A Halloween Primer… Part 4: The Candy Itself is Nothing
First of all let me start off with an apology. Work has been a bear these last couple weeks giving me little to no time to update. Even today my beautiful wife has forced me to the blog-o-sphere in order to put my theological thoughts on Halloween down before the actual day comes and goes.
It is my intent to wax theologically on many things in the future, and I hope to be much more consistent on the frequency of these postings. Please bear with me.
To quickly recap where we have come so far in this Halloween Primer, I am making the argument that Halloween, or at least the pomp and circumstance around the western candy-day we call Halloween hearkens to the Pagan/Celtic/Wiccan holiday of Samhain. I further argue that it is not a ancient holiday with no present relevance, but that it is a current holiday of a growing “religion” and therefore we that profess a Christian outlook, philosophy or theology need to examine our allegiances and motives.
From a Christian perspective, we are to cast off the sin that so easily entangles, we are not to conform to the patterns of this world, and we are most definitely not to have any other gods before Him.
Does letting your kid dress up in scary costumes, to go trick or treating and get candy mean we are flippantly missing something God would want us to consider more deeply?
(as a quick aside. It’s not a “free candy” day. It’s a “redistribution of candy” day. Unless you aren’t purchasing candy and giving it to kids at your door, candy did cost you something. If it’s merely a redistribution of the candy wealth you have accumulated, let’s call it “socialist candy” day instead) 😉
All too often we as Christians hide behind Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he addresses how the Christians in Corinth should relate to the prime cuts of meat sold at the temple after they were sacrificed to the Greek gods. Was this meat tainted? Is there a problem with eating it?
We often call issues a “meat sacrificed to idols” issue when we want to claim an issue isn’t really a core issue and that everyone should act their conscience with regard to the issue. All too often it’s merely a quick biblical reference to justify Christian relativism.
Ironically, I do think this issue and ones like it are indeed “meat sacrificed to idol” issues, or at least a modern parallel to them. However, I’m going to relate my thoughts to the full argument that Paul is making to the Corinthians.
First of all, in 1 Corinians 8, Paul starts by saying something to the effect of “You are all very smart and can use theological arguments to justify your position, however your intelligence is nothing if you don’t know God.” Paul then goes on to address the meat of the issue. Without writing a full sermon on the passage, Paul rightly says that an idol in and of itself is nothing, so meat sacrificed to it is not spiritually stained. If you really want to eat it, go ahead.
The typical argument in favor of celebrating Halloween the way the rest of the world does is exactly that. It’s just pretend. Nobody is actually contacting the dead, or protecting themselves from dark spirits that walk the night. It’s just about candy and costumes. From that perspective, I completely agree. Trick or Treating is in and of itself is not spiritually stained. If you really want to do it, go ahead.
If only that was the fullness of Paul’s argument, then we could end this blog post here. It isn’t, so I won’t.
Paul clearly places some caveats and warnings to temper the liberty of the passage.
Caveat #1 – Not everyone is as theologically sound as you (I believe he’s being a little sarcastic here, calling out the theological snobbery of the people making the argument) so if you are in the midst of others who might see the eating of meat sacrificed to idols as something, you should limit your liberty in order to protect those who may be misled in their relationship with Christ by partaking.
This would be my first issue. We argue that Halloween is just a lot of fun for “the kids”, yet “the kids” would be exactly the sort of people Paul was saying we need to limit our liberty in order to protect. Instead of asserting any absolutes about the effect participation in pagan (associated) practices might have, I would instead ask the question. What are our kids learning about spirits, spirituality, death, horror, evil etc from the frivolity we treat Halloween with? Are we accidentally teaching them that dabbling with such things is just fun and games? Should we be protecting young minds from the cultic influences? Is there any way that the theme of the evening might end up being a stumbling block in the spiritual development of our kids? If there is any possibility “the kids” could be be affected in any way away from Christ, we run right into Paul’s caveat about meat from these nefarious origins.
Caveat #2 – Paul continues on talking about sin, and discipline against sinning, and God’s help in tempting situations, and then revisits meat sacrificed to idols again in 1 Corinthians 10. After saying we should have nothing to do with idolatry (or other gods if you prefer) he reiterates that the meat is not spiritually blemished, that the idol itself is nothing, but behind the idol is a demon, and behind the sacrifice is the worship of demons.
This would be my second issue. To merely dismiss Samhain’s historical and current place within a the Pagan religion is to dismiss that the meat was sacrificed in the worship of demons. More plainly, Pagan practices are the worship of demons, and we need to remember that when we, even without intent, mimic those practices for fun and enjoyment, we may well be wading into murky waters unaware. This is where we turn to C.S. Lewis’ often cited quote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” I’m trying not to give evil too much credit here. Make sure you’re not going the opposite way.
Paul’s summary on the issue goes something like this. There’s really no reason not to, but there’s no real reason to. Why would you do something just to do it. Your real motivation should be to please God and love others. So whether you trick or treat or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
I must admit, I see too much peril in the celebration of unholiness to think of it as nothing more than candy and costumes. I do see this as a meat sacrificed to idols issue. I just don’t think that’s as dismissive an argument as it’s often made out to be. I think it’s an argument that requires significant thought and sacrifice on our parts to fully work out.
Whatever you decide to do, do it all for the glory of God.
See you soon on a completely different topic!