Putting the Jesus on Halloween: Christian Power Scares Secularism | Way of life

The Reverend Stan Lightfoot, pastor of Rustic Hills Baptist Church, was expecting around 200 guests for his congregation’s first trunk or treat last Halloween.

In a good kind of shock, 750 people marched through the church parking lot on October 31, 2021, where church members handed out candy from the backs of 17 decorated cars and trucks to children doing trunks or processing, an alternative to trick-or-treating that has grown in popularity since its origins in the 1990s.

“It blew our minds,” Lightfoot said. “We were rushing to buy more candy because some people were running out.”

Several attractions have brought parents and children to flock to the small church at 1927 N. Murray Blvd.

A large banner out front and volunteers waving to motorists on the busy street likely helped attract attendees, Lightfoot said, as well as his appearance on a local radio show, “Our Town.”

“We want to demonstrate the love of Christ during a holiday that has at times carried quite strong anti-Christian messages,” he said.

Turning Halloween scare into Christian power, some vehicles were adorned with biblical themes, such as Noah’s Ark. Others reflected pop culture, including “Lightning” McQueen, an anthropomorphic stock car featured in the “Cars” film series.

As Christians fight to make the birth of Jesus the center of attention at Christmas, they are also campaigning for Jesus to make an appearance on Halloween.

Some of the revelers at Rustic Hills Baptist Church last year were dressed in costumes featuring Christian characters, but there were also princesses and pirates.

“We don’t celebrate Halloween the way some people do – we try not to be spooky, and certainly not satanic or demonic,” Lightfoot said.

As when it was created in churches about 30 years ago, the trunk or treat remains an activity that people perceive as a safe environment for families, Lightfoot said.

“I think people recognize that we’re trying to do something that connects our community to our Savior, and that appeals to people thinking their children might be safe, rather than going from house to house unknowingly. “, did he declare.

Halloween’s roots go back to pre-Christian times, when the Celtics in Europe marked the harvest season and the end of the year with a festival called Samhain, pronounced “sah-win”.

Bonfires and animal sacrifices to Druid gods characterized these early days, along with a prevailing thought that the boundary between life on Earth and the spirit world was thinnest.

“So there’s this tradition of trying to make predictions and prophecies about the year ahead,” said Professor Deborah Whitehead, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus. and expert on religion in the United States.

Christian practices around Halloween began in the fourth century, when the early church began a day to honor martyrs and saints. The observance changed from May 13 to November 1 in the year 837, according to historical accounts. Many people continue to hold vigils on Halloween to pray and prepare for the next day.

On November 2, All Saints’ Day is commemorated in Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic churches to honor the deceased.

Cultures have adopted different customs surrounding observances, such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico.

Wiccans mark Samhain with a festival on Oct. 31 that typically includes a bonfire and fellowship with the dead, according to history.comand American pagans often hold music and dance events called witches’ balls.

The Church of Satan regards Halloween as “the night when worldly people try to get within and touch the ‘darkness’ which for Satanists is a daily mode of existence,” its website states.

While some Christians shun Halloween like a bad apple because they think the holiday contradicts their religious beliefs and the way they live their faith, Lightfoot said his congregation of around 75 members “are not interested in put your head in the sand”.

“We tried to take something Satan made ugly and turn it into something good,” he said.

At Rustic Hill Baptist Church’s second annual trunk or treat, to be held from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, October 30, in the church parking lot with 20 decorated vehicles, children will receive tracts from the gospel as well as candy and popcorn. Families will also be invited to attend a children’s ministry program or church service.

But no pressure.

“We’re trying to have a fun event while turning Halloween on its head and making it different from what’s portrayed in the culture,” Lightfoot said.

About 1 out of 3 Protestant pastors in a new investigation of Lifeway Research, an evangelical Christian firm that measures church and culture, said it encouraged church members to distribute gospel tracts to deceivers, the study showed.

And 71% of pastors said they encourage church members to invite friends or neighbors to church events on or near Halloween, such as a fall festival, trunk or treat house. or judgment.

Halloween events with a religious twist “take the Halloween elements that seem to be most popular with children and families and extract those from the context that they consider problematic, demonic or Satan-worshipping, and put them in , ‘We can always dress up, get some candy and have fun,’ Whitehead said.

“By moving it to a parking lot or a church building and removing the creepy or objectionable elements, they’re trying to have the best of both worlds – retaining some of the most popular traditions while doing it in a way that seems more consistent with their theology.

Among all Americans, 3 out of 4 respondents to a Numerator Holiday Preview survey said they plan to celebrate Halloween this year.

The societal push to observe Halloween is high, Whitehead said.

In recent years, retailers have started displaying Halloween decorations and other merchandise for sale in August, she noted.

Halloween spending this year is expected to hit a record high of $10.6 billion in the United States, surpassing last year’s record high of $10.1 billion, according to the annual consumer survey. National Retail Federation’s Halloween.

“People who oppose Halloween for whatever reason, whether it’s for secular reasons because they don’t like the commercialization, or for religious reasons because they feel there’s something in celebrations that aren’t in line with their faith, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd that way,” Whitehead said.

Children are exposed to the holidays through their friends and at school, she said, and may not understand why they are not allowed to wear a costume and get free candy.

“There’s pressure on religious and secular Americans to join in the fun,” Whitehead said.

Just over one in eight pastors, or 13%, in the Lifeway Research survey, said they encourage members of their congregation to avoid Halloween altogether.

There is no command or directive in the Bible telling believers not to celebrate Halloween, Whitehead said.

“Then it becomes a matter of interpretation,” she said, with some churches and Christian organizations offering guidance to help worshipers choose what their families will do.

Objecting Christians refer to connotations of the holiday’s non-Christian roots.

“Halloween has always had associations with the occult,” says Focus on the Family, in an article on its website about whether christians should celebrate halloween. The evangelical Christian multimedia organization is headquartered in Colorado Springs.

The incorporation of horror and slasher films is relatively new, Whitehead said.

“There’s a big capacity to this party, which is part of why it’s become so popular in North America,” she said.

“There’s the healthier side of candy, costumes and tricks and tricks, and on the other side there are more adult elements like gore, slasher and horror movies.”

“Because the holiday exists on such a broad spectrum, what we’re seeing is a lot of churches trying to meet members of their congregations where they are on that spectrum.”

Contact the author: 719-476-1656.

Barry F. Howard