For years, a growing number of Christians have come to see Halloween as a concern. Like most Muslims and some Jews, many evangelical Christians object to Halloween on religious grounds, saying that themes like ghosts, witches, and other spirits smack of paganism and the occult. Some Christian parents forbid trick-or-treating and won't answer doorbells; some opt for church-sponsored "Fall Festival" parties or "Hell Houses" on October 31. Others, however, see the night as an opportunity for evangelism.
The American Tract Society, which produces some 30 million gospel tracts each year, began addressing the Halloween evangelism trend several years ago. This year, ATS is offering customers a Halloween Rescue Kit that includes tracts, individually-wrapped taffy, and stickers, plus a goody bag to put them in.
The tracts, which feature cartoons and kid-friendly themes like dinosaurs, superheroes, and Harry Potter, usually end with Bible verses encouraging children to accept Jesus. For adults and older youth, ATS also offers the tracts "Halloween--Separating Fact from Folklore" and "Reaching Kids at Halloween." ATS says Halloween is traditionally one of their highest demand seasons--they typically receive orders for about 3 million Halloween pieces.
"Our Halloween program provides what the average Christian is seeking--easy, non-threatening and culturally relevant evangelism tools and a way to start a meaningful Christian Halloween tradition," says ATS president Dan Southern. "When but Halloween do we have folks coming up to our doors? All we have to do is answer with more than they are asking--a gospel tract and a candy treat."
In a north Dallas suburb, Pastor Wayne Braudrick urges his Frisco Bible Church congregation to stay home on Halloween and give out tracts. "I believe we are recapturing the holiday for the Lord," says Braudrick.
Tract-or-treat programs have stirred controversy in the past. In 2001, a Wisconsin school was sued after tract candies were confiscated from second-graders on the grounds that they violated church-state separation. In a 2000 USA Today article, Buddhist mother Shey Wakely of Falls Church, Virginia complained, "I find this proselytizing completely inappropriate for Halloween, a night for children to have fun."