This month, we’re moving on to our fourth and final section in our discussion of “Inside Secrets to Raising Church Kids.” So far we’ve talked about tips for helping your child develop their own personal relationship with Jesus, tips for helping your child navigate the sometimes stormy waters of church life, and tips for helping your children deal with “the rules” that come with being a church kid. We’re going to wrap up this series by talking about what is probably the biggest challenge that both church kids and parents face in today’s world: Helping Your Child Live as a Light in a Dark World.
Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
As Christians we are called to live in this world as missionaries. It’s our job to live godly lives that bring glory to God so that those who don’t haven’t accepted Jesus as their Savior will want to do so.
This is the purpose and mission of every Christian---not just adults. As Christian parents, it’s your responsibility to not only keep your child away from sin, but also to teach them how to differently from the world and how to be unafraid to share our convictions and beliefs with others. Basically, it’s your job to teach them how to take their faith outside of their home and their church and be a light in a dark world.
Ironically, we’re starting this final section in October, when Christian parents are faced with one of the biggest challenges in the calendar year: Halloween.
Let’s get started with a little honesty. If we were all really truthful with ourselves, it isn’t difficult to figure out that many of the symbols and practices involved with Halloween are connected with things Christians usually regard as evil. Think about it---ghosts, evil spirits, witches, evil spells---these are all things Christians agree are sinful and satanic. We tell our children to stay away from such things. Then Halloween arrives, and we begin making excuses to make these things harmless.
It’s like the joke that says, “My parents told me never to take candy from strangers. Then Halloween came and they told me it’s okay. What’s the deal?” Honestly, why is something considered dangerous and evil every day of the year except October 31?
The truth is that Christians are looking for an excuse to make Halloween harmless. Because we don’t want to deprive Christian kids of the fun their friends are having, we choose to ignore what we know is true and right. That’s why we’re beginning this article with a gentle, but truthful reminder of the origins of this holiday.
Believe it or not, the roots of Halloween go back hundreds of years. The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions. (Elliott Watson, Should Christians Celebrate Halloween)
In their article, “The Pagan Roots of Halloween”, John Ankerberg, John Weldon and Dillon Burroughs make the point that in early American history, Halloween was not celebrated due to America’s strong Christian heritage. It was not widely observed until the twentieth century. Interestingly, in American culture, the rise in popularity of Halloween also coincides roughly with the national rise in spiritism that began in 1848. In this article, they explained the origins of things like jack-o-lanterns, Halloween costumes, and trick-or-treating. Although on the surface these things may appear to be harmless fun they are actually rooted in ancient pagan customs. They were serious practices designed to appease evil spirits, make deals with the devil, or participate in satanic worship festivals. The entire holiday is surrounded by and connected to devil worship.
The common argument to this is, “That was years ago. Nobody thinks about that now. In modern times, Halloween is just a fun holiday for kids.” The best answer to this mindset was given by Elliott Watson in his article, “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?” He says,
“Just before reaching a conclusion on the subject, I was struck with the thought that I ought to further my search and find out what Wicca, the official religion of witchcraft, has to say about Halloween. Perhaps they viewed the day as a simple fun and innocent neighborhood activity?
“Shock” is the only word to describe what I found. Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. There is no question in my mind that to those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.”
The truth is that there is more to this world than the tangible things that we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. These things belong to the physical world. However, beyond that world is the spiritual world. In the spirit world, there is a constant and ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil—God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom.
Furthermore, there are people, right here in the United States of America, who are trapped and controlled by Satan. These people choose to participate in satanic worship. There are real witches and warlocks who worship and are controlled by satan. Curses, spells, and demonic influences are real things with real power and they are not to be played with or taken lightly. They are dangerous and they are sinful.
It’s important for us to realize that people who are involved in these practices are not content to live their lives privately. Just as Christians want to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus, these people are actively pushing their agenda. They are targeting the children of this nation by making their evil world seem completely normal. Using movies, television shows, video games, and forms of entertainment, the enemy is trying to deceive an entire generation into believing that witches, spells, magic, and other things of that nature are harmless fantasies. Why even the Disney Channel has several television shows designed to make witches and warlocks look like normal, everyday teenagers! Rather than openly inviting children to participate in Satanic worship (which no parent would allow), Satan is using deceit to involve children in Satanic practices disguised as harmless fun.
As a Christian parent, you and your authority are the only barrier standing between your child and Satan’s deadly influence. Only you have the authority to tell your child “No, you will not read that, watch that, or play that game.” When it comes to celebrating Halloween, you have the responsibility to say, “No, you will not celebrate a holiday that centers on worshipping Satan and evil.”
During this delicate time in their life, you are responsible for protecting their hearts and minds from exposure to the forces of evil. Although many Christians do not want to face the truth about Halloween, the truth is that it is a holiday that originates in satanic worship and is still practiced as a celebration to Satan. Personally, I care too much about you and your family to allow you to make a choice about how to handle this holiday without making you aware of the truth and the dangers involved.
You may be thinking, “Dess, don’t you think you’re making too big a deal out of this?”
Well, I must be completely honest. I don’t think you can ever take dabbling with the occult too seriously. You see, I know people who dabbled in the occult thinking it was just harmless fun. It started off with little things like playing with an Ouija board, reading their horoscope, things like that. In time, they became involved with things like Powwowing and mind control, all along taking the attitude, “What’s the big deal?” In the end, I saw the destruction their harmless dabbling brought to their lives and the lives of their children. So I believe that it is in a Christian family’s best interest to avoid any and all involvement with things having any ties to satanic worship or the occult.
It seems that God takes this view as well. Look at His command to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 18:9-13: “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.”
In these verses, God tells His people to completely avoid the satanic festivals and practices of the nations around them. He says these practices are an abomination to Him. What’s the difference between the pagan worship festivals in the time of the Old Testament and Halloween? If we were going to be honest, we’d admit there is no difference.
Now let’s move on to the practical side of the article, because although I believe it is completely wrong for a Christian to celebrate Halloween, I understand some of the reasons Christians choose to compromise with the world on this topic. I think one of the biggest reasons Christian parents choose to view Halloween as harmless fun is that they want their children to experience all the fun that the other kids are having. When you look at it from that point of view it’s hard to say “No” to your little ones who want to dress up in an adorable little costume, go to a party with their friends, and accumulate as much candy as possible. The truth is that your little cowboy or princess is completely unaware of the forces of good and evil. Their little eyes are focused on candy, dress up and being like everybody else.
That is what makes your job as a Christian parent hard. You’re not a child, and you can rationalize beyond costumes and candy. You, as their protector and spiritual leader, need to make the decision that your family will not be participating in Halloween and explain it to your child in an age appropriate manner.
At this point you must be saying, “You have no idea how hard this is—you’re not a parent.”
You’re right. I’m not a parent, but I was a child that grew up in the church. My Mom was the parent who said, “We are not going to celebrate a holiday that is dedicated to Satan.” I know this wasn’t easy for her. There were times when she took guff from the relatives who thought she was some kind of radical Jesus freak. Honestly, there were people inside the church who thought she was too strict. Still, she stood by her principles and when she learned of the dangers our family stopped celebrating Halloween.
Did you catch that? We stopped celebrating Halloween. You see, my Mom didn’t get saved until I was 4 years old and Jamie was 1 year old. While we were unsaved, we got dressed up and went to our friends and neighbors to collect our candy. It was the normal thing to do.
Sometime after she became a Christian, my Mom learned the true meaning of Halloween and that it was wrong for Christians to celebrate. She immediately repented and that was the end of our Halloween celebrations. We stopped trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, going to the local Halloween parade, even watching television shows about Halloween. I want to stress that we didn’t hide from Halloween or act like it was something to be feared. Rather, we boldly told our critics that we chose not to participate in Halloween activities because it was against our Christian beliefs.
I remember being 17 years old and working at McDonalds. As Halloween approached, a memo was passed around that there would be a mandatory Halloween party/employee meeting for all employees. So here I am, one of the few Christians working at this restaurant, and I’m faced with a dilemma. I knew it was wrong to celebrate Halloween, but the meeting was mandatory. What could I do?
Well, I did what my Mom taught me to do. I spoke to my boss honestly about my conviction that Halloween was wrong. I told him that I was a born again Christian and as such I could not go to this party. I remember his reply was, “Okay, you’re working that night on the cash register.” No big deal—problem solved. Rather than go to the party, I joined the skeleton staff at the restaurant.
I told you this story to point out that as a Christian parent, you are always going to be dealing with the situation of teaching your children that they need to live separately from the world. Honestly, Halloween will be one of the easier situations you’ll come across. If you are going to raise your children for Christ, you will constantly be facing the necessity of telling them that they cannot do what everyone else is doing because they are Christians.
As they grow older, the challenges will increase. Honestly, your kids probably won’t be out of junior high before they need to stand up and say “No” to things like drinking, drugs, smoking, pornography, pre-marital sex, and a whole host of other issues. By teaching them when they are young that as Christians we live differently from the world, we don’t participate in all the world’s activities, and we need to be unafraid to share our convictions and beliefs with others, you are teaching them life lessons that will help them throughout their lives. The sooner you start the better.
Now you may be thinking, “That’s great but how do I explain to my child that they can’t trick-or-treat because it’s wrong?”
Very simply and at age appropriate levels.
Isn’t that how we explain everything to children?
Quite honestly, a 4 year old doesn’t need to know all the gory details about witches, ghosts, and spiritual warfare. If you try to tell them, you probably won’t sleep for weeks! So start with something easy like, “You know we love Jesus and only want to do things that bring Him glory. Halloween is filled with bad, scary things and we don’t want to do things that are bad, so we don’t celebrate.”
Then buy your kids some candy to help ease the pain.
As your kids mature, you need to begin teaching them about the reality of good and evil in the world. Last year, my brother was talking to a pastor in our area and he said “At our church, we do not celebrate Halloween in any facet of our ministry. We teach our children that Satan is real, demons are real, and that there is nothing "innocent" or "fun" about celebrating darkness.”
As Christian parents, you need to be teaching your school age children these same lessons. The world is not shy at all in their presentation of satanic worship. Like I said before, images of witches, spells, ghosts, and the occult are everywhere in our society. Just like you will warn your kids about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, you need to make them aware that there is a spiritual battle in our universe. They need to choose to be on God’s side and avoid the traps of evil. Sending them out into the world without this knowledge is like sending them into traffic without warning them of the dangers and teaching them how to obey the rules of the road.
Another big question is: “How do I explain to my children that their friends who celebrate Halloween aren’t bad people?”
Trust me, I completely get the problem. When we were growing up, there were parents who didn’t believe in teaching their kids about Santa Claus. Because Jamie and I were introduced to Santa before my Mom was saved, we were true believers! I remember the day the little darlings who didn’t believe decided to share their knowledge with all the other kids. Obviously, you don’t want your kids to be that child.
It is perfectly normal for your child to wonder why it’s okay for Suzy to go trick-or-treating and they can’t. I think the answer to this is to explain to your child that Suzy and her family don’t know that Halloween is wrong. Maybe you could use this time to explain about light and darkness.
You could tell your child “Suzy doesn’t know Halloween is wrong because she doesn’t know Jesus. It’s important that we pray for Suzy and her family to accept Jesus as their Savior and to show love to Suzy and her family so they will see Jesus in our lives and want to know Him better.” Tell your child not to worry about whether or not Suzy celebrates Halloween, because it’s more important that Suzy comes to know Jesus first.
What if Suzy and her family are already Christians?
If Suzy and her family are already Christians, but still celebrate Halloween, I think it’s okay to tell your child they are wrong. If Suzy or her parents ask why your child doesn’t celebrate Halloween, answer them honestly. Maybe they’ve never thought about the spiritual implications of this holiday or been made aware of its dangers. If they choose to disagree with you, it’s their choice. Your priority needs to be protecting your child’s heart and soul and teaching them not to compromise with evil.
In the end, Halloween is one day out of the year. As a child who was raised in the church who wasn’t allowed to celebrate Halloween, I can tell you that your children will survive skipping this celebration. Although it can be hard to keep your child away from the party at school or at a friend’s house, sometimes being a Christian means doing the hard thing. Jesus never said following Him would be easy or comfortable. Instead, He said in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.”
Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 6:17 “Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate,’” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
This is the call of every Christian. Teaching this to your children is the calling of every Christian parent. As a child raised in the church, I’m very grateful that my Mom took her calling seriously. Her example and teaching taught my brother and I to love God with all our heart and live our lives separate from the world, whether it involves celebrating Halloween or any other decision we make in life. She taught us to live as lights in a dark world---as the parent of a church kid, I challenge you to do the same!