Pastoral Perspectives

What Won’t The Devil Be Wearing?

In the recent years, you may have noticed that Halloween has become an increasingly popular event here in Singapore. Besides nightspots and some F&B joints who would cash in on this festive occasion, family-friendly attractions such as S.E.A Aquarium and the River Safari have also jumped onto the bandwagon in the hope of pulling in the crowds. Here, I must confess my skepticism about the educational value of synthetic skeletons and craved pumpkin heads located in every other fish tank. For that matter, what relevance does Halloween have with the Aquarium’s and Zoo’s conservation efforts?

Although many may consider Halloween as just harmless fun, Christians should think deeper and ask some fundamental questions. For the general public, what does Halloween appear to stand for? While some may be familiar with its historical pagan roots, few would be aware of the Church’s effort to Christianise this festival by naming it “All Hallow’s Eve” or “All Soul’s Day” where Christians remember the faithful departed believers. More importantly, when it comes to Halloween today, why is it that there seems to be as someone aptly put it, “a commercial fascination with the dark side”?

One of the reasons could simply be that gore and horror sells. Many consumers are avid fans of horror movies, possess niggling curiosity about the paranormal and enjoy the adrenaline rush of being spooked. Judging from the sales that Halloween has generated, there is no doubt that it has been successfully rebranded by marketing professionals to become a universal festival. During Halloween, the bizarre and spooky enter the mainstream in contrast to the Hungry Ghost Festival, which is generally associated with Chinese religious traditions.

When it comes to most Halloween-related events, we also find that those who organise them tend to end up glorifying the occultic, gruesome and grisly side of life. In addition, we are more likely to find people dressing up as ghoulish zombies, blood-curling psychopaths and other wicked characters during Halloween parties instead of wholesome characters, fictional or otherwise. For that matter, I suspect few children would aspire to dress up as “Olaf” from the movie “Frozen” or “Dora the Explorer” during Halloween season.

Evidently, the overarching ethos of Halloween appears to be celebrating a culture of death and uninhibited excess rather than promoting a culture of life and modesty. It also seems to trivialise things such as death, deformity and evil and reduces them to mere child’s play. This is because during Halloween, no one is meant to take the above matters seriously. Instead, people are supposed to laugh off the devil and his minions as an antiquated joke or a figment of imagination rather than recognising it as a spiritual reality as revealed in the Bible.

In addition, the way evil is portrayed to be dealt with during Halloween tends to domesticate God and His gift of grace. After all, if all it takes to defeat evil and escape hell is for people to outrun the zombies (as seen in the running event “Race the Dead”) or face-off the “Minister of Evil” (“Halloween Horror Nights”), the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection may come across as overkill for some. As much as death may be a prominent theme during Halloween, Halloween fails to explain how death is a dreadful consequence of sin and that humanity will remain hopeless without a Saviour and Redeemer.

Regardless of what our convictions are towards Halloween, we should make careful decisions based on biblically-informed Christian conscience if we choose to engage in such activities in the future. Some Halloween practices are clearly out of bounds. On the other hand, a blanket judgment to reject Halloween as a whole would admittedly be too simplistic. This is particularly so if we desire to meaningfully reach out to our friends or neighbours without confusing the Gospel message.

In conclusion, as followers of Christ, we must take heed of Peter’s encouragement to “resist the devil, firm in our faith” (v.9). In the context of this passage, this begins with believers clothing ourselves with humility towards one another and being humble before God (1 Peter 5:5-6). A similar exhortation is also found in James 4:6-7.

Clearly, if there’s any “costume” Satan won’t be putting on, humility is certainly one of them. But for us, may humility never be reduced to an occasional outfit but one which is truly reflective of the grace of God at work in our lives.

Rev Edwin Wong

November 9, 2014