Bob Harrington, the late "Chaplain of Bourbon Street," preached one night in Mississippi and advertised his sermon title in the local newspaper: "Three Places Where There's No Problem With Racism." This was in the civil rights era, and our nation was fixated on the issue.
Hundreds came that night to hear Harrington. He touched on his announced theme only in the first paragraph of his sermon: "The three places where there's no problem with racism are heaven, hell and in the heart of a Christian." Then Harrington preached a gun barrel-straight Gospel message.
"Should a Christian Celebrate Halloween?" is, likewise, poised to draw a crowd, but there’s no easy answer.
Some say Halloween is the "devil's night" and refuse to participate or let their children participate. Others say it's a harmless night of fun and see no problem with it.
I remember a boyhood Sunday school teacher who used to rail against race car driving.
"It's just like the Roman coliseum," he often told us. "People go there to see drivers crash and die!"
Unfair and harsh, to be sure, for us impressionable children, and he never explained his animosity. Many people claim racing as their sports hobby. We even have a block of American conservatives called "NASCAR voters." And at Talladega and other racetracks, Christians serve as chaplains and give away bottles of water to thirsty attendees.
There was a local pastor when I was in high school who came back from a Bible conference with new enthusiasm, telling his congregation that he'd thrown his TV out the back door. If they really loved Jesus, he said, they’d do the same thing. A few weeks later, they threw him out the door!
TV is still here. There are vile things on it, of course, but there are also Christian programs sponsored by great churches and Christian networks, too.
If we couldn’t stop racing or TV if we wanted to, we probably aren't going to stop Halloween. So, how can we respond effectively?
Some churches have used the so-called "Judgment House" drama that seeks to communicate the truth about death and eternity. Other churches provide on-site festivals or distribute Gospel summaries or worship invitations homeowners can give away with their Halloween treats.
I've known some Christians who've designed attractive Halloween gift packages and included a simple "God loves you" note. For some boys and girls, this might be the only time they read such a positive message.
Rather than turning lights off or scowling at eager boys and girls that we don't celebrate Halloween, why not give a little treat -- the equivalent of a cup of cold water in Jesus' name (Matthew 10:42) -- and simply say, "God bless you"?
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.