Church-o-ween: Would Jesus go to fall festival?

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2007, at 12:44 pm

Every year on October 31st many churches celebrate Halloween alternatives, what some call "Halloween in disguise," with "Harvest" or "Fall" festivals. I read about this over at Candy, costumes, games, and everything Halloween except for the "evil stuff." Why do churches do this?

Isn't Halloween one of the best opportunities Jesus followers have to love their neighbors and build relationships for the Gospel with them? Jesus tended to not escape his context for "the shire" but brought the Kingdom to it. Isn't following Jesus is a call to mission and live all of life for the Kingdom? A missional church sees itself as a local missionary and takes every opportunity to be incarnational, indigenous, and intentional.

Every Christian is a local missionary and avoiding non-Christians on Halloween seems odd to some of us. Isn't it an evangelisitic dream come true to have such an easy opportunity to have non-Christians come to your home in your own neighborhood? If we want non-Christian families in our neighborhoods to meet Jesus shouldn't we at least be home when they come knocking on our doors?

Since most American non-religious observances celebrate evil ---Thanksgiving (gluttony), Valentines Day (lust), St. Patrick's Day (drunkenness) --- why create an alternative religious counterfeit on Halloween? After all, what message is the church sending to the world by 'circling the wagons' and avoiding our neighborhoods?

Given the fact that Jesus and the apostles did not retreat from evil (Mark 2:13-14; Acts 14:8-20; Acts 17:16-34), I'm not so sure they would go to a church "harvest festival" on Halloween. It seems like Jesus followers, following the Kingdom-oriented mission of Christ, would see October 31st as a strategic missional opportunity to build relationships in their neighborhoods to later reveal where evil comes from and God's solution for it. Why isn't Halloween about being "salt and light?" What am I missing?

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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