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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.

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. Caitlin

    I have zero interest in associating with anyone who doesn't celebrate Halloween on these grounds. Snoozefest.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  2. bc49er

    How are pagans satanists? A pagan by definition is someone who follows a non-Aramaic religion. Pagans of Europe were discriminated against and ruthlessly destroyed by Christians (the original Taliban). Christians are by their nature intolerant of other religions. That's why native Europeans are 99% Christian. The non-Christians were killed or converted.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Nosurprise

    Can't you guys just leave it alone. It's a fun holiday for kids to be scared and eat candy. Sometimes I think some of you Christians just look for things to fear.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  4. Loki Mythos

    It seems to me that fundamentalist Christians are much scarier then Halloween. Much Scarier!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Nosurprise

      I'm beginning to agree with that idea. It gets more ridiculous every year.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  5. Alex

    They will also need to boycott "Christmas" as it is and when it is practiced and Easter by way of eggs and the Bunny as the date of Christmas and imagery of both also have "pagan" roots.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Lets put the X back in Xmas!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  6. Good Stuff

    I'm glad my parents celebrated Halloween. My mother would always decorate the house, my father would bring home a pumpkin and carve a face in it, and my siblings and me would always go trick or treating in our neighborhood. I was raised in a Christian household but luckily my family knew what Halloween meant to kids. I see these brainwashed kids saying Halloween is evil and for devil-worshipers while others are out with their friends laughing and having a good time getting all kinds of candy and treats. Sad to know they will have missed out on such a fun holiday in their lives.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  7. Bill M

    CosmicC is correct. Prior to Christmas and Easter becoming so commercial, All Saints Day was the holiest day in the Christian calendar. The idea was that it was the last night the spirits could walk the earth for that particular year. Google it.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  8. Matt

    Christmas has many Pagan elements, too. Why is this on the front page of CNN? Ugh.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  9. DON

    I'm 73 and we had halloween parties of sorts when I was a kid. Didn't get hurt nor did we hurt anyone. We had a teacher in our little 2 room rural school that didnot like the idea of Halloween so we did a Fall Festival but didn't call it that.My folks would have a weiner roast and bob for apples and lots of fun stuff on our farm. No costjumes or "tricks". Still had fun. Back in those days some rural people still had outdoor toilets called "outhouses". Tipping them over was considered fun by some unless there was someone inside at the time and then it was really funny for the tipper and not the tippee. My kids dressed up in scary costumes ????? and went trick or ttreating. My grandkids do the same. None of us are devil worshipers and we all go to church and practice our Christian faith. Some might say there is hardly enough evidence to prove that.

    So. To each his own. If it offends you don't do it. Just don't tell me I can't.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Don

      You sound like a cool old dude!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  10. boocat

    The Christmas tree....the Easter bunny....BOTH ARE TAKEN FROM PAGAN RITUALS.. The Easter Bunny.....Spring is a time of rebirth and fertiility

    October 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • steve

      While some symbols are taken from pagan sources, the holidays themselves are Christian holidays: the birth of Christ and the death and resurrection of Christ. Halloween is actually the day before All Saints Day, which is a celebration of the saints who have gone before us. To make it into a celebration of ghouls and monsters is a perversion of the holiday.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • sunpacific

      @steve- you got it the wrong way around buddy: Halloween used to be called Samhain and was a Celtic new year's/harvest festival celebration. When Christianity was created and it expanded into the Celtic regions, the church decided that “if it's not Christian, it's bad,” and therefore attempted to co-opt Samhain by moving All Saint's Day from spring to Nov 1st. You got the chronology wrong, thinking that Halloween was based off of All Saint's Day but it was the other way around. Just the current name came from there: All Saint's Day was also known as All Hallow's Day and the night before became known as All Hallow's Eve or, "Halloween". Christianity attempted to wipe it out. Ironically, all it did was end up renaming it.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Mab

      Steve, these are Pagan holidays, you know how I know? Because the Pagans were around hundreds of years before the Christians came, and in true Christian form, stole everything from them, passed it off as their own, and killed everybody off!!! Try reading a book, something other than the Bible!!!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  11. aj

    Scenes of r@pe?? Really? Bring the kids!!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • aj

      Wonder if they will have the Gay married couple in the h#ll house this year.

      What a joke.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  12. Bible Clown

    I'm going to dress up as Herman Cain. Paint myself black and smoke a big cigar. My treat bag has 999 on it.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Steve

      If you can manage it, walk upside down and backwards...

      October 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • HamsterDancer

      LOL, Bible Clown!
      Do you realize when I refreshed this page your comment was the 997th comment listed here? You were so close to the magic number!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  13. mightyfudge

    So it's OK for Christians to take over every aspect of American society for the entire month of December, but the rest of us can't have one day. And you wonder why we hate your try existance with every fiber of our being. F@#king hypocrites. Do us all a favor, go see your God right now. Don't wait another second! He's waiting for you with open arms.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • sunpacific

      That's right! And leave all the candy for us! 🙂

      October 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  14. bc49er

    How are pagans satanists? A pagan by definition is someone who follows a non-Aramaic religion. Pagans of Europe were discriminated against and ruthlessly destroyed by Christians (the original Taliban).

    October 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  15. Matt Slick

    http://carm.org/questions/other-questions/where-did-halloween-come-can-christian-celebrate-it

    October 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  16. Tha Chikin

    “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

    Okay... this has gotten on my last nerve already. I would like to point out that Samhain is a PAGAN holiday. Pagans do not believe in God... nor do they believe in the Devil. MMMMKAY?! Pagans, contrary to popular belief are NOT devil worshippers... they worship the moon, and the earth. Good lord, would you people get a clue already and not base your opinions on 1,000+ year old propaganda already?

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

      They're too busy hating us to understand exactly why they hate us.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Todd H

      many of my friends are Pagans or practice Wicca beliefs and I myself tend to lean in those directions. The Christian church has pretty much lost credibility in my book. Yes I believe in God but I think that the Pagans and Wicca in general have a better world view than any other religeous on the planet (except for the Buddhists, they seem to have gooten the right message as well. "Do as ya will an harm none" treat those around you gently and with kindness and treat th enatural world around you the same.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Al

      Not only that but Paganism pre-dates Christianity by hundreds and hundreds of years. The reason why Christian societies are taught to distance from Paganism is because a lot of the "facts" from the story of Jesus were actually ripped off from Pagan religion/history. Such as the 12/25 birth date of the savior, three wise men coming when the savior was born, and the savior being born to a virgin. This was already written before Jesus existed. Written by Pagans about their savior.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Johdar

      Modern pagans believe in God- and Goddess. Most modern Pagans will tell you that any road to the divine is an acceptable road- just treat others you meet on that road with respect.

      You are correct, however, when you state that most modern Pagans do not believe in the God of the Bible, nor do they believe in the other deity that is so prominent in that book- Satan.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Todd H

      Please excuse the poor spelling, wish this comment thread had an edit button. Hope everyone has a safe and happy Los Muertos, Halloween, Sam Hain
      *have you hugged your ancestor today?*

      October 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  17. pbsat

    "many non-religious traditions associated with Christian holidays, including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny..."
    All who call them selves "Christians" are no more Christians than Bin Laden and Ghadhafi. It's sad when people call themselves something and act squarely against the fundamentals. Christmas, Easter and Halloween, etc. are human traditions and don't have anything to do with real Christianity. vain ranting without understanding exposes idiocy.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by pbsat is No True Scotsman fallacy.

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/No_True_Scotsman

      October 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Add to that the Early Christians specifically sited All Hallows' Day (All Saints' Day) to commemorate those Saints without a specific day to a day already important to Celtic Peoples (the majority of Northern and Western Europe) it made their acceptance of Christianity a lot easier. Unfortunately lot of Fundamentalist Protestants have forgotten that before they separated from the Catholic Church, the Eve of a major Church festival was just as important as the day itself, due to all the preparations done. Thus they have forgotten that according to the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Ordo the day is All Hallows' Evening. The English at the time of the King James Bible (THE reference for those same Fundamentalists) used "e'en" as the common contraction of evening. Drop the "All" in front of the phrase and you have Halloween! There, a history, and ecclesiastical history, and an English lesson all in one!
      Good Hallows unto all of my fellow Christians. And all of my Pagan and Wiccan friends, have a blessed Samhain.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  18. Brian

    Maybe pagans should have a debate over "Christianity." Nietzsche said "the last Christian died on the cross."

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

      Yea, and Nietzsche was a great judge of that- his whole like was a horror show

      October 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  19. Locrian

    With BS opinions like this, can we start taxing these retarded churches out of business and maybe take a chunk out of the deficit? With barbaric teachings and dumb opinions, treat them like what they are and always have been: a business.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • sunpacific

      Seriously. And the thing is, these churches don't have to pay taxes. Not a dime. Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins tries to open up a science foundation in the U.S. and they give him cr*p by asking him how it will help society. Really? What good have the bible thumpers done for society?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  20. DianeD

    The Catholics have their roots firmly planted in Judaism (Jesus was Jewish) and the Mass itself is rooted in Jewish rituals. However, much later on, in order to convert the pagan people to Catholicsm, the Catholics adopted some of the pagan holidays, but overlayed it with Catholicsm. Doing so was attractive to pagans, and they converted. At least this is what tend to think about this.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:46 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.