Monday, October 28, 2013

Is Halloween Really that Significant?

by Albert Mohler

(This article appears in the November issue of the "Nebraska Family Times".)

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday.  Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

Well, Halloween is a big deal in the marketplace. Halloween is surpassed only by Christmas in terms of economic activity. According to David J. Skal, "Precise figures are difficult to determine, but the annual economic impact of Halloween is now somewhere between 4 billion and 6 billion dollars depending on the number and kinds of industries one includes in the calculations." 
Pagan Roots
The Halloween holiday is rooted in the Celtic festival of Samhain, which came at summer's end. Scholars dispute whether Samhain was celebrated as a festival of the dead, but the pagan roots of the festival are indisputable. 
How should Christians respond to this pagan background? Harold L. Myra of Christianity Today argues that these pagan roots were well known to Christians of the past. "More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits. Halloween's unsavory beginnings preceded Christ's birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking live evil spirits themselves." 
Thus, the custom of wearing costumes, especially costumes imitating evil spirits, is rooted in the Celtic pagan culture. As Myra summarizes, "Most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to the old pagan rites and superstitions." 

The Dark Side
The complications of Halloween go far beyond its pagan roots, however. In modern culture, Halloween has become not only a commercial holiday, but a season of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. Even as the society has pressed the limits on issues such as sexuality, the culture's confrontation with the "dark side" has also pushed far beyond boundaries honored in the past. 
 As Skal comments, "The Halloween machine turns the world upside down. One's identity can be discarded with impunity. Men dress as women, and vise versa. Authority can be mocked and circumvented, and, most important, graves open and the departed return." 
This fascination with the occult comes as America has been sliding into post-Christian secularism. While the courts remove all theistic references from America's public square, the void is being filled with a pervasive fascination with evil, paganism, and new forms of occultism.

For this reason, many families withdraw from the holiday completely. Some churches have organized alternative festivals, capitalizing on the holiday opportunity, but turning the event away from pagan roots and the fascination with evil spirits. For others, the holiday presents no special challenges at all. 
These Christians argue that the pagan roots of Halloween are no more significant than the pagan origins of Christmas and other church festivals. Without doubt, the church has progressively Christianized the calendar, seizing secular and pagan holidays as opportunities for Christian witness and celebration. Anderson M. Rearick III argues that Christians should not surrender the holiday. As he relates, "I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Imposter and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his." 
Nevertheless, the issue is a bit more complicated than that. While affirming that make-believe and imagination are part and parcel of God's gift of imagination, Christians should still be very concerned about the focus of that imagination and creativity. Arguing against Halloween is not equivalent to arguing against Christmas. The old church festival of "All Hallow's Eve" is by no means as universally understood among Christians as the celebration of the incarnation at Christmas.

Making Decisions
Christian parents should make careful decisions based on a biblically-informed Christian conscience. Some Halloween practices are clearly out of bounds, others may be strategically transformed.
The coming of Halloween is a good time for Christians to remember that evil spirits are real and that the Devil will seize every opportunity to trumpet his own celebrity. Perhaps the best response to the Devil at Halloween is that offered by Martin Luther, the great Reformer: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him for he cannot bear scorn." 
On October 31, 1517 (what is now known as Reformation Day), Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God's Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ's church on earth. Let's put the dark side on the defensive.

For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler go to Reprinted with permission. 
The "Nebraska Family Times" covers current events and issues on a national, state and local level, from a Christian point of view. We're online and in print! This article is representative of those you'll read in the "Nebraska Family Times" every month! For a FREE sample issue call (402) 750-3496 or e-mail with the address to which you'd like your free issue sent. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Nebraska Family Forum Opposes Common Core for Nebraska's Children

(Editor’s Note: This article was edited, with permission from the Nebraska Family Forum blog. Please go to Nebraska Family Forum to read the complete article as well as information about other education policies in Nebraska.) 

Nebraska is one of a handful of states that has not yet adopted the Common Core State Standards. Our state has resisted efforts by the federal government to go along with these national standards, even though millions in federal dollars are being dangled as an incentive. However, the Nebraska Board of Education is now considering contracting themselves with the US Department of Education and adopting the Common Core. Here are the reasons the NFF opposes the Common Core:

What is Common Core?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of content standards at this time limited to English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. These standards, if adopted by a state, will replace existing state standards in these subject areas. There are other agreements the states make when they choose to adopt the Common Core State Standards including the new Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) that will be given twice yearly, and participation in the State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) which will store testing data along with private student specific data and share that data with other states, the Federal Government, and private interests.

What's wrong with Standards?

Nothing. Nebraska and every other state has standards, most of which are very similar, but Common Core State Standards were created by national non-governmental organizations in Washington DC with no public involvement.

Are Nebraska's students disadvantaged by not participating in CAT tests?

NO. Research on cognitive ability tests shows that adaptive tests, and paper-and-pencil tests lead to equivalent scores. Paper-and-pencil tests are also cheaper and the state has more control over the content of the tests and what they are designed to measure. It is nearly impossible for state leaders to provide oversight of CAT tests because no two students will see the same test, a grade-level test will have about 1600 possible questions, and it requires psychometrician professionals to interpret the results of such tests.

What information will they store in these data bases and why should I be concerned?

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the Common Core agenda is the data mining of our children's information outside of parental consent or knowledge. Stored in these data bases that were created as part of the "Race to the Top" grant program is highly personal student data such as social security number, health-care histories, learning disabilities, disciplinary action (from detentions for minor infractions to expulsions), attendance, homework completion, religious affiliations, and any educational or physiological data assessed through CAT. The NFF is concerned that if Nebraska adopts Common Core fully our children's personal and family information will have no protections under privacy laws.


There are a few simple facts about Common Core that make it a dangerous path for American education. (1) States who adopt Common Core lend their constitutional powers and responsibilities to oversee education in their states to the Federal government and move decision making over a child's education further from the hands of parents and communities. (2) There is no way to control the private interests who are highly involved with Common Core or to be certain they have our children's best interest at heart. (3) There is no way to be certain that very private data on our children and by extension our families won't be abused by the Federal Government or private interests with access to this data. And (4) There is NO evidence that further standardizing education and a new testing regime will result in better educations for our children.

Read more about education issues in Nebraska at

(This article appeared on the October issue of the "Nebraska Family Times." Our mission at the "Nebraska Family Times" is to "inspire, encourage and motivate you in your Christian walk." We cover national, state, and local issues from a Christian point of view--including issues regarding the education of our children. To receive a FREE issue of the "Nebraska Family Times" e-mail or call (402) 750-3496.)