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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. Atheus

    Every so-called Christian celebration has pagan roots. Once again religious hypocrisy abounds. They can blow it out their collective rear ends.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  2. Simil

    "That’s why Worshipwalk is hosting a harvest festival in its church parking lot on Monday, with kids’ games and face painting."

    I would say holding a Harvest Festival and idolizing specifically that above Jesus is far worse than having fun on Halloween. It almost sounds like Wicca. 😉

    October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  3. flarnkingsgargle

    Modern consumerism has more influence than religion. In fact, it may actually be a religion itself.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  4. Messenger

    Recognizing Halloween as the Devil's holiday is only giving recognition to Satan and makes him stronger. Take it for what it is, just clean fun for kids.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • groundlerings

      There's no actual Satan. That's just a mythology born out of a primitive dualistic culture attempting to explain reality in the limited manner in which they could grasp it at the time.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  5. PushingBack

    Here's something to consider. God cannot be both all-powerful and source of all good. If God were both of these things, then he would be intolerant of evil in the universe and would seek to remove it from existence. Either he lacks the power to stomp out evil or he tolerates and accepts it in which case his polarity on the good-o-meter starts to shift into the center.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • geebs

      Something to consider: The God of the universe is both all powerfull as well as intolerant of evil. He has expressly stated in his word that there is punisment for evil. He has allotted a certain amount of time to give everyone the opportunity to choose which direction they will go, in the direction of good or in the direction of evil. Once the time is up, its over. He will wipe out evil.

      Don't confuse his patience for mankind with his ability to stop what is going on.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • PushingBack

      geebs – that is a very small part of it. God allows for the existence of the devil but could vanquish the devil and all demons from existence if he wanted to. So you are saying God allows evil to test us. Perhaps a mother would allow their child to stick their hand into flames to test their child? You might say yes but if I said that mother was the fountain of all good, would you still then agree? So I don't think God can be all good. Also, another flaw has to do with suffering from natural causes. If God made the universe and the universe causes pain and suffering, then why did he not create it differently? As God is all knowing, He would have known that the structure of the earth would cause earthquakes and tsunamis. Those events kill and cause suffering to people who have not done wrong and are not deserving of that fate. So why is the earth not structured differently to avoid causing evil? If you are the ultimate designer of everything, all-powerful and all-knowing, then perhaps creating a planet without techtonic shifting would be logical. Unless of course you don't care which means you are not fully on the side of good. Just hard for me to reconcile, that's all.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  6. groundlerings

    If the reason some Christians oppose All Hallow's Eve is because of its Pagan roots, shouldn't they logically also oppose their own religion? Christianity derives from Pagan traditions, from the birth celebration at the winter solstice to the death remembrance at the spring equinox. As Christianity moved west, it absorded rather than destroyed existing spiritual traditions.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • aj

      Your level headedness and grasp on reality isn’t welcome in these parts. LOL!!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  7. Tbone

    I am so glad that Jesus is a part of my life. I thought the same as many in this blog wondering about truth and God. All I know is who He has been in my life and what He has done for me. I would just like to say a message of love to all who are out there hurting and searching for truth. Don't let you knowledge of the natural get in the way for the love of Jesus. He came for all of us, not just fundamentalists who follow the "rules." Everyday can be made for His glory, even holidays with pagen roots. Thank you Lord for loving me no matter who I am, you are great.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • groundlerings

      The next step in your evolution is to move beyond worship and dependence and embody the same powers and enlightenment Christ demonstrated for us. It was never meant to be a dependent relationship. God bless and good luck in your continued journey.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  8. FrigginDave

    So many people upset over something that isn't even real... I'm sorry, is the world that crazy?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • flarnkingsgargle

      yes

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  9. John

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dz59JANSdg&w=640&h=360]
    ,

    October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  10. John

    The devil doesn't exist, so don't worry about making him happy.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  11. J Mason Emerson

    Those wanting to know more about the CHRISTIAN origins of Santa, bunny rabbits, Halloween etc can find those at http://www.christianwitnesses.com. Don't assume you were taught all "the truth" about those being just pagan. Santa < St Nicolaus (not Wodin), bunnies = symbols of New Life/Resurrection, Halloween < All Hallows (Saints') Evening honoring good Christians

    October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  12. Paul

    I do not celebrate Halloween, Easter, Christmas or even a Sunday sabbath because of their pagan origins. I am a Christian and what other "Christians" celebrate is their business.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • apostate

      the dark lord is my god.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  13. Author the Atheist

    So if conservative Christians don't celebrate Halloween because it's a Pagan holiday, then they need to stop celebrating Christmas as that is the greatest and most important Pagan holiday there is. Let's not forget. Constantine is the one that made up Dec 25h to be the birth of Christ in order to take away attention from the Pagans.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      A lot of Christians don't celebrate Christmas...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  14. Tom

    Christians borrowed lots of things from pagan holidays. Why make a big deal out of this?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Walker

      It's so some bored uptight housewives can control other people and feel good about themselves. Makes me sick that the day care my son goes to calls it "Fall Festival" and then all the kids come in costumes and have a mini-Halloween. It's harmless, people should just stop wasting their time on stuff like this...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  15. Iqbal Khan

    Check this.....

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r13CP387sc&w=640&h=360]

    October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • aj

      he lost me about a second into it.

      Did not watch.

      Not mad.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  16. Colin

    I am against anything that promotes a belief in the supernatural, ghosts, zombies rising from the dead, exorcisms, devils burning people and the like. But enough about the Bible, I have no issue with Haloween.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • sunpacific

      Brilliant! Do I have permission to quote you?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Brian

      Best comment on here Colin!

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

      I was hook, line, and sinker on that one. Well done.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  17. Shannon Nutt

    Sheesh...Jesus has two freakin' holidays – can't Satan have just one?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • The Guy

      agreed.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  18. Sphy

    Christmas is a Pagan holiday (winter solstice) and easter is a pagan holiday (spring/fertility). Why should christian's run from halloween?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Paul NY

      exactly

      October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • QuotedForTruth

      Amen, brotha!

      Oh, wait...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Beatrice

      Agree. The world has created all these holidays to profit so the masses will spend even what they don't have to celebrate them.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Kana

      Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus and Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection. Both are Christian holidays and not the celebration of the winter solstice or spring. It is your choice to celebrate a Christian holiday or not. If these are not your religious holidays you do not have the right to deny those that do, their freedom to celebrate. Just the same as Christian do not have the right to deny those of other faiths or no faith their right to celebrate (insert your holiday)

      October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  19. MeatyPortion

    "“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 wearing costumes to ward off roaming ghosts and evil spirits."

    Clearly, that pastor is a moron.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Actually...

      YOu call him a moron because you don't agree with him? Isn't that a bit moronic?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • The Guy

      @Meaty is stating fact based history. if you disagree with fact, quite frankly that makes you a moron.

      gonna go out on a limb an assume you're christian since you lack the fundamental logic to come to that conclusion, and my guess, other conclusions that prove the bible is a fair tale.

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

    MikePie
    Here’s what I don’t understand. First, disclaimer, I’m not a “fundamental” Christian. However I am a Christian. Many of you here are for Halloween, that’s great and power to you. However don’t hit those who have a fundamental right to also go against the majority for legitimate reasons. Attack the argument, not the person. If it’s a pagan holiday, it’s a pagan holiday. Some choose not to celebrate for that reason/argument.

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

      There's a difference between choosing not to celebrate a holiday and trying to ban it and force others not to celebrate. Many of these Christians are trying to establish a 100% Christian society in a pluralistic nation, and that is where they are wrong and should be stopped.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • lol

      july 4th, valentines day, st. patricks day, thanksgiving, etc are a pagan holiday as well. cause jesus didnt create them on the calendar

      October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Laura

      So you don't celebrate christmas either? That's a pagan holiday.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • bob

      yes it is a pagan holiday, so are most of the traditions for Christmas including the date for Christmas.

      per the bible story mary and joe were on their way to be counted in the census when they popped out the kid.
      Roman records show the census was taken only in july thru october,

      October 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • bob

      Furthermore, 3 jokers following a star in the east bearing gifts for a virgin birth of the son of a god is also pagan.

      there are at least 12 pagan religions predating Christianity with the same story some of them even predate Judaism.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • MikePie

      That's correct....i do not celebrate Christmas either.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:58 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.