by Gordon Dalbey
You yourselves used to be in the darkness, but since you have become the Lord’s people, you are in the light. So you must live like people who belong to the light…. Have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do, the things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light…. And when all things are brought out to light, then their true nature is clearly revealed…. So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people…because these are evil days. (Ephes. 5:8-10, 15)
AMID BLACK WITCH HATS AND PUMPKINS, the darkness of fall crept in with the trembling voice of a pastor, calling me from his hospital bed the morning after Halloween.
The night before, Jeff’s (not his real name) church was “celebrating” their annual “Haunted Sanctuary Night.” As part of the “decoration,” he had been tied up and hung in a fake noose from the rafters. Below, church members and their children stepped warily through a black-walled “graveyard” maze of pews while costumed skeletons and ghosts jumped out at them. Amid spooky howling and morbid organ music, suddenly Jeff’s supporting noose rope inexplicably snapped and he fell twenty feet, striking his head on the concrete floor and narrowly escaping death.
During our phone conversation, I told him how thankful I was that he survived his fall. As I realized how much I cared about Jeff, however, I knew that brotherly love required truth as well as grace.
“As a Christian leader,” I urged him, “the enemy of God, who animates Halloween, is after your life. Please, brother,” I begged, “don’t hand it to him on a silver platter. This is not a matter of entertainment but of life and death!”
HALLOWEEN VS CHRISTMAS
From drugstore racks to office parties, this annual invasion of sinister masks and images heralds a showcase for evil, as deliberately dark spirituality takes center stage among us.
The graphic contrasts frame the contest here between Halloween and Christmas, that is, between the gods of the world and the God revealed in Jesus: death, dark masks, and the effort to conceal vs. birth, bright lights, and the effort to reveal; “pranks” and bad deeds as powers of destruction are given rein vs. gifts and good deeds as the saving power of the Creator is extended.
Pastor Jeff’s fall reveals the Great Lie of Halloween: that within its costumes we can reflect the persona of evil, but evil spirits cannot reflect from within us. The Great Truth of Christmas, meanwhile, is that by the light of Christ in us we can reflect the Holy Spirit of God.
DRUID NEW YEAR
Not long ago, Halloween was seen simply as an occasion for children to have fun dressing in costumes and hitting up neighbors for candy. More recently—with its office parties, racy outfits, and even parades—adults have taken over the occasion, co-opting its innocence and fostering a pagan revival in these times.
The word Halloween comes from an abbreviated “all Hallows Eve,” the day before All Saints’ Day, instituted when the early Church decided to commemorate past Christian heroes of the faith. Bowing to pagan sensibilities—even as Jeff to his spiritually blind congregation—the nascent ancient Church coordinated All Saints Day with November 1st, New Year’s Day on the ancient Druid calendar in Western Europe.
On their October 31st New Year’s Eve, Druids extolled the “Lord of the Dead,” who was believed to summon on that night the spirits of all wicked persons who had died in the previous year and been condemned to live in animals—as the proverbial black cat. On this one night, it was believed, those departed spirits returned to their original territory expecting to be honored by the living with gift offerings. Otherwise, those evil spirits would spread curses, cast spells, cause damage, and torment the populace.
Hence, “trick or treat.”
In a secularized culture like ours, this shameless concession to make Christianity more palatable to pagans has only accomplished the very opposite, making pagan spirituality more palatable to Christians. Saints, it would seem, are not as much fun to emulate as demons.
Entities in the spirit realm are not subject to human agency. They don’t cease to function simply because our Western materialistic worldview can’t accommodate them.
HOMAGE TO EVIL
At its root, therefore, Halloween is a wolf in sheep’s costume, an occasion which purports to honor Christian saints but which in fact pays homage, even extortion, to the evil spirits which animate the occasion now as then.
God’s plans are not achieved by placating evil, nor did Jesus negotiate with demons. Today, however, our blindly secularized, materialistic culture effectively does this—even as churches like Jeff’s—in denying the active reality of evil among us (see “Overcoming Spiritual Denial” in Religion vs Reality).
Yet the greatest of our natural human powers is no match for the least of spiritual powers. We all know this because we all experience it, from unbidden nightmares to death itself (see No Small Snakes: A Journey into Spiritual Warfare).
The shame of our primal inadequacy stirs an addictive denial that can keep even the most sincere Christians from facing the presence and power of evil—and thereby, from recognizing its handiwork in Halloween unto today.
Intoxicated with worldly conceit, we dismiss it all as “nothing but superstition”—and then we’re startled when “treats” for children dressed as witches and demons begin to include razor blades in apples and drugs in candy.
Thus, we sacrifice our children’s innocence on the smug altar of human pride and control. In fact, we’d rather abdicate ultimate, supernatural reality to the devil than face our desperate need for God’s saving power.
As the “Son of God,” that is, Jesus “appeared for this very reason: to destroy what the Devil had done” (1 John 3:8b), and to demonstrate thereby that “the Spirit who is in you is more powerful than the spirit in those who belong to the world” (1 John 4:4).
Blackmailed by shame, the enforced ignorance of our “modern” secularized worldview offers neither protection nor excuse. Those who fancy similarly that smoking is just a harmless pleasure, as the early tobacco company ads assured, nevertheless contract lung cancer—and infect others with their second-hand smoke.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord,” as Paul exhorted the early Christians, then immersed in a pagan culture not wholly unlike our own today. “Live as children of light…. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephes. 5:8-10NIV).
Those called to reflect God’s Light in Jesus, that is, ultimately face greater consequences for accommodating the darkness—as Pastor Jeff discovered in his Halloween brush with death.
Granted, it’s hard to maintain Christian boundaries in our spiritually blind culture, which cannot recognize the need for protection. When that culture pressures children to engage in Halloween’s evil charade, even knowledgeable, sincere Christian parents can yield.
Years ago, when my son was around four, I taught him about the “bad angels” who “make Halloween scary.” He still wanted very much to participate in the costumes and parties, so I said I would take him to a local church for a suitable alternative: a “no bad guys” party to celebrate historic Christian saints and other heroes.
Very early that evening, however, he was already dressed in his Peter Pan outfit, and begged to go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. I balked, but he persisted. “It’s not even dark yet, Daddy!” he pleaded. Eventually, I relented and agreed to let him visit only our two closest neighbors “and no more!”
What could possibly go wrong? I rationalized. We’ll only be there out for ten minutes and Mary and I will be right there with him.
Later, after the second house, he clutched his bag of candy happily. Mary and I hustled him past the cobwebbed porch and piped-in howling sounds, down the sidewalk toward our home next door. As my son examined his bag, for a brief moment the two of us pulled a step ahead of him and sighed.
Suddenly, we were startled by a dull THUNK behind us, followed by a loud scream. Turning, we found our son sprawled out on the concrete. Puzzled how he might have tripped, nevertheless we rushed to pick him up and saw his upper teeth had cut into his lower lip, which was now bleeding profusely.
Quickly, we dashed him home and into the bathroom. I had barely wiped the blood from his whimpering mouth when it hit me like a ton of bricks. As Mary—a nurse, thankfully—took over, I ran out to the living room and fell to my knees, crushed.
Oh, Father, please, please heal my son, I begged, and forgive me for not maintaining safe spiritual boundaries for him!
The enemy of God hates children because, like Jesus, they restore innocence to this fallen world (see “Can Daddy Come out and Play? The Ministry of the Child” in Do Pirates Wear Pajamas? and Other Mysteries in the Adventure of Fathering). But in order to destroy the children, the enemy must first deceive the adults.
The Bible was written for “evil days,” even our own. The unholy spirit which animates Halloween today is the very enemy of God portrayed in the Bible: hostile to His Holy Spirit and determined to destroy His works unto today—even ourselves. Let’s stop promoting these “things that belong to the darkness.” Like “wise people,” let’s “bring them out into the light” of Christ to renounce them and focus instead on Him.
This blog excerpted from Gordon’s book Religion vs Reality: Facing the Home Front in Spiritual Warfare, which includes other chapters Secularization and White Racism, Homosexuality: Outing the Man-Hating Spirit, From Dinosaurs to Demons: Hollywood’s X-Rated Spirituality, Ball Games and the Battle for Men’s Souls, Is Jesus the Only Way?, Delivered from Abortion, Better Fat than Sad, and From Obedience to Trust: Slavery or Sonship?
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