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Putting Halloween in context

Glen Scrivener, former Oak Hill student and Church of England minister in Eastbourne, guest blogs for us about an evangelistic video he made for Halloween.

When 10 of those asked me to do an evangelistic video for Halloween, I knew the dangers. Immediately I predicted a range of reactions reflecting the range of views on the subject.

So I decided to write something for the friends of Christians – friends who would have little understanding of Halloween’s origins or the gospel. That’s the target audience. Therefore I’m not trying to convert Christians to ‘trick or treating’. I am trying to engage trick-or-treaters (and their Facebooking parents) with the gospel.

Originally the video was going to be an animation with silhouetted figures playing the part of trick-or-treaters. We ran out of time for that and so decided to film it. On the day, I told the parents to bring children in whatever costumes they were comfortable with – a pirate or a spiderman would be perfect. I also brought some spare pumpkin costumes just in case. As it happened, the parents did a wonderful job on wardrobe and make-up as you can see. And my videographer and soundtrack artist were incredibly good at evoking the mock-horror.

What we ended up with was a really quite scary first minute of film that went beyond what I’d imagined with words and a basic animation. But I’m glad for how the film has turned out. I think that initial impact grabs folks and hopefully pulls them into the gospel material. Remember – this is for non-Christians. Non-Christians.

So I want to make clear, my intention is not to open the doors for Christians to go trick-or-treating. I want to open the doors for trick-or-treaters to come to Christ!

Interestingly I’ve had complaints in the other direction too. One person so far has thought I’m too hard on paganism. I think they made some good points. They asked Why do we ‘mock’ these spiritual beliefs (witches, paganism, etc)? Is it really Christian to mock? Would we similarly ‘mock’ Muslims or Hindus? That complaint led to a really fruitful conversation. But I mention it just to say that the video is not at all trying to compromise with spiritual darkness but to unmask it.

Here’s the bottom line for me: if you’re not sold on the whole ‘mocking the darkness’ angle (which I think is the true meaning of Halloween… see links below) then please don’t get involved in Halloween just because we made a pretty video. I’m persuaded that Halloween can be engaged with positively, but if you’re not persuaded then don’t practice.

Romans 14:14 is the verse here: ‘I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.’

Just cos I made it rhyme, doesn’t mean I’m right. If you’re a Christian wondering what your approach to Halloween will be this year, our video hasn’t solved anything for you. You can’t short-cut the reading, thinking and praying part.

If you want some pointers in the direction of Christian engagement with Halloween, James Jordan is my top tip on a starting place. Peter Dray has also written a great paper (delivered first as an evangelistic talk). The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church has good entries on ‘All Saints Eve’ and ‘All Saints Day’ (which deny that ancient Christians simply adopted pagan practices).

CS Lewis’s introduction to The Screwtape Letters gives sound advice on neither thinking too highly nor too little of evil powers and gives a great defence of holy mockery. He quotes Luther: ‘The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.’

Alan Rudnick writes from an American perspective and Steve Utley from a British one. Michael Spencer and Anderson Rearick might be a step too far for some, but they’re fascinating for showing how attitudes have changed on this issue.

If you’re after a video for how Christians should engage Halloween, then check out Ed Drew’s video. Our video is designed to reach non-Christians. And to that end I ask that you get busy sharing it towards the end of October. If we really want to oppose Satan then, as Luther says ‘Christians should face the devil with the Word of God.’

 
Glen Scrivener

Glen Scrivener
21 October 2013




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