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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. Religion is Useless

    Religion is simply a waste of resources, shocks me to think people believe in these kind of things

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

      People who celebrate Halloween and hate christians , I have only a word of encouragement to you all " get some rehersal so that you would be comfortable in the place where you are destined to go , without God ": . Good luck !

      James

      October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @james – Jersey?

      October 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  2. L Alvin Lawrence

    Odd, this would be an issue when they are okay with lying to children year after year about Santa, yet will still teach a child that lying is wrong and will punish the child when the child lies.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Anon Catholic

    I love that this brilliant article fails to even so much as disect the name Halloween, i.e. All Hallow's Eve, i.e. All Saint's Eve, i.e. the night before All Saint's Day. A cursory glance at a wikipedia article would then inform even an apparently clueless journalist from CNN that the feast of All Saints has been celebrated on November 1st in the Western Church for nigh on 13 centuries. If there was any true controversy about its pagan roots, I think those were solved about... 1100 years ago? Thanks for adding controversy to what ought be non-controversial by not including relevant facts.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  4. Kana

    F@#$K Political Correctness

    October 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  5. GoolaMG

    Anyone with a search engine should be able to research the pagan beginnings of Xmas, Halloween, Easter, Sunday Sabbath, etc. Those that profess to be Christians choose to ignore the scriptures that warn against idolatry and following the "traditions of the meek." No matter what reasons you may come up with for celebrating a pagan holiday, it is still nonetheless, a pagan holiday falsly disguised as God-inspired.

    Sadly, these hypocrisies are reasons why some atheist do not believe in The Almighty. They have poked enough holes in man's version of "religion" and their mistrust of religious dogma has led them to believe that The Creator does not exist. The Bible clearly states that you cannot serve two masters. Pagan-following Christians have obviously chosen which master they choose to serve.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  6. Bob S In Austin

    Wearing a ghost costume on Halloween doesn't make you a devil worshiper any more than putting on a Santa hat and singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer makes you a Christian.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  7. Theresa

    Although not a practicing Catholic, I can't buy into Halloween being harmful to anyone. I cherish all the Halloweens' I spent with friends...it was fun! Now, as much as I adore my husband, we argue over every holiday that comes around...his and mine. He finds all the holidays pagan and I just find his totally ridiculous (feast of trumpets, feast of tabernacles...the list goes on) I can't help but feel that religion is just the destroyer of everything good,,,sigh.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  8. Bayousara

    I am getting beyond sick of what Christians think. Maybe they should shut up long enough to educate themselves about–well, everything! I would give anything to stand in a Christian evangelical church some time and jump up and ask, "How many of you have committed adultery" or "How many of you have had an abortion, a child or other relative who has had one" or "How many of you have paid for an abortion for someone else?" Then I would ask those people to stand up. I will bet half will. But then they are going to be dishonest.

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

      Bayousara, I understand what you're saying, but may I gently and kindly say that I think you're "barking up the wrong tree", as the saying goes. I'm a Christian, and I'll be the first to tell you of my many faults without trying to make excuses. I think you probably don't have a handle on what being a Christian really is....I'm so sorry you've gotten some wrong information or impressions somewhere, and probably the media doesn't help much. Always search for the truth even if you run into some counterfeits.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  9. mizh

    Everyone knows Christians are the biggest hypocrites on the planet, anyway. Look at their stance on abortion, YET the majority of them voted in DUHBYA TWICE and that allowed us to invade Iraq and kill Iraqi women and children. I have no use for the hypocrites in the Christian "faith'. FYI, DADA: they are more evil than a silly holiday, loser.

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

      mizh, Christians are not hypocrites as a group. How can the left not see the difference in the murdering of an unborn child (who is innocent) and the death penalty for convicted murderers or a the war on terrorism? Anyone with a brain can see the difference there. What I don't get (really) is the oposite argument by the left that the death penalty is murder, but it is okay to kill the unborn. Those babies have a soul and can feel pain. Yet, those on the left think it is okay to cut them into peices and suck them from the womb. Where is the logic there?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Carla

      The whole fundamentalist, so-called Christian movement is insane. In the distant past, Christians were persecuted. Later, they grew in numbers, and begain payback, including burnings at the stake, the Crusades, and - hey - I give you the Inquisition. As you say, htey supported George Bush - and I'm not all that sure he wasn't the antichrist they are all looking for. I wish they'd all just get raptured - it sure would make for a more congenial, saner planet for all us sinners who enjoyed our childhoods with the pumpkins and the trick-or-treat bags when we just thought we were having fun.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  10. GodIsALie

    Christians and other religious wing-nuts were put here so the rest of us can get a good laugh now and then. What a bunch of mindless sheep!

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

      What is mindless is the thought that you came from a a big blast in space that became a 1 cell being, then a fish then a monkey then a human (skipped several in the chain). Scienct has NEVER proven a mutation that was either bennificial or carried on to the next generation. For evolution to work, you have to ignore the facts that you are trying to make everyone belive. That is the true art of stupidity.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Answer

      @Jason

      It's your own stupidity in not understanding evolution. You want to bash it it's fine with us who understand it. You love your little niche of ignorance – it's cool. It's your fault for not being able to comprehend and asking questions of science.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  11. Bob

    Why are "Christians" such touchy little twits? Get over it......

    October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Patty Biller

      no thanks, I choose NOT to call evil good (Biblical). At a lot of local churches, we have hallelujah parties; which are a lot of fun!

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

      Not all Christians are twits.. some just take it to the extreme by judging others. Every religion has them.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  12. Bill

    Insert 'Those uptight Christians! I'm proud to celebrate Halloween! It's no big deal!' cookie-cutter comments. Ugh...

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

    Come on, as most of us over 50 understand Halloween was and is about how much candy to bring home. Nothing more nothing less, just ask the dentists.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  14. Punky Bold

    Jesus is a zombie! So it's ok to celebrate some dude getting nailed to a cross and rising up from the dead, but not Halloween? Hypocrites!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  15. SW

    Halloween is a stupid holiday in general. People need to chill and stop getting all upset over this.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  16. marsmotel

    All religion came from some sort of paganism. Duh! Especially christianity! Thos4e idiots tore doen staues of Zues and great works of art, that they still have in their stupid Vatican.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  17. DON

    I posted something but it did not go through. Guess the devil did not like it.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  18. Ex - Witness

    I grew up not celebrating Halloween due to the same fact that its for evil spirits. Now as an adult i have kids and allow my kids to celebrate. To them it means going out for candy. To others its evil and involves Satan.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Evil spirits... hrm. Okay. Evil spirits run amok on the night before All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Fun.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  19. Davren

    Why does CNN continue to try to chip away at Christianity by allowing idiots who know absolutely nothing about the faith to write these articles.
    Muslims don't celebrate Halloween either, no Jews..Can we see articles about them?

    October 28, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Terry

      Sorry but Jews (except maybe the orthodox minority) DO celebrate Halloween and I've got a Muslim friend who LIVES for going out on Halloween.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • seraphim0

      That know nothing about the religion... like how every Christian holiday has roots in a pagan holiday that they took over in order to have easier conversions? Don't believe me? Here's you're two biggest examples– Christmas = Yule. Easter= Spring renewal Festival and celebrations of renewed fertility of the earth. Just a giant coincidence, I am sure. I'm not Christian, nor Pagan, but the fact remains- the vast majority of christianity celebration and ritual was stolen from various faiths that resided in lands christians conquered.

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

      CNN does a service to offer insight through real comments on the stupidity of religion. If you don't like reading from one source go find another that you like. FOX news is for you Davren, They promote your religious ideals – go there. You are not obligated to CNN.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  20. mbane18

    There's no Christian debate! I'm a Christian and holloween is nothing but a fun day for the kids. Those who have issues are uneducated fanatics. Sure holloween is pagan but so were many of the rituals and dates adopted by the church, starting with December 25th. The problem is most of the so called Christians (Evangelicals) don't know the history of their own religion.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:51 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.