Over the last 25 years or so, churches and schools have become involved with Halloween by providing a safe, family-friendly place for parties. This started because sick individuals were putting illegal drugs into home-made popcorn balls and brownies as “treats” when the little ones were going door to door.
This one example shows a positive response to a negative situation. Surely, we can be creative and choose additional positive, supportive responses to a holiday that celebrates fright, danger and death, all of which are forms of limitation and not part of God's divine plan for our lives.
Unity Church of the Valley
Halloween does indeed have ancient origins. It has always been understood as a thin space in the year — a time between light and dark, between warmth and cold, between the abundance of summer and the scarcity of winter, between life and death, and between this world and the next.
When Christians co-opted it, we didn’t deny the thinness of the space, but reclaimed it as a time of connecting with the saints who have gone before us (and have not stayed around to haunt us). So the pagan roots are still there, the Christian roots are still there, and some sense of the sacred remains, though it may be buried under the $6.8 billion pile of candy and costumes.
Methodist preacher and professor Tom Long did a little spiritual digging into the thin spaces of Halloween. He was particularly interested in finding out why so many adults are buying costumes and entertaining themselves in flagrant ways on Halloween. He thinks that there is something important going on culturally, and it may not be as base as we think.
It’s more likely to be about a different kind of transgression. Many of us are interested in transgressing the lines between the place where we are and the adventure we’d like to live: the accountant who dresses up as a pirate; the real estate agent who paints herself Na’vi blue; the cashier who becomes Batman.
Is it possible that Americans love Halloween because so many of us long for lives bigger than the ones we inhabit? A life in which we move from crippling insecurity to one in which we trust ourselves, trust each other, and trust our creator? A life in which we learn to live with joy and freedom and courage?
You know that I’m going to say that if you want that, try Jesus. You can’t show up to work on Tuesday still in Na’vi blue, but you can walk in with some Holy Spirit, ready to live into a bigger life.
The Rev. Paige Eaves
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church
Can Christians come to some agreement re: Halloween? Probably not. I personally see nothing wrong with spooking it up, for lack of a better term, and I'm sure one of my fellow Jesus-followers will think I'm on the fast track to hell for my belief. That's OK: there are lots of us Christians who think other Christians are headed down below because they don't think like we do. Pity us.
The bigger question, I believe, is the one about Halloween losing its pagan roots. I believe it’s the other way around: Our society has re-discovered its pagan roots. Look at the dying churches around you. Those that aren't dying have a lot more older folks in the pews than young families. (One smart-alec friend of mine said the churches are full of old people because they're studying for finals.)
And how about you? Do you go to church? If not, why not? That pagan lifestyle is certainly appealing, isn't it? I love football, and as I'm getting ready to come to church on Sunday mornings, I have often thought it would be nice to stay home and watch the games. Nothing sinful about football or soccer or baseball on Sundays — but more of us are choosing anything but church, and I'm sorry.
Maybe the churches have failed; maybe ministers have failed. But paganism certainly hasn't, or so it seems to me. Long ago, in the year 325, the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Then in the 1800s the Danish theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that when Constantine did that (made Christianity the official religion), that was the beginning of the end.