There are many things we could say about Halloween – there are things we might want to reject and things we might courageously and creativity redeem.
Halloween raises big questions and that is good. It puts at the forefront of our culture, for a few days at least, issues of death and evil and power. But Halloween only gives lies as answers and that is not good. The questions are about serious issues and Halloween targets children or teenagers. It makes it doubly important.
Halloween reflects a growing tweenager and teenager trend in our culture too – the fascination with the ‘darker’ side. Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the 1990s began a trend that has birthed The Vampire Diaries and The Twilight Series. If you have children or teenagers you will know these are the highest grossing and most popular films and programs for younger people today.
The questions raised by these popular programs and Halloween are good. Questions about good and evil, death and life, right and wrong, strength and courage, and a world beyond ours. But perhaps we need to work harder to counter the wrong answers that are given.
Let me take four of those questions:
Where is evil found?
The lie is that evil is outside of us.
Ghastly creatures and horrid historical figures come banging on doors. Evil is threatening but something that is outside what we are. It is not something that comes from within but something we can take off and on as we please, with us ‘in control’. Yet the really dangerous evil comes not from outside but from within. Jesus said, ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander’ (Matthew 15:19
). Evil is not solely external. Every human heart is infested.
How is evil identified?
The lie is that evil makes itself know as evil
. That evil identifies itself as such and is easy to recognise and avoid. Yet the most dangerous form of evil is precisely that which appears harmless. The Bible tells us that ‘Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14
). Evil is far more subtle, far more sinister and far more seductive than Halloween suggests. And it certainly is not contained to one night of the year.
How serious is evil?
The lie is that evil is a trifling, laughing matter for children’s entertainment. The Bible and common sense teach us that evil is a serious matter. Whoever does evil does real damage, not just to their victims but also to their own souls. Not least all the skeletons, zombies and murder victims on view at this time of year should remind us death is no joke!
Who wins, and how?
The lie is that evil wins, and wins by fear.
Those who knock on our doors in their hair-raising costumes do so assured that their demands will be met: a threat brings a treat! Might and fear and evil win. Yet Jesus defeated all the powers of evil. ‘And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’ (Colossians 2:15
). Jesus wins and wins by love.
An opportunity for better answers?
The tragedy is that having raised these questions the only answers Halloween gives are empty and dangerous lies. Let us be those who raise these questions, but respond with the ‘truth that sets us free’ and not settle for the lies Halloween gives. Let’s not run scared from Halloween but instead redeem it – take the good questions it asks and respond with the answers that point us toward Jesus.