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. Smokey

    So far as I am concerned, Halloween is a Christian holiday. Christianity itself has "pagan roots" so it doesn't seem right to discriminate on that basis. The Christian mythos adapts the wheel of the year in its own particular way. Halloween is just like Good Friday in that what's celebrated is the ritual death of the King or God of the year, more specifically the end of the harvest. God is reborn on the Winter Solstice when the days become long again. Any halfway knowledgeable Christian should be able to see the parallels.

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

      There are no halfway knowledgable christians...If there were they wouldn't be christians...or muslims...or jews...or...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • rainlady9

      Smokey, I agree. The Christians have co-opted many (most? all?) of their holidays from the pagans, starting with Christmas!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  2. Sarcasmo

    My invisible friend can beat up your invisible friend.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Entil'za

      You must win all the time since no one on here has claimed to have an invisible friend but you.

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

      entilza-billions claim an invisible friend-if tyou believe in a god, youre one of them

      October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Oddly enough...many ppl saw Jesus. Moses even saw God. Sorry...you are wrong. Invisiblity is not an aspect of God.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  3. radam82

    “(Christianity) …the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

    Christians stole all major holidays from the Pagan calendar so they could more easily convert.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Wow, such a hatefilled and generalized rant on various topics and yet..he never gets any of it really right.

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

      actually entilza-everythign he said was right...what are you talking about?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Resurrection is nothing realted to zombies. Accepting sacrifice and eating flesh is not the same thing. Prayer and telepathy is not the same thing. Forgiveness and taking evil out is not the same thing.
      What did he ever get right in his rant?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Oswald

      You got that right!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Oswald

      I was responding to Norman BTW. Radam82 is right on target.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Entil'za

      and yet Oswald..you offered no more facts than he did

      October 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  4. CSDS

    Whatever. Further proof that fundamentalism in all forms is dangerous.

    I wonder how these people deal with the fact that many of our current Christmas traditions have origins in Roman and Pagan winter festivals and celebrations.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  5. TODAY

    Stupid...totally aginst it!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  6. Jenny

    Christmas and Halloween are both pagans day. Some people don't care about anything because they say do whatever you

    want. Just enjoyed the day whatever it is. When Christ returns to earth enjoy the eternal hell if you were not obedient to

    Him by faith.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Jupiter

      ...Have you ever thought...what if you're wrong? The moment you rejected all other faiths but your own is the moment when you'll realize why i reject yours.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  7. Jessaca

    I have always found it very funny when the Christians bring up Halloween and say it is to bring evil into the world. The Pagan religion or belief has been around long, long before any kind of Christian group was formed. All the holidays that the Christians have came from the Pagans. This story doesn't come right out and say it, but. . . The Pagans would put on costumes and dance around, and the Christians (on all levels) will put on costumes and get together and dance or run around.

    Just face it Christians stole Halloween from the Pagans.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  8. ron

    I believe this article is the epitome of a troll post. Could we please get better reporting?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  9. pdl777

    Organized religion is the root of all evil since the dawn of mankind!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  10. Oswald

    Halloween is a tradition that has it's roots in the Celtic New Year Pagan celebration of Samhain. This is when the veil between us and the "otherworld" and our deceased ancestors is its thinnest. It has nothing to do with the Devil. The Christian Church took it over to ensure that people worshiped at a Church endorsed celebration rather than the original Pagan Holiday. Many of us still celebrate the Pagan Holiday. After all it is our New Year's celebration. I think that perhaps the church in the middle ages and continuing on to today has made Christians afraid of the original meaning of the holiday and has whitewashed it. I also think that it is being spoiled by the commercialism and money pumped into it. Bright Blessings!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  11. BL

    Christmas and Easter ARE pagan holidays. Beside, most preachers I've seen (and most Christians for that matter) are a lot scarier than anything society can come up with

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  12. AM

    Did all the "anti-religion" people READ the article? Quote, “Halloween for me is a time to have fun,” said Wayne Walters, pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Burbank, California. Not all Christians are extremists! I am an agnostic but I don't see any reason to bash Christianity in general. Only the more fundamentalist churchgoers are so silly that they get bent out of shape over Halloween.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Floyd Sneddon

    Jesus was the original Zombie!! He was the first that rose from the dead and everybody embraced him!!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • BL

      Yes! I saw the movie, "Night of the Living Jews." Starring Anne Hathaway as Jesus. What? She's hot right now!

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

      Actually, Lazarus beat him to it. He even smelled!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  14. Christian Taliban

    Someone might want to tell these folks that Christmas and Easter have "pagan roots" too

    October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Oy...why do these ppl think they are so well informed? The same history channel show you get your info from is the same one that everyone else can see.
      Of course....having a holiday on the same day as another holiday isn't stealing anything from it. No more than a person having their b-day on the same day as you..or their wedding..etc.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Norman

      entilza-youre an idiot-xmas was stolen-it was teh winter solstice-xmas tree, teh yule log, all pagan-jesus was born in teh spring-and everyoen knwos jesus story was stoeln form egyptian horus-12 discplies, immaculate birth, walked on water, water into wine-you do know that right? not history channel-its fact

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Entil'za

      "xmas was stolen-it was teh winter solstice-xmas tree, teh yule log, all pagan-jesus was born in teh spring-and everyoen knwos jesus story was stoeln form egyptian horus-12 discplies, immaculate birth, walked on water, water into wine-you do know that right? not history channel-its fact"

      Stolen eh? Ok..prove that. I might add that coincidence is not evidence.
      Haha...prove that anyone sampled the story of Horus to create the story of Jesus.

      What you have stated is not facts but internet heresay. Prove what you claim if you can.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Oswald

      Stolen no, incorporated to convert people yes.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  15. Jupiter

    This is one of the most rediculous things I have heard in a long time. Do these people not realize that both easter and christmas have their roots firmly planted in 'pagan' traditions and dates? i guess the best way to control a population is still to lie and misinform.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  16. Heidi

    Personally, I really don't care of these holidays are based on ancient pagan rituals. The truth is that for most people, they've become separated from whatever religious meaning they may have had, whether pagan or Christian. For Halloween, it's about costumes and lots and lots of sugary goodness. For Christmas, it's the presents. For Easter, it's more presents (it's becoming a "little Christmas" in the retail scheme, and people buy into it). Rational Christians know that Jesus was likely born in the springtime (if you can read the Hebrew calendar, a time is given around either the Annunciation or Mary's visit to Elizabeth) but so many people have been misled into thinking it was wintertime that it would be extremely difficult to move Christmas now, since it is now pretty much ingrained into the current calendar (and time is, of course, a human construct). I love Christmas and Easter (or "Resurrection Day, in the fundamentalist, conservative parlance)for what they represent to me, not for the presents or the candy (okay, maybe the chocolates do attract me a bit). Celebrate whatever holiday you wish at whatever time it falls. My worry isn't about who started Halloween or how it should (or shouldn't) be celebrated, but that in a lot of cities, it becomes a Hell Night when a lot of arson and crime takes place. That should be more of our concern.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  17. rick

    hah, most of Christmas itself is from pagan roots, including the date and the Christmas tree!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  18. Bruce

    LOL at the image of "harvesting hearts for God" in the context of Halloween...

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

    “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

    Wow what an idiot. It's really baffeling how someone who dedicates their entire life to religion can't even get simple facts like Halloween straight.

    Halloween was originally supposed to honor and celebrate the dead. This in no way has to do with "the devil" or "his holiday".

    Jesus Christ Christians are retarded.

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

      Who the fck are you?

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

      In England, and I believe on this continent before commercialization, it was celebrated as 'All Hallow's Eve'. Then that religious event got rolled into anniversary celebrations of 'Guy Fox Day', which celebrated the foiling of that individual's infamous attempt to blow up the British Houses of Parliament. Not sure where modern ministries came up with the 'devil worship' nonsense.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  20. BK

    Uhhh aren't Christmas and Easter also pagan origin holidays? Hello? Pagan fertility goddess Eastara.
    So why do they celebrate those?

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

      Every Christian holiday is Pagan. Christians simply ripped off their holidays to make their religion seem legitimate to the people. Hilarious.

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

      At least they do not bang their heads into the wall

      October 28, 2011 at 3:56 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.