home
RSS
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.

Movies that scare the people who scare us

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.

I was a zombie movie extra

“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. mojobutta

    Let's start with the facts.... shall we? Christians have killed more people than every war and plague combined that mankind has endured. Christians (not all, but many) will say or do anything to hide their true nature and naturally evolved evil. Interesting that other religious groups are less paranoid, more open and tend to not cause or project as much pain and anguish onto others. If conservative Christians can't see the fun and humor in Halloween, it's only because they are reminded of just how evil they are and can be at any given moment. Fact: Most serial killers are white and Christian.

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

      True that's a lot of messed up people from a book that is largely fiction.

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

      Like conservative Republicans or Tea baggers who love the blood of war?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • IdahoPlant

      You need to get your statistics straight. Christians have no monopoly on killing. Men of all races and religions have killed. Men are killers. Religion is merely an excuse. True Christianity is about love of others. Many don't get it, or simply lose sight of it. As Christians, our goal is to love and to never hate, but we are imperfect, and we have to work on it daily.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  2. SciFiChickie

    Go ahead stay home Christians, Yall suk the fun out of everything...
    Plus that means more candy for us "Heathens"...

    October 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • J.W

      I am going trick or treating in your home town now just to make you sad.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  3. Robin

    Every soul is wearing a costume, get over it!!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  4. Nick

    I was about to go off on my own soap box but after reading all of the above comments all I can say is thank you, and I agree with most of the above.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  5. satan

    It's not like most Christian holidays aren't co-opted from Pagan celebrations...

    October 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  6. Hilarious

    PC reason # 452 why Christians make no sense, and yet they pretend to know more than everyone.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  7. JimAR

    Should we tell these Christians to get rid of their Christmas trees? The decorating and celebrating the evergreen tree was also originally a pagan ritual. And, December 25 was selected as the day to celebrate Christ's birth because it was already the day of a pagan celebration.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Fairplay99

      Oh my, you just do not understand.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  8. notsparkly

    Speaking as a pagan, Halloween (also smack up against the Irish festival Samhain, halfway b/t autumnal equinox & winter solstice) is considered by most of us to be the day/night when the veil between our world and the spiritual world is the thinnest. Many of us blur the two holidays together.

    Not trying to convert anyone or anything, just trying to inform.

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

      Not to mention that is the day the Celts honored their ancesters much like the Mexican day of the dead. Catholics came in and said too much fun happening here. Remnamed it "All Hollows Eve" and made it day for the saints of the Catholic church to be worshiped.

      Funny how that worked while they were burning old women that knew herbs and was the wise woman saught out to help cure illness.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  9. rich

    Pagan doesn't equal evil its just not christian. The roots of Halloween are pagan but it was not a devil worshiping festival. It was to ward off evil spirits. Christians probably don't realize that the Christmas tree or mistletoe have pagan roots and is not christian. Is the Easter bunny a christian tradition? No.

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

    "for some conservative and fundamentalist Christians – Halloween is a celebration of evil and has no place in the life of a believer". SOLUTION: those "conservative and fundamentalist Christians have no place in the life of a normal christian who accepts others and other religions. Please, grow up, you are getting annoying with your childish believes. Your "fundaments" are just an excuse to avoid fear the unknown. Oh no! Eat some candy, be happy.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  11. QS

    "We don’t endorse that or we don’t celebrate that," – Funny, that's what I usually tell people like this pastor about his religion.

    And also funny that the article quotes another pastor who mentions putting cookies out for Santa....seriously people, why is your Jewish carpenter ghost ok to celebrate, but celebrating other ghosts and ghouls for Halloween is "celebrating the devil's holiday"?

    It's fine to put out cookies and milk for a mythical fat guy and teach kids that that particular delusion is okay to believe, yet to believe in the actual "evil spirits" that Halloween is about...that's baaaad.

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

    “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.” give me a break. This guy is looking for publicity.
    Remember you can't selll salvation without the conviction of comdamation. meaning you need to get them to beleive in a boogyman first befor you can sell them that you have all the answers.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  13. daehttub

    Right Wing Christians needs to shut the hell up and get their own houses in order. I guess it's easier to be outspoken hypocrites than to lead by example.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • pccoder

      agreed.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  14. grumpy

    This is the one night a year where it's not creepy to drink christ's blood and eat his flesh.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • buddget

      and belive in "the walking dead"

      October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  15. Colin

    The belief that an infitely old, all-knowing sky-god, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, will cause people to survive their own phsical deaths and live happily ever after in heaven, if they follow some random laws laid down in Bronze Age Palestine = Judaism.

    Judaism + a belief that the same god impregnated a virgin with himself to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to negate a rule he himself made = Christianity.

    Christianity + a belief that aliens from other planets mated with humans who will one day be gods, that Jesus and Satan were brothers, that the Israelis colonized America and that magic underwear will protect you = mormonism.

    Compared to the above garbage, Haloween is almost science.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Stupidity..like evil...must be confronted:

      "The belief that an infitely old, all-knowing sky-god"

      No one on here believes in any sky-god.

      "if they follow some random laws laid down in Bronze Age Palestine = Judaism."

      Nothing random about the laws. The 613 mitzvot are quite organized.
      Not bronze age..try Iron. What's wrong with the time period? Do your trash Socrates for being in the Iron Age?
      No Palestine in the Bronze or Iron ages. Closest thing was something mentioned by Herodotus but that had more to do with Syria. As for the Roman Province of Syria Palæstina...that was many decades after the last book of the Old Testament was written.

      "Judaism + a belief that the same god impregnated a virgin with himself to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to negate a rule he himself made = Christianity."

      Guess you are as_suming that most on here are not up to speed on the theological concept of the Trinity. Or the concept of what evil is...it's more than just breaking a rule.

      "Christianity + a belief that aliens from other planets mated with humans who will one day be gods, that Jesus and Satan were brothers, that the Israelis colonized America and that magic underwear will protect you = mormonism."

      ?? What this has to do with the topic...who knows. Oh..that's right..time to throw a left handed insult just to boost one's ego. Ok..pat yourself on the back if it makes you feel good.

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

    "Counter, co-opt, or embrace it". If they follow tradition, they'll hijack it and turn in into yet another religious holiday.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  17. PeterCanton

    Let's face it folks, Jesus was a zombie!

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

    I don't understand why the fundies don't embrace Halloween ... didn't jesus come back from the dead? he's the original zombie

    October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • SciFiChickie

      ROFLMFAO

      October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  19. footnotegirl

    Halloween = All Hallows Evening = The night before All Souls Day, a Christian holiday.
    It's already about as Christian as any other Christian holiday. Heck, Easter is still named after the GODDESS it was originally celebrated to worship (Eostre).
    Yes, Halloween still partakes of pagan elements. So does every other Christian holiday (and huge chunks of the Bible). It is also: a celebration of the harvest, a reminder of our mortality, and one of the few times when we allow ourselves to laugh in the face of fear and really live in the face of death. If you're not going to celebrate Halloween, please also cease celebrating Christmas (trees in the house, yule logs, carolling – all pagan elements) and Easter (Eostre, bunnies, eggs, new clothes – all pagan elements).

    October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Kathy from No. VA

      agreed but idolizing anything demonic crosses the line. I believe the Satan exists and I bet Halloween is his favorite holiday. it's fun to dress up, harvest the crops, whatever . . . but there's a limit.

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

      I suspect that the real reason some Christian groups oppose Halloween is not its connection to paganism but in reality its connection to Catholicism since All Saints Day is still a major holy day to Catholics.

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

      Kathy from VA, it's people like you that are scary to be honest. Satan does not exist any more than god does. Grow up, get real dear: the only evil is what humanity does to one another.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  20. FrigginDave

    Why is it that people who are offended the most are also the most prejudice and offensive?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66
Advertisement
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.