Halloween: Heathen or Harmless?

As a child I enjoyed trick or treating. I remember being so excited about my black skeleton-suit and skull mask that I wore them to bed. That was 1962. I didn't think I was celebrating death or evil. It was all about running around the school's haunted house, then going door to door piling up candy! I always went early to the Zimmerman house one block over because they gave whole candy bars. That was the home run of Halloween!

Fast forward 53 years to 2015. Is Halloween still an innocent night of childish make-believe and candy collection? Maybe, but the stakes are higher now, in my judgment, than in 1962. Think of the differences: Young adult culture is consumed by violent video games and zombie movies. Youth violence is on the rise.* None of us can avoid the real images of ISIS or homegrown terrorism on our TV screens.

Since Halloween is this week, let's talk about the way to approach the day. Is it no big deal? Is it a gateway to more insidious things?

A risk I see is that people trivialize spiritual things like death and hell by turning them into comedy, much like the current zombie craze tries to laugh at death and disease. It's a kind of gallows humor that helps us cope with truly troubling concepts.

But should we trivialize death? I don't think so. Neither the Bible nor Christ trivializes death. The Bible says that after we die, we face judgment. Some are accepted into heaven based on faith in Christ's death on the cross for sin, and others who don't believe are cast out. Jesus spoke of the terrifying attributes of hell, so these aren't topics to trifle with.

If we de-sensitize our children to these issues by considering them play or entertainment, we send a potentially damaging message.

If you have preschoolers, the ghoulish images of Halloween can be terrifying and long-lasting. Regardless of how many times you tell them ghosts are not real, the images will stick in a preschooler's mind more than your words.

If you have teens, know that there is an air of foolhardiness about this night. I recall as a freshman in high school riding around in the back of a pickup throwing tomatoes at other cars. I learned a valuable lesson when we hit a car full of seniors, and almost got beat up. That Halloween night ended early for me.

Find a way to involve your teens in wholesome activities that night, because there are many who will lead them into trouble if they can. Guide your teen to find a safe activity, and explain your expectations to them clearly.

There are parts of the Halloween experience that are fun and beneficial. So my advice: follow your conscience, but protect your children from the death-glorifying aspects of the day. If you feel you cannot participate at all without falling into the culture of death surrounding this celebration, you are better off skipping it. In the big picture, you're kids aren't suffering if they don't celebrate Halloween.

* http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv-datasheet-a.pdf