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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.

Halloween fun facts: Spending, eating and carving

“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.

Avoiding sexy costumes for kids

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. Scott

    Religion is racism halloween is fun get over youself

    October 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  2. Ran

    When it comes to religion—It's all up to whatever level of crazy you believe in.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  3. Jesus Christ

    I cannot believe that after all these years, people are just as stupid now was they ever were. Celebrating a holiday that focuses around children is not the gateway to the dark side. Grow up, and pull the plank from your own eye before the splinter from your neighbors.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  4. Layvian

    As about 90% of these posts have stated. Almsot every holiday especially the ones Christians celebrate are either pre-Christian/Pagan Holidays. Why would anyone listen to a group who has kiled more people in their name of their "God" then any war to date. Oh and has false prophets. Herold Camping. Oh yeah they are going 0 for 100. :)

    October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Rob

      Well spoken! What a bunch of hypocrites. They choose to ignore their brutal, fiction-based killings in the past.;

      October 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Layvian

      Sorry for spelling and grammer mistakes I was working as I was typing.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  5. Whodathunk

    All English-speaking people honor the Moon (Monday), the god Tyr (Tuesday), god Woden (Wednesday), god Thor (Thursday), goddess Friga/Freyja (Friday) and god Saturn (Saturday), and the Sun (Sunday) every week... and god Janus (January), the pagan ritual of Februa (February), god Mars (March), goddess Maia (May), and goddess Juno (June) every year.

    I hear that there is a movement to change things: They'd want Jesusday, Maryday, Josephday, Mosesday, Paulday, Gabrielday and Crucifixday - think it'll roll? I'll leave it up to you guys to come up with new names for the months...

    October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  6. DB

    Yeah...letting some little kid dress up as Batman and collect candy is opening the door to evil. Right.

    Y'know what, people? GROW UP. I'll bet even Jesus had a sense of humor and didn't feel so threatened by people having a good time. And your "hell houses" with graphic recreations of abortions? Is that what you think Jesus would do?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  7. Actually...

    Who wants a bunch of kids showing up in monster costumes scaring the dickens out of their preschoolers? Then you wonder why your kids have nightmares or worse – night terrors!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  8. Dave5354

    is this even news?
    ok so basically:
    1. some Christians hate Halloween
    2. some Christians don't care about Halloween
    3. some Christians love Halloween
    now replace Christians with "people" and the statements still apply.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Layvian

      No incorrect, they believe they are a different race, sounds like Hitler to me. lol

      October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  9. mauser

    The fundamentalists need to keep to themselves, let people have fun.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  10. reddit

    RUN A FRONT PAGE STORY ON SCOTT OLSEN
    MARINE SURVIVED TWO TOURS OF DUTY AND IS BRUTALLY WOUNDED BY OAKLAND POLICE
    JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WILL NOT FILE AN INVESTIGATIONA

    October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Atheus

      Agreed. Semper fi!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Loren

      Absolutely! The rich are getting scared and are striking back. Stand firm! Occupy! The more they push the angrier people will become! It is time for us to TAKE BACK our country. These kinds of stories on Halloween come out every year – lots of things are being played up to distract us from the Occupy movement – DON'T BE DISTRACTED! SUPPORT ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR ALL AMERICANS! – Not just for the rich!

      October 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  11. Tired of This

    Why do we have to go through this every year? It's a kid's fun day! Let go people! Why do people have to question things they did and enjoyed when they were youngsters? Give it up! It has nothing to do with paganism, it's about kids having fun! Some people really make me sick, they have nothing better to do with their time but to find something to complain about! Thats whats wrong with this country! Complain, argue and point fingers! Go crawl back under your rock, AND STAY THERE!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Scott

      totally agree

      October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  12. Brooke

    How many of these people who are against celebrating Halloween because of its Pagan roots still put up a Christmas tree or dye Easter eggs? Do they celebrate Christ's birth on the 25th even though it's a day based on a Roman, Pagan solstice celebration? I have no problem with people being against Halloween. I have a problem with people picking and choosing the tools that are most convenient to them in order to judge other people, and not taking the time to educate themselves about their stance.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      Good point. I am a Christian...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  13. david

    a great article on this can be found at http://www.bulletin.goarch.org/ChurchBulletins/44/PriestsMessage.html (which is not my church, or even my denomination, by the way).

    October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Insight

    It doesn't matter. Christians never treat them. They trick them

    October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  15. KindaSorta

    Halloween for us is just a kid's day. I do wish my local gov. would change it to the last Saturday in the month however. Not for any religous reasons, but because It is more convenient to have it on Saturday for most folks. I dread this year having to rush home from work and then having to cut things short because of school and work Tuesday.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  16. Jim

    dying breed...hopefully

    October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  17. The Master

    Most christians are idiots anyway but the one who argue over crap like this are COMPLETE idiots! These neurotic nut jobs need to learn to use what little intelligence they MAY posses and deal with REAL problems!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  18. CosmicC

    Halloween = All Hallows Eve – the night before All Saints Day. Growing up as a non-Christian, I had a bit of a problem celebrating a Christian holiday. Chocolate got me past most reservations.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Sean

      You should go back further in your research. Halloween w/e you want to call it has been around longer than Christianity. It was co-opted just as “Christmas” was.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  19. vangie

    Just goes to show you how stupid some people can be. He has no clue about this holiday, how it started, what it meant and who changed it into something evil. I suggest he read up on history and study up on Catholic religion. This day was a celebration honoring the ancesters of the Celts, Gall and Picks. This was a celebration about the people they loved that had passed on. This was not about Evil or witches or casting spells. The Catholics made it into soemthing evil while burning little old ladies as witches. I am a worshippor of Yeshua Ha Mashiac. Let the Ignorant learn and pay heed, Yeshua hated religion an the greedy ugly men who tried to control the masses with fear. Yeshua called the priest vipers.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  20. jim from phila pa

    Halloween is about having fun. Kids love dressing up,eating candy,hanging out wit friends,seeing neighbors and enjoying the fall weather. For us adults we have parties and or giveout candy while enjoying costumes kids wear. I'm Catholic and enjoy this a lot. I think overall people are too judgemental and cynical over something so benign as Halloween. I would like to see these people take this energy to try and find a viable Republican Canidate who can actually articulate constructional debate on important issues facing our great country. Amen.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Sean

      Well said!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
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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.