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. Average Uninformed Obese American

    Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny provide tubby kids with enough candy. Halloween's only use is hot girls in costumes.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Norman

      and hot guys too!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  2. cured76

    Do we have to know what Christians think about everything?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  3. SixDegrees

    Some Christians seem to have a great deal of trouble getting along with the members of a diverse, tolerant society. They need to realize that not everyone shares their views, and that this does not represent a threat to them or those views. The only significant threat to such tolerance in America today are Evangelicals, a dangerously intolerant minority.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • shawn L

      Agreed and well said.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  4. Doc Vestibule

    If Christians want to protest Halloween, they should hand out Communion wafers instead of candy.
    They're transubstantiarriffic!

    Mmmmmm.... Easter Zombie flesh.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  5. newton

    "hell houses...are designed to give a glimpse of eternal damnation in hopes of strengthening faith." How does scaring the hell out of you = strengthening faith? All that means is that if one camp scares you, you simply default to the other camp because you have no other options. A hell house isnt strengthening your faith, its just strengthening your fear of hell.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      God loves you. But if you don't love Him back, he'll make you burn for eternity. Because he's such a loving God.

      Wait – this sounds more like the one with the leathery wings...

      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Paul

      SixDegrees, Maybe God abides by his own designs. If He made all souls to be immortal – no matter what – and if you crap up your soul during life, that ruined product is going to live on eternally. Maybe there's just no place to put such a soiled, eternal product except somewhere other than heaven. And when we're talking eternity, any place that's not heaven has got to be hell.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  6. Mr. T. Bag

    Stores in the midwest are now selling Christmas trees and decorations - rather than the usual Halloween supplies, which we find very strange, and WAY too early... –It must be due to these CHRISTIAN TALIBAN groups putting pressure on retailers...

    October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      I don't know where in the Midwest you live, but the stores in this corner of it are brimming with Halloween goodies and have been for weeks. Haven't seen a trace of Christmas yet, but that'll likely start up next week.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  7. Bill

    If not for that one house that gives out anti-Satan pamphlets instead of candy, how would we know who's house to egg?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Ralf The Dog


      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Them and that dentist who gives out toothbrushes that seems to live in every neighbourhood.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  8. Oogie Boogie

    Whatever floats your boat . . .

    October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Sara

    Why don't these churches do some researching on the pagan roots of Christmas, Easter, and other holidays? ALL holidays worship FALSE gods. and are pagan traditions that started thousands of years ago. Facts are Facts. Truth is Truth. False religion will fall soon!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • CTEd

      Yeah what hypocrites. The reason is that Halloween is actually the pagan holiday, their attempt to Co-opt Yule and Ostara worked, All Saints Day failed because it didn't co-opt all the rituals. Everything Christians do at Christmas with the exception of the Creche is pagan, everything, but most don't even know it. Same with Easter.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Why Sara, we had to intertwine your ancestor's pagan rituals into the church setting in order to bring them in to hear Jesus Christ's truth. It worked for your ancestors. Therefore, what is your excuse?


      October 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Rick Stassi

    it never fails. articles like this one by CNN are almost designed on purpose to incite anti-Christian comment. the point is that from the Christian perspective, our children ARE desensitized and there IS a Hell. We can easily slip down the slippery slope of this ego-centric, Postmodern culture we live in. Jesus gives hope and love and to not embrace the purpose of the Cross, is Hell. Believe it or not. The world needs to see this. So, CNN thanks for the exposure. It will rile a few, but maybe a heart or two will be harvested for Jesus.
    Peace and Love!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Norman

      Hard core christians who try to control otehrs shoudl be mocked-religion is silly-maybe tehre is a God-but if there is, He certainly has nothign to do with organized religion. Believe what youd like, but dont brainwash kids-tell tehm teh truth-NO ONE knows what happens when we die-just be a good person-thats it-if theres a heaven, youll go...ps-no hell-that never made sense-just created to scare teh mindless sheep-amazing taht anyoen still believe in that!!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • pat carr

      I'm an ex-christian. Of course there will be anti-christian sentiment. it's main doctrine is that everyone who doensn't believe in your god "goes to hell" which you claim is real. How many centuries has this slop been pushed on us often by force?

      Thanks and i'll pass on having my heart "harvested" by the cult that has you believing that you are washed clean in the "blood" of it's deity

      October 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      "The world needs to see this."

      Absolutist, intolerant positions like this are precisely why Evangelicals get a less than warm welcome. They insist that everyone has to think like them, or else. They are a poor fit in a modern, diverse society that values a wide variety of thought.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      pat carr, you wrote "I'm an ex-christian. Of course there will be anti-christian sentiment. it's main doctrine is that everyone who doensn't believe in your god "goes to hell" which you claim is real. How many centuries has this slop been pushed on us often by force?

      Thanks and i'll pass on having my heart "harvested" by the cult that has you believing that you are washed clean in the "blood" of it's deity"

      Answer: I doubt you were ever a Christian just writing your lie. You seem to be a die hard pagan.


      October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • buschwc

      You people scare me. Please get the hell out of my government and take your christ chex home.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  11. GRofPA

    The church has created hell on earth throughout history for anyone they found threatening to their power or just plain didn't like. Religion is the root of all evil.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Paul

      The argument that religion is evil – the cause of wars, hatred, death, destructon, et cetera, is tired, lazy, and forever half-baked. You can go through the history books and count every conflict and some notable murders committed in the name of religion but what you can never know is how many wars and murders have not been carried out because of religion. Anyone who fancies themselves a rational thinker - as opposed to an agenda-driven propagandist - has to admit that the latter most certainly outnumbers the former by an astronomical number. Now, if you don't like religion because you're deathly afraid of seeing your life in the light of a given absolute moral standard, just say so. But cut out the simpleminded Religion-Is-Evil fallacy. 'Kay?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Michael

      The sort of broad sweeping hyperbole that you represent with your statement is the problem, not the church itself... When anyone labels another entire group and judges them as you just did.... that is the problem. You yourself prove that this behavior is not exclusive to church, so perhaps it doesn't come from there at all, but from human kind...

      October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      What? You pagans are grabbing at straws as usual. The church is a gathering of like minded folks to hear Jesus Christ's truth.

      No matter how far we try to advance in this conversation of believers vs unbelievers, the non-believers change their handles and start the conversation over again with their babble because they know they are wrong, wrong, did I mention wrong.



      October 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  12. Ralf The Dog

    "Hernandez calls is harvesting hearts for God. "

    With an axe?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  13. Gary Busey

    The devil is a Christian creation. The "man of God" who is quoted in paragraph 1 needs to learn what he's talking about before he starts saying something is satanic. And while we're canceling Halloween, let's cancel Christmas, too, because that's just a Christian-modified pagan holiday. Jerk.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  14. pat carr

    "Hernandez calls is harvesting hearts for God"

    Ewwww. That can't be right. Well he should go to China where i'm sure they'd oblige LOL

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Dan

    Christmas and Easter are also based on Pagan roots. Christ was not born in December. Halloween is time for kids to have fun, go door to door and get a little bit of candy. If there is on thing great about Paganism, they knew how create awesome celebrations 🙂

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Halloween is also time for the Rocky Horror Picture show. Which most Evangelicals feel threatened by.

      Of course, they also feel threatened by about 99.99% of the ideas which circulate to begin with.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  16. andy

    Pagan and older religions influences on Christianity:
    a) Halloween
    b) Also Christmas
    c) oh, and Easter
    d) The resurrection (Egyptian, Zoroastran, Sumerian and Greek myth)
    e) The twelve disciples (Egyptian Ra, Sumerian "Sun god", Greek Apolo had 12 students)
    f) baptism
    g) transubstantiation (see Delphic and Egyptian religion)
    h) Holy Spirit (about a dozen other religions and pagan rituals)

    this does not even start to include the various apocryphal rituals and miracles like speaking in tongues, miracle healing, multiplying loaves and walking on water – ALL of which appear in religions older than Christianity.

    Your religion is a quilt, a mashup, a remake. Nothing wrong with that, doesn't make Christians bad people or anything. All culture feeds on previous culture and religion is no different.

    I'm gonna go have a baby for breakfast now.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • EC

      just so everyone knows, christianity its not exactly a religion, it literally means to follow christ. christians are well aware, that they are not originals in this, but that christ was, and they are simply following his steps


      October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  17. marilynp

    Some people have to have something to hate. If it's not Halloween, it's Christmas or Sweetest Day or whatever. I think those that wish to participate should do so whole heartedly and those who don't wish to participate, don't, but shut up if someone else does. Criticism for criticsm sake is a waste of words.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  18. Geoff

    If you're a Christian and are going to stop enjoying Halloween due to its pagan roots ... then stop celebrating Easter and Christmas, too. And a number of others. Do the research. The only reason Halloween offends more than the others is you haven't figured out a way to make it part of the Christian mythology.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • snowdogg

      Well put !!!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  19. TJ

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Oh my – the christians, they crack me up. Halloween is a pagan holiday. NO CRAP, just like christmas is. It was stolen from the Romans and the Pagans, learn to deal or follow your own commandments "THOU SHALT NOT STEAL"!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Burbank

      Also "Thou shalt not bear false witness!" Mary was NEVER

      October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  20. Burbank

    How dare any of these so called Christians complain about Halloween! They are the ones that hijacked it from Samhain. Not one of the "fun" holidays has Christian roots, they are all hijacked Pagan holidays.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Rick Stassi

      Who is complaining? Christian churches offer an alternative. Do what you want...but think for a moment of your purpose here...God wants you.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Norman

      rick-nice try god boy-no one believes in teh same god-differs according to your prejudices-keep it to yourself

      October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Norman, you wrote "rick-nice try god boy-no one believes in teh same god-differs according to your prejudices-keep it to yourself".

      Answer: Only Jesus Christ (Emmanuel with us) is God. All the other phony religions ensure you get confused ... as you prove by your post.


      October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
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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.