Faith Forum: Is it offensive to dress up as Jesus for Halloween?

Charles Gruber, seeker:

Hallowe’en was originally All Souls’ Eve. It was a Christian holiday to commemorate martyrs, saints and “faithful departed believers.” Now, of course, the holiday has been uber commercialized.

When I lived in a Sufi community back in the 1970’s, on Halloween we would dress up as our favorite master or saint or prophet. We were invited to offer a few of our favorite verses from our character. It was an inspiring evening.

Would it be offensive to dress up as Jesus…like in a Christmas pageant? How about as a chainsaw killer or a zombie? What about as our animal totems or as a character from our favorite story? There is no doubt that any of these images could offend any number of people. Perhaps it’s the spirit in which we dress up. And, of course, there’s the perception of the beholder.

So, if someone is dressing up as Jesus to mock Jesus, then that’s rude. If someone is dressing up as Jesus to emulate Jesus, then that’s laudatory. The problem is, who is appointed to be the judge here? And who appointed that person?

Do I think Jesus would be offended by children and adults emulating Him? No. Do I think that Jesus would be pleased by someone mocking Him? Not so much.

— Send email to Charles Gruber at

The Rev. Mary Newberg Gale, associate pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway:

Halloween is perhaps my favorite secular holiday and it can be a great time playing dress up and receiving chocolate. Yet in doing that, as Christians, we should still be aware of fulfilling Christ’s call to love one another and to support those who have no voice. Considering that we have no knowledge of what Jesus would have looked like, I am unsure how dressing like an artist’s depiction would be offensive. Any costume would be pure conjecture.

That said, there are costumes that should offend us as people of faith. Costumes that reinforce gender stereotypes (“sexy” versions of regular costumes for women), costumes that reinforce racial stereotypes (war bonnets, “thug” or “cholo” costumes), and costumes that capitalize on cultural hatred (hobo or homeless costumes) should be abhorrent to people who claim to welcome all in God’s name.

Christ calls people of faith to live differently from the culture around them. In a society where our daughters are conditioned early on that they should be cute rather than smart; in a society where boys are taught that “real men” don’t show emotion; in a world where we are increasingly taught to be frightened of people who are not like us, Christians are called to witness to the inclusivity and wholeness of God’s kingdom. Every action, including our Halloween costumes, should be about building up community rather than tearing down or ridiculing.

— Send email to Mary Newberg Gale at