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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. Johdar

    Then maybe Christians should stop celebrating Christmas as well. That is another Christian holiday that was stolen part and parcel from the Pagans as well and had the name "Jesus Christ" slapped on it.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  2. Pain

    What about Christmas, the biggest Pagan celebration of all? Anybody wanna get on board a Christmas boycott in America? Anyone? Then let your kids get dressed up and stop threatening them with damnation. And don't forget narrow minded fanatics are who turned Jesus over to the Romans.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      Christians stole December 25th from the pagans anyway when it used to be a celebration of the winter solstice.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  3. Jonah

    Get the Jesus out of Halloween, already. LOL. Seems that X-tians must be a sad bunch of people, because they sure do try to bring everyone else down too.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  4. Bart

    Most Christian holidays are just corruptions of pagan holidays. Early Christians were smart like that: if you want someone to convert, keep it as familiar as possible with what they had while changing it to mean something in the area they're converting to. All Hallow's Eve AKA the day before All Saints day AKA Halloween is a derived Pagan holiday, sure! So is Christmas! We gonna stop celebrating Christmas because it used to be Saturnalia, the celebration of the end of the harvest?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  5. augustghost

    Halloween comes from the Scottish..Halo'd Eve( HOLY EVE)...the eve before November 1st which is All Saints Day..some of you are so stupid

    October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  6. Ozzy

    SHARON!!!!!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  7. CNNFOXareWRONG

    How about CNN coverage on the Occupy movement and the current condition of Scott Olsen and why the DoJ won't look to prosecute anyone. Or the hypocritical government and media that yells about the Egyptian & Libyan people getting attacked but doesn't say a word when it happens in this country. How about you people do your job and actually report on things that matter instead of this nonsense! My bad, I forgot you're funded by politicians.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • mark1161

      Absolutely!! Keep 'em distracted with nonsnese! The 1% know, only to well, that informed citizenry is basically dangerous to their best interests.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Well, it's because Halloween is on Monday. If this had been posted in July, I guess you'd have a point...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  8. Joseph Bernard

    From where I stand I see the point of religion as becoming much less significant. People don't need to go through the weight of strange beliefs and the dogmas connected with formal religions. There is a direct way through the spirit within each of us and we don't need somebody on Sundays reviewing our faults and asking for more money. The only heaven and hell is what we create on earth. Halloween is about enjoying life which is a much higher expression then living in fear of some uptight angry God of human imagination.

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

      LOL whatever, you know you want to get paid by Christians to pretend your raping someone. That would be the best job ever!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  9. Aezel

    This is the sickest thing I've ever heard of. People who send their kids through these "hell houses" should be put in jail for child abuse.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  10. MuskegonCritic

    I, myself, celebrate Jesusween every October 31st. It's a holiday where kids dress up as something and then go from house to house saying "trick or treat" and get candy.

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

      You jesusweenie

      October 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  11. Chris

    Get over yourselves, GD perpetual victims

    October 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  12. Blacknblue

    Does anyone else see the irony in Christians opposing a holiday that celebrates among other things, imaginary ghosts?

    Think about it you little mathematicians!

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

      It's only okay with them if you celebrate their imaginary ghosts and THEIR imaginary sky daddy's zombie son.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  13. Patrick

    Halloween aka "All Hallows Eve" or All Souls Eve, is the Night before the Catholic Holiday "All Souls Day/All Hallowed Day", which honors those who have Died. Tradition states that at twilight on All Hallows Eve, the Spirits come back on to the Earth, and wander around interacting with the living. By first light, they must return to their graves. Different parts of the world, kids would dress up as ghosts, and skeletons to portray the dead, and honor them.

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

    Look if you don't believe in it don't celebrate it. Not everyone is religious and really don't care and most people think its harmless fun.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      Besides, the Christian's stole December 25th from the pagans (winter solstice) and turned it into Christmas.

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

      Of course Balls, that way they weren't persecuted by the Romans. (Hopefully) most Christians know Jesus wasn't born on Dec 25th.

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

    I am writing this only beacuse I cannot take it any more. Why can't you guys let a Christian be? Will you go to Jews saying that you should n't be walking to Synagogue on a Saturday. Will you tell a Muslim that he should be facing New York when he prays? If a Christian thinks that celebrating the Devils holiday is not good for his soul or spirit why in the world are you bashing that idea? They did not come to your home and take away your pumpkin? America really persecute Christians. This is just an example and I am not exaggerating. It is funny everything is permissible here except Christian thought! Interesting. Freedom!! Guys get a death! (only beacuse it is halloween)

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

      I'm an atheist and fully champion their rights to their beliefs, as long as their beliefs don't interfere with my decorations and also – more importantly – certain aspects of legislation. Separation of church and state needs to be maintained in this country.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      Please, the Christians need to stop acting as if they own this country. They want us to swear on a bible in court, they want us to have crosses in public parks, they want us to give them more special treatment than other religions, and they stole Winter Solstice from the pagans and turned it into Christmas anyway. Then they have the gall to claim a war on Christmas?!?!?!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Sam

      Wow, that's some persecution complex you've got there dude!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Tim

      The problem with 'christians' is that they can't agree on anything. My church is better than your church. I'm a 'real' Christian and you are not. Blah, blah, blah. Get a grip!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  16. RavnXoz

    Why hate on Halloween? witches and black magic arent real and in my opinion its far from satanic to dress a 5 year old up as a power ranger.

    Its about fun and letting some kids eat candy, but i guess thats evil too

    October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  17. Feo

    The scariest thing about Halloween are the Christians who oppose its celebration. Why do you Christians love to HATE so very, very much? I don't get it.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Rick Stassi

      You do not know Christianity and no one has bothered to explain it to you. Sorry.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Shawn

      The bible tells them too, some of the meanest people I know are hardline christians. I am not, I believe we all get recycled into the dirt when we die. You're more likely to see the real Santa or Easter Bunny than Jesus..........they're just not real, none of them.

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

      I'm not so sure anyone has explained it to you either Stasi. There are Christians and there are fundamentalist twerps who think they are.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Jonah

      Agreed. X-tians are some of the meanest, nastiest people I've ever known. Being so full of hate, intolerance and fear must get to them. Add on top of that the sadistic persecution complex that many of them also have, it's no wonder they're such scary people. X-tians like Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen and John Hagee are the devil personified.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • J.W

      Well maybe you all should dress as Christians for Halloween.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  18. Ben

    Conservative and fundamentalist Christians wear masks also, only you can't see them and they are not ghosts.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  19. NightCelt

    The kids love the simulated graveyard out in front of my house and they and their parents declare their joy in seeing it. Especially since hardly anyone else in the neighborhood can be bothered. Despite what some freaks think, it's not the doorway for Beelzebub. I do avoid the gruesome body parts and other such things, merely due to distaste.

    While its origins are admittedly dark, Halloween has become known more for its costumes, displays and other elements – a collection of signifiers which points to festivity more than anything else.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  20. Dick

    If you don't want to celebrate Halloween, don't. That's more loot for my kids!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:57 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.