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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. Pagan Mom

    So, Christians get to celebrate their holidays, but no one else does? Oh, and don't you dare talk bad about the Christian holidays or say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", the extreme Christians will verbally stone you to death. Newsflash, Christianity is not the only faith on Earth. Blessed be to America! The country that allows it's citizens to follow their own faith.

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

      Blessed Be Pagan Mom!!!

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

      Right on, Pagan Mom! Well said!

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

    "Hernandez calls is harvesting hearts for God." HEY HERNANDEZ>>>>I THINK ENOUGH HARTS HAVE BEEN HARVESTED IN THE NAME OF RELIGION....IDIOT.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  3. Michele

    There is *not* Christian debate on Halloween. That would require a large portion of Christians to be discussing it. In fact, only a tiny portion of the ultra conservative Christians are against the holiday. Most of us have sense enough to know those who have Christmas trees in December (which is a Celtic fertility rite, sprinkled with bits of a sacrifical rite where the organs of the tribes enemies were placed on evergreens after victories) should not complain about jack-o-laterns!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  4. JLR

    Who cares? All I know is that my kid better come back with some Reese's peanut butter cups this year.

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

      amen to that...and some butterfingers..they don't like em so I get um.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  5. Jeff

    Christmas, Halloween, and Easter are all the result of merging pagan and other beliefs. Any light research will reveal this.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  6. thizz

    Lot of atheists on cnn apparently.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  7. William Demuth

    Halloween represents a glorious opportunity to vandalize churches.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  8. Silverhawk

    This article does a disservice to the Samhain celibration. I celebrate Samhain aka Halloween every year. It’s the final harvest festival in the Wiccan/Pagan calendar and in the old times this would be people's last chance to store food and meat for the long winter months. This also honors people who passed on and lingering spirits who still walk the earth. There is nothing evil about this holiday. The only “EVIL” is created by Christians who created the concept of Hell. Wiccan/Pagan followers believe in servicing the greatest and highest good for all involved.

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

      Exactly Silverhawk!!! Samhain is a sacred day!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  9. James

    I was listening to a mother berating her child about wanting to put a Santa on the Christmas tree, because Santa is not part of the Christian tradition. I had to ask her if she realized that the concept of the holiday tree went back to the pagan Yule festival, and did not start with Christianity.

    Then again, too many "Christians" condemn all other religions as being "evil" and "will send you to hell." So, they have to SCARE you into converting to their cult. Which is funny, really. Didn't their own Christ preach TOLERANCE and ACCEPTANCE ?

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

      How dare you describe jesus as anything but a hardline conservative capitalist who was filled with hatred for everyone except the 12 people that were following him at the time!!

      I believe he was the one that said, "Gays cause all of the world's evils. Whatever you do, don't enjoy life and please live a life of fear and mistrust."

      October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Damian

      Well the bible is the number one all time best selling piece of FICTION.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  10. PopeJon

    Gee last time I checked Christians hijacked the pagan celebration of the winter solstice and replaced it with their celebration of the birth of Jesus which probably happened a month or two before the winter solstice. As true to the Christian faith and church, sounds a bit hypocritical to me. So why don't the Christians just hijack Halloween and move Easter to October 31st?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  11. Josef F

    Someone should tell these idiots that Christmas has pagan roots, too.

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

      Jsut great! What are you going to tell me next that Santa is not real? 🙂

      October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  12. JohnRJohnson

    I am embarrassed by these Christians. Christmas has "pagan roots". Look at Easter, for God's sake. A rabbit and an Easter egg???? These people are in desperate need of a Brain-O-Gram.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  13. Flying Spaghetti Monster

    My imaginary friend is better than your's.

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

      Ramen

      October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Are you giving out pasta salad again this year?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  14. svatoid

    The born again Christians have it wrong–they will spend eternity frying in the firs of hell. Good riddance.

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

      What a bunch of nutjobs......where did this whole Pentecostal and fundaMENTAList thing come from? In New England we don't have any churches I know of in those faiths.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  15. rob

    "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" Thats cause fundimentalist christians ARE PHFUKKKNN STUPID!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  16. The Truth

    Religion is man-made....The Pope lives in riches...while his "priests" molest...and God let's it happen....

    October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Publius Novus

    My oh my, how ignorant we are. The Christian church has traditionally marked All Saints' Day on November 1 of each year. Officially, November 1 is called the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas. On the Sunday nearest November 1, we remember all members of the church community who departed this life in the previous 12 months. In many churches, this involves the reading of the names of the recently departed. In most countries, November 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholics. Episcopalians and Lutherans observe the day as well. "Halloween" occurs on the eve of All Saints Day, and is an English contraction of "All Hallows Eve." Because of All Saints Day's dedication to the recent dead, the evening before was often occupied in staving off the souls of the dead, who might be roaming the land before All Saints Day. While Halloween cooincides with pre-Christian harvest festivals, there is no historical evidence that such festivals or Halloween-like celebrations were connected with the dead in pre-Christian times, or that pagan religious ceremonies were held at that time.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  18. muslim

    muslims already know this and this is why muslims do not celebrate these events. All the people that are saying this article is to incite anti-christianity comments, well, that is wrong. The fact is that all these events are pagan rooted. Whosoever does not believe should just read books, good authentic books, rather than just going to a church/mosque and getting the opinion of a single preacher.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  19. Nutes

    What about Fourth of July, we blow stuff up, that's not only pagan but very muslim, christians should be angry about that. CNN may have to discontinue the Belief Blog the believers are getting there AZZEsS kicked by the Non- Believers.
    Christianity is based on Jewish beliefs ( old Testment), Pagan rituals, Egyptian and other older Gods ( one god easy to understand) and notice the lack of women, that was to diminish the power of the Wiccans / female healers. But when the boat is sinking or the planes dropping like a rock it's good to pray to old JC ain't it. A little comfort in your hour of need, small price to pay, just the 10% and Sunday mornings.

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

      I think you are confusing many things at one time. There are some holidays that are celebrated that were pagan special days, but these days were incorporated by the church of Rome. To say "Christianity" incorporated these days is absurd and stupid! Most people believe this occured due to some pagans in Rome that wanted to fight off change, so someone (or a group of ppl) had it incorporated. The stuff about the Egypt is WAY off! Again, just because a few ppl incorporated that into the churches of Rome (which tried to speak for all Christians, this doesn't mean "Christianity incorporated this in." That would be a dumb joke!

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

      Dear Caesar,

      Church in Rome = Catholic Church = First major church of Christianity = The ONLY church in Europe for over 1000 years. They DID speak for all christians.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • PopeJon

      As being Pope Jon I can say gay Jesus is right. Sorry, like it or not Catholics where the first Christians on the block.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  20. Sc

    I was having such a hard time figuring out what to dress up as this Halloween and then I read this article. I'm going to dress up as a fundamentalist Christian. I'm going to scare the crap out of everyone. One thing. Were can you buy a bible? Do churches sell them?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • chef dugan

      You must keep in mind that christians are very ignorant people with closed minds and narrow viewpoints. What they think of anything is irrelevant.

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

      The christian libraries have them 🙂

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

      I love your response! This is the best one I've ever heard. By the way, I was raised in the Methodist church, where we celebrated Halloween. I actually am a "Fundamental" Christian today. I don't exalt or celebrate Halloween but I am amused at some of the sanctimonious comments about Halloween I heard from my peers.

      Anyway, your comment is priceless and I'll be quoting you. Happy Halloween. Boo!

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

      You can buy a Bible just about anywhere....it's the best selling book of all time. But you knew that right? You really should buy one.....and READ IT!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • SciFiChickie

      The Mormon church gives them away for free, or you can always get one in a hotel room...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:05 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.