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Book Review of "Halloween: What's a Christian to do?" by Steve Russo
by Will Rogers  
12/23/2006 / Book Reviews


I've just read Steve Russo's book, "Halloween: What's a Christian to do?" Steve Russo, is an internationally known evangalist and host of an internationally syndicated talk show. As an ex-Pagan, the title of the book intrigued me, and I was curious as to how well written and researched it was. Following are my notes with quotes from the book.

The book starts off with the history of Halloween. Steve Russo gets a plus for identifying Samhain as a harvest festival.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"Halloween has it's origins in the ancient Celtic(Irish, Scottish, and Welsh) harvest festival, Samhain(pronounced so-wen), a time when people believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the earth.(pg 9)"
Steve Russo then spends the remainder of the chapter covering the beliefs ancient people held at the time of Samhain, as well as the role the Catholic church played in the history of Halloween. He also covers the advent of Halloween in Colonial America to the present day.

In Chapter two, Mr Russo covers the practice of costumes, trick-or-treat, and jack-o-lanterns. It is at this point in the book Mr Russo departs from an accurate reporting of history, to repeating Christian folk-legends about the history of Halloween.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"On the evening of October 31, huge bonfires were lit to offer animal, crop, and sometimes human sacrifices to the sun god Muck Olla, and to Samhain the god of death.(pg19)"
The preceding quote is a familiar legend in Christian urban legends. Here are the facts: Muck Olla was never a Celtic god. In fact, the only claim to fame that Muck Olla has is that he was a 'boogeyman' figure in Yorkshire lore. The same can be applied to Samhain, who was never a god in Celtic mythology. Samhain may have been a real person who was a folk hero to the Celts(sort of like Robin Hood or Hercules), but he was never a god. As to human sacrifices, there is no real evidence that the Celts performed human sacrifices. The main evidence that is used for this legend is historical notes provided by the Romans who conqured the Celts. The Romans were notorious for making up stories about their adversaries in order to justify their waging war against them. The fact is, that we know very little about Samhain as it was practiced in ancient culture. The Druids didn't write it down, so there are no facts as to what Samhain was in reality.

In Chapter three, Mr Russo covers witches, ghosts, and other figures commonly associated with Halloween. Fortunately, throughout this chapter, Mr Russo redeems himself a bit, making a couple of mistakes, but overall providing a good Christian viewpoint on witchcraft.
Quotes from the book:
Quote:
"All witches wear black for rituals because it contains all the colors of the rainbow.(pg28)"
Someone should probably point out to Mr Russo that robes used for rituals come in many colors.
Quote:
"What happens if a good friend or child starts to show interest in magic spells or some other form of witchcraft? How should we respond? We should start by asking God to help us find out why this person is interested in magic spells or incantations.(pg32)"
The above quote is a very good start when someone you love begins to show an interest in the occult.

In Chapter four, Steve Russo begins to explore what evil is and where it comes from. Overall, this chapter is much better than the previous chapters.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"Satan's evil power is a counterfeit-limited and temporary-designed to lure people away from trusting God. Our source of real power comes from God...(pg45)"

Chapter five discusses how Halloween has become a mainstream holiday, in which major retailers, television shows and movies target the holiday.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"Just because a lot of people are celebrating Halloween doesn't mean that we should too. However, if we are to be salt and light in this world, the more fundamental issue for us as Christians is "what would Jesus do?(pg54)"

Chapter sis is titled "Satan Surfs the Internet." I'm not sure why the chapter is titled this way, since the internet is never discussed. Instead, the chapter is a study into the nature of Satan, and his strategies.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"More than anything, remember that Jesus is your advocate and that He defeated Satan on the cross at Calvary.(pg65)"

Chapter seven is titled "A View from the Book." This chapter discusses how to discern for oneself whether or not to take part in Halloween, and to respect those with different opinions.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"Ultimately, it all comes down to being careful not to compromise Biblical principles in your own life as you respond to issues in contemporary culture.(pg76)"

In Chapter eight, Mr Russo talks about new age practices taking place in children's classrooms. He quotes from several newspaper articles and books in this section that cover these issues.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"There is too much at stake, and we can ill afford to allow themes of despair, occultism, mutilation, and witchcraft to deeply entrench themselves in the vulnerable minds of our children.(pg88)"
I am unclear as to why he provided 'despair' and 'mutilation' in the above quote, since he doesn't discuss them in this chapter, and these aren't necessarily signs of occult involvement. However, he is right concerning occultism and witchcraft in the above quote.

In Chapter nine, Steve Russo discusses alternatives to Halloween, such as having a fall festival, a 'Reformation Day Costume Party(Oct 31 is also known as Reformation day, since this was the day Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church in his town), and 'reverse door-to-door evangalism'(giving both tracts and candy to children who come trick-or-treating).
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"If you decide to plan an alternative for your children and their friends, remember to use the Bible as your filter for what takes place at the event.(pg94)"

In Chapter ten, Russo covers the fact that in this day and age parents should take greater care in parenting their children. He goes into several practices parents should follow to make sure they stay involved in their childrens lives.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"Remember that the best thing we can do as parents is pray with and for our children.(pg104)"

Chapter eleven is a summary of the book, along with some questions to go along with each chapter, to help one make up their mind concerning how they will practice Halloween. Russo doesn't make a declaration one way or the other what a parent should choose to do.
Quote from the book:
Quote:
"We should not comprimise biblical values in any way.(pg114)"

The rest of the book contains Appendixes that cover things such as "Occult symbols" and "Occult Terminology."
Occult Symbols-Mr. Russo has gotten at least three of these symbols wrong that I can see right away. He doesn't cite any sources for the symbols or terminology he covers in these Appendixes, so I don't know where he has gotten his information.
Occultic Terms-In this section at least eight terms are gotten wrong. Oddly, Russo also places 'necrophilia' in the realm of the occult.

Overall impression of the book: While Mr Russo obviously made some sort of an attempt to study the occult, he did not do a very good job at it. Much of his book seems to rely on Christian urban legends surrounding the occult and Samhain. He uses very few sources(only thirty-two), and most of the sources were a part of chapter ten. It is very difficult to identify where he got the majority of his material that he used for the rest of his book. Russo did do a good job at giving a scriptural viewpoint on the occult, and at talking to parents about being involved in their children's lives.

Book Rating: My rating system consists of five stars, one being the lowest, five being the highest. I will give this book a rating of 2 stars. The reason for this rating is: 1)the lack of sources, 2)the repeating of urban legends, and 3)the inaccurate occult terms and symbols. Positively, it received two stars because of: 1)giving a scriptural viewpoint of the occult, and 2)encouraging parents to be more involved in the lives of their children.

All quotes are taken from "Halloween: What's a Christian to do?" by Steve Russo, published by Harvest House Publishers, copyright 1998.

Copyright Will Rogers 2006

Will Rogers is an Independent, Fundamental Baptist who prior to his conversion has had experience in paganism. He primarily writes articles on Christian faith, living, and theology.

http://www.willrogersjr.com


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