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Should Christians Observe Halloween?

 

Eric V. Snow

 

Is it wrong to celebrate Halloween?  Does God care if believers observe the Day of the Dead?  Letís briefly consider some of the spiritual problems with keeping Halloween from a Christian viewpoint.

 

It isnít a coincidence that All Soulsí Day, the Day of the Dead, and Halloween all end up around the same time that Samhain, the ancient Celtic festival was observed.  Nor is it a coincidence that the Catholic Church ended up endorsing a celebration of Jesusí birthday on December 25, the date of Mithraís birth, around the time of the Saturnalia.  As a result, we end up with a process of inference.  It isnít reasonable to deny it, even if we donít have direct access to the thoughts of those who (likewise) substituted Easter for the Passover by the early second century A.D.  Clearly, they wouldnít have wanted to admit what they had done.  (After all, how do we know the minds and thinking of people in the past when all we have are some scanty written records, mostly written from a small minority of an eliteís ďofficialĒ viewpoint.  To quote a newspaperís editorial page in 1915 about World War I isnít going to be at all reflective of average Americansí thinking compared to what they were writing in their diaries and personal journals, where they couldnít hardly have cared less about the mass mechanized slaughter going on in Europe at the time).    And one can easily cite reputable sources, outside of the likes of Hislop and that (now renegade) Woodrow, that draw these kinds of conclusions, deductions, and connections.  Itís a perfectly reasonable act of induction to the mindset of certain leaders of the Catholic Church in the past, who made compromises with paganism while trying to lead average people to worship the true God more.  Hence, we ended up with a degree of religious syncretism.  One of the key paradigmatic points that the textbook I had to use for my Western Humanities class at Davenport when teaching about the Medieval period was that Western Civilizationís culture is overall a mixture of the Germanic/Celtic, Classical (Roman/Greek), and Christian/Jewish cultures.  For example, chivalry was a compromise between the pagan Germanic warrior code and Christian pacifism.  However, Paul, in his discussion of not being unevenly unyoked with unbelievers, wouldnít have agreed with such compromises, even if nothing pagan is being actually ďworshipped.Ē  Itís necessary to bring every thought into the captivity of Christ.

 

Another problematic aspect of Halloween concerns the utter futility of coming to terms with death by a humanistic means.  That is, we mortals can whistle in the dark by trying to make ourselves more familiar with deathís manifestations, which is especially clear with Latin Americaís Day of the Dead celebrations.  However, that process doesnít really solve the problem of death any.  Psychological ďadjustmentĒ has a point, as per the stages of grieving that Kubler-Ross identified, in creating happier people.  However, the basic ďexistential dilemmaĒ remains (with apologies to Sartre here):  We know that we are alive but we also know that we all will die.  So is there a solution to this problem?  The key promise of Christianity is that it provides an escape hatch to the problem of death.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death, as Paul noted.  So if John 3:16 is true, our focus as human beings should be on the unavoidable problemís actual solution, not pagan-derived distractions from it.  Hence, itís a far better idea to observe the Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23, even if one believes them to be abolished, since they at least point to the real solutions to mankindís problems.  On this basis, it doesnít make sense to observe Halloween while eschewing the Passover and the Day of Atonement.  At least, those two days point to the actual solution to mankindís problem with death, which is reconciliation to God through Christís atoning sacrifice.

 

Halloween observance is problematic also because its customs deny the Bibleís truth about the state of the dead and it makes light about the evils of getting involved in occultic activity.  The teaching of ďThe Day of the DeadĒ is that the souls come back down to earth to visit the altars of families set up to honor them.  (Itís really thinly veiled and relabeled ancestor worship).  What are ghosts and spirits other than immortal souls that didnít make it to heaven yet for some reason?  The Old Testament makes it clear that what witches, sorcerers, necromancers, mediums, etc., do is profoundly evil.  A key error of the customs surrounding Halloween (and the Day of the Dead) is to take casually false teachings about the dead still being alive and to make occultic activity look fun and innocuous. 

 

The customs used to celebrate Easter, Christmas, and Halloween, are spiritually troublesome for another reason.  Letís consider an argument that Iíll lift from either Joseph Campbell or C.S. Lewis about the meaning of the rites of pagan religions:  Should rituals that are tied to fertility rites be used to worship the true almighty God?  Well, isn't there an intrinsic problem with such rituals, even when traditional Christians hereby arbitrarily decree they have a different meaning, because bunnies and eggs as symbols are intrinsically about having lots of babies?  That intrinsic meaning simply can't be obliterated summarily from such customs.  It assumes language allows words to be arbitrarily and subjectively redefined at whim, such as I could claim the sound and symbol of "book" now means a "car" in its denotation (the actual object in the external real world) every time I use the word, regardless of how everyone else uses those symbols and sounds when speaking the English language.  Jehovah many times uses the analogy of marriage to get the point across to us humans about His jealousy (demand for exclusive devotion) in the Old Testament.  Itís a major obstacle to the standard argument that Christians can come along, and rename and reuse something instantly and arbitrarily for a different purpose, regardless of its past historical use.  God objects to the use of pagan customs by His people for any purposes that have a religious significance in the same way that a wife would object to her husband having pictures of his ex-girlfriends put on prominent display in their house.  We humans canít ignore all past history and customary use of any ritual or practice by instantaneous arbitrary assertions:  Versions of Christmas tree was used by pagans in the past, which keeps Christians from totally change the meaning of the ritual, and use it to worship the true God, even though the evergreen tree was and is a natural object made by God.  And itís not clear how evergreen trees (or eggs or bunnies) can fit in with the Bibleís symbols for worshipping God.  There's a reason why God had Israel under Joshua totally obliterate the pagans along with their practices, as harsh as that all sounds today, because one can't separate the past history from a practice so instantaneously and arbitrarily.  (In this light, it's worth thinking about one of the interesting, but assumed, views of the Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc:  He believes that it takes many centuries for people of a culture to fully absorb a religion's teachings (here Catholicism), including its unspoken assumptions entering into daily life and everyone's worldview as an unshakable, nearly unquestionable reality.  Such a change isn't something accomplished in a few years by a bunch of new converts or even a mere generation or two).  The statue that Aaron made that looked like Apis meant a pagan god was being worshipped, even though Aaron asserted it was the God that rescued Israel from Egypt.  The history of a custom can't be instantaneously and arbitrarily dismissed so readily.  The bible has no cases in which a pagan custom was taken over by true believers and reassigned to worship Jehovah.  God has a memory that needs to be respected.  Christians need to give up observing holidays with customs and an annual timing thatís derived from pagan religions.

 

 

Eric Snow

www.lionofjudah1.org

 

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