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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. William Demuth

    Halloween is just an excuse to try and bag that Wiccan chick who works in the candle shop at the mall.

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

      ... nice. u are my hero (seriously).

      October 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • fooseballer

      I already bagged her... Should have double bagged her cuz now my scarecrow seems cursed with a case of the regan pukes.

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

      Ah Foose

      The ghosts of halloweens past.

      Wrap that rascal next time

      October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  2. Truthbtold

    There is not Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, and no God. Grow up people, fairy tales are for children!

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

      Where do you people hang out? I need to meet more like-minded people! Great posts everyone!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  3. IdahoPlant

    I am Christian, but I like to have fun on Halloween. It is a cultural tradition, just like Easter and Christmas, which also have Pagan roots. Early Christians merged Christianity with Pagan holidays in order to get people to convert. I celebrate holidays for traditional and cultural fun. I celebrate Jesus every day for my salvation. That is why find it ridiculous that you can't say Merry Christmas, or Happy Easter, or Happy Halloween anymore. The athiests are ruining cultural tradition just as much as fundamental Christians are. Lighten up everyone!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  4. Craig

    Followers of Jesus have no need to worry about any worldly matters....just be beacons of love.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      If you are following Jesus, what do you do when he walks on water?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • n0tth155h1taga1n

      Yeah! They should give up their sweet delicious candy as well....or we'll pelt their houses with Easter eggs!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  5. Greyling

    As the story points out, it's only fundamentalist and conservative (in my experience, hard-core conservative) Christians who have a problem with Halloween. They are sincere in their beliefs. I know people who have campaigned against celebrations of Halloween for the past 20 years, so this is nothing new. The amusing part is the liberal school system that are also starting to ban Halloween-related clothes, decorations, etc. I wonder if they would be appalled to learn they are in lock-step with the fundamentalists Christians so many on the left love to demonize.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  6. Dave

    Oh... please!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  7. Liberty427

    I'm going to take my dog for a walk. He died five years ago. I need the therapy.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  8. Jack Mihov

    As a Christian It's not a terrible sin to acknowledge our pagan past, so long as we aren't praying to old pagan gods

    October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Sorry, but you are.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  9. Kathy from No. VA

    To HIM be the glory! Jesus is real, he lived, and he reigns.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Hawkeye1012

      I'll take Halloween. When's the last time lousy Jesus gave anyone a Snickers bar?

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

      Jesus was not who you think he was.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Lived Kathy? Past tense?

      So you refurte the whole rising from the dead thing?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • sunpacific

      As real as the Easter Bunny. Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Or the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Hallowed be Her Holy Hooves!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  10. notanatheist

    If we didn't have religion the earth would be a boring place. No wars. No tv evangilists. No one claiming to see jesus or mary in there corn flakes. Hell some people on the right wouldn't have anyone to talk to if you took god out of life.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  11. StrayCat

    So, they're going to have a harvest festival with games and face painting for the children. Hmmm. . .that sounds kind of like something else, but what? Oh, yeah, a Halloween party.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  12. Poppa

    True story ... I gave a Christian relative bundled stalks of corn to celebrate harvest, since I know she doesn't like anything "halloweenie". Well, the corn stalks scared her too. She said they were of the devil. I didn't know that corn was satanic and anti-christian. Go figure!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  13. stephen

    Hallowee is simply an amalgam of Pagan Samhain which is celebreating th harvest, and All Saint's Day/All Souls Day on November 1,2. Pagan's didn't have room for Devil worship in their polytheistic belief system, Ideas of Devil worship are misguided and lies. THe introduction of the macabre into Halloween is a North America invention to coincide with the Chritian idea of the dead walking the streets, and popular fiction of the 19th century like Edgar Allan Poe and Varney the Vampire.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  14. Buzz Aldrin

    There is no god so there is no evil in Halloweenie. You crazies.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  15. Vince

    Its a fun holiday for the kids to run around and have a good time. Actually, its great for kids and their parents to have that interaction together and with the community. The modern day tradition has NOTHING to do with religion so people need to just relax and let kids be kids.

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

      I agree 100%. Halloween was a great time as a kid. I would spend lots of time with my family picking out costumes, picking pumpkins, carving pumpkins. Some really great memories I still hold on to.

      It was also great for my neighborhood. I got to meet all the new neighbors when I went around. All the parents in the neigborhood got to meet each other and everyone's children. It really brings a community together.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  16. Billy Davis

    Here comes the religious zealots. It's a fake celebration going on for decades so little kids and big kids alike can have a night of fun. When will these nutjobs stop all the foolishness. If you don't like Halloween don't participate but please stop your whining.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  17. sickOfMythsAndFairytales

    1st ..modern Halloween is the creation of the confectionery industry, just like Valentines Day and Easter......lets do a study on how many teens even know what Halloween is supposed to be about.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  18. turdburg

    rad costume on that guy

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

      he sure is skinny....

      October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  19. ZoeyJ

    If you want to see how the some christian right wing groups are dealing with this....try this website http://www.masterswelcome.com. this is in Columbus, OHIO. I received "free" tickets on my front door of which is decorated for Halloween ( all of the house) from the tickets it appears to be a haunted house or Halloween event, the tickets even state "Due to its graphic nature this production is not recommended for children under 12 years of age or for those who have a heart condition". WOW.......this sounds cool and "FREE" tickets on Halloween weekend.........I'M GAME!!!
    The website is VERY COOL and Hollywood like as are the 4 free tickets I received(this wasn't the talents of Ohio), someone spent some cash on this production.
    RARELY IS ANYTHING GOOD, FREE !!!
    The address "haunted" me.......so I checked to find out it is the World Harvest Church – LARGE political powerful right wing church http://www.rodparsley.com – with the same address as the Halloween event. This church has fought Halloween in schools, Gay Rights, and you know the rest of the list.
    So now......a Christian organization is going to misrepresent an event to present their agenda (the website is quite attractive to the Halloween fan).
    I have looked all afternoon in the Bible to see where God or Jesus, tricked mankind for God's agenda, I guess this Halloween event " Masters Welcome" at World Harvest Church real is EVIL.
    Please check out the website.........too bad the money used for this "FEAR AGENDA" wasn't used to feed the hungry, or help the homeless.
    HAPPY HALLOWEEN

    October 28, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Caesar Atlanta

      Try to rich me I am atlanta then runner then at the g which is the mail. The first two are one world. Very interesting about the messed up website.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  20. Jim Burrill

    In the 80s. I was in the Navy and was in charge of a portion of a Navy tech school. I kept a rolled paper "scroll" of chart paper ( this was pre- Excel) to keep track of what instructor was teaching what module. For the Christmas break, I had penciled in "xmas" to fit in the blocks. I had two E-6s workign for me that were both fundamentalist Christian. Both were unhappy with my "xmas" but for opposit reasons. One was upset I didn't have "Christ" written int here, and the other was upset I was celebrating a pagan holiday. (sigh) I really am a pagan (Wiccan) and I didn't have Yule penciled in....

    October 28, 2011 at 4:21 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.