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.

Halloween fun facts: Spending, eating and carving

“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.

I was a zombie movie extra

“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. Mike

    II work with Catholic Nuns and they celebrate Halloween. People even dress up as Nuns , it's hillarious..

    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  2. What?

    This story was written by an educated troll.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Fed Up 2

      He ate all three billy goats. Breakfast, lunch and dinner!

      October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  3. HockeyMinny

    You cannot live in the darkness and the light at the same time. Halloween is definately the dark and Christ is the light. Call me whatever you want... I'm not ashamed to believe in the Lord.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • UnluckyEddy

      Ok I'll call you Tim

      October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Binky42

      Even Christ pooped. Remember that.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Christ is a fabrication, just like the other halloween monsters

      October 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Free

      What's so "Dark" about little kids dressing up and meeting the neighbors? When you really think about it Halloween brings communities together more than Christmas does.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Tom

      Oh, I believe in the "Lord" too, but I'm just not stupid, and I do have a sense of humor! I love Halloween, Give yourself a little shake, and have a little fun. There is the scary chance that your kids will grow up believing what you believe. Now, that is really scary!!

      October 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  4. Free

    They forgot the movement to hand out Bibles to trick-or-treaters instead of candy. They've renamed the day "JesusWeen"! 🙂


    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  5. JH

    Let's first worry about spelling 'embrace' correctly, CNN.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  6. Bobo on the Corner

    Hey, whatever keeps the Christians off the streets and away from my kids on Halloween...
    Can we put a big fence up around the church and just cage 'em in?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • UnluckyEddy

      No, because I know a bunch of Christians that take their kids out trick or treating...

      October 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  7. UnluckyEddy

    Its really odd but the Christians have barrowed so many pagan hollidays that its no longer fun pointing out all of them. I still like pointing out that Easter with all its bunnies and eggs is a German Spring ritual

    October 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  8. Binky42

    For every Christian who doesn't celebrate Halloween because of it's pagan roots – do you have a Christmas tree? There is nothing more pagan than sticking an evergreen tree in your house during the Winter Solstice.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  9. Brit

    I'm pretty sure Halloween is the christian holiday of celebrating dead saints. But than again what do I know I just read. You crazy pastors and your theories.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • UnluckyEddy

      All Saints Day November 1st, it was to counter the Halloween way back in the day.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Binky42

      Yep, just like how Christmas and Easter were used to counter other pagan religions. After all, how many spring lambs sitting around a manger do you see on Dec 24th?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  10. GvilleT

    OMG...get over it already. I'm Christian and I oppose and am offended by all the people opposed and offended by Halloween! Our church has a carnival with games and candy. My kids are going as a zombie and gypsy. Ooooo, how scary. I'm not going to hell, they're not going to hell. We're not worshipping anything evil...it's fun. Some people just over think EVERYTHING. Get over it.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Brett

      sadly it's one more way that certain religious people try to scare their followers. "you're going to hell if you do..." you fill in the blank. seems like a bad relationship if there are so many conditions.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Steven

      I am Christian and agree that certain religious groups go too far with calling everything evil. Halloween regardless of its origins, if enjoyed with the right intent and spirit is completely fine.

      Halloween is still Monday and its not wrong to have fun with your friends and family nomatter what other factors are tied to any single day. Thats like expecting someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas to sit in there homes and do knowing during the festive season.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Trent

    Silly simple-minded Stone-age religions. Your invisible flying spaghetti monster sure is sensitive.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Greg s

      If Muslims found this holiday offensive Liberals would be falling over themselves to abolish it so just be thankful its just Christians that don't like it!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • UnluckyEddy

      You know whats sad is that when I was a kid Halloween used to be a fun time. My old church would put on its haunted house and the only mention of the devil was little timmy being dressed up as one, but thats because his mother couldn't afford to buy him the cheep plastic costume of GI-Joe and instead let him wear his red long jons.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  12. Hell Houses are anti-Christian

    The concept of a hell house actually violates the fundamental ideals of Christianity. Judging others and determining whether or not their actions will send them to hell based on a personal interpretation of the bible is in direct violation of the teachings of Jesus. Our task as Christians and non-Christians is to live in love towards others and model that behavior for the children, not scare them into believing in the doctrine of the church.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Randy

      Nice post.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  13. ChrisB

    If you want to worship an invisible man and pretend you are a cannibal by eating his body and a vampire by drinking his blood, more power to you. Just keep your beliefs to yourself and don't force them on me.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Horvath

      @ Chris "If you want to worship an invisible man and pretend you are a cannibal by eating his body and a vampire by drinking his blood, more power to you. Just keep your beliefs to yourself and don't force them on me."

      Please do us a favor too then, don't force your secularism and amorality on Christians. It works both ways. If Christians are brain washing people and forcing beliefs on people, so too is secularism. Don't believe me? Read your words again-stop forcing that crap on us.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • GvilleT

      That's not what Communion is all about. You do realize there was an actual yearly passover supper right before Christ was crusified? All the deciples and Christ was there. A lamb was sacrificed at passover each year for the passover meal. This occurred annualy for years before Christ. I'm not a fanatic and yes people have their own opinions. I just don't want you swaying someone's opinion with something you obviously don't know all about. But the "Halloween is evil" fanatics do need to get over it.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  14. Aaron

    Christianity has pagan roots too... so what's the big deal?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • GvilleT

      so true. I'm a Christian, just not fanatical.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  15. DJCowboy

    "Hernandez calls i harvesting hearts for God."... That sounds like the plot of a good horror movie

    October 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  16. Dana

    BTW. As a catholic person, ever so often spit upon by 'holier than thou' baptists and protestants in US, I say, keep an eye on your kids so they don't steal and don't hurt other kids with words or deeds. What kind of Christian are you? You think you are better than me? My children at least know what is good and what is bad, they don't steal and dont call others names. How about yours? Almost all kids that mine deal with every day are nasty and have no sense of good or bad... Christians... Ha.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  17. Dave MN

    I heard that pagans wore clothes too. Does that mean Christians should go around naked so they don't emulate pagans?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Clint

      EEEEEWWWWWW, I've seen some UUUUGLY christians. (mother-in-law, I'm looking at you here.....)

      October 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  18. Pennsygirl

    I was not "devil worship"!! If anything, it was "devil appeasement", trying to avoid the perceived evil powers of the universe. And, yes, the early church co-opted the holiday as the evening before All Saints' Day. The early church was wise enough to realize that our ancestors were good people trying to understand the world, good forces, bad forces, etc. and wove those traditions into Catholicism/Christianity..

    October 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Clint

      The word is hijacked not wove.....

      October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  19. Eric Richardson

    Fundamentalist Christians are no more holy than anyone else; nor is their "judgement" of this holiday any more valid.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  20. Rev. Rick

    Interesting. I just tried quoting a sentence from the article here, and CNN's filter deleted it. HAHAHAHA!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Father Dan

      That's pretty humorous. I've been talking for a long time about how much I love the children at my church but they haven't deleted any of my posts.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Father Dan

      Especially my alter boys... they're so precious.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:31 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.