Halloween has long been debated in Christian circles as to whether or not it's right or wrong to participate. Sometimes, culture presents us with things that aren't black and white and require us to do a little bit of homework before we jump to conclusions or make blind assumptions. As we teach our students, we need to be thinking people- people who make decisions based on well-thought out logic paired with the wisdom of God.
So what do we do with a culture piece that seems to hold a lot of weight in people's minds? Here's a thinking process we have found helpful when evaluating certain cultural norms. Research-Reject-Receive-Redeem .
1. Research the aspect of culture that you are discussing, in this case, Halloween.
It will take far too long to write the history of Halloween here, and it's not necessarily the point of this post. So in short, the holiday did, in some part, originate from pagan and mythical practices. But calling it "Satanic" can merely end up being a game of semantics. (What about Roman and Greek mythology, etc?) Maybe all these things are "satanic," maybe they aren't. Christians need to exercise thoughtful discernment when coming to conclusions about such matters.
2. Reject, Receive, or Redeem.
Christians have three options when it comes to how they want to approach the culture issue at hand, in this case, Halloween.
A Christian named Pat Robertson called Halloween the "festival of the Devils" and said it was wrong for Christians to participate. But to reject it outright without answering this question, would be foolish... "To what extent does something's evolution from pagan roots entail that its present practice is tainted?" Because today, there's been a huge shift in the original practices of Halloween, to kids dressed up in cute costumes for a sugar fest once a year.
If you are going to outright reject Halloween are you consistent in rejecting other holidays completely as well? There are pagan practices rooted in most holidays as is excess, like too much candy on Halloween. So should we reject Thanksgiving too because some people eat too much and gluttony is a sin?
Other Christians reject Halloween because they fear the evil will influence their Christian faith. The idea is, 'garbage in, garbage out.' But Jesus says the exact opposite is true in Mark 7:21-23. The fruit of our lives (whether holiness or sin) is always tied to the root of our hearts. Sin absolutely corrupts but the sin is not so much 'out there in the world' as much as it is in the heart of every person. Holding fast to the outright rejection position falsely assumes sin is mostly what we do rather than who we are.
Receiving halloween means one might take it in its full glory, jumping in with both feet and embracing every single aspect of the holiday and its practices without ever thinking through the why and the how. This in and of itself may not be a problem, but the concern may be that we might have too quickly and blindly just accepted something culture had to offer without thinking deeply about it.
If we have an informed understanding of the history of Halloween and realize that as a Christian we have the biblical freedom to redeem cultural practices (1 Corinthians 10:22-23), Christians should follow their conscience in choosing how to approach this holiday.
How one goes about which aspects of Halloween to redeem or receive is still a tricky issue. One suggestion is to distinguish between the cultural aspects of Halloween and the religious aspects of Halloween. "There is a big difference between kids dressing up in cute costumes for candy and Mardi-Gras-like Halloween parties with offensive costumes and uninhibited excess."
"It's naive to make a blanket judgment to reject or receive Halloween as a whole. There should be no pressure to participate, but for those Christians whose conscience permits, we should view it as an opportunity to engage wisely with our culture and to choose how we can redeem this aspect of culture. Many Christian use this culture piece of Halloween as a way to get out into their neighborhoods and hang out with those around them, build relationships, and be together with people they live near when they otherwise might not get to do as often. And, let's be honest, mom and dad really enjoy raiding the Halloween buckets once all the kids are sleeping (just don't forget to garboflage the evidence)!
As someone who is both Head of School and a parent of students at our school, I often get an added front row seat on the fruit of our labors as we commit to the time tested process of classical, Christian education. As with all parenting and career pathways, most of us at some point or another have asked ourselves, "Is this worth it? Are we seeing fruit? Do these things really matter?" The answer is yes. Yes, it's worth it. Yes, there is fruit (even on the hard days), and yes, it absolutely matters.
On the drive to school this morning, my kids were talking about a school friend whose family recently had to put their dog down. My daughter asked in a very concerned voice, "Do they do that to people too?" Suddenly, I found myself in the throws of a very deep and weighty discussion at 6:45am before my coffee even kicked in, about ethics, the image of God, our eternality, our position as human beings, and a God who is sovereign over life, death, and everything in between. What struck me, however, was the way in which my 6th grade son joined the conversation.
He kept asking all of the "why" questions surrounding this issue. At first, I attributed it to his developmental age. But suddenly, as he continued talking, I realized I was engaging with the fruit of our labors as a classical Christian school. In classical Christian schools we start everything with: "God created us and everything else for one singular purpose- His glory." All of a sudden, out of the backseat, I began to see the tiny sprout emerging from my son's early logic school education. Here sat a very beginning logic student, on his own, wrestling with the logic of the topic at hand- All truth is God's truth, and God created us and all things for his glory...So, what if this proposition is true? What follows? How should we live, given this purpose? I was completely awe-struck at his ability to detect the errors in an argument about whether or not we should be able to euthanize humans. He was even able to bring the conversation outside of the Christian worldview... "What would be the argument against euthanizing humans if a person does not believe in God or see Him as the ultimate authority. What would follow that? How then, should people live?"
As we drove on to school, I thought to myself that this was a perfect example of the difference between Bible classes and chapel versus Biblical integration that is the spine of classical, Christian education.
I had a meeting earlier this week with another Headmaster and we spent significant time discussing the difference between a traditional Christian school and a classical, Christian school. This obviously doesn't pertain to every non-classical Christian school, but by and large, there are differences in how we approach our faith and its role in the education process.
source text below: ACCS
For me personally, what we drove me to not just start a Christian school, but a classical Christian school was the deep disconnect I discovered in my faith and real life as I became an adult. Educated in public and traditional Christian education systems, I developed a solid knowledge of Scripture, but I absolutely lacked the experience to apply it in historical or existential ways. This greatly limited my Christian worldview application outside very black and white situations. When I began to find myself face to face with the challenges of modern ideologies, I reacted as I had learned, by compartmentalizing my faith in relation to other fields of knowledge. I wholly viewed the Bible and spirituality as a basis for my life and my beliefs, but most other things outside the obvious spiritual realm I saw as neutral, or disconnected.
Once I began to understand the schools of logic and rhetoric as an adult, I realized where I wanted my own children, and any school community I lead, to go... I wanted them to not only be taught the logic: What if this proposition is true- that God created us and everything else for one singular purpose, His glory? What follows? How should we live, given this purpose? But I also wanted them to go further with it. I didn't want it just end with a spiritual box at the end of the lesson that says what does this application look like.
Instead, I saw the immense value of the classical Christian approach that goes further than the spiritual box at the end of a seemingly secular context... As David Goodwin says, "After given the logic, they are then taught to read and discuss great ideas from great thinkers, in great historical cultures, written in great texts. Students practice emulating the best arguments of these great texts, because there's nothing like emulating a master to learn an art. And the art of logic and rhetoric teaches us that good arguments, after all, connect bedrock axioms with practical daily truth. Through this process, students learn to think well, to view our universe as one big system that fits together, and to understand this system as it reflects "God's Glory alone." This is practiced, not just taught. Over time and through this practice, the student's loves, virtues, and passions are shaped within the order of God's world."
And this dear friends, is where the rubber meets the road...where the early logic student is seeing that every inch of thought, history, and natural creation is an extension of the work of Jesus Christ. This practice equips students to wisely navigate life’s ethical and spiritual challenges that they will inevitably face. Students learn to, as Paul wrote in Corinthians, “to take every thought captive to Christ,” meaning that they recognize the permanent and beautiful truth of redemption, in spite of what political propaganda, enticing opportunities, and cultural rhetoric they may encounter.