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.

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. AZgirl

    It's all personal. I'm a Christian and have no personal convictions of going to a costume party. I still worship the same God, our Lord and Savior when I go. It's just like many things in society... there are neutral issues that are neither biblical or unbiblcal in and of themseleves any saying it's the devils holiday well everyday is the devils holiday. He uses everything to pull us from Christ.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Kathy from No. VA

      excellent point. Dressing up is fun but there's a limit.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Both the good and bad sides of this question are about FICTIONAL characters.

      Please join us in modernity and forget your indoctrination.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Dick

      Hey Kathy, I'm going to a Halloween Party as a gay biker and plan to wear chaps with no underwear. Would that be over the limit:

      October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  2. DontNeedChrist

    Hypocrites! They oppose Halloween because of its "pagan roots" as if Xmas and Easter don't have pagan roots? Christianity is steeped in paganism from symbolically drinking blood and eating the body to bowing down to graven images and worshiping a man. Christianity is and always will be a pagan cult.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • RonnieReagan

      CNN is in full stride today with their homepage. First a misleading article that makes people think we have an overpopulation problem in first world countries. HINT: We don't!!!! It's the opposite (in first world countries).

      THEN an article that puts Christianity up on the altar for debate.

      How are ***EITHER*** of these homepage headline articles? How could that possible be the MOST IMPORTANT news of the day? Ohh yeah, CNN is not really a news company anymore.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  3. government cheese

    Liberals believe in paganism. They worship mother Earth.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  4. thefrumpeter

    seriously no one really cares, all Christians are hypocrites. Every holiday they hold dear has pagan roots, because all they did was steal other religions past times and put a new spin on it. Easter, Christmas all of them. Let's stop putting them in the news as they are not news worthy. If Christians were at all interested in following what Christ says in their book, there would be no war, or poverty in America, but there is. WHY? Because Christians are hypocrites and it's sad that even in the 21st Century we pay them any mind. All religions are BS, you all believe in fantasies and fairy tales and then have the audacity to act like the rest of us are crazy.

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

    People with aberrant religiosity define their belief system by what they are against. They even believe God wrote the canonical books instead of the authors to whom they are attributed. Go figure!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  6. bob

    The Church was and is nothing but a bunch of spiritual crooks.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  7. Michael

    On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther distributed his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences". Why are we not discussing the beginnings of Protestantism?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Because no one cares.

      Parsing distiguishments between the cult branches is a waste of time.

      ALL of them are lies.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  8. Jack O'lantern

    Of course leave it to the die hard religious freaks to ruin a good time. Halloween is plain simple fun and we all like to be scared. Keep religion out of the holidays. It has no place anymore, not even at Christmas.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  9. Patricia

    Christians in this country have gone bonkers in the last 30 years. I grew up here, in the Christian faith, and we had fun dressing up and trick-or-treating on Halloween, without being ridiculous and as thin-skinned as these fools are now. Let the kids and the adults have some fun, for a change. These idiot Christians, as opposed to normal, rational Christians, don't even have their facts right. It's traditional pagan New Years, yes. But that is a religion in which there is no "Satan" or "Devil". "Satan" and "The Devil" exist in the "Abrahamic" faiths, but not in the traditional pre-Christian northern European faiths.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • RonnieReagan

      CNN is in full stride today with their homepage. First a misleading article that makes people think we have an overpopulation problem in first world countries. HINT: We don't!!!! It's the opposite (in first world countries).

      THEN an article that puts Christianity up on the altar for debate.

      How are ***EITHER*** of these homepage headline articles? How could that possible be the MOST IMPORTANT news of the day? Ohh yeah, CNN is not really a news company anymore.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  10. Shadow

    I have to come down on the side of people are way over-analyzing Halloween. I believe it to be irrelevant, in our country and many others, what the roots and heritage of the day are. Halloween has morphed into a purely fun for fun's sake activity for children of all ages. It's fantasy, make-believe, creativity. There is no evil or occult associated with it. It's a day to be silly and goofy, to eat candy, to play games, and to dress up. Sure , some costumes are scary looking, but just as many, if not more, are not. You have superheros, princesses, animals, and totally made up things. My son dressed up as a Kmart receipt one year. Great, creative idea if you ask me. And again, I think it's irrelevant what they look like. Some people are assigning importance to something that is totally unimportant. Sure, we all have to decide what is good and bad for us, and whether we will do things that others do, but this is just having fun in my opinion. It in no way desensitizes us to true evil. Halloween does not change a non-evil person into evil. I say leave the kids alone and let them have some fun.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  11. Jack O. Lantern

    Let's all get buck naked!

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

    So they don't even realize that their whole religion comes from pagan rituals? Wow!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  13. Rught

    Christian-Leaders didn't believe Earth rotates around sun either.. Poor Galileo.. Always the same story when leaders talk on people behalf..

    October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  14. Jack O. Lantern

    That dude's costume rules!

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

    Some X-tins care way to much about other people's private lives.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  16. J Mason Emerson

    The article mistates Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as non-Christian when in fact Saint Nicholas was an actual gift-giver and rabbits, chicks etc are symbols of new life which is what Easter celebrates. Halloween began when Christians had their kids dress as martyred patriarchs and saints who stayed faithful even when tortured to death, to encourage them to grow up loyal to God, hence the scary costumes. That's why it was first called All Hallows' (Holy Ones'/Saints') Evening. However there are some non-Christian elements such as people putting poison in with trick-or-treat candies, and the apostle Paul says Christians can celebrate or not celebrate holy days, sabbaths, etc. The Bible itself permits freedom of conscience.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Ry

      That isn't even slightly true.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  17. this isn't news

    Well, that's what happens when two fantasy worlds collide. I guess Christians think they own the rights to the whole zombie thing, since they worship one. I hate you CNN. What's the matter, did you run out of stories about R.E.M.?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  18. codemerc

    soooo...where is their problem with easter and christmas as pagan in origin which came to the religion through christianization? i don't see them fighting those holidays....sounds pretty self-serving and simple-minded to single one of them out because they don't like the symbolism involved but that's just my opinion.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  19. lol

    Christians who are against Halloween are such morons. My girlfriends mom is a Jehovah's Witness (thankfully she isn't or we wouldn't be together). Her mom complained to her 5 year old sisters school about a school halloween party for the kindergarteners and now her sister will spend a few hours in silent study in the library instead of going to the "satanic" kids party.

    Way to ruin a kids childhood under the guise of religion. I'm sure god is happy now that the poor kid is alienated from her friends.

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

      @lol A halloween party missed is not a ruined childhood. Halloween is so shallow and lame. Plus it is dangerous, people knocking on stranger's doors. Plus all that candy – that's really unhealthy. Plus what's up all the people's hate of "handouts"? Well that's teaching kids to want handouts (lol).

      October 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • lol

      noone said anything about the kids knocking on doors, it was a kindergarten halloween party which was probably pretty kid-friendly as it was for 5 and 6 year olds. i cant imagine they had anything scarier than a pumpkin or cartoon mummy.

      in itself it may not ruin the kids childhood, but using religion to tell a kid she cant be with her friends and do normal kid stuff is pretty f'ed up. did u not get the part where i said a 5 year old has to sit in the library alone for a few hours while her friends and classmates have a kid halloween party?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • the point is

      Whether you agree with Christianity or what the bible says is an entirely different topic. The point is, If you base your beliefs strictly on the bible, then all holidays that are rooted or otherwise associated with religion or spirituality that originate from an outside source are suppose to be objectionable. That includes Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc, etc. That is why in the book of acts, there is an instance of the disciples burning magic books that were worth thousands of silver pieces.

      Again, questioning the bibles origin and authenticity is another debate. Perhaps it's stories were hijacked from external sources. Perhaps it was compiled as a means of controlling people. That's besides the point. The point is, if you make the assumption that it's message is true, and profess to be a follower of it, and then indulge in activities that the bible condemns, no matter how harmless it seems, you contradicting your own beliefs.

      And if you contradict your own beliefs, and pick and choose what is acceptable, you lose respect of outsiders and are labeled a hypocrite.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  20. UnluckyEddy

    The only part of this I agree with is that there are costumes that kis shouldn't wear. there are too many pervs out there

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

      I completely agree. I was a TV commercial for costumes last night and there was a girl no more than 8 or 10 dressed up in a way that would violate most high school dress codes.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:28 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.