Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Halloween: An unresolved question for the church?

Another Halloween passed us by without any knocks on the door. It helps when you're not at home, but that's not really the point! We've gone through various phases over the years. We've done the "We don't do this" phase, we've done the "Do you know what you're doing" phase and we've had sweets ready to give away too. All bases covered there then.

But it was a short conversation between two kids in one of the tennis squads I coach that caught my ear yesterday and started me thinking about our response to the 21st Century approach to October 31st. One of the kids must have asked a question about what another was doing for Halloween. An innocent enough question probably. The response of the other kid was short and to the point, "I'm a Christian. We don't do Halloween."

"We don't do Halloween." What exactly does that mean? Okay, so I can work that one out, but it just made me stop for a moment and wonder whether we're focussing on the right things when we teach our children to respond with what we don't do.

Of course there are times when "We don't do" is the right response, the correct approach. But is it always the case? Can we not offer an alternative, a fuller explanation. We don't want to be the people that offer a full explanation of the origins of the celebrations and the inaccuracies of current trends, but our children deserve to have our reasons better explained.

I'm not sure where I stand these days when it comes to deciding whether Halloween is just harmless fun or something more sinister. The commercialised and sanitised version of a festival that lines the supermarket shelves and ultimately someone's pockets is far removed from anything religious or spiritual. Perhaps some use it to celebrate stuff that is spiritually dangerous, but for most that's surely not the case.

There are times, or so to seems, that we are too concerned about the influence the world might have on us rather than the influence we might have on the world. I'm not sure that dressing up as a skeleton or a zombie is necessarily going to desensitise us to the very real presence of evil in our world and neither is it going to usher in some dark malevolent force. Tell me, is trick or treating a worse evil than abandoning migrant children in Calais? Does one lead to the other? Life and ethics are far more complicated than a simple linear cause and effect philosophy allows.

But whatever your view might be, what alternative do we offer? I'm not suggesting we have alternative parties, or maybe even go door to door offering sweets, giving something away. And anyway, would you trust someone who turned up at your door and said, "Would you like some free sweets?" No. I'm just concerned that we provide our children with a better explanation, a better response than simply, "We're Christians. We don't do Halloween."

Of course the interesting thing is that the kid asking the question just accepted the answer and we all moved on to the next drill. Perhaps I'm worrying too much!

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