For some churches, celebrating Halloween is akin to a pact with the devil

Religious tracts may find way into candy bags
For some churches, celebrating Halloween is akin to a pact with the devil
Posted at 7:00 AM, Oct 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-29 08:19:29-04

If you found a little religious booklet in your bag of goodies on Halloween night, would you think you'd received a treat or some kind of trick?

It might happen this Halloween, if you go trick-or-treating at the home of one of the staff members of Answers in Genesis, the Petersburg, Kentucky-based advocates for creationism.

Some AIG members who don't participate in Halloween plan to hand out an evangelistic booklet, or tract, along with candy, to the children who show up at their door, said Mark Looy, AIG's chief communications officer.

"These tracts represent the good news of the hope of the gospel that will rescue us from being separated from God forever," he said.

The observance of Halloween poses a problem for some religious organizations and churches, because for some people, it's a time to celebrate things churches are traditionally against -- you know, the powers of darkness.

Other religious people object to the costumes some adults wear -- revealing, sexy costumes that might encourage things churches typically frown upon, like sex outside marriage.

Although it doesn't have an official ministry statement about Halloween, Answers in Genesis has come down pretty clearly on the side of the "Christians shouldn't observe it" camp.

"We hope that many churches will hold functions on Oct. 31 to counter the modern practices of Halloween and perhaps distribute candy to children at the same time," Looy said.

Walk into the bookstore of AIG's Creation Museum and on the shelf you'll find a DVD produced by AIG founder Ken Ham and titled "Halloween, Paganism and the Bible." It's a videotape of a lecture given by Bodie Hodge, a speaker and researcher for AIG.

In it, he speculates on the origins of Halloween and its alleged connections with pagan religions. Christians should avoid pagan practices, he says.

In a pamphlet he wrote that AIG also sells, "A Biblical & Historical Look at Halloween," Hodge says, "There is a tremendous amount of occult activity associated with this holiday," but he provides no examples or evidence.

Acts committed on Halloween such as vandalism, he says, as well as glorifying death and demons, are in opposition to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

He also encourages churches to hold church functions to counter Halloween -- possibly by celebrating Oct. 31 as Reformation Day. Popular legend has it that on that date, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany, starting the Protestant Reformation.

Some local churches have taken the route of offering alternative celebrations for Halloween. Those include Florence Baptist Church at Mount Zion, which on Oct. 30 will hold its annual Florence Fun Fest.

The church is expecting 800 to 1,000 people to come for games, face paint, hayrides, a cakewalk, door prizes and candy, lead pastor Corey Abney said.

Children typically wear costumes for the event, he said, and the church doesn't screen those or publish a list of recommended costumes.

The church doesn't encourage any dark celebrations of Halloween, he said, but it also feels believers should participate in the community and make it holier.

"We're trying to celebrate (Halloween) in a way that honors the Lord, but also gives us leverage for the sake of impacting others," he said.

Some of the alternative Halloween celebrations that churches put on can get pretty scary.

For example, at the turn of the century, many churches created something called Hell House -- a vivid depiction of various "sins" and their eternal consequences.

The late Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, was an early promoter of the concept in the late '70s, but it was advanced by the Rev. Keenan Roberts, who is now the senior pastor at New Destiny Christian Center in Thornton, Colorado. That church sells "Hell House Outreach" kits online.

The first Hell House production -- and possibly the only one -- in the Tri-State area was believed to be the one put on by Kings Point Church of God in Hamilton Township in 1999 and 2000. It was criticized by local gay rights groups for depicting a gay man dying of AIDS.

A woman who answered the phone at the church this week said the church hasn't done another production since. A message for the pastor was not returned.

For several years in the early '00s, the youth of Bullitsburg Baptist Church in Boone County put on a milder version it called Reality House, in which visitors walked through rooms that depicted real-life problems such as school violence or anorexia.

Dan Scalf, the youth pastor at the time, said the point was to show everyone's need for Jesus and give them a low-pressure opportunity to become a Christian.

Jamie Thornsberry, the church's pastor for the past 18 months, isn't against this kind of production: He visited a "Judgement House" in Nashville where 500 people were saved, and that's great, he said.

"But you have to be careful about playing on people's emotions," he added.

The main reason the church stopped doing Reality House was for lack of members, Thornsberry said.

Back then, the church had about 300 regular attendees, he said, and now it has 50 to 60. A production like that requires a lot of personnel, he said.

Nowadays, the church does a harvest party instead, with a chili-cooking contest, a bonfire and candy for the children.

"We're not celebrating Halloween ... We're celebrating life," he said. "We're trying to give a safe alternative to some of the negativity in the world."