Today, the issue came up again. I am the fellowship coordinator at our church and I lead the committee that makes the decisions about the social events we hold. Someone made the suggestion that we have a movie night on Halloween to "get the children off the streets". It was obvious that she was totally opposed to Halloween (especially when I emailed her to ask how she felt about kids wearing positive costumes to the movie night - I'd like Pk to dress up but I would not be heartbroken about her not having oodles of candy - the answer was a resounding no). It made me really uncomfortable as I felt like she felt I was a lesser-Christian and too worldly by far. I hate being judged more than anything and when it comes to my faith, it really hits a sore spot (my parents, especially my mom, have some, well... very liberal ideas and I grew up in the church feeling like people thought we were not Christian enough so I'm pretty sensitive about that). I spent the day brooding on Halloween. I suppose I have to thank this person because, through the course of the day and through a discussion with my minister and with dh, I think I have decided where I stand.
Before I declare my reasons for allowing Pk to participate in Halloween, allow me to state that I feel that there are some really good reasons to be concerned about Halloween. I make a large distinction between taking young kids out in sweet costumes to visit friends and family, and haunted houses, horror movies, mass murderer costumes and corpses hanging from trees in people's yards. The Bible is clear that we are to avoid sorcery, divination, any kind of the occult. I have no issue with that at all and, as Philippians 4:8 states
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
We are not supposed to dabble in the darker side of the world and the less attention we give it, the better. It would, in some ways, be easy to say a total no to Halloween and be done with it. For some reason, though, that just doesn't feel right to me.
Dh and I have agreed that Pk will be living in this world. To us, that means that the burden falls upon us to teach her how to live in this world. She will need to make moral decisions all the time, she will need to weigh how all kinds of life situations fit with her faith. Instead of an absolute no, having Halloween in our lives gives us the chance to discuss the smaller decisions - is it o.k. to wear a certain costume? what kind of message does that outfit convey to the world? does it fit with her Christian world view? would she be proud to have her God see her dressed that way or is it something of which she would be ashamed? She will have to justify her choices to us and to her friends, giving her a chance to share her beliefs but in a context that does not automatically come across as judgement of others, which shuts people down. There will be room for conversation.
One thing my minister said that hits home (and he was not arguing for or against, he was just sharing some insights into the struggle to make a decision, so don't read into my quoting him as being his absolute position). He said that we don't want to be parents who say no all the time. That breeds rebellion. We believe that in celebrating Halloween as a family, we are seizing it as our own and making it into something that fits with our beliefs rather than turning it into something verboten, something tempting and alluring. We don't want our faith to be something that our children view as being a stumbling block, something that takes away all fun and disconnects them from the world around them. Sure, there are things that will need to be an absolute no but we feel that we need to reserve that strong no for the things that really go against all that we believe so that it retains its power.
Another thing my minister said really stuck with me. He said that some Christians keep the light off and stay in the basement instead of giving out candy. His wife made an interesting observation. We are supposed to be light in the world. If we are hiding away, are we really being that light? That led me to reflect on how we might use Halloween to be light in the world. Might we, as Christians, show others that we CAN have fun and that the Christian life is full of joy? We can enjoy ourselves and be a part of things but in a way that does not compromise our lives as Christians. We can model being involved parents who oversee our children, parents who enjoy our children and who create memories and morals that endure with our children long after they leave home. We can create environments that are safe so that children around us have an alternative to the dark and scary side of Halloween.
Finally, one other thing from this week really hit home. I was listening to an interview with Dannah Gresh of Pure Freedom, a ministry that works with girls and mothers to navigate the rough waters of modesty and perceptions of beauty in our culture, with a particular focus on adolescent girls. She was saying that having a particular kind of connectedness with daughters can be a huge indicator of how well they will navigate the teen years. This connectedness is achieved largely between the ages of 8 and 12 and is done through building a shared culture, a shared bank of wonderful memories and a sense of belonging. We see Halloween as a chance to do just that.
As you can see, we will be taking Pk trick-or-treating this year (she has an adorable ladybug costume and Baby Bean will be going out in a cute little outfit with an orange shirt that says "Mommy's Little Pumpkin" with a cute jack-o-lantern on the bum). We will only be going to houses of friends and family and we will not be engaging in any of the "darker" side of Halloween. Daddy is already excited about taking her out and he is planning his costume as well. If costumes are not welcome, we won't be going to the church (and I strongly suspect that few people will, most families in our church do take their kids out on Halloween). I respect those who choose not to participate and I hope that they will respect my decision, as well.