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. ron mcloughlin

    Let's face it, the commercialization of Halloween has taken it out of the realm of religiosity, although I was never so impressed to learn in Mexico and see the Mexican devotion to their dead El dia de los muertos (The Day of the Dead) & at the same time their ability to laugh at death as evidenced by all the calaveras (skulls) around Mexico all the time. Americans are afraid of death comparatively.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  2. Mormons-R-Cult

    Christmas is a stolen pagan holiday so these religious morons need to shut up.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    As what would be considered a Evangelical Christian I would like to know what super-minority CNN is representing and why I haven't ever heard of them!!!!! CNN is always trying to cause problems they neglect to mention that Christians brought Halloween into its present form so why would we be opposed to it? Honestly if we Christians felt threatened by some holiday that's been around as long if not longer than All Saints Day then I think we wouldn't promote it!

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

      Actually, Halloween has been around for eons longer than any Christian Holiday. It is a celebration of the Pagan New Year, a turning of the seasons and a celebration of ancestry. It was demonized during the Inquisition, and commercialized as soon as people saw a profit for it. Just a quick FYI.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  4. Colin

    Who are most likely to be frightened and intimidated by a harmless children's holiday that most children themselves see through and outgrow at about 10 years old?

    (a) illiterate tribesmen from Yemen who have never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education

    (b) Delusional scitzophrenics who believe in the supernatural

    (c) Evangelical Christians; or

    (d) All of the above?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Perhaps none of the above. Just as good as your biased answers.
      Sort of reminds me of Colbert asking if Bush was a great President or Greatest President.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |

      What are A and B? Honestly you cannot take CNN's word on this I live in the bible belt and there aren't any churches down here that want the kids to stop trick-or-treating! In fact I have noted some 124 churches that are organizing Trick-or-Treat groups for Halloween!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  5. Faulkner's Liver

    Halloween is just an excuse for me to sacrifice some unsuspecting soul

    October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Janet Davies

    Am I going to be on TV?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  7. Jim

    I wonder if these fundamentalist christians oppose Christmas and most of the other religous holidays in the Christian calander. Everyone has roots in pagan or other religions. Some of these roots are efforts to convert the local population some were efforts to hide from the local authorities as Christianity was banned. No real authority believes Christ was born anywhere close to December but we celebrate his birthday then becasue it was easier to steal the pagan winter festival and all of its trappings than to prevent the pagans from celebrating the day.

    People like this don't care about the message they only care about being in front of a microphone so they can hear themselves talk. Christ put the needs of his people first and would sacrifice everything for those that followed him. Most of theese so called preachers wouldn't know sacrifice if it was standing in front of them. I cannot beleive Christ would be happy with the abuses that are taking place in his name.

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

      You obviously need to dust of your bible. Jesus sacrificed one thing and that’s his life for our salvation. Jesus asked all his disciples to leave whatever they were doing and followed him as such we too as his disciples will have to do the same to be worthy of one day walking with him.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Michael

    The Hell Houses are more of a problem to my Christian mind than Halloween... for they represent and teach that evil is represented in these scare tactics. If there is indeed a devil, than the worlds riches would more likely be his modus operandi. Bless the people with riches, and watch them turn away from their neighbors, and focus more and more on themselves.... I don't fear the boogey man. I fear the one who represents that they can recognize the boogeyman by his outward appearance.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  9. Gbird

    And yet, no Christian debate over Christmas? It was a pagan holiday that the Christians usurped. In fact most of the Christian based holidays originated as pagan holidays that they grafted Christianity onto.

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

      Of course, thats how you subjugate an entire population easily and pain free, by telling them that they can't celebrate their old rituals or they go to "hell" (very bad place, hurts forever) but conveniently enough these new "saviour) rituals are very similar and are around the same time!!
      Religion is nothing more than a convenient way to get everybody on the same page, marching to the same beat, hating and wanting to conquer the same people, "better" than non religious, "more enlightened", etc...
      Its a control mechanism for the sheeple.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Toros

      The actual date of Christmas until the middle of the 5th century was the 6th of January (observed by Armenians until today). But as the bishops of Europe could not convince the people to forget about the SUN holiday on the 25th, they moved Christmas date instead to the 25th... in the hope to make people forget the SUN holiday.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  10. buckybadger

    Oh the Christians. Have to be mad about everything. Can't simply have fun. These people might want to look up how Christmas started.

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

      Shhhhhh, don't tell them it started as the pagan holiday to celebrate the Winter Solstice. They'll all get uppity.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  11. sparky91

    It's fun to see that Christians don't know where their religion came from. Bad because it came from paganism? Um....have you read ANY history of your religion? On the other hand, it's typical these people have a hard time thinking for themselves.

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

      Of course they've read the history of their religion. It's called the Bible.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  12. willard43

    That's a hilarious! Organizations based on mythical gods sitting on high judging us, boycotting holidays about mythical ghouls and monsters. When religions stop dressing up in funny outfits (I'm lookin at you their pope), we'll stop trick or treating. Or not.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Ben45

      Do your research. The Catholic church does not judge against Halloween. It is "All Hallows Eve", which precedes "All Hallows Day", a Christian holiday. The Church is not co-opting it, either. It explains the pagan beginnings, and has no issue with those who celebrate it, even their own.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Johdar

      Ben 45- do YOUR research. All Hallow's Eve and All Saint's Day were created by the Catholic Church in direct counterpoint to the Irish celebration of Samhain, an attempt by the church to Christianize that which they feared at the very time Samhain was being celebrated.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  13. LordEarlGray

    Fundamentalists do go to far when pushing people to look at crap like that. And they're ignorant and obviously can't think for themselves when they disparage early Christianity for incorporating earlier religious practices into the faith. Halloween is simply a fun time for kids and adults and dressing up is a way to make fun of evil, telling evil we're not afraid of you anymore. Shame on them for doing this to kids. No rational loving parent would condone this. Of course no rational person would attend such a church to begin with.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  14. I.M. Rijus

    Christians are really ignorant about the history of Christianity itself. Many of the beliefs that Christians hold dearly are pagan in origin: the earth being flooded, Moses in a basket, a savior dying and then rising from the dead. These are not original to Christianity. They originate in what Christians would call pagan traditions or beliefs. I'm so tired of hearing Christians moan and complain about Halloween being evil. It is not evil. It is pagan in its origins, but that does not make it evil and it has no connection to Satan or satanic worship - it least originally it did not. Give me a break. You Christians get so hung up on stuff like this.

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


      October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  15. Happy

    The world would be a much happier place without religion.

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


      October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • NYbywayofTexas

      Sorry don't share in that opinion. Religion is a means to get to a closer relationship with God. Though you are probably an atheist or agnostic. All I can say is that I am praying for you and all the cynical un/non-believers. We are told that we will be hated for the very namesake of Christ. And for those of you who wish to attack me and others like me, we have come to expect it and wear it as a badge of honor. You have no heaven or hell to put me in. All I can say is God bless you!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  16. Jen

    People, some of you have it alll wrong. whoever celebrates a pagan holiday is not a christian. There is many people who

    call themselves "christians" but they do not do the will of God. Doing the will of God is staying away from those things that

    contaminate the soul. The Bible says that we christians live on this earht but don't belong to it. God is coming to get his

    children on from this earth and taking us to the holy place that he is preparing for us. LIVE BY FAITH AND NOT BUT WHAT

    YOU SEE.

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

      Again, the early Christians, including the first emporor of Rome who was instrumental in bringing Christianity to that empire, understood that incorporating the practices of the prior religions would make it easier for people to accept Christianity. If you put up a Christmas tree you're paying homage to another religion-the evergreen and it was a greaqt addition to Christianity since its evergreen boughs reference the message of everlasting life brought to Earth by Christ. So-called Christians who don't understand that need to study up some more and think for themselves.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • NightCelt

      Trick or treat.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Aloisae

      It isn't a pagan holiday even if it is connected (as is Christmas... are you suggesting Christians stop celebrating Christmas as well?) by time of year and some customs to a pagan holiday. Halloween is a Christian holiday, that came into being and replacing a pagan holidays in some cultures as Christianity spread through Europe and celebrates All Hallows Eve.. ie. the eve of what is now known as All Saints Day. It celebrates those who have been redeemed in the Lord... not paganism. Now, if you are so twisted as to reject a holiday recognizing eternal salvation and choose to turn it into a celebration of eternal damnation instead then I'd say you are the one who needs to look to the Lord.

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

    Sun's day, Moon's day, Tiu's day, Woden's day, Thor's day, Freya's day, and Saturn's day

    Janus – January, Februa = February, Mars = March, Aprilis = April, Maia = May, Juno = June, Julius = July, Augustus = August, Septem = September, Octo = October, Novembris = November, Decem = December

    Christmas = Winter Solstice, Easter = Spring Equinox, Halloween = Samhain, Valentine's Day = Imbolc, May Day = Beltane

    Silly Christians, You're whole calendar is Pagan =P

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

      Yeeches!! Don't let that out of the bag. People might start reading history books!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Guest

      Worse, the date of easter is calaculated by using the pahses of the moon in relation to the vernal equinox; can't see how halloween is pagan when easter is charted in the skies by the (perviously) astrologers. Likewise, the birth of jesus is mentioned as having connection with a new star in the sky noted again by astrologers, and leading to the trip of the magi, and herod's slaughter of the innocent.

      Like it or not, we are all part of this world, and even some of the most "sacred" holy days in christianity have pagan roots.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  18. Hew

    I thought Hallowe'en was supposed to be about dressing up, having fun and meeting people in you community. and oh yeah... IT'S FOR KIDS. Stop trying to indoctrinate children! This is obviously more of an issue these days because of a growing insecurity among Christians in modern SECULAR society.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  19. rochdoc

    So if you are a Christian – you are a "fundamenatlist".. interesting. .. makes me want to be more of a Christian... feels like Rome in second century.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  20. phil

    What's up with that dummy halloween has nothing to do with the devil. The came Hallows Eve that when the witches would call for the devil.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:01 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.