It’s that spooky season again. Halloween is always a bit of an oddity among American holidays. It’s not celebrated as an actual holiday with offices and schools closing, and yet for many it’s the favorite and most extravagant celebration of the year. For Christians especially, it can be a bit of an awkward time as they try to manage whether and how to celebrate this holiday. Whether you have a “Harvest Festival” or just sit in your house with the lights off, hoping people ignore your house, what are we supposed to do with all of this darkness? Whether it’s horror films or scary decorations, so much of this season is built around fear. But doesn’t the Bible keep telling us to not fear? It’s Halloween. Should we be afraid?
Christians have a bit of a messy track record when it comes to freaking out over the occult. Even ignoring the extreme witch trials of the past, every few years there’s something new that causes American Christians to panic about their children becoming Satanists. Whether it’s heavy metal, Dungeons and Dragons, Pokemon, Doom, Harry Potter, etc. There’s this odd fear and assumption that popular media is going to serve as a gateway drug into occult practices and demonic activity. Most of the time, unfortunately, the decisions to boycott media like these are made without any deep examination. Before deciding to ban Halloween or anything else, consider a few things.
Even if there is a risk of exposure to evil, what is the better way to avoid it? You can try to shield your children from the media that many of their friends are into, and is plastered in every store. Or, you can talk about the issues openly, make the concerns clear, and if they’re so determined to consume these stories, consume it with them and parse it out together. I knew a lot of kids who weren’t allowed to play Pokemon or read Harry Potter when I was younger. I also knew several kids who resented their parents’ sweeping decisions on the matter and would find other ways to experience the stories without their supervision. Both of these approaches will take effort to enforce. One will yield far better results.
Should We Be Afraid?
Christians live with an odd duality of fear. On the one hand, we believe in a supernatural realm with dark forces, of which we have every reason to be afraid. On the other hand, we trust in the God who is more powerful than the darkness. We are told over and over again throughout the entire Bible to not fear. However, there is a healthy amount of it that we all should have. If you do away with fear entirely you would see the collapse of society. The reality we live in is that there are things to be afraid of, and that fear motivates us. But like anything, too much of it is a problem, and debilitating fear not only hinders people, but often shows a lack of trust in God. God wants us to lean on him with our troubles and fears.
Obviously we need to be mindful not to get too enthusiastic about the wrong things this season. We never want to celebrate the demonic, but we also shouldn’t assume that everything in sight is doing that. After all, why should we fear the dead? Jesus already conquered death, so why not throw a party and rub it in the other guy’s face?
A Case for Fear
We never want to get so consumed by fear and anxiety that it hinders our relationship with God. That being said, I think there are times that we as Christians can be a little bit overly afraid of fear. The narrative that Christians are happy all the time is demonstrably false. Even the most devout and faithful of believers will experience the full range of human emotions. We shouldn’t pretend that we never experience fear, sadness, or anger. God gave us those emotions too.
God has also given us the freedom and creativity to find ways to channel those feelings. Steven King once said about why people crave horror stories, “Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have some level of ‘insanity’ inside us. Horror allows us to deal with our inner darkness without being overcome by it.” Hardly a theologian, but I think King is onto something here. Sometimes the way to handle fear is not to hide from it but to dive into it and face it head on.
So eat some candy, watch a spooky movie, and go decorate you car and hand out candy to kids dressed as super heroes at your church’s Trunk or Treat. You’ve got nothing to be afraid of.
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