Christians on opposite sides of the debate on whether it's OK to celebrate Halloween should not judge, but respect each other, says Pastor JD. Greear.
The Southern Baptist Convention president responded on his Ask Me Anything podcast on Monday to the question of whether Christians should participate in Halloween by saying, "this is one of those issues where we really have to respect where the other person is coming from."
"There are some Christians that really feel like because of the origins of Halloween, and going back to what the symbols meant, that they feel like ... participating is acknowledging Satan," he noted.
Greear, who's also senior pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina, noted that "cultural symbols shift over time," and something that began a certain way doesn't mean that it will always be tied to the same meaning.
"What do these symbols mean? Are people really out celebrating the occult?" he asked, reflecting on some questions Christians might ask themselves.
Greear pointed to Romans 14 in the Bible as a place to seek advice on the topic.
"In Romans 14, Paul is talking about how there are some believers that cannot eat a meat offered to an idol without violating their conscience, and feel like they are embellishing it with demons," he said, though other Christians felt like the origins of the meat had nothing to do with them, and so they were OK with eating it.
"Don't look down on Christians who say 'that's not what it means in my family,'" he urged.
"There should be some freedom either way."
The pastor said that one way Halloween can be used for good is by connecting with one's neighbors, positioning that God can redeem all things.
"For those of us who have no problem with it at all, we should have a level of respect and understanding for people who cannot separate the cultural symbol from some of its origins," he advised.
"But there should be respect going the other way. Most cultural symbols, the language, tends to shift over time."
Halloween's origins date back 2,000 years ago to the Celtic festival of Samhain, according to History.com.
"This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death," an article on History describes.
"Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of Oct. 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth."
About 700 years later, Pope Gregory III would come to designate Nov. 1 as a time to honor all saints, and incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.
Some Christians have opposed taking part in modern day Halloween.
Jamie Morgan, pastor of Life Church (Assemblies of God) in Williamstown, New Jersey, wrote in an op-ed shared with The Christian Post in 2016 that Halloween remains an "evil holiday."
"Setting aside a day to celebrate evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death and the demonic brings disdain to God. Period," Morgan argued.
"A Christian celebrating Halloween would be like a Satan worshiper putting up a Nativity scene at Christmas while singing, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" The two just don't go together. Jesus has nothing in common with Satan (2 Cor. 6:14), and neither should we," she added.
Others, such as actor Kirk Cameron, have argued that Christians "should have the biggest party on the block."
"Early on, Christians would dress up in costumes as the devil, ghosts, goblins and witches precisely to make the point that those things were defeated and overthrown by the resurrected Jesus Christ," Cameron told CP in 2014.
"The costumes poke fun at the fact that the devil and other evils were publicly humiliated by Christ at His resurrection. That's what the Scriptures say, that He publicly humiliated the devil when He triumphed over power and principality and put them under his feet," he added.
"Over time you get some pagans who want to go this is our day, high holy day of satanic church that this is all about death. But Christians have always known since the first century that death was defeated, that the grave was overwhelmed, that ghosts, goblins, devils are foolish has-beens who used to be in power but not anymore. That's the perspective Christians should have."