5 keys to a sufficiently christian halloween :: wiener is a funny word

October 30, 2009

superkid_crop

I’m so proud of my son.  Last year as we shopped for Isaac’s Halloween costume, he came face to face with a terrible choice.  “Do I go as the white ninja or the giant wiener?”  Silent assassin, or walking tube steak?  Look cool, or look like an idiot?  Ninja or wiener??  NINJA or WIENER??

I’m so proud.  He was the most glorious giant walking hotdog you can imagine.  We still haven’t stopped laughing.

Yes we are.  We are Trick-or-Treating, baby.  It’s a highlight of my kids’ year.

So now we must confront the reasonable and oft-touted criticism from the Christian community that such behavior smacks of devil worship and wiccan hobelty-gobelty that should be AVOIDED and RESISTED, not CONDONED and CELEBRATED.  (By the way, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever seen “hobelty-gobelty” in a sentence, but it was awesome.  I’m proud of that one.)

I respect those who hold the danger signs at Halloween.  I do.  I have seen Halloween growing in popularity and in creeposity year by year.  It’s unsettling.  Going into the local Walgreens for some Nyquil now means walking past the hall of death with all of its automated screaming ghouls and skeletons, red light-bulb eyes flashing, shredded tunics waving creepily in the breeze.  I hate it.  There are several stores now that I don’t want to take my five-year-olds into until November comes around… and with it, the smiling stuffed turkey displays and cardboard cornucopias in the windows.  Our family doesn’t dismiss the power of darkness, and we don’t make light of the increasing cultural embrace of death, occult symbolism, and the horrific.  It’s all death.  It’s all dark.  It’s all Godless.

And that’s why our family goes Trick-or-Treating with enthusiasm every year.

WHAT?

Here’s the deal…  God’s whole story, from the first word in Genesis about His creation of the universe, to the final “Amen” on the last page of your Bible (it’s on page 1094 in my Bible), and even right now – today – in the ongoing story God is writing before He returns… it’s ALL about one thing.

REDEMPTION.  For His glory.  REDEMPTION.  Of me and my muck.  Of you and your ugly sin-stained heart.  Of my selfish kids.  Of everything.  God is a God who glories in REDEEMING His people and His creation… and this culture.  I’m on His team and in His family.  Therefore, I carry with me in my everyday walking-around life a desire to REDEEM for HIS glory any scrap of our culture that can be used for His purposes.  I love taking musical vibes from our culture and using them to help people worship.  I love borrowing ideas – metaphors – parables – from our culture, and using them to teach God’s truth.  I want to regain and reclaim cultural ground for King Jesus.  I love it.

So for the Skogerboes, Halloween is all about our FAMILY enjoying each other, having fun, and interacting with our community with a free pass.  There isn’t a single other day of the year where we get face-to-face time with so many of our neighbors.  Almost everyone is in a good mood.  Kids are EVERYWHERE in our neighborhood.  And we are quick to share smiles and make some eye contact with people we otherwise almost never see.  We’re opening doors – literally and figuratively.

And I believe God is all in favor of deeply connected family relationships and being a light to the neighbors.  Good times.

I also wince sometimes when I see local churches attempts to be “separate and other than” around Halloween.  Sometimes, church people, our attempt to provide an alternative “Harvest Festival” or “All Saints Celebration” or “Wiener Roast for the Holy Ghost” just comes across as… well… dorky.  Kinda dorky.  And, you know what?  I don’t even mean to criticize anyone or any church.  I get it.  Most of the world around us seems to be enamored with the darkness on Halloween, and local churches want to provide a fun, safe alternative.

The last time I was on staff at a church where an “All Saints Day” party for the neighborhood was being considered, I simply told the rest of the staff that I would be at home with my kids instead.  It matters too much to them, and it is too great an opportunity for us right in our own neighborhood.  I guess I’d just like to see more and more Christians engaging this culture with the LIGHT – right next door – on a day and a night that our enemy would like to see the darkness gain ground.  No on my watch.  Not at my house.  Not on my street.

And just a few caveats to ensure a successfully un-creepoliscious Halloween experience for the Christian rug rats in your home…

(1) If you want to redeem culture and be a light, do not dress your children as ghouls, witches, zombies, or liberal politicians.  (That was just a freebie for my right-wing evangelical readers.  You’re welcome.)  Giant processed meat-like food products are OK.

(2) Neither should you dress your children as Bible characters.  I mean, there’s no moral problem with it, but your kids will resent you well into their early adulthood.  (Kids, that was a freebie for you.  You’re welcome.)  To see this dorkiness-boosting practice in all of it’s glory, go here.  So sad…

(3) Play the appropriate Christian music of choice in the background as children come to your door asking for hand-outs.  Maybe someone will hear the heartfelt strains of Chris Tomlin or David Crowder and get saved.  OK… probably not.  But it’s like a secret code to your neighbors… “Pssst.  Are you a Christian?  Cuz WE’RE Christians.  Really?  Where do you guys go to church?”  Chris Tomlin is like the Christian fish of the early church.  Secret code.

(4) DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT hand out Bible tracts to Trick-or-Treaters unless they are also accompanied by liberal amounts of candy.  The GOOD stuff, too.  No “Bit-O-Honey” or black licorice.  We’re talking Reese’s PB Cups and Snickers.  Or cash.  Cash is good.  I once got a “tip” when I was working a part time job at Perkins.  It was a clever tract designed to look like a $20 bill.  You pull it out and the first word you see is “Disappointed?”  I guess it was supposed to spread the good news of Jesus through guilt by questioning my motives while simultaneously exposing churchy people as cheapskates.  If I didn’t work for a church at the time, I may have quit going.  (That was a joke.  Mostly.)  For the love of Mike, don’t pull the bait-and-switch on kids at Halloween.  Low blow.  Personal foul.

(5) Remember this.  If Jesus lives in you, you are not a slave anymore.  You walk in FREEDOM.  And you are an agent of REDEMPTION, a light-bearer.  Those neighbors that moved in two houses away… you know.  They moved in some time in July, but you don’t know their names yet?  Yeah.  It’s time.  Walk over there with your cute kids dressed like ninjas.  Or wieners.  Either way you win.

Come to our house this year. We’ll be passing out the good stuff.  And you can hear a little of the new Leeland album if you’re into that sort of thing.

OK.  Let me have it.  Am I off my rocker?  What do YOU do with Halloween?

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

31 responses to 5 keys to a sufficiently christian halloween :: wiener is a funny word

  1. Hey…good post. Totally agree. Our local churches get together, rent the commons at a local school, and have “The Great Pumpkin Party.” I’m rather indifferent about the title, I don’t think it’s any more or less “religious” or spiritual than Halloween. (Actually, probably less spiritual. Hallowe’en = the evening before All Saints Day..and no, I didn’t have to look it up.)

    Anyhoo, people are in costumes, there are games, local ministries have tables that give out information. One of the churches puts on a magic/juggling show and someone shares the story of the gospel at the end. It seems to work very well. And, you can come and go as you wish, so you can still get in some serious candy gathering time.

    If we started splitting hairs on which holiday had which Christian or “other” roots, we’d probably lean towards not celebrating anything. But God didn’t call us to split hairs, He called us to help in the Great Reconciliation. That doesn’t mean we should always “do as the Romans,” but we should feel freedom to do whatever we can to celebrate His creation and, with the Holy Spirit, help shepherd friend and stranger into the fold. Does trick or treating glorify God? Well, no, but can we glorify God by getting some face time with our neighbors? I sure hope so!!

    Now, the trouble, the stumbling block, the hurdle for me is not gorging on candy. I would find it difficult to defend the position that my gaining poundage from Halloween candy is for the glory of God.

    Soli Deo Gloria.
    Garrett

    • Hey Garrett! Thanks for the feedback. I know what you mean about the danger of having bags of candy sitting around your house. Yikes. If it weren’t for the neighbors I’d be getting Nut Goodies and Pearson’s Nut Rolls. Something less tempting. But no. We go with the good stuff. Must… resist… the peanut butter cups! 🙂

  2. rebecca enderlein October 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Josh, obviously I’m now seriously addicted to following your blog. And compelled to comment. I would label this entry “Very Refreshing”. I actually was cringing a bit when opening it because I wasn’t expecting your post. I should’ve given you more credit!

    I grew up in a family that played dress up, loved costumes, and I still do. I relish chances to dress up and enjoy working on costume ideas with my child. I agree that the holiday has grown in popularity, mostly young adults that never left celebrating it (in my day, about 13 years old, you might wear some lame costume – or a hat and go in search of free candy, one last hurrah! before adulthood). I did a quick shop at the local Halloween store, and was so excited by things like the Marie Antoinette wig, the Beethoven wig (and costume my nephew is putting together and wearing), that Jackie O. costume with wig and pill box hat (I wanted that one, but alas only fits up to size 8) even the blond braided German dairy maid wig…but wow! Some of the costumes (including private parts – ugh, who choses that costume!!!?????) and the growing “naughty nurse” costumes now available in girls size 7 and up truly bother me. HOWEVER, I think your attitude and your pointing out the time of the community coming together are the true merits. REFRESHING! I think that the Christian community removing themselves just seperates them further in the negative ways. Several years back I commented to a co-worker at an unnamed Christian school I worked at how we would be trick-or-treating that night (child had an AWESOME pirate costume we’d been working on for days!) and she proceeded to give me a lenghty chastising lecture on how I was opening the door to the occult by letting my child participate, how I was so foolishy blind etc. etc. etc. Even now, I still recoil at the memory of that conversation. As someone who willingly admits that I struggle with not always finding my place within the Christian Community, and sometimes feeling recoiled by aspects or people’s behavior within the community, this was a rough one for me deal with. So KUDOS to you and your family’s involvement and your post. Thank you.

    Some of your posts bless me in ways you probably don’t even realize they bless or affect people. By the way, I grew up in a home that handed out tracks. We gave out candy too, but I HATED it. I found it embarrassing and not received well. I know my parents and I would still differ greatly on this topic. The tract that says “disappointed” would not make me open to God’s word, and hope those aren’t still in “circulation”.

    • Hey friend! Your comments made my day. Thanks so much!

      As for your family handing out tracks… I’d let them off the hook. They’re good people. 🙂 Besides, the key to success was “with candy.” Last year our kids got very cool little gift bags from one house – including a very well written tract about God’s love, and a nice little packet of great treats. I say, thumbs up to that!

      Any way we can be IN THE CULTURE – just a happy, normal part of the culture – and reflect Jesus… that’s what we’re all about!

      Bless you and your family!

  3. Josh~
    Awesome post. It’s refreshing to read your viewpoint of Halloween. Too often, I’ve read the reverse; and in fact, have felt chastised for even allowing our children to trick-or-treat. I remember as a child looking forward to that evening-riding on the back of a wagon, getting that YUMMY candy (and not a penny or toothbrush…lame), my parents chatting, etc… In fact, this night in my neighborhood is like a big time of “catching up” between all the dads. While the moms are busy handing out the $50 of candy stashed and hidden in their homes, the dads are out walking, conversing, and laughing with each other as they try to catch up with the eager kids.

    And yes, I do believe that we need more light on a day that gets darker with each year. I, too, am surprised at the intensity that Halloween is taking on. I don’t remember that when I was a child, and I’d like to think that I’m not that old! So in that light, if we Christians keep pulling back thinking that this is a day of only darkness…we are, in a way, allowing defeat. If we continue to participate in a light-filled way (following your very useful parameters…)then perhaps we can offering hope and encouragement. In fact, where there is light-there is no darkness.

    Anyways, tomorrow night they’ll be several pirates, a princess, a giant overstuffed Pooh-bear, a 1950’s girl, a lions, and one teenager and her dad walking around our neighborhood laughing. And getting loads of candy…with hopefully some Almond Joy’s that their mother can enjoy later! And I’ll remember to have my Chris Tomlin rocking in the background. 🙂

    • Thanks Rachel!

      Edmund Burke is given credit for saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” No one is sure whether he actually said that or not. But he DID say, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

      So when the bad men combine – time to huddle and shine church! And eat some Almond Joys – that goes without saying.

      Bless you and your pirates and your princess and your Pooh bear and your 50’s girl and your lions and your teenager and your man. Hope you all have a blast.

  4. Not off your rocker at all Josh. I’d dare say right on point. Well said. Happy Halloween to you and yours from the house that gives out the “good candy” on the block!

    • Nice Trudy. Your competitive spirit is alive and well! 🙂 Have a great one at your house, too!

      By the way, I enjoyed looking at the pics from your daughter’s confirmation day. We are so mature. Ha!

  5. Love this and love your thought process through it. Great post.

  6. Why are you knockin Bit-O-Honey? One question as a potential candy-hander-outer: If a 15 or 16 year-old comes to the door with a bag and no outfit, what is the appropriate response?

    • Hey Nate. Bit-O-Honey is not real candy. There’s no chocolate involved. I always had the feeling it was marketed to parents who thought this was somehow a better alternative to the real thing. That’s why it’s not called “Chunk-O-Sucrose-Bonded-With-High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup-And-Polybetaethylaminate-With-A-Hint-O-Xanthan-Gum.”

      Secondly, in reference to said teenagers, I have a three stage approach. The first time they come to the door I make some lame joke about their suburban teenager costume and give them some candy. It takes guts to humiliate yourself like that.

      The second time they come to the door (true story) I just say “No way guys! Ha ha! I’ve seen you before. Ha ha! Gotta save some for the kids who are acting their age. Ha ha!” And then, if they don’t leave, I give ’em some candy.

      Third time they come to the door (true story) I brandish my current squirrel deterrent method of choice (rhymes with “BB Gun”) and aim for their fleshy hindquarters. Usually works great.

  7. Hey Nate and Josh~

    Here’s my response: I tell them, “great costume…it’s super scary!” If they laugh and realize they’re too old…then they get REAL candy. If they look irritated…then they get one, individually wrapped, red-hot jawbreaker. Along with the words, “good luck!” If they come twice I just have all my kids come to the door. That typically overwhelms them. 😉

    • Nice work. I almost included those red hot fireballs on my “bad candy” list, too. Basically for me it breaks down like this… Chocolate? Good candy. No chocolate? Bad candy.

  8. Josh I’m coming to your neighborhood with my little leopard and Thomas the train.

    I had NO idea that I was brought up not “Christian” enough until Lucy was in a church preschool that didn’t do Halloween. I remember church Halloween parties. Guess we were heathens. Oh well. Not really worried about what other people think. I just concentrate on my relationship with God instead.

    • “Not really worried about what other people think. I just concentrate on my relationship with God instead.”

      Awesome. That’s what God worries about, too. You’re good to go! I’ll be watching for your little ones. 🙂

  9. Well said, bro; well said. A helpful tool as we enter into this world with our little squirt. She made the most adorable little turtle today walking through the daycare center hallways trick-or-treating with a dozen other sugared-up 18-month-olds. Good times! 🙂

  10. So, what if your child wants to be a conservative politician toting around her personally signed copy of “Going Rogue?” My daughter wasn’t a weiner last year, but she sure made her mom proud! Only good candy at my house, and we host a cul de sac potluck. Lots of soup and chili, and a bottomless pumpkin bucket filled with Snickers, Twix, and Almond Joys (those are mine.) Great post Josh!

    • Wish I could visit and get in on that chili. I love that idea! High five your little mini-Palin for me. 🙂 Bless you guys, Heidi – thanks for reading.

  11. I’m dressed as a burglar, so does that mean I can take MORE candy? Ooooh the possibilities.

  12. Thanks for this fun post, Josh. I’ve gone back and forth on the Halloween debate for a long time. I’m linking this one from my own blog today as well. 🙂

  13. LOVE this post; saw it on facebook, remembered enjoying this post last year, reread it, and enjoyed it again. And I put Air1 on in the background…nothing like some Toby Mac and Switchfoot, not to mention all the other bands they play that I can’t remember the names of.

    Which reminds me…there must be a halloween rule for not rambling.

  14. Gretchen Halverson November 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Josh – I wish I would’ve seen this earlier! I LOVE IT!!

    We celebrate Halloween, as well. And have never attended Open Door’s A Night in the Light festivities. I, too, would much rather spend time as a FAMILY, let the kids dress up and have fun, and go a little goofy with the neighborhood!!!

    Also, thanks to Garrett for his comments as well (which is the only one I read due to time)… Miss you, Garrett!! It’s fun to see your bro & Holly every so often!

    Again, we may disagree on much – but there IS common ground, and how sweet it is when we find it! Love you, Brother Josh! 🙂
    G.

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