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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. belladonna

    As a practicing Pagan, I have to laugh at the Christian churches who have "harvets celebrations" – since that's **exactly** what Halloween (Samhain) was back in pagan times!

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

      LOL thank you!!!! I'm also pagan couldnt have said it better myself 🙂

      October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      I do love me some irony.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  2. Thinkformyself

    This is just so silly! Dogamtic religions are so dark ages...

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

      Amen! 🙂

      October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • MikeyNYC

      So, its okay to worship a 2000 + year old dead man, while going through the motions of drinking his blood and eating his body, but its not okay to put on a costume, get candy and have some fun? Furthermore, even if Halloween were actually a celebration of evil where followers worshiped Satan and danced naked, that is their right, just as praying to Jesus is the right of any Christian. Its amazing that these halfwits are under the delusion that the freedom of religion only applies to their religion. Looking at the history of Christianity, no Christian has any right whatsoever to judge others for being evil and violent, considering the death toll of those who defied them and rejected their faith. This isn't rocket science: if you believe that Halloween is evil, then don't buy your kids a costume and don't let them go trick or treating, but don't you dare attempt to dictate what others choose to do!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  3. CrazyOwlLady

    That's okay, Xtians, more candy for us. BTW, as a pagan I don't get huffed and puffed over you insulting one of the holiest days in the pagan calendar by calling it "evil". I don't poke fun at you for your ritual cannibalism, funny minister costumes, and insistence that everyone but you is going to your Hell. So how about you just keep your beliefs to yourself, let the kids have their fun, and leave us out of it. Thank you very much.

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

      AMEN!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  4. Dmoney

    Great Pumpkin, God, Tooth fairy, Noah. Moses, Easter Bunny...all fake who cares...

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

      And people laugh when you tell them that Thor was once worshiped as a god- and even has a day named after him: Thorsday! (became Thursday. . .). Perhaps Jesus/Buddha/Mohammed/etc. will be nothing more than comic book characters as well one day. We can always hope.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • lilly

      @SunPacific, from your fingertips to gods ears...wait a second.......

      October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  5. yaakov sullivan

    this article is an example of the state of journalism in our society. it is reported from a Protestawtn only perspective, a perspective which does not even have a liturgical calendar. All Hallows Eve is just that, the eve of the feastday of All Saints, with the day following or sometimes combined the feast of All Souls, hence the connection with the dead and spiritis. In the US, like every Christian holyday, Halloween, which celebrated life and laugh in the face of death by confronting it and the fear of it, was commercialized and vulgarized. That's it. Enjoy Halloween and understand its connection with the liturgical calendar which is very ancient but for that you will have to move away from these bible thumper congregations that have no sense of church history or a liturgical calendar.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  6. cack250

    People are funny. You defend christmas as a "christian" Holiday and claim to follow "scripture" yet the bible never mentions holidays.... EVER....

    October 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  7. AndrewGrayson

    If I thought religious people had any common sense and actually listened to facts and reason, I might take a few more minutes to write a few lines about the origins of Christianity, but being that they don't have they are lacking all of those qualities, let's just leave them to their own ignorance and ultimate demise. Everyday the circle/box they are putting themselves in gets smaller and smaller.

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

      The sad thing is people of "faith" have little understanding of how they are manipulated. Religion is nothing more than a means for a small group to control a larger population. If you can control what people believe, you can control what they think and if you can control what they think than you can control what they do. And if you can control what they do you can make them fly planes into building and blow themselves up. You can make them kill doctors and blow up clinics. You can make them burn books and people, they disagree with and for no other reason. You can make them torture, kill and go to war because the group with the ear of "insert your god here" tells you that's what "insert your god here" wants.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • sunpacific

      @lily- I couldn't have said it better!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  8. Webster

    Did anyone proof read this story?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  9. lilly

    All religions have Pagan roots.

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

      Not matter how often you dye them they always show through.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  10. n0tth155h1taga1n

    So celebrating Christmas is okay but not Halloween? Christmas is celebrated in December because of the adoption of the Pagan celebration of the winter solstice and even Christmas trees are of Pagan origin. C'mon hypocrites...make up your minds.

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

      I was going to say the exact same thing! A lot of religious people, of all religions, are hypocrits. REligion causes a lot of problems all over the world.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  11. DERRICK

    IT'S ALL IN FUN AND THAT'S IT – NOTHING SERIOUS OR DAMNING!!

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

    Response to GauisJulius
    The egyptian gods Osiris and Horus have some striking similiarities to Jesus. Check into it you'll see. And the Jews, you know, were slaves in Egypt, that's maybe where they picked up a lot of the story line, I know Moses wrote it all down. Ever wonder about that burning bush, he may have been downwind, in the spirit so to speak.

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

      Check your facts. Jews were never slaves in Egypt. That story like all the rest is a fabrication.

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

      Apolonius of Teana and dionysius, too

      October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  13. kathy

    Hallowen is demonic. period.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • William Demuth

      You do understand that Demons, Jesus, The Holy Ghost, Barney the Dinosaur, The Incredible Hulk and God are all complete fabrications?

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

      mwah ha ha ha ha ha

      October 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • sunpacific

      When Christianity was created, this is exactly what the church wanted people to believe: that anything that was not christian was pagan and that anything that is pagan is evil. This is what new religions do to try and catch up: they try to obliterate the existing pantheon of beliefs by calling them evil.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  14. Colin

    Who is most likely to think they will live happily ever after they die in a magic place where only good things happen:

    (a) A seven year-old girl who has just read Cinderella;

    (b) a ten year-old boy who has just read Harry Potter;

    (c) an evangelical Christian who has just read the Bible; or

    (d) all of the above?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  15. FluffyBunny

    Vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost
    These are the things that terrify me the most
    No aliens, psychopaths or MTV hosts
    Scares me like vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost

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

      Should become a Halloween Song!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  16. Caddolakeguy

    Contrary to what most fundamentalist think, Halloween is a Christian holiday. Halloween is a corruption of "All Hallow's Eve" or the eve of All Saints Day. Sure, it's a Christian overlay of a pagan day of celebration, but so is Christmas and even Easter. I guess we should have an alternative celebration for those days as well.

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

      No, Halloween is not a Christian holiday: it precedes it. It used to be called Samhain and was a Celtic new year's/harvest festival celebration. When Christianity was created and it expanded into the Celtic regions, the church decided that “if it's not Christian, it's bad,” and therefore attempted to co-opt Samhain by moving All Saint's Day from spring to Nov 1st. That's where your explanation comes in: All Saint's Day was also known as All Hallow's Day and the night before became known as All Hallow's Eve or, "Halloween". So, Halloween is not a Christian holiday and, in fact, Christianity attempted to wipe it out. Ironically, all it did was end up renaming it.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • sunpacific

      Good point though about xmas and easter also being christian overlays to pagan festivals.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  17. yada123

    Hey, October 31st is Happy Reformation Day! And then there's All Saints Day on Nov 1.

    I agree some Christian traditions can be described as having pegan roots, but you cannot claim that Christianity religion itself has pegan roots and then just leave it there. Maybe you read a book once and the author made that claim. Dig a bit deeper please.

    ..."Halfway Knowledgeable" Christian by some people's definition

    October 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  18. lilly

    Sometime a cigar is just a cigar. But then again ever notice how satanic cigars look?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Not if you are Monica Lewinsky

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

      LOLOLOL!!!!!! I stand corrected.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  19. Rich

    We would be much better off without born agains knocking all other religions...Just dumbed down people and thats the way the GOP likes it so they can keep the base...With the CUTS to education they want it will widen the GOP(Koch) base.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  20. Bobby

    Zombie Jesus> Real(fake) Jesus

    October 28, 2011 at 4:08 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.