Firstly I’d like to apologise to anyone in my church who was offended by some of my statements in my last post. I think I went too far in some things, particularly the characterisation of our church’s Fall Festival as an ineffective outreach event. When we first started attending, that’s how I understood the Fall Festival as being billed, and with that understanding, its effectiveness is questionable.
But I’m informed now that it’s more in the nature of a service to the community in providing a safe environment for their kids to come and have fun. This changes things somewhat. So I need to apologise. And since the original post was public, the apology had better be as well. I’m sorry. I’ll try not to let it happen again, but I can mouth off before thinking sometimes, so although I’ll try, I can make no promises.
I do still have the same basic question and doubt, though: is this something any church can and should be providing a safe environment for?
I am absolutely convinced that my church personally mean nothing but good. I’m certain that they are not allowing anything except that which is substantially innocent to happen at their Fall Festival. They wouldn’t be doing it if they thought it was bad. There’s not a doubt in my mind about any of that, but it’s not the source of my discomfort.
My discomfort with the church’s Fall Festival is that I’m unconvinced that it’s not still a participation on some level in Halloween, despite the renaming. Oh, my head can follow the logic of it supposedly being a sort of harvest celebration (and thus nothing to do with Halloween at all), but America already has one of those, on Thanksgiving Day. It would make my life easier to believe it’s “really” a harvest festival, but I just can’t help identifying it as Halloween, still. It’s got the same date. People dress up, go trick-or-treating and get candy. It’s Halloween. Only now they’re doing it in the church, hopefully without all the demented monsters of the official version.
At a bone-deep level, I remain unconvinced that the superhero and princess outfits that are considered normal for American Halloween are anything to do with real Halloween and its witches and ghosts. I see it around me; I’m not blind. But my mind still rebels at the idea that it’s normal to dress up as a ballerina for Halloween. It may be normal for you but it’s unaccountably weird for me.
Every fibre of my background is wailing that it’s not supposed to be like this. They’re supposed to dress up as something scary; wearing an Iron Man costume is doing it wrong. Halloween’s not supposed to be cute and cuddly.
And that’s just the secular Halloween, without the question of whether we can bring this into the church.
When it even existed as an event, the Halloween of my childhood didn’t have cute and innocent bits. Trick or Treat was the legitimised extortion of “Give us treats or we will egg your house”. The dressing-up was resolutely horror-themed, and the decorations likewise. No, we can’t “provide a safe environment” for this junk!
Of course, that was in another country. Things may be different here. But I’m aware that people are people, and if there’s a way to turn something toward the nasty, someone’s going to find it. American Halloween is still Halloween.
I’m quite prepared to be in a minority here. It’s a novel experience for me to be on the side saying “I really have a problem with trying to Christianise this”; normally I’m much more likely to argue the other way. I don’t have may lines in the sand, so it seems like my subconscious has taken all of my willingness to adapt in other areas, inverted it and piled it on for Halloween.
Maybe this is God’s way of teaching me to see things through the other guy’s eyes. I don’t have a problem with a lot of the shibboleths of the American church (and I was the same way in Britain), so it’s sometimes difficult for me to relate to people that really do believe that the drinking of alcohol, for example, is always a strict no-no for followers of Jesus. Perhaps recognising that in this I’m the one with the tender, weak conscience might do me some good.
I’m not going to forbid anyone from celebrating Halloween (except for my own children, and I think I have that right as their parent). I don’t have the authority to do that, and if I did, I hope I wouldn’t use it for something so self-serving.
If you believe that the route of having a Fall Festival on the 31st is a positive alternative to Halloween, go right ahead. If you can celebrate Halloween itself as unto the Lord, I rejoice in your freedom in Him. I can’t. And nor can I shake the idea that calling it Fall Festival isn’t just putting a different name on it.
If the mutual conviction of my church is that the Fall Festival is a thoroughly positive thing and nothing to do with the dark Halloween I remember, I can accept that as the mutual conviction of my church. You go right on having your Fall Festival, and I hope you are all blessed. Absolutely no sarcasm intended. Sincerely, I hope it’s a blessing to you. If you’re doing it unto the Lord I’d expect nothing less.
If you, as a believer, can celebrate Halloween with a clear conscience and a light heart, I rejoice in the freedom you have in Christ.
But please don’t try to press me to join you. This is a settled matter in my heart and I’m genuinely uncomfortable about church Halloweens no matter what you call them.
I’m groping for a way forward to come to terms with this ubiquitous but hated holiday, trying to breathe new life into All Saints, just as I recognise that’s probably what the US church as a whole is trying to do with its Fall Festivals and Trunk or Treats.
I didn’t ask to be leery and uncomfortable with that route, and I don’t really know why All Saints should seem any better. I’m answerable to my conscience more than I’m answerable for it. But this is my personal line in the sand. I recognise the sovereignty of your conscience in this – I’m not demanding that everyone conform to my personal foibles. But I don’t like feeling put under pressure to do something I’m not at peace with, and I’m already facing that pressure to join in from school, TV, neighbours and friends. Last year it felt like my church was just adding to the pressure. Unintentional it may have been, and I have no right to explode at anyone for something they did not mean. But pressure is pressure, so my apologies if, in finally feeling like I might have discovered a safety valve, that rather a lot of hot air may be escaping.