of laws that are going unkept. The man who has quit drinking “for Christ” condemns others who drink. But maybe he is being harsh with his wife, or struggling with pornography. It’s easier, and more ego-building, to argue about rules others should follow (because, of course, we’re following these rules!) than it is to talk about how we are completely weak, helpless vessels, unable to do good in and of ourselves, totally dependent on our God’s Person and Power within us to cause us to live holy lives. It’s easier and more thrilling to point others to our own holiness (“Be godly, like ME, and do what I do!!”) rather than pointing others to the Christ we have found through our total weakness and inability.

    Any time we are pointing fingers at others to keep a Law, we need to be making sure we are keeping all of God’s Laws ourselves. If we are trying to put others under the Law, under “ought-tos” and “shoulds”, man-made or not, we are under it as well. The question is, if you believe you ought not to let your kids wear pirate costumes and get candy at the neighbor’s houses at Halloween because it is a pagan celebration, do you have a Christmas tree? Do you let your children collect Easter eggs? (both fertility symbols from pagan religions).
    ____________
    Romans 2:
    All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

    Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”​

    Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the​b​ written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

    A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
    ________________

    Those who put themselves and others under the Law will be judged by the Law.

    Those who sin apart from the Law will perish apart from the Law, and those who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.

    That is why, in Christ, we have become dead to the Law. Now we have the inner, living Law. Circumcision is of the heart, done not by man’s effort through trying to keep the written, codified Law, but by reliance on the Spirit. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.

    We are meant in the New Covenant to live in a constant awareness of God’s continual, unchanging presence, both around us and in us, in Christ. That is who we live by – that is who lives in us – not by a set of rules and our human effort.

    If I can sum up the legalistic mindset, it’s really that misery loves company.

  112. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tammy: Exactly. In the world, and of the world, are two different things. There are plenty of scrupulous, legalistic people who are in the world and of it. They scrupulously keep the Law, but they have a mindset that accepts and sees others based on performance. It is looking at the outside of the cup, while the real dirt (performance-based acceptance, legalism, self-commendation, self-condemnation) is on the inside.

  113. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Dryad: Redemption is about taking the world back from the demonic realm, not taking the demonic realm as well. They’re stuck with their choices.

  114. Becca

    Mildly off topic, but I’ve thought about this for several days and can’t seem to let it go.

    Jason et al., it has been hard for me to watch gentle and sincere folks (like you) being misunderstood and condemned. But it’s also been one of the most powerful learning experiences I’ve had in a long time. Thank you for shouldering blows in a way that others can learn from them.

    There have been several times in the past when I’ve received strong criticism while attempting to walk with the Lord. I was insecure spiritually and tempted to let this crumble my insides. To illicit words so severe, I felt like there must have been validity to the critique somehow, even though numerous points of counsel suggested otherwise.

    Watching something similar happen to someone else helps me see that the presence of confidence in a critic doesn’t necessarily equal truth. Sometimes people don’t listen well, they draw hasty conclusions, and they react based more on past experiences than truth. They might be striving for good but still misunderstand.

    It was helpful for me to see this dynamic happen to people I trust more than myself. I hate that you have been through the ringer. But I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from watching it. Thank you.

  115. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Ron, I think Dryad just wants to figure out how to get Karnak hired to cater church cookouts. Our catering on this current tour I’m on has been a little sketchy from day to day, so I’m feeling sympathetic to Dryad’s proposal…

  116. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Thanks Peter! I was just about to direct Becca to that post as well, but wondered if it was immodest to quote myself: “Well, as I once said…” 😉

    If you’re interested, I wrote about this particular part of my journey earlier this year when I was unexpectedly deluged with emails and notes from people offended by my song “More Like Falling In Love” (which so perplexed me – I couldn’t imagine writing a song that was more down the middle of the road than one about loving Jesus). In particular, what I wrote about is my tendency to try and control people’s perception of me or what I write/say (I’m kind of a control freak!).

    Here’s the link to that blog: http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/jfhblog/template_permalink.asp?id=354

    At some point I realized that there is what you say, and then there is what people hear, and what people hear is often tainted by their own fear, baggage, etc. (I’m guilty of this as much as anybody else.) I realized that my posts here are so long because I’m always trying to manage other’s misunderstanding – trying to pre-emptively answer any concerns or misinterpretations – in hopes that my heart will be apparent to everyone.

    A part of that is good, responsible, and I hope even respectful (I hope to write in service to the Lord for the edification of others), but maybe another part is manipulative or based in insecurity – because I want to avoid the sting of criticism.

    I’m SO grateful to say that the Lord Jesus has gained more of me this year and that for the first time in my life it feels like my defensive instincts and my insecurities are being quieted like never before in my life. Part of it might be age, but more than that I feel like I’ve had a personal revelation this year that is very much in line with the kind of thing that Ron always talks about.

    My identity in Christ is secure. He knows my heart, the good and the bad, and he calls me His son. That kind of thing has sounded like religious talk to me at different times in my life – kind of pollyanna wishful thinking – but it’s intimately real to me right now.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to go on and about me… but all that to say that I posted this piece expecting some push back (which makes for good truth revealing discussion, I hope! I know at least I’ve been sharpened and learned some things), but unlike last year when I posted it, I didn’t feel “braced”. And when there were times where I felt like the heart of what I intended to communicate was misunderstood, I was delighted – so delighted! – to find that I didn’t feel defensive or threatened. Mildly irritated a couple of times, but that’s just part of human dialogue from time to time, right? 😉

    I struggle so much with insecurity and the desire to be understood as well as liked… This post – if for nothing else – became a sweet affirmation of the work of God’s grace in my life as evidenced by the remarkable lack of shame, self-doubt, defensiveness, etc. that I usually have to navigate.

    I’m no longer a servant (who has to perform and please his master and his master’s friends or be fired), I’m a son, and that makes all the difference.

    However, I’m honored that you felt concern for me (and even felt quite loved and moved when people came to my defense.) Thank you.

  117. Nick and Susan

    Jumping back in to say that I do believe one of the problems with these sorts of discussions is that there aren’t just half of us who do Halloween because of the family bonding/fun time/ etc. we have dressing up and what not, and the other half of us who don’t do it because we believe its pagan and therefore should not be done full stop.

    There aren’t just those two camps that are posting replies. Within each one there is probably a whole host of weird and wacky sub-groups! Is everyone on here truly born again? Are some here of ‘amish’ leanings? Are some just ‘religious’ church-goers? Are there baby Christians? Are there Christians who think they have to keep the whole law?

    I was shocked recently at a discussion on good old facebook that arose after a respected Christian woman published an article on how we should be careful about what vaccines we have because they have ingredients forbidden in the Mosaic law. I was stunned after questioning her to find out that she really did believe that that law applies now.

    My point in bringing that up is to say that whilst I don’t do Halloween myself its not because *cue scary music* ‘Ooooh its pagan and Christians shouldn’t do anything that has roots in paganism’. That’s not my reason at all, because as has already been pointed out, it’s a rather ‘stupid’ argument as so many things have roots in paganism that you would have to live on the moon to get away from it.

    A friend of ours who doesn’t do Christmas and a good deal of other things due to pagan roots amuses us as he goes to parties at Christmas-time that his relatives invite him to, and yet he frowns at us for having a Christmas tree!

    Like here we have Guy Fawkes night, bonfires and fireworks and many people do this whole thing of making a Guy Fawkes and putting him on the bonfire and setting fire to it, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see where that little tradition has its roots. So, all that to say, not everyone who doesn’t do Halloween is from the camp of ‘You shouldn’t do it because of pagan roots’!

    At the heart of this whole thread though is the whole tangled mess of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and ‘checklists’ and fears of somewhere along the line of not ticking all the right boxes. One line Ron Block said ‘It’s easier, and more ego-building, to argue about rules others should follow (because, of course, we’re following these rules!)’. And isn’t that just so, as it always gives the opportunity for someone to start doing exactly that, putting a heavy yoke of burden on their listeners because they follow those rules (of course) and seemingly have one leg-up on the ‘Spiritual’ ladder’ and the rest of us don’t, which leaves us with condemnation instead of a godly conviction.

    Most of my ‘legalist’ friends are coming exactly from the stand point that Ron mentioned, ‘I keep these rules, you don’t, you should change and if you don’t you’re a bad Christian’. It puts iron sharpening iron on a whole different level. It becomes more like ‘I know what’s good for you, let me sharpen you with my sledgehammer!’. ‘We don’t do this, we don’t do that, we don’t do this.’.

    On a different note if this thread goes on much longer we can forget about the 1000th post, it will be the 1000th comment! 😀

    Susan

  118. S

    Wow…I absolutely loved reading this post and the comments. And I am absolutely moved by the compassion shown in so many responses. I love the statement of redemption provided by Aaron. Maybe it’s because the post is one of the more recent, but it really speaks to me. In all things I need to remember that I am free from the fear…I am redeemed in Christ…and I can approach everything in life from that viewpoint.

    Thank you all, for your wonderful insight and the time you spent pouring into the lives of all that read here.

    Thank you, Jason, for suggesting I read this…amazing. LOVE

  119. Cactus Taíno

    I’ve been meaning to leave a comment on this article for the last few days, but I’ve been so busy lately that I was scared I would miss the chance to comment on it. But wow, not only the discussion is still going on, but it is still going on strong.

    Anyhow, before I get to my point, let me say that this is the second article I read from Jason. The first one was “An Angry Man OR: Our Identity As Sons & Daughters of God”, and I must say that you have a gift to connect with people through your writing. I mean, that first article I read, was like you were spying on my head and heart and then wrote what I had in there. I mean, you open up yourself so much, than in two articles I feel like I’ve met you and can say, “oh yeah, that Jason, sure, I’ve met him.” Anyhow, thank you for sharing, I may become a regular at reading your articles.

    As far as the rabbitroom community, at least the one from this article, it is great to see how we can all discuss such topics as this one, disagree from time to time, and still be brother and sisters in Christ at the end of the day. It says a lot about all of you, and that is refreshing.

    I also must say (yes, I’ll get to my point in a minute, bear with me please) to you Jason, that I do like very much your “More Like Falling in Love” song. I can understand why people could be upset at it from the title of it, but then again, they probably haven’t heard the song or tried to understand what you were trying to say with it. I think it is a great way to express our relationship with Christ so thank you very much for that song. I also heard the story behind that song in a K-Love interview you did, about taking care of the house while your wife was traveling, and how out of love we can do things we never thought we would or could, anyhow, great song and great story behind the song, thanks ! (But I must confess I haven’t bought your CD, at least not yet, sorry).

    Oh, one more thing (yes, sorry, I know, I’ll get to my point, but I do feel I must share this with Jason, from someone that is also a people pleaser and that cares more than I should about what other people think, as you can see from my constant apologizing), thank you for being so accessible and approachable. Not only by being open and sharing your stories, but also by taking the time to reply to the comments here, and in such length and detail as well. Again, it is a refreshing experience for me, and more than just a distant fan, I can say that I had “meaningful conversations” with you.

    Ok, now on to my point regarding this article and the comments, but since I’ve written a lot here, please go and check my next comment. Thanks !

  120. Cactus Taíno

    Ok, now on to my point. A lot has been said on this topic already, and I may not be adding anything new, but still I wanted to share what I am taking from this article and all of this discussion. Just so you know where I am coming from, let me start by saying that I am from the “I don’t celebrate Halloween” camp, not out of fear, or out of a legalistic view, or because of its pagan roots, etc., but because I fail to reconcile the idea of being the light and the salt of this world, and taking part in (i.e. promoting) an event that celebrates the complete opposite of whom I am and what I believe. It is what this festivity represents nowadays, and the emphasis on everything related to what is dark and evil, that I really have issues with. (In this sense, this is different from Christmas and Easter, since the focus nowadays of Christmas and Easter is the birth and the Passion of Christ, respectively. If you are wondering, I also do NOT celebrate Santa nor the easter eggs/rabbits, out of personal choice. I am OK with the Christmas tree though, but could do away with it if needed). Anyway, If I were to sum up my view on Halloween, it would be: “”Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Cor 10:23) Now, before all of you on the “other” camp start typing away, let me say two things: 1) I am just trying to be honest and transparent just so you know where I am coming from. I am not trying to judge those of you who have different views than me on this topic, and 2) please finish reading my comment before you reply, if it is that you were going to reply.

    We (me and my wife, but my wife more due to my request than her views on this) used to be the kind of people that, on Halloween night, would keep all the front lights turned off and would retreat to the back of the house. Now, even though we did that, I’ve always thought that there must be a better way to deal with this day, you know, not having to participate, but not having to hide either, which I think is the wrong way to approach this as a Christian. But I just hadn’t come up with a good solution for it.

    After reading Jason’s article, and following this topic for the last week or so, and reading all 136 comments prior to mine, I have found great food for thought from both sides on this topic. But this time my approach will be different. You see for the majority of this discussion, the emphasis has been is it OK or not OK to be a Christian and celebrate Halloween, but the thing is, that is not what Jason was trying to get at (and something Aaron Alford also touched on recently – #117). Jason’s point is how can we bring about a change in the focus the world gives to this day, how we can “redeem” this day (if I may say so), how we can be light in the darkness of this festivity, this whole co-sanctifier idea. A very nice idea, which is helping me see my role during this day from a different perspective, that idea is what I am taking from all of this. I still think, personally, that me and my family do not want to be involve in Halloween as it is, but I am definitely done hiding, I am done giving up this day to the adversary without even showing up to the ring, after all, this is the day the Lord has made, lets rejoice and be glad in it, right?

    Long story short, (I don’t want to bore all of you anymore), this article made me re-think my Halloween “strategy”, and I already have one idea in mind as to how I could do my part to be approachable, accessible and be part of the community without feeling that I am promoting something I do not believe in. It may be too late to implement this year (because I need to do some praying on this) but I sure feel a change happening in my attitude and approach to Halloween as soon as next year at least. Jason, thank you very much for re-posting this “controversial” topic again this year. I can say that is has been a blessing to my life.

    Last thing I want to share with you all is, instead of trying to convince the “other camp” that celebrating or not celebrating is the way to go, how about this idea, the right answer is within each one of us and it is based on our personal relationship with Christ. Can God use a Christian that celebrates Halloween, is dressed up and goes door to door with his child(ren), to bring His word to whomever needs it? Absolutely! Can God use a Christian that decides not to be part of this event, to bring His word to whomever needs it? Definitely! God doesn’t need you or me to decide what is right or what is wrong, that is His job and He does it very well. But it is up to us to talk to Him and listen to Him and get His wisdom as to what is beneficial for our own lives. For some of us it may be OK to celebrate and for others it may not be OK to celebrate, depending on our circumstances, background, experiences, but more importantly, depending on God’s plan for our lives. As long as each one does it according to the parameters and limits that God has set for your life, that is all that matters. We are not to judge one another, but to love one another.

    God Bless and thank you for letting me share.

  121. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Cactus,

    That is the perfect approach. You are free not to participate. Other believers are free to participate at a certain level.

    Redeeming something requires, at some level, being involved in it. Jesus Christ could not redeem us without becoming one of us.

    That doesn’t mean we’ve got to become alcoholics or drug addicts in order to redeem (though, of course, God does use our backgrounds, and often our deepest and best place of ministry is the very steel trap we were caught in).

    But it does mean being involved at some level. For instance, when talking to an unbeliever about the gospel, it is often very beneficial to look for points at which we agree (true of all conversations, especially confrontational ones). When I hear an unbeliever say ‘Christianity has caused a lot of wars” or “My grandpa was a Christian and he was a jerk,” or some other statement, the last thing I want to do is start lobbing grenades back at him. I accept what he is saying as valid; I look for the grain of truth in what is said. Christ does in fact cause a lot of conflict; he came to bring a sword, a divider. And as Christians we can quite often be total self-righteous jerks without knowing it – most often when we are “standing up for what is Right.”

    So by this agreement, I am involved. I find common ground. It is like homesteading a big piece of land in his heart, covered by forest. By finding common ground we fell a few trees, giving us a place to stand and meet.

    It doesn’t mean, of course, that I become duplicitous, agreeing with things outwardly but not inwardly. I’m seeing the truth in his viewpoint, and latching on to that as a starting point. I am not agreeing with everything he thinks or says. But also, I am not shutting him out and saying, “You are wrong; you need to get right.”

    Anything else in life is the same. There are latch-points. We can look at a drunk in the street and know that there are reasons he has gone on this path – bad circumstances, self-pity, sugar addiction – rather than judging him like the Pharisees. He has gone down the wrong road and is lost, tangled up, stuck. Judgment shuts him out. True seeing brings him in.

    Participation in Halloween at some level is the same. Is it a sin to have my son dress as a pirate and play act for an evening? No. Is it wrong to collect candy at the neighbor’s houses? No. These things are not wrong, at all, in and of themselves. By participating, am I agreeing with everything about the day? No. It’s a great opportunity to talk to my kids about the occult, about why we don’t participate in seances.

    If I am in a room playing music, and some people decide to drink too much, am I participating in their drinking too much? No. But I am there, available, for any trouble that may start as a result. Because I am there, Christ has a manifestation-point, a point of contact. We are his hands and feet; for whatever reason, he has chosen to do things this way – to make us be the carriers of his Life to others. “Standing up for what is right” often closes others off if we do it in a religious, sanctimonious manner. An extreme example is the family in Kansas who picket random events with signs that say, “God hates fags” and “God laughs when homosexuals die.” I am sure they have a wonderful, flourishing ministry to homosexuals. Conversions to date: zero.

    Some people have convictions on the other side of mine about Halloween. They don’t participate for various reasons. That is fine; there is nothing wrong with that. Live your convictions; if you think it is wrong at some level, it is. You are sinning if you participate.

    For me, I have found that all things are lawful. I follow the lead of the Spirit, because not all things are beneficial. I will not be brought under the power of anything, because Christ within me is fully capable of directing me, of pulling back on the reins, of digging his heels into my sides. Sometimes he has to do so to get my attention. All in all, he is an able Rider.

  122. Becca

    Ron, as I was reading your last post, a thought came to mind. I’m not sure I can find the right words to catch it, but I’m going to try.

    Flipping back and forth through your examples of law and grace, I felt movement between “self picture” and “bigger picture”. A space between introspection and intentional participation in something larger than self.

    Do you have any thoughts on legalism and self-absorption?

  123. tim stromer

    Paul championed Christ, Christ championed God, Jason is championing Halloween….even though it’s under the guise of freedom, it’s not worth it, freedom is, not halloween. One of my favorite songs is I am free, favorite version is Jared Anderson, the one from Promise Keepers.
    Does God call Haloween good? That’s the point for me. Not wether a Christian singer should waste his time, mybe hurt album sales, offend people, but wether God finds it pleasing? Does He? (Not the fellowship possible surrounding it, not all the things that have been listed that seem good and right to a man, but the event itself, is it good in the sight of God,,,,chasing rabbits is exausting…and please don’t be mean sprited you guys, show the love of Christ…I love Jason and his family, that’s the only reason I’m here. (I can see why you feel such a critical spirit come over so many Jason, I am sorry you have not seen just the light of Christ in us…love you brother.)

  124. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Tim,

    I don’t feel loved by you. I feel not listened to and not considered.

    This is the last time I’ll reiterate this, I hope you will listen and consider my words and the heart behind them. You’re free to disagree with me, but what bothers me is that it doesn’t feel like I’ve been listened to. Nowhere in the post do I say “Halloween is good, let’s all celebrate Halloween!”

    I am not championing Halloween.

    This post was an exercise in re-examining how to apply specific passages in scripture to a day that comes with a lot of baggage. Because of Halloween’s sordid history, I thought it provided a challenging way to exercise scripture, to look at ways to apply God’s word that maybe we haven’t thought of before.

    It honestly is very irritating that anyone would think I wrote this post to try and get people to think Halloween is cool. That would be a waste of all of our time. But if in looking at the day, we can find new ways of understanding the glory of Jesus Christ, then it seems a worthwhile venture.

    Paul, who championed Christ, very controversially did the same kind of thing when he talked about food sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor. 8:7. In all of your posts I haven’t once heard you address this specific verse, which is what the post is all about. (In fact, if you post again, I’d be grateful and would feel listened to if you did that one thing, weighed in on your thoughts behind that one passage – even if you disagree where I landed on it.)

    I can imagine (and in fact scripture suggests as much) that Paul stirred up a ruckus when he did things like talk of eating meat sacrificed to idols and it seems to me that all the scripture you’ve brought to me here about where I’m missing it and not honoring God could have been brought to Paul as well. We know that he was radical and often misunderstood by the very kinds of people who quote him chapter and verse today, myself included.

    That said, I hope you know I’ve wrestled with the verses you’ve brought to me. I have considered them and daily question my motives and priorities. My writing here was an attempt to hold those verses you brought up against the other verses I mentioned to see if they might together lead us into deeper understanding.

    The point of the post is that a day has no power in and of itself. The Lord is Lord of all, even Halloween. And more-over the Lord graciously honors us by calling us to be co-sanctifiers. What might Halloween look like in light of this truth? – that’s the question of my post – not whether or not Halloween has any virtue. It has very little, in my opinion, if the truth be told.

    And you may not intend this, but some of your comments feel condescending to my friends in the Rabbit Room community. As someone who says they love me, I’d be grateful if you were more careful with your words – we are not chasing rabbits here, we are chasing Christ.

  125. Becca

    Tim,

    I noticed that you are championing recorded music. Did you know that the first recorded music album featured Tchaikovsky’s works? Tchaikovsky was likely homosexual. By championing the music industry, are you are intending to promote an culture whose genesis is grounded to homosexuality?

    I can buy Promise Keepers music on itunes. When I looked to find the song you suggested, four or five sensual ads popped up on the screen. Because Promise Keepers participates in the itunes culture, I was exposed to images that were not holy.

    Also, Lady Gaga was one of itunes’ biggest sellers in 2009. Lady Gaga lives a lifestyle that is not consistent with Biblical mandates. But Promise Keepers is embracing her sales venue as their own. They are weaving themselves into her culture.

    Why would you champion an industry like this? Aren’t we supposed to be separate from such things? We certainly don’t have to listen to recorded music like the world does. We can remove ourselves. There are more righteous ways to hear music.

    However, it is supremely important that we listen to music without a beat, because music with a beat sometimes leads to swaying. And swaying can lead to sensuality. And what’s worse, beat-based music is associated with dark cultures that worship false gods.

    In fact, most sins committed to music involve music with a beat. Why would we want any part of that? No, the only safe music is does not have a beat and is unrecorded.

    Tim, this post is obviously on the Jonathan Swift side. I use itunes. I listen to recorded music. I’m not going to eschew the music industry if Tchaikovsky was homosexual. But in all sincerity, I would like to know if your rules transfer to similar situations I might encounter. It seems to me that you have created a system that only applies where you want it to apply. You seem to be picking and choosing how and when these rules apply to our culture. If I am going to apply your methodology to my life, it needs to be 100% transferrable. Thanks.

  126. Becca

    *a* culture
    *safe music does not* have a beat

    ‘So sorry about the type-o’s. Argh. I hit “post” when I should have hit “preview.”

  127. Kaitlyn

    I’ve kept up with every single reply to this thread since it was posted, and all of this discussion has left my head swirling (and hurting at times). I would like to say one thing, though.

    Tim,

    I’ve read your replies to Jason, Ron and other authors in The Rabbit Room. Never have either one of them put the opposing side up against a wall simply because they did not agree with where they were coming from. They have responded with love and grace through all of their comments – respecting what one another celebrates/doesn’t celebrate. Please don’t pin someone with such a kind and gentle heart as Jason. If you love Jason and what he brings to the table here in The Rabbit Room and through his music, then please offer up the respect that someone like Jason (and others in The Rabbit Room) deserves. I do encourage you to go back and re-read the original post, and hope that a new light will be shed on your comments.

  128. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Tim, I wanted to answer one of the things you brought up – I sincerely hope that it doesn’t seem like I’m calling something evil good. I hope that in my post I clearly acknowledged that Halloween can be very troublesome, I’m not trying to justify it.

    Except to the degree that I’m wondering here if God would have me somehow participate in the justification, the sanctification of it in some way.

    If you think I’m trying to call something evil good, then I understand your concerns, but I hope it’s clear that this is not my intent.

    More importantly what I was trying to do is wonder aloud if a day on a calendar can be evil. Right now, I guess I’m feeling like it’s neutral if it’s anything. A heart can harbor evil, but I’m not sure if a day can (does that make sense I hope?)

    I was more interested in exploring the evil in our own hearts of selfishness and self-righteousness. I made a somewhat painful confession that it was the evil of my fearful self-righteousness that led me to completely bow out of Halloween for so many years. (I’m not implying that’s why others would bow out, I’m just saying that was what was going on in me.)

    The Lord may lead me again to abstain from the day in some way, but right now in this post I’m talking about how He’s helping me to see that He is Lord of all. He is not threatened by Halloween or what goes on. I’m sure much of what goes on breaks his heart, as does much that goes on every other day of the year.

    However, I believe his heart is pleased when I humbly try to reclaim the day, give it to him, and make it about Kingdom priorities like my family and kindness to my neighbors. I believe the Lord is worshipped and honored when I am a good husband and father.

    This year the tour I’m on wraps up on the 30th. We’ll get to a hotel, exhausted at the end of this marathon run of a tour, and collapse at about 3 AM, only to have to be up at 6 AM to catch our flight to Minnesota and get home just in the nick of time to take my boys around our block (we’re going as the Pac-Man ghosts – Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde). My flesh doesn’t want to do this – I’ll be exhausted. But I believe it is honoring to my Heavenly Father when I invest in the joy of my children, and our walk around the block is exactly that.

    Do we encounter people in costumes that are icky? Yes, and it becomes a wonderful opportunity to talk with my boys about why we don’t do that, what our convictions are, etc.

    But in none of this am I saying that the darker expressions of Halloween are “good” and everyone should join in. I’m saying that to the best of my abilities to discern, I believe the Lord is pleased with my personal decision at this time in my walk with Him, and in fact it’s my belief that He led me to it, for the reasons stated in my post.

    Maybe that will change. Lot eventually left Sodom and Gomorrah. But for now, this is my understanding of God’s will. It is not a fleshly justification to do something I want to do carnally. It is not something I expect everyone else to do. And it’s not a stamp of approval for everything that is Halloween.

    I hope, that in some small way, in my tiny corner of the world I’m reclaiming ground, by God’s grace, that was forfeited to the darker goings on of Halloween. In Jesus name, I will take the little corner I’m entrusted with – which is about the size of 5 human hearts – and hopefully make something good of it.

    I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear in my original post.

  129. Aaron Roughton

    Jason, this is a fantastic post. The time you have taken to patiently respond and stay engaged is amazing and rare. And the unity shown by the other Rabbit Room contributors is another glimpse into the Christ centered community we experienced with all of you at Hutchmoot. Thanks for this example.

    By the way, I’m ditching my Russ Ramsey costume this year to dress as the Nationwide Insurance guy. A blue phone and a suit. Easy. And Lindi is going to be Flo, the Progressive Insurance girl. Awesome. (No offense Russ, but it just takes too long to properly feather the wig.)

  130. kim watkins

    “I once had a fellow tell me that he had burned a picture of me at a Halloween devil-worship ritual. He felt bad about it later, which is to his credit.”

    Oh, Jonathan. Thank you for this.

  131. Tammy Davis

    Becca, you’re right. I mean, where does it end?
    Tim- “Paul championed Christ… Jason is championing Halloween”. Yikes, that’s quite an accusation. You imply Jason is not championing Christ. And if that’s what you really are implying simply because you disagree w/him, then well, I’m sorry but you’re wrong. And I believe it’s been made pretty clear here that no one is trying to “convert” all Christians to Halloween. Nor is anyone using freedom as an excuse for sinful behavior.
    True Righteousness means being in a right relationship with God. If it were about following a strict set of rules & regulations w/a group of people who looked, acted, and thought exactly like me then I would go join cult. That would be simpler & require less thinking on my part.
    A wise preacher said this & it’s written in my Bible next to Matt 5:17-20 “The problem with legalism isn’t that it loves the Law too much, but that it loves people too little” I’m sure you love people, but please consider how you present the Gospel. Your good intentions may be mistaken as judgmental and condescending. Especially when it’s directed to those who are fellow Christ- followers.

  132. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tammy,

    My wife’s grandmother used to tell her:

    Make your words soft and sweet.
    You never know
    At the end of the day
    Which of them you’ll have to eat.

    Advice I generally follow, but not always.

    Sometimes there is a time for hard words. If we want to go by the example of Jesus, the hard words were reserved for self-righteousness. For Paul as well, his harshest words were to the Galatians. With the Corinthians and their license, Paul went ahead and called them saints and said a bunch of other good stuff before he got into the issues of behavior. With the Galatians, he didn’t wait long to begin making his point; verse 1 sets up the rest of his controversial and unsettling discourse:

    Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    He sets up by saying, “Man did not make me an apostle; God did. Jesus wasn’t raised by man’s effort; he was raised by God. It was Jesus who gave himself for our sins, so that he (not man) might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (not man’s will). To whom be glory for ever and ever (not to man, ever).”

    After that, he says, essentially, “Have you lost your minds, you idiotic Galatians? You think that Jesus died so you could go back to rule-keeping?”

  133. Kaitlyn

    One more thing, then I’m done here.

    Jason,

    Your original post was very clear, I think, on what point you were trying to get across. Thank you for being so vulnerable and transparent. Thank you for letting us into your head, heart, and home, essentially. I realize that it may not always be the easiest thing to do. Let’s just take some comments on this post for example. Thanks for ‘putting your neck on the line’, and shedding some light on what many view to be a dark holiday. This post was a great reminder that God can still be glorified amidst the darkness. He is in the darkness afterall, right? Perhaps he hangs in those dark alley ways the most – waiting to catch unsuspecting passers and reel them in – and pour light into their lives that they wouldn’t otherwise experience.

    Like has already been said…Maybe your house is the light in the dark alley way on Halloween. Maybe you can be Jesus to someone on Halloween by dressing up and handing out candy, and shining His light in the dark places of Halloween. Maybe it’s just by giving an extra smile, or handing out copious amounts of candy. Or maybe a simple “God Bless You” would do, too. I bet that isn’t said that often on Halloween. It’s about being salt, letting your light shine, and being in the world, but not of it.

  134. Heidi

    That was a lot of comments. Wow.

    I just wanted to say that when it comes to Halloween I know there are a lot of things that can scare Christians off from getting involved in celebrating (reasons I understand). However, is there any other day of the year that your neighbors, whether they know you or not, come to your door and ask you for something? It’s such a GREAT day to get to know the people around us that we are called to love and care for. For the last four years my family has decorated our garage and offered hot cider, cocoa, coffee and pumpkin bread for all the chilly trick or treaters and their parents. We set up space heaters and give people a chance to warm up and fill up. And we get to meet and talk to our neighbors that otherwise would be driving their cars straight into their garages and avoiding all conversation. I mean, most people don’t even make eye contact when they are getting their mail or taking our the trash anymore. It’s an individualistic society…except for this ONE day when people come to meet you. I think it’s a fabulous day and I look forward to it every year.

    I wrote a blog post on this very idea a few years ago. For the long version, you can find it here: http://rushartist.wordpress.com/2007/11/01/whats-the-deal-with-halloween/

  135. Thistlefur

    Ah, I love the respectful and God-honoring conversation at the Rabbit Room–it’s such a contrast to the mud-slinging we have to endure these days… Thank you to Jason and Ron and Becca and ALL of you for allowing the Holy Spirit to control your responses so His fruit can be seen and God can be glorified. 🙂 Despite having spent WAY too much time here, it’s been a good read! 🙂

    While all of our holidays have pagan elements (as part of God’s redemption of imperfect things–even us!), it behooves us to remember that Nov. 1 is All Saints Day, a day set aside to remember and honor the sacrifice of Christians who have died for their Lord (Ashley mentioned this WAY back in #11 😉 ). In an era where more brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted for their faith than ever before, we should put some more effort into remembering Nov. 1. Ancient and Jewish practices begin a celebration the evening before (Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Epiphany/12th Night, etc.), thus Halloween, Hallowed Eve, a time to remember that, yes, there is death and sacrifice but God triumphs over evil. Don’t let the dark side take over the meaning of the day. Here’s some good research on the origins (in a paper format for the lovers of literacy or a comic strip format for the more visual… :D)

    http://www.drbilly.com/shed/Celebrations_files/hpamphlet_1.pdf [white paper]
    http://www.drbilly.com/shed/Celebrations_files/htract_1.pdf [comic strip]

    Also, someone else mentioned John Fischer above, and he has a great post on this topic, too, which echos some of our points:

    —–
    Halloween: Trick or Treat?

    What will you do this Halloween? Fearing the worst on an evening many Christians believe celebrates the wiles of the devil, some will choose to have no part in the traditional neighborhood trick-or-treating that accompanies the 31st of October formerly known as All Hallow’s Eve.

    This boycott of neighborhood dress-up and doorbell ringing is relatively new on the Christian scene, at least in my experience. As a child in an evangelical Christian home, I was right in there with all the other gremlins and witches on our block trying to scare as many Snickers bars as I could out of our neighbors’ stashes and into my bulging pillow case. And you can be sure that every home on my block was always duly prepared to be scared by us.

    The anti-Halloween movement among Christians didn’t catch my attention until after my own kids had outgrown this annual neighborhood siege. So you can imagine the shock and surprise on the face of the pastor’s wife who came up to me after a talk on Christian worldview I gave last November and wanted to know what I did with my children on Halloween. When I told her I helped them into their costumes, put on a monkey mask, turned up “Ghostbusters” on the stereo, and hit the streets with the express purpose of scaring all the neighborhood ghosts and goblins before they scared me, her face turned white. Apparently what was okay for my parents in 1958 and me and my wife in 1988 was no longer acceptable Christian behavior in 1998.

    The more acceptable Christian thing to do on Halloween now is to close up the house and have an alternative party for our kids at church. This is usually around a harvest or a biblical character theme–no ghosts or goblins allowed. Though I understand how this safer alternative came to be, I wonder whether a blanket boycott is the only way to handle this controversial holiday. Is this just one more time when we Christians isolate ourselves from culture for religious reasons apparent only to us? Have we really thought through what our dark houses are saying to the rest of the block? While we’re off having our alternative party, I can hear the neighborhood kids shuffling by our house, saying, “Don’t go there, they don’t give anything.” Is this what we want to be known for in the community–a dark house on the one night you can be guaranteed neighbors will visit?

    My kids are older now but when they were little, Halloween in the Massachusetts town they grew up in was nothing short of an informal neighborhood progressive party. I’d start out with my immediate neighbor and his kids and then run into other parents standing outside other houses. Soon we were a small crowd making our way up and down the street while tired little feet slogged through the fallen leaves of October. By the time the kids had filled their bags, I had been in and out of a number of homes, met people I never knew, started some relationships and renewed others. Meanwhile my wife was home dumping huge handfuls of candy into open bags, raving over costumes, inviting kids to come back and visit whenever they wanted, and entertaining other parents that I missed. It was a major community event and opened many doors for fruitful relationships we were able to continue the rest of the year.

    Not to diminish the reality of spiritual warfare–something to be taken seriously by all believers–but the last day of October is not a spiritual battle any more than any other day. If Satan comes out on Halloween, he doesn’t go back into hiding the next morning. Whether the origins of Halloween are pagan or otherwise, what we have today is a culture-wide event that glorifies pretending more than the underworld. It’s actually one holiday that adults haven’t taken over–the one time kids get to “be” whatever they want to be. Our participation–or lack thereof–in such a popular, cultural event is only indicative of our ability to have a good time with silliness, not a measure of our standing in a fight between good and evil. If Satan wins anything on this day, he may win more through the darkened homes of Christians than anything else.

    The truth is, Christians never have anything to fear–on this night or any other–or God is not God and His promises are not true. What we should be concerned about is a retreat from our homes, when, more than any other time, it’s important to be there with our lights on and a bowl full of treats near the door. If there is a darkness on Halloween night, I, for one, am going to at least make sure that it will not be on my block, at my house.

    © by John Fischer for CCM Magazine, October 1999 issue.
    John Fischer, author, singer/songwriter, speaker, can be reached at http://www.fischtank.com
    —–

    (what’s the record for number of comments, lol? 🙂 )

  136. Jenny

    Holy smokes. Ron Block, Jason, and Becca, too– THANK YOU!!!!! What an interesting thread to spend part of a Wednesday evening reading.

    I’m pretty certain you are all familiar with Dallas Willard’s incredible book, The Divine Conspiracy. I read all the time, and I’d have to say this book was utterly pivotal. When I’m 80, I’ll still look back at the autumn of ’10, and thank God every day that He brought Dallas Willard into the world, and that he wrote the teaching that he did.

    Ron Block, I wish I could have you over for dinner! I’d love to pick your brain. If you’re ever in Lawrence, KS, do drop in.

  137. Heidi

    Thank you so much! I was raised in a house where Halloween was the devils birthday and we were taught to avoid anything that had to do with the holiday. I never questioned my parents then and I can’t say as I feel that I missed out. We lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so there wasn’t really ever an opportunity to trick-or-treat.
    Now that I’m a parent though, something about the holiday has held an appeal to me…maybe just because its another exuse to do something fun with kids. But I’ve felt such guilt at what little “observance” we have given the day. Your article really gave me a new perspective and I appreciate you sharing. I also greatly appreciate what you said about being controlled by fear. Unfortunately fear consumes so much of my thoughts, my day and my life. I know it’s something that I have to continually hand over to my loving Father and pray for His peace. But it’s encouraging to know I’m not the only one who fights this battle and to know there is hope. Thank you again for sharing your walk, God bless.

  138. Jenna

    WOW! I have to say, my sister sent this to me and I am really glad she did. I grew up doing Halloween. I did not grow up in a Legalistic home, but my dad was a pastor. We didn’t do the ugly, gory, death thing. When my husband and I married, we were living outside of Boston and the church we were involved with held that there was so much evil attached that WHY would we want to participate in it? We were told (which I am unsure if there is truth in it or not) that All Saints Day was when the Christians would gather and Halloween started as a day when others would scare the Christians on their way to visit with friends and family. Something to poke fun at them. I got this. I understood. We had our daughter and son and always abstained. My daughter had a hard time understanding (why wouldn’t we want to have fun dressing up and getting candy?!) and I always had a hard time explaining it. A child cannot be expected to understand what the past meant to the day. All she understood was that we didn’t want her dressing up and giving out/getting candy. I felt really legalistic, to be honest. I felt like it wedged us. Pinned us as old crotchety parents. I wasn’t old or crotchety. We wrestled with this, moreso not wanting to displease those who advised us it was ‘wrong’ more than feeling personally convicted.

    By the time our oldest was 5, we had moved to a different state, away from that church, though we still love the people, and became friends with the pastor and his wife at our new church. They asked us why we didn’t participate. We shared our regurgitated reasons. I’ll never forget the day when God took away the burden and said, “I’m bigger than Halloween.” Our pastor and his wife asked us, “What other day of the year do you have the ability to have every one of your neighbors come to your door so you can bless them and laugh and greet them with the love of Jesus? How loving is it to turn off the lights and not answer when the world is knocking at your door? Why should people who are lost be turned away because you’ve given more credence to the believed evil of the day than to overcoming it?”

    Suffice it to say, we had a hard time arguing that. God is bigger than the day. Our friends still hold to ‘not participating’ but fear seems to be the root rather than the Gospel.

    I, too, would never seek to tell someone who genuinely feels convicted not to participate that they should. But I would encourage each of us to search our hearts as to why we’re hiding away with our lights off when the world is knocking on our door…?

    Jason and Ron (those were the ones I read the most)…there is such grace and love in your posts and I truly was blessed by reading it. Thank you for broaching a hot topic like this one. I am in agreement that it is a ‘meat issue!’

    May you bless the world this Halloween with the light of Christ! All of you! 🙂

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