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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Christianity, Halloween and 2012 Pumpkins

As happens almost every year around this time, being a bible teacher, I get asked for my opinion about Halloween and whether Christians should partake.  Usually, the underlying reason for asking is to justify their own views on the topic, views almost always against Christians celebrating a day with pagan origins.  I always try to answer their question from a couple of different angles.  First and foremost, the Bible needs to be the primary source for my argumentation, and indeed, the Bible speaks specifically about those things that are not necessarily sins, but viewed as sin by an individual in Romans 14.

Paul writes about those who see certain acts as sinful, and therefore off-limits, whereas others see them as nothing for concern.  In the context of Romans 14, and further in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul addresses the topic of food.  Should food involved in pagan rituals be consumed by Christians.  Paul’s answer both times is a strong, definitive, maybe.  He hinges his argument, not on the value of the food itself, but rather on the hearts of those around.  At the end of the day, there are no other gods, no spirits, nothing beyond the one true God.  Just because someone slaps a Baal label on a piece of meat does not change the physical cut of meat in any way that makes eating it harmful or dangerous, either to body or soul.  However, if someone sees that Baal label, and ascribes some value to it, for the sake of the one who ascribes that value, Paul urges believers to abstain, not on account of the meat, but on account of the person.  If a person sees the act, in this case eating meat sacrificed to idols, as a sin, then the Christian ought not partake, for it becomes a sin to him on account of the weakness of his faith.  By extension, the same principle can be applied to Halloween, and this is my response to those who ask.

If you think participating in Halloween is a sin, then for you it is, and you ought not participate.  However, I also try to assuage their concerns by pointing out some of the logical inconsistencies in their philosophy.  Anyone who has researched the origins of Halloween knows that it comes from a pagan belief among the Celts concerning evil spirits and the dead come back to haunt the living.  But let us reasonably ask ourselves, does anyone, anywhere, in your community practice this part of Halloween?  I would argue that, aside from a few outliers deeply immersed in the occult, no one in our community even thinks about the pagan origins or meaning of Halloween; much less even knows it.  If that is indeed true, and I believe it is, how strong is the case that Halloween, as practiced today, is a pagan ritual?  As practiced today, Halloween is a time for kids to dress up, get candy, and have a fun night of pretending to be their favorite alter-ego.  I can see no harm in that.  For adults, it is often a time of drunkenness and sexual immorality.  But let’s be honest, what makes this particular night of debauchery any different from any other night when the same people do the same thing, just without costumes?

But what about being so different that people notice something about us?  Doesn't it hurt our message when we look like the world?  Perhaps.  But certainly no more than the rates of fornication, divorce, addiction and abuse that mirror the rest of the world.  At the end of the day, Halloween does not seem to even be in the top-ten list of things the church needs to address to reform her image.

When Paul was thrown in prison, he wrote about those who proclaimed the gospel as a means to cause trouble for him.  I imagine people would ask, "Why is that guy over there in prison," at which point someone would pipe up that, "He thinks that some Jewish vagabond was God incarnate, who died and was raised from the grave for the sins of men," at which point all would have a hardy laugh.  Paul said that their speaking the gospel, even if meant for his harm, was all the better, so that by all means the gospel would be preached.  What if we took the same approach with this supposedly pagan night called Halloween, but in the reverse?  What if, instead of harping on pagan origins of the celebration, we take that which was meant for evil and use it for good.  What if we use it as an opportunity to engage the surrounding community, those who would never even consider attending a Sunday service, and present the gospel to them?  What if we could look past some long-forgotten pagan ritual and see just another night, and with it, another opportunity to offer the hope of the world to them?

When it comes down to it, yes Halloween has pagan origins.  If you want to avoid it, and the potential we have on its account, because of some ancient history, fine.  If you see it as a sin, by all means, do not participate.  But, consider that you live in a pagan society, and that much of what you take for granted is of pagan origin as well.  If you shun Halloween, then I encourage you to also refuse to say the names of the week, all of which are rooted in the worship of pagan Gods.  Sun-day; a day devoted to the sun god.  Mon-day, a day devoted to the moon.  Tues-day; from norse mythology’s Tyr (Mars), the same as Wednes-day, Woden’s day, for Odin, the Norse all-father (Mercury).  Or Thurs-day, Thor’s day (Jupiter).  Fri-day, for Frig (Freya and/or Venus).  Satur-day, a day devoted to Saturn.  To be fair, let us not stop there.  If Halloween and its pagan origins are evil, then let us be consistent and never claim to have made or desire a fortune, or that we have in any way been fortunate, considering that word comes from the root of the pagan goddess Fortuna.  And while this may all seem laughable and absurd, and has put you in a jovial mood, let me caution you against being jovial, whose roots speak of being influenced by the god Jupiter.  Let us certainly not look into the names of things we like, such as Christmas (ye Protestants) or Easter!

The point is that no one disputes the pagan origins of Halloween.  But let us understand that those roots, just like the roots of countless words and traditions in our language and culture, have been lost to the dark depths of time, and are only of academic interest.  Rather than focus on ancient history, let us acknowledge that we live in a pagan, secular society.  We are not going to change anyone’s minds about Jesus by focusing on the minutiae of archaic lore.  Instead, if we realize that there are no evil spirits, and no other gods, we can use times like Halloween to share the gospel with people in a non-confrontational and culturally appropriate way.

I wanted to carve some pumpkins, much like I did in 2008, but this time to tell a story.  As you might imagine, and to my frustration, the internet has an unsurprising dearth of Christian-related pumpkins.  Sure, there are a few sad examples of things people have done, but nothing on the scale and detail I envisioned.  With that in mind, I set about to create four new patterns to tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, return, and reign seated on the throne of David.

To that end, here is my 2012 Halloween contribution for the sake of the gospel.  These pumpkins offered me an outlet to share the gospel with dozens of people, many of whom had never heard the story before.   While I could wish that I did not offend my brothers and sisters in Christ on account of Halloween, I am happy to have been able to use this opportunity to engage my community for the sake of the gospel.

Jesus Christ Crucified

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and raised up on the third day.

Luke 9:22
But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

The Empty Tomb

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
Luke 24:1-7

Son of Man Coming on the Clouds

I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Luke 21:27

Worshiping the King

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." 
Revelation 7:9-10


Blogger Tommy Woolley said...

Extremely impressive carvings. I like your post.

So much of our religion is how we act in our daily lives. As you said, if for you celebrating Halloween is a sin, you should not do it. The Bible is very much application as much as interpretation. Sometimes it seems like others in our religion are more focused on applying their practice of religion on others. Thus the entire holiday is deemed inappropriate by those who chose not to celebrate it. In fact some of us are even looked down on for participating.

You should check out paragraphs 6 & 7 they are duplicates.

11/01/2012 6:07 PM  
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