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A Christian debate over Halloween: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?
October 28th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

A Christian debate over Halloween: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?

Editor's note: Listen to the CNN Radio broadcast about the debate: By Jim Roope, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) – For many American Christians, Halloween is innocent, harmless and fun, and they trick-or-treat, carve pumpkins and don costumes with gusto.

For others, though – especially for some conservative and fundamentalist Christians - Halloween is a celebration of evil and has no place in the life of a believer.

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“We don’t endorse that or we don’t celebrate that,” said Joe Hernandez, pastor of Worshipwalk Church in Los Angeles, which belongs to the conservative Pentecostal tradition. “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

Halloween’s roots are believed to date back 1,400 years, to the Irish-pagan New Year’s celebration. The Celtic New Year began on November 1. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and evil spirits.

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Some Christians, like Hernandez, believe Halloween’s pagan roots can open the door to evil. That’s why Worshipwalk is hosting a harvest festival in its church parking lot on Monday, with kids’ games and face painting.

Hernandez calls it harvesting hearts for God.

Some conservative churches go a step further, attempting to co-opt the holiday with haunted houses - called “hell houses” - that are designed to give a glimpse of eternal damnation in hopes of strengthening faith.

“There’s Satan’s lies and there’s Jesus’ redemption and there’s a message that will change your life,” said Keenan Roberts, who says he is the inventor of the hell house, which people walk or call through, just as they would a haunted house.

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“It’s designed to reach the ‘sight and sound’ age,” said Roberts. “The message is sacred but the method is not.”

Hell houses can be graphic. In Roberts’ hell house – which he markets through his Hell House Ministries – live actors depict scenes of abortion, rape, suicide and murder, though the journey through the house culminates in scenes of redemption through Jesus.

Pastor of the fundamentalist New Destiny church near Denver, Colorado, Roberts said that his ministry has received a lot of criticism for what critics say is “going too far.”

But he said today’s kids are so desensitized that he will do whatever it takes to get the message of salvation to take root.

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Mainline Protestants tend to take a much softer line on Halloween, with some mainline churches embracing it.

“Halloween for me is a time to have fun,” said Wayne Walters, pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Burbank, California. “I remember growing up - on Halloween I went trick-or-treating. I was in it for the candy.”

“And at Christmas I put out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, who always took time to sit down and enjoy them,” he continued. “None of those I think had a negative influence, destroyed or diminished my faith, he said.”

Walters says that many non-religious traditions associated with Christian holidays, including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, hardly mean those holidays are non-Christian.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Halloween

soundoff (3,144 Responses)
  1. One Planet In Review

    The history of Hallowe'en can be found here. http://oneplanetinreview.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/about-halloween/ Hallowe'en is not something that any christian should participate in. Please read this before passing judgement.

    September 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
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  7. Patriot

    Perhaps the church is afraid that their flock will start to realiize that their ancestors had a viable, sophisticated religion/spirituality prior to being converted (in many instances y the sword). And when that happens, the flood gates will open and people will leave. It is so liberating to remove oneself from the dogma and doctrine associated with christianity (or any of the desert societal Abrahamic religions for that matter).

    November 3, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • Esperanza

      I completely agree. Religion is all about control. It breeds violence, hatred, and intolerance. I was raised a Christian, but am recovering nicely... :)

      November 4, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  8. Esperanza

    How about Christians research the TRUE history of Halloween? And how about they think seriously of the evil they instill in their children: the very idea of a hell and that any "loving" god would ever send his children to eternal damnation? That is evil.

    November 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Brandon

      Exactly! The bible says the dead know not anything all memories of them are forgotten meaning they rest in the ground until the return of Jesus!

      November 3, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  9. dinglehopper

    Halloween’s roots are believed to date back 1,400 years, to the Irish-pagan New Year’s celebration. The Celtic New Year began on November 1. People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and evil spirits.

    I don't see how this is a "celebration of evil"

    November 1, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • debra gallehawk

      if you have read about Druids my friend they used to go in the villages looking for things to sacrifice to their moon god , and the pumpkins that were lit were a sign of a dammed soul ! yet people think of this lightly like its ok , but the problem is little kids dont know any better and they get sucked into the candy and costumes thinking its cutsey , when the costumes were a way to hide from evil spirits ??so sad we have to have a holiday that is about darkenss , hell and Satanic worship , Sam Hain 31 oct is the holiest of days for the Pagans ! and yes there are still human and animal sacrifices , while you innocently take your child by the had for candy !

      November 2, 2011 at 8:38 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.