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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. Alizon

    This article needs an editor – poorly written.

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

      Thank GOD we have you to point that out.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  2. Marty in MA

    Who cares?

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

      Exactly! This article gives no benefit to anything, it is just another excuse for the media to get people stirred up and fuel more seperation between people.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Ex - Witness

      Mediatainment!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  3. Capiers

    What really makes this whole thing sad is how religions have demonized Paganism. For the record Paganism has nothing to do with the evils that "The Church" at that time claims. In fact a lot of its practices were actually adopted by "The Church". The reason it was demonized was to force people away from it and start practicing this new religion "The Church" proclaimed to be the only religion. I know some folks will disagree with this because they read or were told somewhere that Paganism is Devil worshiping. How about doing some real research of your own and find out the truth.... It is out there!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Barry G.

      How wrong you are.

      Paganism (or idolatry) inevitably leads to anxiety (fear) and violence.

      Paganism attempts to manipulate the forces of the universe by the use of rituals and magic, in order to obtain one’s desires, regardless of the consequences to others.

      The God of the Bible condemns such selfish and evil behavior and demands that people live just (righteous) lives.

      The Bible teaches that the way to obtain good things is not through rituals or magic. The Bible teaches that the way to obtain blessings is by doing what is right and good, like loving your neighbor, being just, being humble, being kind, being merciful, etc.

      Such notions are as far from paganism as the east is from the west or as the heavens are above the earth..

      October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • TR6

      @Barry G.: “Paganism attempts to manipulate the forces of the universe by the use of rituals and magic, in order to obtain one’s desires, regardless of the consequences to others.”

      Exactly like Christianity attempts to do with prayer

      “Oh god, please alter the immutable laws of the universe and your perfect plan for everything for my personal convienience”

      October 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Virginia

      Hear, hear! Try "Man Made God" by Barbara Walker, for one eye-opener.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Oh, boy. C'mon, Barry – don't try to rewrite history. That's just your spin.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Why do christians always have a lie for everything? How can anybody be so blinded by a single book that they can ignore any reality that doesn't fall in line with what they are told to believe? I can't imagine being so willfully brain dead.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  4. Nutes

    How about this, the whole dead for three days then reborn, actually is based on the winter solstice, the sun hits a low point on Dec 21 then stays low for 3 days then is reborn on Dec 25th, I read that on the internets that Al Gore invented. You get it right the Sun God or the Son of God. Pretty cool really. Yeah I know enternity in hell, but not if I repent and accept JC into my heart as lord and saviour and then give the 10%. Have a great weekend folks, I'll see you all on All Saints Day Eve, I'll be the one harvesting hearts for Jesus.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  5. Ex - Witness

    All these religions for one god.

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

      Correction – all these religions for no god.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Ex - Witness

      Ancient Aliens.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Brandon

      I feel your pain, I used to be a JW also. Now I just have my realtionship with God and do not attend any denomination, its rediculous.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Ex - Witness

      Where you also denied all holiday activities growing up like i was? It really put a strain on my childhood.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Brandon

      Hence why I go all out on Christmas, Halloween and birthdays. The upside is I do not have to buy presents for many people in my family , because they don't believe in them!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Ex - Witness

      Yes sir! I totally understand where your coming from. Its still hard for me to sing happy birthday. Life goes on and we believe what we believe.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  6. LoveInc

    Heres the thing.....My family chooses NOT to celebrate or take part in Halloween as we feel convicted that the Bible tells us to "Avoid all forms of Evil"....this is our choice due to our beliefs...just like celebrating it is your choice. As Christians, we are not to judge others .....or bind our own beliefs on others...
    LOVEINC Love in the Name of Chist

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

      You have every right to believe whatever you want. You have the right to not participate in Halloween. You also have the right to not celebrate Christmas or Easter as both of these "holidays" were co-opted from Pagan traditions and celebrations. Don't believe me, Google it.

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

      In calling Halloween 'evil' you are indeed judging others. You have formed an opinion that is in no way based on fact.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Sean

      I agree you have the right. So convert me prove Halloween is evil. I’ll wait.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Halloween is actually an active part of a non-evil, non-devil-worshipping religion, so you're not understanding what an insult it is to call it evil just because you don't understand. Don't just believe whatever you're told, try and actually look at something objectively. Do some research.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I avoid the bible because I choose not to have that evil influence in my life.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  7. Religion is Useless

    jesus is never coming....fyi

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

      I think ha has come a few times... illegally I might add

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

      I saw him on the corner the other day holding a sign that said "will work for food"

      October 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Mock, if you wish.

      The pagans mocked the Christians since the first century, and they mocked the Jews before them.

      The truth is death and the grave are coming swiftly for each of us, and we who trust in Christ have hope. You, on the other hand, have no hope, only fearful expectation of eternal judgment ahead of you.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Sean

      If we don’t believe why would we fear? Use your brain Barry G. I know its hard.. but you can do it… I believe in YOU.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Whodathunk

      Barry G.

      You mock reality.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Barry, when you talk like that, you have zero hope of getting anyone to take you seriously.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • tallulah13

      What in the world are you talking about, Barry? You are the one who fears death enough to believe a fairy tale that says you live forever. I'm content with this one life. Take your head out of the sand and check out reality. You'll discover that what you think is evil is simply humanity.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  8. Jim

    Christmas is a pagan holiday and so is Easter. Get over it.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  9. arcfontis

    Funny how no one mentions that Christmas has it's roots in Pagan rituals. Pagans celebrate The Winter Solstice to celebrate the return of longer days and plentiful harvests ahead. This included the practice of giving gifts eating food etc.
    When the Church wanted to incorporate Pagan beliefs into the Christian Theology to encourage Pagans to switch to Christianity. The chose December 25 because it was close to the Winter Solstice. In fact – a lot of Christian beliefs came from Pagan beliefs.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  10. Mr. Buters

    Apparently some Christians don't know how much the two beliefs are connected. Pagan imagery is all over Christian holidays. Christmas Tree, Wreaths, Easter Bunny.. These all have roots in paganism. Even some of the dates we celebrate today have been adjusted to fit with Pagan holidays. It's easier to convert someone if you celebrate similar things during similar times. You would think some of these people understood the history behind what they are actually complaining about.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Sean

      If they had that capacity they wouldn’t be religious in the first place.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  11. Marge

    It is really beginning to get sickening and disgusting the way the few christians (so called) in this country are trying to tell the majority of Americans what to do. If they would mind their own business and let people live their lives the way they want they would be more Christian like than they whole darn bunch are now. Look at the mess in the Middle East WHICH IS CAUSED BY EXTREME RELIGIOUS GROUPS just like the bunch over here.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Exasperated.

      Are you not the person tellling them to stop voicing their beliefs? Hypocrite.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  12. satan

    Im dressed up as myself this year

    October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  13. Religion is Useless

    God is as real as santa

    October 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Sean

      Wrong ….Santa was actually based on a real person.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • James D. Macdonald

      I wish folks would stop saying "Christian" when what they mean is "barking-mad far-right-wing howling fundamentalist."

      October 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Barry G.

      I’d say that’s true for those who don't know God.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  14. Rob

    Silly Christians. How hypocritical. Of course I've come to expect nothing less. December 25th was a Pagan Holiday till the Christians took it over. They used subterfuge to celebrate the birth of Jesus while Pagans celebrated so that they (the early Christians) could do so in public. Now it's a Christian holiday.

    How offensive is Halloween? Not as offensive as eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  15. Brandon

    LOL, you really think most Christians care about Halloween? No, most of the people taking kids out trick or treating are Christian.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Sean

      If they don’t care about Halloween, they why are they celebrating it?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Brandon

      Thanks for the play on words Sean. To be more clear, most Christians do not demonize it like this article would make you think. Oversensitive whackos do.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  16. mightyfudge

    To subscribe to a religion is to subscribe to intolerance. They preach that they (and only they) are right and anyone against them is wrong. Not really the building blocks for a peaceful society.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • PaganDude

      Not all religions claim to be the one true path, although I do agree that the ones that do mostly teach intolerance, or intolerance is practiced by its belivers.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • geebs

      You're right! We should all be tolerant of whatever comes down the pike. It sure would make for a more peaceful world.

      I just hope its not my brother that the next Jeffery Dahmer eats. I would hate to try to be tolerant of his view that killing and eating someone was OK (which he was convinced of, btw).

      Since you were trying to make a derogatory remark or a negative statement about people who are intoleant, you just joined the ranks of the intolerant, as you are being intolerant of them. I would think that you would need to back off of the intolerance talk before you incriminate yourself with those you are being intolerant of. Hypocrisy is just around the corner!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  17. Gary

    I love how CNN and it's author, who places people into perfect categories of belief. Regardless, I have been subjected to many. Aside from some of the stupid comments I've seen, I'll agree that Halloween never made sense to me, but with one exception.

    It was all some marketeers needed to find some other way to dig the general population for another commercial event at every retail store one can imagine. You idiots that think this is a religious or pagan holiday should take a marketing class. I don't buy candy and I don't dance in a costume or recognize all the products on the store shelves for the event because I could care less. Make more crap to sell and market next year–I won't eat it, buy it or celebrate it and you can create a whole new class of religion for me if you want. For you that worship nothing, hope for more money, pray for nothing...I won't see you in hell.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • mightyfudge

      Good thing they don't commercialize CHRISTmas, or you'd have to hate that too. Oh,and I will see you in hell. I'll be the one with the fiery whip standing over you while you suffer in the flaming lake. You and me. We've got a date baby!

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

      Actually... Halloween is derived from from the Pagan holiday "Samhain". But yes someone decided at some point to capitalize on it same as Easter and Christmas. Doesn't change the fact that they have roots older than Christianity.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  18. lacoaster

    All it means to me is that you pickup candy while in a funky or scary disguise. Anything else don't matter to me.

    October 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  19. bc49er

    So Christians carry out a pogrom against pagans. Later they have the nerve to call those they murdered and presecuted "devil worshipers". Good one, remember Jesus loves you.

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

      And to think they pray to a nice Jewish man...his mother would be proud!!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  20. Lucifer, bringer of (en)light(enment)

    Halloween is part of Western civilization and has been for centuries. A remnant of the pagan past, a cultural artifact that we can dust off and enjoy once a year. It's all about make-believe, and kids love it. Christians should have no problem embracing Halloween as it exists today. Besides, Halloween is secretly preparing us to handle the zombie apocalypse that we all know is coming!

    October 28, 2011 at 4:57 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.