It's October....which means commercials, advertisements, store fronts, and Facebook are covered with halloween deals, steals, and fun!
But is halloween, or All Hallows' eve, as it's historically named, really all it's cracked up to be?
There's a lot of controversy surrounding the day when it comes to the church.
So I wanted to pick apart why our family- the Curzio's- chooses to not participate.
I'm prepared- or preparing- for the flack and comments coming after this read. After all, having an opinion on anything these days leads to scrutiny from all angles.
But I want to look at both the physical and spiritual effects of halloween.
Do some research on the day. Go ahead- google it. Be careful, you don't want to traipse across a demonic website.
But go ahead.
What's really wrong with halloween anyways?
My argument has been, and will always be: fear.
It's a four letter word that's commonplace in our dialogue.
"I'm scared of"
"I get afraid when"
"I'm terrified about"
And you can fill in the blank. Both adults and kids say it.
Fear has gripped our globe in its grasp, and it's time we looked at the real enemy responsible.
Most people, when halloween and church come up, argue demons. They'll argue satanism and witchcraft, and spells and cults. And while I believe that that is a real and negative part of the debate, I think we are going about the discussion all wrong.
Halloween in and of itself is a holiday based around fear. The primary purpose is fright as delight.
And as a Christian, I have to put my foot down- because we are allowing fear to take over our homes, and halloween is only one of the many avenues fear is allowed to travel.
Fear is not of God.
In fact the Bible tells us that God hasn't given us fear, but power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tinothy 1:7).
So why would I give fear to my kids, apart from God?
Is it all in "good fun"?
I would argue, that it isn't as fun as we think. In fact, I believe we are harming our kids...both spiritually and physically...by celebrating.
One article, posted by NBC a few years back, only agrees with me:
( for the original post click here.)
Halloween may be hazardous to kids
By Heather Whipps
It is the adults who should be afraid this Halloween. Not of ghouls and goblins, but of psychologically scarring their children.
In a recent study of 6- and 7-year-olds in the Philadelphia area, Penn State psychologist Cindy Dell Clark found that most parents underestimate just how terrifying the holiday can be for young kids.
Halloween has been scaring the heck out of kids of all ages for centuries.
Two thousand years ago, Celts living in what is now the United Kingdom celebrated their new year at the end of October. During these days of transition from the end of summer harvest to the beginning of winter, spirits were thought to roam among the living.
The modern customs of candy and costume are rooted in medieval England. To avoid being recognized by the visiting spirits, people would dress up in masks whenever they left home. Bowls of food were placed outside to keep the ghosts happy. The practices have morphed into Halloween as it is known today, with parents encouraging their own little ghosts and goblins to haunt the neighborhood.
There have been few studies to examine how the holiday affects children. Child psychologists generally caution parents that the fright of some aspects of Halloween can be too much for the very young, and advise adults to keep a close eye on children and remind them of what is real and what is not.
According to Clark, who interviewed parents and children after three Halloweens, younger children may be unwilling participants in the whole ritual.
The key ingredient in the recipe of Halloween fright is, of course, death.
"Intriguingly, Halloween is a holiday when adults assist children in behaviors taboo and out of bounds," Clark writes in the anthropological journal Ethos. "It is striking that on Halloween, death-related themes are intended as entertainment for the very children whom adults routinely protect."
For most kids, at an age when they're often not included in family funerals or witness to grave illnesses, Oct. 31 is often their first introduction to the subjects.
Too tender for tombstones?
Halloween also provides an opportunity for adults to confront usually uncomfortable topics like death, Clark told LiveScience. Kids as young as 6 and 7, however, don't differentiate between real death and the store-bought skeleton figures hanging in the trees and fake tombstones on the grass.
"Children see things on a real plane, as opposed to adults, who are trying to get around real themes like death by treating them as fun," she said.
Conducting her study, Clark observed young children cowering from fear in front of the haunted displays and graveyard scenes common in so many American neighborhoods at Halloween.
Children interpret the frights of Halloween differently depending on their personal situations, such as the recent death of a relative or pet. An especially harrowing Halloween experience might have long-lasting effects. She recalled an interview with a grown woman who described trick-or-treating at age 8: A well-intentioned neighbor invited the girl inside, only to scare her and a friend with a real coffin displayed in the living room.
"She hasn't enjoyed Halloween since," Clark said.
The university of minesota does the work, and breaks down fear and it's effects on our physical bodies.
"Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight or flight response. As such, it is an essential part of keeping us safe.
However, people who live in constant fear, whether from physical dangers in their environment or threats they perceive, can become incapacitated.
How fear works
Fear prepares us to react to danger. Once we sense a potential danger, our body releases hormones that slow or shut down functions not needed for survival (such as our digestive system) and sharpen functions that might help us survive (such as eyesight). Our heart rate increases, and blood flows to muscles so we can run faster. Our body also increases the flow of hormones to an area of the brain known as the amygdala to help us focus on the presenting danger and store it in our memory.
Effect on thinking
Once the fear pathways are ramped up, the brain short-circuits more rational processing paths and reacts immediately to signals from the amygdala. When in this overactive state, the brain perceives events as negative and remembers them that way.
It also stores all the details surrounding the danger—the sights, sounds, odors, time of day, weather, and so forth. These memories tend to be very durable, although they may also be fragmented.
Later, the sights, sounds, and other contextual details of the event can become stimuli themselves and trigger fear. They may bring back the memory of the fearful event, or they may cause us to feel afraid without consciously knowing why. Because these cues were associated with previous danger, the brain may see them as a predictor of threat. This often happens with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). For example, a soldier who experienced a bombing on a foggy day might find himself panicking when the weather turns foggy—without knowing why."
They continue with the lasting effects on our bodies:
Fear can impair formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. This can make it even more difficult to regulate fear and can leave a person anxious most of the time. To someone in chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that.
Moreover, fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions. All of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately.
Other consequences of long-term fear include fatigue, clinical depression, accelerated ageing, and even premature death.
So whether threats to our security are real or perceived, they impact our mental and physical wellbeing."
If fear is real, and damaging at the least to our physical bodies, as a parent, I want to know how to better protect and safe-guard my own kids from fear.
Below is a chart that summarizes the fears children experience by age, that are considered "normal", According to the Child Anxiety Network. Meaning that all children feel anxiety or discomfort in relation to these subjects, at each of the given ages.
- 0-2 years – Loud noises, strangers, separation from parents, large objects.
- 3-6 years – Imaginary things such as ghosts, monsters, the dark, sleeping alone, strange noises.
- 7-16 years – More realistic fears such as injury, illness, school performance, death, natural disasters.
As young kids, some fears are going to occur without my introduction of them. (Like the dark)
Why would I want to exaggerate or exploit my kids' fears of things like death, ghosts, monsters, the dark- at such ages through the "celebration" of these things? Because halloween is just that: a celebration of death, ghosts, monsters, an the dark.
"It's just pretend though!" Is the next argument that comes up for those who are in support of celebrating the day of All Hallows' eve.
But can our kids make the judgement call in their small, developing brains, about what is pretend and what isn't?
Phsycology today gives us a clearer picture of how and why kids see fear as a bigger reality than adults:
"What we know is that children of different ages perceive media in different ways:
- Children under 5 have problems distinguishing reality and fantasy in media.
- Children under 7 are usually scared by spooky fantasy (e.g., The Incredible Hulk, sharks in Finding Nemo). It doesn't much matter what the adult says (‘it's not real') because it feels real to the child.
- Children 8-12 are most frightened by realistic violence (e.g., people breaking in the home, storms)."
- For the full article click here.
- If my kids can't determine reality from imaginary, as a parent, it's my job to separate that for them. It's my job to keep them from the irrational fears that can lead to damaging effects both spiritually, and physically.
Sadly, the effects aren't only seen in children either. Adults exhibit responses to fear, in both spiritual and physical ways as well.
The following are real life stories from people who worked in a haunted house, and watched first-hand the damaging effects of fear on not only children, but people of all ages.
"I was dressed as a vampire and standing in a coffin. When people would come around the corner, I would jump out and scare them.
A woman came through and I jumped out. The woman lets out this piercing scream and jumps backwards. She hit the wall so hard she dented it pretty badly.
She kept screaming and wouldn’t stop. She was hyperventilating, crying, on and on. I was afraid to approach her and make it worse. I had to completely drop character and tell one of the guests to go get an uncostumed worker to assist her."
" Another girl working there was supposed to be on a bathtub with a rope around her neck loosely. But she slipped and ended up hanging herself. Luckily, another one of the employees noticed while walking through and got her down before she died."
"I’ve worked at Scream World in Houston for 2 years in a row and while working in the slaughterhouse, playing the victim, I scared a lady so bad she started throwing up everywhere."
" I saw someone OD right in front of me. I’ve had others just freak out and fight the Scareactors, some drop into a corner sobbing and have to be carried out."
"A lot of families went through the haunt and the kids were horrified by the zombies. A lot of kids would just be losing their minds when they got to the exit"
"The kids would be freaking out and the same thing would happen over and over. The parents would say “It’s ok! It’s over, look see….it’s the end!” And the kids would be relieved and they would run for the door."
Now- as I say with all of my posts, my primary target audience, is the believer.
Let's look at the spiritual side of halloween. For the sake of the Christian family.
Most argue that halloween is all "good fun" and "about the candy" and that nothing truly evil is coming about in the harmless practice of dressing in fun costumes and masks and charging around with local neighbors.
But it's much more than a "game" or "party" for witches, wizards, warlocks.
Those things aren't really real are they? Yes.
Contrary to popular belief, cults, covens, and satanist groups are very much alive and working, and their primary night of practice is that of All Hallows' eve.
"Texe Marrs, well known New Age researcher said this about the activities of witches on Halloween:
Our own research confirms that on this unholy night [Halloween], witches' covens meet, drink, dance, spit out curses and spells, conjure up spirits, engage in sexual orgies, induct new members, and offer up animal and human sacrifices. (Witches have become expert at covering up these sacrifices by use of cremation ovens and the use of privately owned land preserves for disposal of bodies in deeply dug graves.)"
Take a first hand look for yourself.
Here's a testimonial of a former satanist. Someone who modern-day practiced things of the demonic realm.
Obviously- and intentionally- this story ends with the gospel, and the gentleman gives his life to Jesus.
But what took place in his life prior to his redemption, and even partly after- was from his direct involvement with the devil.
It seems foreign to talk of such a power as if it's here for real.
But we have to grapple with the idea that as much as God is holy and majestic, and good- the opposite is just as demonic, pagan, and evil.
We see glimpses of the enemy all around us in the filth on tv commercials, the lyrics in current top billboard songs, and plastered on the internet as sex, drugs, and alcohol.
He's revealing himself through cancer, suicide, terrorism, and injustice both domestically and abroad.
He's cleverly disguised himself as "natural" fear, panic, rage, anger, and worry.
And we can't pretend he's not a force that's real and powerful. Because it is.
That's not to say Gods power is not greater, stronger, and more glorious.
It just means we cannot tamper with a spiritual evil that we believe is less powerful, in hopes that it has no power at all.
"Witches and warlocks, vampires and evil spirits, these all sound like fanciful characters for many of today's popular books and movies, the harmless imaginings of a creative mind. But the occult and many of it's features are anything but fiction. The world of mysterious powers and frightful incantations exist as more than some plot device in some best selling novel. It exists here in our world and in our day to day lives. People are fascinated and drawn to these dark parts of life and always have been."
Said well by Darris McNealey.
"It's all in good fun when used to teach children it's ok, there's no problems many reason, or is there?
We'll see what Mary has to say in a moment.
More recently vampires have been given a new lease on life within the stories told in books and movies of high school youth and love and romance. Vampires and the dark side are given the face of youth and the same themes of evil verses good. Immortality and dark sinister forces are sanitized within the context of adolescent love romance and desire.
Granted these are powerful themes that make compelling stories and a lot of people maybe even you or your children or your grand children have been caught up in the stories and find them entertaining and perhaps profitable.
A popularity and commercial success of evil in today's culture testifies to the truth that people today cannot discern between good and evil. The Bible says...
Isaiah:5:20 "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."
The growing popularity and commercial success of Halloween has made this annual holiday second only to Christmas as a boom for retailers. Think about that, second only to Christmas in retail sales.
Why is this? People want to have a good time. They want to be entertained and in some cases they want to explore things they don't understand seeking meaning, power or control. And they don't care where they find it but they and you should care.
There are forces in this world that you should not want to be near. Evil does exist, evil is not an intellectual discussion or a board game or a harmless feature of popular culture. Evil exists and you should understand the perils of dabbling with this dark side of reality.
It goes by many different names, channeling, fortune telling, Wicca, divination, sorcery, magic, call it what you will. The truths that hide behind the shrouds of mysticism are unsettling at best and disastrous at their worst.
If you don't believe me would you believe first hand someone who knows first hand about evil power, someone who was immersed in witchcraft and evil? In order to understand the inner workings of this strange and mysterious world I interviewed a former witch, we'll call her Mary. Mary spent twenty years learning and practicing the pagan rituals involved in tarot card reading and fortune telling, voodoo, casting spells".
Witchcraft is a very real power, occurring in October of 2014. It's not an outdated practice from eons ago, that's dead and mythical.
So what's a Christian to do?
In a world where all of our should, would, could choices are scrutinized for motive and judged for morality....
First I would say pray.
Pray and ask God, what He thinks about it. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:23, all things are permissible, but not all are beneficial.
Is it an experience and a tradition that will bring your family closer to the cross with each party, each costume, each bag of candy.
If it truly is about the candy- then go blow a paycheck on multi-colored and shaped sugars that will rot your dental work!
Then, search out the word. The Bible is our sole instruction book and map for living this life.
The Bible says that His word is a lamp and a light to our feet and path- should we not know where to go, it will illuminate the portion of the road that's dim, giving us a clearer picture of what God ultimately desires for us as His kids.
For our family personally, I've come across the words "fear not" and have to head these words- not as a rule that's followed with regret and painstaking grief- but as a word of caution....just like premarital sex is not ok, not because God wants to remove fun from my life, but because He has the best in mind, and knows that premarital sex comes with baggage, and shame, and consequences He doesn't want me to bear. Of which I have first hand experience.
The words "fear not" or for other translations, "do not be afraid" are in the Bible 365 times. Some say that's reason enough to live everyday without fear.
I can't help but take notice that it's written so many times, as more than merely a suggestion.
I don't think that God meant the inspired word to read: "if you feel like it, fear not." Or "if you want to, then do not be afraid." Or "I'm suggesting you not be afraid, but it's optional".
And ironically we place that optional option, on most scripture. To our own detriment.
A.W. Tozer said that "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
Because if what we think about God is not shaped by the truth of the word, then we will re-interpret or re-shape the truth to fit what we want.
I can't sit and take that portion of scripture (which is quite large) as a suggested phrase, or else the phrases that are "pivotal" to the central gospel message become optional too. Verses like John 3:16, that God loved the world, or Philippians 4:13 that I can do all things through Christ. Verses like revelation 1:7, that says Jesus is coming again.
1 John 1:1 says that the "Word was with God and the word was God" means that the Bible, which is Holy and inspired by His spirit, means that if I add or subtract pieces I want or don't like or prefer, I am changing the character of who God is, based on my human and finite reasoning, understanding, and preference.
That also means the parts that say witchcraft, sorcery, spirits of evil, divination, wizardry, magic, and death- are not of God.
We are told in John that God gives "Life and, life to the fullest". Which is the very opposite of what is celebrated by patrons and society during the commercialized halloween holiday.
Halloween is a representation, a celebration, of darkness, death, and fear.
I know, the next thing will be from the "scholarly" who will say, if you look at halloween as a pagan celebration, then Christmas is pagan too.
To that I would say- you're absolutely right. If we look at the history and the context of why and what brought about Christmas, you'll find wickedness at the center.
And to that, I would say, so what.
I'm not here to win the approval of every person on the planet.
What I do know, is that I want every experience and tradition that I participate in, and include my children in, to be - and will be- those that draw us nearer to Jesus.
For us, Christmas is about Jesus and how He came to earth as a man, to set in motion a plan of redemption, that without- I would be dead to sin.
Easter represents Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, and what a triumph over death that was, and a celebration of victory for our family- and the church- and the world!
Halloween has no such meaning. It doesn't have a thread of possibility to lead me closer to Jesus and so we choose not to celebrate.
I'm not here to make up a rule book for us all to follow.
I just want to caution us as believers, to be watching and to be vigilant against the schemes of the enemy- whether they look like a tv show, a holiday, or something else.
Is halloween a salvation issue? No. I don't think that the people who get to heaven will be separated into groups of those who celebrate vs those who don't.
But I do know that I want to run the race, full steam ahead, without distractions, hindrances, and all the while, training and teaching my kids to love Jesus without compromise, so that on the glorious return on my Savior, I hear Him say to me "well done, good and faithful servant".
The enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy....and if he came with a machete, a net, and openly shared his ideas, it wouldn't exactly tangle us up.
If we have to take time to recognize the enemy, it's because he comes and tricks us.
He's good at presenting a counterfeit that looks real- or else we wouldn't find ourselves amidst sin.
Don't be tricked by him, for a small treat of candy, pictures, or a costume.
It's time the church took back what the enemy stole, and be a light amidst the darkness, both on October 31st, and every other day of the year.
I pray you'll do the same.