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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. Beatrice

    Halloween is no fun. What fun can it be when people are celebrating over something so horrible as "death". This is a pagan 'holiday". Of course, the devil has done a good job into making humans believe there is nothing wrong with Halloween. It just a fun thing to do. He has even go to the point that has make people believe he don't exist, you just have evil within yourself. In that way no one will be accountable to eat and drink as he pleases, in other words: "living la vida loca" o do as you please. Well, Halloween is his most favorite holiday. What fun can it be as putting bones, skulls and as I just saw few days ago, a book resembling a bible with the 5 pointed star (the devil' s mark ) at a neighbors porch. If you don't want to see it as what it is, I am sorry for you. You will definetly attract demons to your house.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • aj

      wow... really?

      Well I don’t believe in god, therefore there is no devil. -and I’m letting my kids have a normal life, have fun with their peers and get some free candy.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      You are an idiot. Amazing how much respect you guys give Satan, when Halloween is mostly about making fun of evil and misfortune. Pretend it doesn't exist all you like; I'd rather just give it the back of my hand.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Laura

      Perhaps people should look into the roots of Halloween and see how it has evolved many times to get to where we are now. Halloween never had to do with worshiping the Devil. It's changed more than christmas has, so if theres 1 pagan holiday to accept at least let it be the one that takes place in the right time of year. Cracks me up it says in the bible christmas couldn't be December yet so many bible lovers think it is. They don't even read their own book for context.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • LeoGirl

      Have we forgotten that the date of December 25 for Christmas was used because that was a Pagan holiday as well? We "christianized" it to remove those "Evil Pagans". This is being said by a Christian(Catholic) person.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • zosimoff

      You should really try doing a little research into your faith. Christian holidays all coincide with original pagan holidays. The Catholic Church co-opted them to make it easier to gain followers. They also stole stories such as the virgin birth, walking on water, rising from the dead, and physically ascending into the heavens from the stories of other gods.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • The Guy

      you obviously lack logic so I'll help lead you to the cheese and ask a simple question – how do you know the bible wasn't actually written by the devil?

      according to your precious paperback, he is the origin of deception. therefore, how do you know he is not deceiving you right now as you read the bible. how do you know that the real god isn't up there saying, "don't read it, idiot! it's not my word!" and how do you know the devil hasn't made his word "god's" word and vice versa. for all you know you're playing right into the prince of darkness...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  2. LOW.COMMOTION

    Do they make "double stuffed" mini Oreo's

    October 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  3. Copenhagun

    If Christians oppose Halloween because of it's pagan roots, then they must oppose Christmas and the Christmas Tree, which is a pagan symbol. Anyone who knows anything about how Christianity began knows that Christianity has deep pagan roots, thanks to early christian recruiting practices.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  4. humtake

    That's right everyone. It's not the murdering. It's not the raping. It's not the stealing from the poor to get rich. None of that matters come judgement day. What REALLY matters is if you chose to take part in a day where people buy crazy outfits and GIVE each other candy. Yep, that's right. A day when people help the economy by purchasing costumes and candy, and then GIVE it away. They don't ask for money. They don't ask for anything. All they do is give something away. That is why you will all go to hell. REPENT NOW OR HALLOWEEN WILL DESTROY YOUR SOUL!!!

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

    You know why ghosts can't get witches pregnant?

    Halloweenies

    October 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  6. Mary

    Hell Houses? Are we talking about Congress again?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  7. so.sue.me

    yea the devil exists, his name is bernie madoff...

    October 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • uh dur?

      surely you can think of a more evil person than a guy who stole money from wealthy investors...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Little White Lies

      **** so.sue.me

      yea the devil exists, his name is bernie madoff...

      DICK CHENEY !

      October 29, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  8. Who cares

    Seriously, if you want to celebrate it, celebrate it. I haven't celebrated halloween since I was about 9 because of my own personal preferences but don't care who around me goes all out. I support it. But don't get on me because I don't celebrate it or dress up or else I'll not so kindly return the favor about how that costume really makes you look.

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

    how ridiculous. if jesus is the one true god (ridiculous in itself how somebody could know this but anyway) then why would they care about reverence to pagan deities if they clearly do not exist (which they do not of course)? this is new levels of absuridity within their own absurdity! it's almost as absurd as this article!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  10. Hawkeye1012

    God, if he existed, would love Halloween. He can't get enough of those Swedish Fish.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  11. Chad Crall

    It's a farm day. Learn your history before you make up Fairy Tales.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  12. BC

    Put simply: Fundamentalist Christians are idiots, so why do we care so much what they do or think? Why do we as a society cater to idiots?

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

      Agreed! The problem is that these fundamentalists are dragging us far to the right- it's good to stand up every now and then and let people know that these zealots don't speak for all of us.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  13. Jordan Graham

    Most of current day Christian traditions has a good portion of it contributed by pagan. they'd have to get rid of the palm frons, Douglas Fir trees, fish symbol, cross, I could go on with about 15 other major things that Christianity shares or took from other religions.
    Embrace what you have, learn why you have it, and appreciate it.

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

      Jesus, at least the historical real person, wasn't even born in December. Christmas has it's roots in a winter pagan holiday.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  14. Stephan

    Pfiew... For people outside the US (or strict Islamitic countries), it's a bizar sight to see how religion plays such a dividing role in society.

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

      Yep.... and its really embarassing.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  15. Ricker

    I am a devout Christian and serve as the Pastor of a good size church. On Halloween not only do we decorate our home in "early scary" motif but we pass out full size candy bars. I think it doubtful that the average kid coming to our door gives a rip about the theology that some may want to apply to this holiday...but they do remember the family that gave out full size candy bars each year. I would rather have the good will of the children in my neighborhood than the approval of my uptight Christian friends. (Oh, and we refuse to host a Harvest Festival but tell our congregation to go out trick or treating with their kids or meet their neighbors by doing something fun.)

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

      I love your post, thank you! Too many Christians get caught up in ideology and rules. Yes, go out and meet your neighbor, have fun, and spread goodwill. Let's remember that we follow Jesus. He would be out there engaging the trick or treaters, I bet. Too many Christians have their lights off and doors locked on Halloween.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Maggie

      John4:23 states "Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him."
      Is there any thuth in Halloween? How can any body call themselves a true christian and get involve in lies. You need to read your bible again or if you do not understand what you are reading,you need to ask for holy spirit so you can understand the way of God.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      I love how you think!

      Sadly, Maggie is stuck on autoplay and missed your point.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  16. Willyboy

    The Christian freaks need to realize that ALL of their celebrations have deep ties to Pagan rites. Every. Single. One. This is because the Church co-opted Pagan dates and rites in order to more easily win over converts. So, just get over Halloween, m'kay?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  17. GayLord

    this is absolutely rediciouolous. Im a Christian and I love this holiday. could be one of my favorites. But the questions is why do you spend so much energy on this stupid matter? Life is too short. just enjoy it just get a funny custom and have fun instead of bringing up religion which is so unnecssary. But of course they have to related to the devil blah blah blah blah wheres the fun you not fun christians

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

      then you need to re-examine your faith. The first century christians were never involved in pagan celebrations.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      C'mon, Maggie, running around chastising other Christians for not being as True Christian as you is just sad.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  18. North of 60 Pumpkin Carver

    Halloween is simply the night before the celebration of all the saints. Harvest festivals sound more like the old celebrations in the last lunar cycle before snowfall. Go out and have fun!

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

      Actually you have it backward. All Saints Day was created as the day after Halloween to tie the christian religion with that of the 'pagans' they were trying to convert. Kind of like, "see we're just like you, we also have a holiday celebrating this time of year."

      October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  19. Skipper

    LOL..... CHRISTMAS has pagan roots! The chosen date is near winter solstice / on December 25 because it was the date of the Roman Solar Holiday in worship of the Roman Sun God 'Sol Invictus'. Even the Christmas Tree has pagan origins!

    Got to love people who squawk ignorantly, having no clue about the history of THEIR OWN 'religion'....

    October 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  20. awasis

    The only devils are in one's own mind.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Nah

      My ex wife was a real devil.

      Could turn her head all the way around.

      Thats why I married her

      October 28, 2011 at 4:31 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.