Halloween Worries, Doctrine Apathy

I'm surprised each year by the amount of concern and attention given to whether Christians should participate in Halloween, especially when the same amount of concern and attention isn't given to issues at least of equal weight and what I think have more weight.  Many Christians delve into the details of the history of Halloween in a sincere effort to try to make a good decision about what's pleasing to God; I just don't see the same time and attention given to studying the details of central Christian beliefs like the Trinity or justification, or the Apostles and Nicene Creed.  I dare say that many of the Christians who decide they cannot participate in Halloween, have never taken note of the fact that October 31 is also Reformation Day - and none of us Protestants would be here enjoying the grace of God as we do if it weren't for that day.  Even churches that decide to opt out of Halloween or opt in for Harvest Festivals take little notice of Reformation Day, which restored the Gospel message that we treasure.

I grew up Lutheran, attended Lutheran grade school, and each year we'd have a Halloween costume parade, then change our clothes and have a Reformation Day service - and another one on Sunday at church.  I don't think there was the level of worry over whether Christians should participate in Halloween back then, and certainly our parents, pastors, and teachers were no less pious or dedicated Christians.  In fact, they even knew Christian doctrine quite well and passed it on to us in word and deed - without ever worrying over Halloween.

I cite the example of my own childhood at church not as a justification to celebrate Halloween - it's not an argument.  I offer it as an illustration that participating in Halloween doesn't negate sound Christian living and coincided comfortably with serious Christian living.  It's possible we shouldn't have celebrated Halloween at my Lutheran school (I do think it was okay), but I think it was preferable that our teachers and pastor took very seriously training us in the Christian faith even if they spent no time worrying about Haloween.  I think that's better than obsessing over Halloween and neglecting the weightier things of Christianity.

I'm not talking about the decision Christians make about what to do about Halloween.  That's a matter of conscience each has to make.  I'm talking about the inordinate energy, attention, thought, and focus spent on what to do about Halloween and the polar opposite apathy about theology, doctrine, church history.

It's fair to be concerned and think carefully about how we participate in the culture and Halloween.  It's important to evaluate how cultural practices influence us.  It's essential to use wisdom and discernment how we participate in Halloween, if we do.  It's, obviously, a duty to avoid any occultic involvement.  What I'm talking about is the level of energy and attention given to it and the contrasting lack of it given to arguable more central issues of Christianity.  Christians can be shocked that another Christian will go trick or treating, but not blink an eye of awareness or concern when another Christian distorts the doctrine of the Trinity.

I'm not sure what this inordinate worry over Halloween and apathy about doctrine says about contemporary Christians, but I think it says something - and it's not good.  One friend's theory is the inordinate emphasis in modern Christianity on application and therapeutic teaching to the near exclusion of theology and Bible study (not just Bible reading).  That sounds like a pretty good theory to me.

Whether you decide to opt out of Halloween, which is just fine, or whether you dress up, let's also remember it's Reformation Day and that we have a treasure and privilege of studying the Bible ourselves and learning from the rich heritage of church history and the careful thinking and love for the truth people committed to hand down the faith to us. Let's be even more diligent in learning the full teaching God has revealed through His Word than we are in investigating Halloween.

Melinda Penner