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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. O FACE

    Gonna get my "Oh Face" on tonight.

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

    Halloween may have started out as pagan, but it gets its name from the Catholic All Saints' Day on November 1st. All Hallow's Eve??????

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

      it is ALL pretend...make believe...fake...fairy tales...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Master Moulder

      Your opinion one-shot

      October 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  3. Greg s

    More Christians then not participate in Halloween, But of Course there are folks who choose not too and its there right!
    Why criticize them. Why does it matter, There are many religions who dont follow Our customs but everyone just criticizes Christens, Show you have a set and get out there and Criticize Islam,

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

      that's because christians are evil trying to take over the nation with their strange beliefs and rituals, their anti-science and goofy music

      October 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Why pick on the retarted kids?

      You wackos live HERE, and you act like its the dark ages.

      I mean granted the Camel Jockeys suck, but Chritians are ANNOYING.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Greg s

      Yall are a funny Lot, America was founded on Christian Principles, But that was back when Christians were good, Now Christians are evil, Strange how times have changed, Either that or peoples perception of evil has changed.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  4. Chuck

    Someone already said it: we'll find out the moment we die. I do not celebrate it because it's creepy, i don't like the scary evil aspect of it. I don't think God has any interest in this non sense. On the other hand Christmas is friendly. kids wait for it with great anticipation. Christmas friendly. Halloween scary, just look at the picture above.

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

      My only comment about this is that I would say kids look forward more to Halloween than you think. They love to dress up in costumes and go out to collect candy. And they love to see lighted pumpkins, other kids' costumes, and decorated houses. They evenly like the occasional scare.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Chuck

      God created the Devil and his minnions didn't he?

      In fact if God is omnipotent ALL evil is directly his fault.

      You worship a sick God.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Having the ability to act does not make one good. Having the ability to act and not acting does not make one evil.
      (just for fun http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/What_Do_I_Know.html )

      October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Black Rufus

      Xmas isn't friendly if your parents plopped you onto the lap of a fat, red-suited, bearded laughing clown when you were a tyke, terrifying you to the point of tears and/or pantswetting for their evil photographic purposes, and eventually causing you to be in therapy some 20 years later.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • longshot

      you won't find out the moment you die, because you'll be dead...it'll be just like before you were born, do you remember that?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Wow..the being in a coma is just like death...you don't remember that either.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  5. Ernie

    "harvesting hearts for God"

    That's terrifying. =(

    October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  6. LadyLina

    I find it interesting that Christians portray this as a "Pagan Satanic" holiday. That's not what it is at all! It's a day to celebrate the dead, our ancestors! It's a day to remember them, and honor them. Most Pagans don't even believe in Satan, so why would one of our holidays be honoring him?! People need to do a little honest research before they start badmouthing another faith. And Mr. Hernandez needs to realize that by putting his "Harvesting Hearts for God" celebration on Monday, he is celebrating Halloween in the eyes of the children. Besides, how sick is that? "Harvesting hearts?" It sounds like some sick horror movie, not something held for a church! I wish the writers of these articles would find a real Pagan to talk to about what the holiday is about before they go writing half-truths!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Greg s

      your mixing up The Day of the Dead with Halloween its not the same thing!!!

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

      Greg, I know what my holidays are. Samhain is when Wiccans and Pagans celebrate our dead ancestors as the veil thins. The Day of the Dead is from a different culture, primarily Mexican. Not only different cultures, but different continents.

      October 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  7. Carlito Swagger

    Anything can become sinful if you let it. Therefore, Halloween can be an innocent and fun holiday

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Crillie

    Christianity....you're doing it wrong.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  9. Renee Marie Jones

    When I lived in North Carolina the local Christian radio station broadcast a series of lectures on the evils of CHRISTMAS. It seems that Santa Claus is responsible for gay marriage.

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

      Yeah, I always thought he was a flamer – with that red coat and white fur trimming. [eye roll.]

      October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Always wondered if he had an Elf fetish.

      Big fat dude buggering midgets!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      He seeeees you when you're sleeeeping, he knoooooows when you're awaaaake....

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

    How bout this...Let's all forget about linking Halloween up to religion and just dress up and have candy... WOW, wasn't that easy...now it's just a day like any other except we all get costumes on and have a large festival...

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  11. don't positive Christian articles make for good headlines?

    Regarding abortion, recent article was wouldn't it be nice if the issue "went away." Perception? Christians are creating debate and argument. Regarding Halloween, big headline "Christian debate." Perception? The whole group is causing more argument. For the record the majority of Christians I know in this country are all for kids having some fun and even collecting change for Unicef. I know I've seen plenty of articles on priest abuse. Just trying to recall the last time I saw an article about catholic relief services, or Christian charities.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Flying Spaghetti Monster

      I presume because the latter conform to expectations of people living by the teachings of Jesus Christ

      October 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Greg s

      Your wrong a minority of Christians have a problem with Halloween, CNN is creating this issue By broadcasting this as if every Christian in America has a problem with Halloween, This whole anti Halloween issue has been created by the Liberal press, I mean really folks Back when America was a Christian Nation Halloween flourished and was celebrated all over the country, So why is it suddenly a Issue now?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  12. kr

    Christians to the lions, as I always say.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  13. Big_D

    Stupid IS!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  14. longshot

    the fundie's really want to have some evil to rail against, and they'll take anything they can get, even something as harmless as Halloween. This never used to be an issue, now as religion gets further marginalized they have to band together and make themselves feel more relevant. Fight on christian soldiers!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  15. Beth

    I don't like Halloween–not because of it's pagan roots, but because there are groups of people who are willfully seeking out evil at that time of year.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Damn right

      Pay back time!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Black Rufus

    I'm sure this has been pointed out umpteenth times already, bu both Easter and Christmas have pagan roots too.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  17. svann

    Pagan roots? Guess they didnt know dec 25 was chosen because of pagan rituals held then.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  18. Pastafarian

    Wow, religion is so twisted. These are all pagan holidays. Typical of christians to pick and choose what they want to embrace out of their mythological sotries.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  19. Doug

    How interesting, Halloween is not okay because it has pagan roots, but Christmas is okay?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  20. Craig Vale

    What foolishness ! Halloween has 100 times less to do with pagan ritual than Christmas does for Pete's sake,. Millions venerate the chubby red suited pagan God of commerce and materiality and these clergy bemoan paganism related to halloween. You'd be hard pressed to find a trick or treater who would think that a Pagan is anything other than a cool name for a band.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:59 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.