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.

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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. David

    I'm a Christian...I was raised Catholic, and my wife in the Assembly of God. We met in the middle, and now our family attends the United Methodist Church in our community. With that said, I must say that these fundamentalist Christians are being so ignorant. Indeed, Halloween IS a pagan holiday...but, then so are Christmas (stolen from the winter solstice celebration) and Easter (stolen some fertility goddess), but they aren't decrying them as 'Satans holiday'. I encourage fundamentalists to accept human history...it's a wonderful and fascinating thing! There is no reason you can't accept our shared human history and still accept Christ as your Lord and Savior!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • 40acres

      Nicely said David. But I will take it a step further and say how can you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior if you cannot accept the history of his father's world before (or even after) he was born?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • and a mule?

      40acres – what the bloody blue hell are you even talking about?

      October 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  2. Bearer Of Bad News

    Here's a lovely write-up.


    October 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  3. knowHimornot

    religion is man based so if you are following the religion and not God then you might as well stop, religion won't get you any closer to Heaven than a pair of good shoes (can't walk to Heaven). Know that before there were any "religions" there was a plan to make belief in God seem like a crazy idea, there was a plan to deviate from what was supposed to be in order to create confusion among both believers and non-believers, that is why we have so many ideas and religions and infighting. Where there is confusion there is no understanding, it is the job of the devil (yes I, a looney believer said "devil") to bring as much cofusion as he can, by the some of the posts i have read...it's working! At least learn for yourself seek the truth and it will be revealed to you, don't take anyones word for it, seek for yourself.

    Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Whodathunk

      "Satan" (Master Deceiver) probably wrote your Bible. Look at the horrid mess it has caused!

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

      So by your logic, the Devil created religions before god even created earth. Interesting as wasn't the devil cast FROM heaven, to earth? So thus obviously God must have done it, as at the time only HE knew the future absolutely. But wait, that would mean God is working against himself in support of the Devil! But he's completely anti-devil. Ohh. my head hurts now. Leave me with my simple beliefs in higher powers that aren't defined by humans, but are defined by Nature itself. That is far less confusing and much more easier to accept...

      October 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      Well, in reading the bible it sure would appear that god is working against itself. You'd think something capable of creating an entire universe would have the decency to hire an editor for the bible. It couldn't even get that right.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  4. Sherri

    Interesting how formalized religion picks and chooses which observances are deemed proper or not. Christmas, or at least a celebration on December 25th, was a pagan holiday. And apparently that date was acceptable to incorporate into practice. Ancient cultures , far older than Christianity have observed different things for millennia- not right or wrong, just done. Why should one facet determine what is or is not acceptable? And, the most fundamental of that facet at that. The holidays that have been imbued with religious connotations can be offensive to many. It's wearing to have one faith or another browbeating folks to believe , sometimes to the point of harassment and violence. All the while preaching tolerance and peace. Halloween means different things to different people. Let it go at that.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  5. Sam Jr.

    "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." What? If a bunny laying eggs is Christian, then what is non-Christian? C'mon, where was Santa and the Easter Bunny during Christ's ministry–or even in that CENTURY? It's all pagan, tied into so-called Christian beliefs by the Church so long ago to get the Pagans to convert.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • MOCaseA

      Easter Bunny and eggs – Both ancient signs of fornication and fertility
      Santa Clause – An ageless man who rides a "magic sleigh" and delivers presents to all the good boys and girl, toys made by elves. NOT a modern day reference to the three wise men and their gifts, but much more ancient than that, when pagans celebrated Yule (three days after the longest night) by giving hand made gifts to those who they cared for in celebration of the re-birth of life. And elves abound in pagan mythos. Show me where in the bible it mentions anything about elves.

      I mean seriously... doesn't anyone look at history any more, or do they just make up what suits them?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  6. pikmin9

    Notice how most of these people interviewed for Anti-Halloween are mainly from California. I say it is mainly a matter of opinion actually. If someone doesn't like Halloween then just don't celebrate it, its not like anyone that celebrates Halloween is practicing black magic or live sacrifices. I am a Catholic and of all holidays my 2nd favorite is Halloween. Don't get me wrong their are people that do evil things during Halloween but that doesn't mean that everyone is evil. Some people are just watching to much TV...

    October 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Nicholas

    The manners in which Christians across the country celebrate Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving all have pagan roots. Why aren't these holidays targeted as well?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Snowgirl


      October 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Shauna Washington

      I agree....Christmas and Easter are just as pagan as Halloween, maybe even more. The Winter Solstice, paganism, Mithraism, and Saturnalia were all intertwined into one big ball called Christmas. Most Christians have no clue what they are celebrating or whom they are worshiping. Oh well, at least the department stores are happy about ALL of the pagan holidays Americans celebrate!!

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

      Because Christians are obscenely silly and really don't understand what they believe. Many holidays Christians celebrate have pagan roots and were "massaged" into Christianity to facilitate pagan adoption of Christian principles and beliefs. Most Christians would soil their pants if they truly understood that Christ was not Christian. They worship a Jew, so why not eliminate the religious middle man, Christianity, and just be a Jew?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  8. Tevii

    Its interesting that this would be a debate at all, considering you never hear the same concern for Christmas. Christmas day is completely rooted in Paganism. The christian church stole it (oh excuse me "co-opted" it) and claimed it to be the birth day of christ.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  9. Jeebus

    Xtianity, all religions, halloween ... all based on myths and scary stories... all invented by men .. spirits, ghosts, deities are all pretend. Peace

    October 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  10. Harry

    Dear Christians,

    Every single Holiday you have is based on a Pagan one your religion "stole". Your religion was so bent on converts that it adopted these holidays in a bid to create more converts.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Jeebus

      yes – Christmas was timed to interfere with Druid celebrations of winter solstice. Xmas trees, lights, feasting, yule log, wreathes, etc are all Druid / ancient Celts customs

      October 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  11. DarrellS

    I used to come to CNN website to catch up on news, but now there's too much crap about people's religious beliefs and viewpoints. I could care less about someone's religion, unless they did something that's newsworthy because of religion.

    Who gives a flying leap about how some Christians oppose Halloween, and some turn it into an economic benefit? Who cares if Christians are chaste or not? Isn't most of this stuff personal in nature and unworthy of a supposed News Site???

    It's really disappointing CNN is turning towards religion, whether Pro or Con, as it's basis for existence.

    Sign me off!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • ck414

      Then don't get on the Belief Blog. Just sayin.....

      October 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  12. Simple

    I don't mind kids wearing superhero or fairy stuff..
    I just don't like the idea of kids walking around as a killer with red painted knife... That is evil. Simple as that

    October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • d'ep

      So, no going as OJ Simpson, then?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  13. garc

    Because eating candy is going to make you go to hell, or what? Jeez.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  14. Daniel

    Giving out candy and wearing costumes to have fun..... oh I can feel the evil....

    October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  15. MOCaseA

    Hrm... I'm a pagan, and I don't "celebrate" Halloween. I celebrate Samhain. Halloween is just a chance from y kids to play dress up in the regular world once a year.

    I don't believe dressing in silly costumes will scare away evil spirits. I don't think handing out candy to kids who are out having fun is bad either. Sure, it's now a mass marketed holiday, but at the same time so is most of the things we do in our lives anymore. "Sticking it to the man" by refusing to participate in the "mass market hysteria" is a delusion, as almost EVERYTHING you buy today is mass marketed. Your clothes, your food, your games, your entertainment is all mass marketed.

    So Happy Halloween everyone. Instead of trying to cause strife between sides the message of this article should be "Have fun and Stay Safe!"

    October 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  16. XxSarah1232Xx

    I'm a Christian and I celebrate Halloween, it's only bad if you make it bad.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  17. Tom

    So I should stick to worshiping a canabalistic, vampiric Lord and savior? Dont they talk about eating Jesus and drinking his blood?? Yeah, that's right...

    October 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • d'ep

      You forgot the zombie portion!

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

      Wow, you don't even know what you are talking about.

      For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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

      you're an idiot

      October 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Tom

      I did forget the zombie part, coming back from the dead, etc. I'm also not an idiot enough to believe in the writings of ancient men who had no clue on what was going on around them in the physical world, or that the stories are rewrites of summarian tales and fables. The Holy Bible is a nice reference piece that should say, be kind to others but dont slaughter them if they don't believe what you do. Or we could just continue with the modern crusade of dropping bombs on muslims. That's fun.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  18. ric

    Funny, I thought that All Hallows Eve (Halloween) was venerated within the Christian tradition, specifically Catholic, as the eve leading to All Saints day (Nov. 1) and All Souls day (Nov. 2nd), two of the holiest days on the Catholic calendar, wherein all evil is left earthbound to allow saints and the souls of good individuals to ascend into Heaven. The church "integrated" the pagan traditions of the Celts, who celebrated the day as New Year's day, in an effort to bring the teachings of the church to Ireland and other non-christian sects. How is this evil?
    Mardi Gras does something similar, as do all of the Patron Saints feasts held throughout the world, within different cultures.
    Though it may be true that MANY people use the holiday as an excuse to perform evil acts (as they do with other holidays; the Christmas holiday season as the highest suicide rate of all, yet this considered to be MORTAL SIN in the christian faith) that does not make the holiday itself evil.
    People need to get over themselves. What better act of Christianity than to give to total strangers, the children that come to your door, and celebrate the sense of community that comes about from a mutual celebration. That is the true spirit of the holiday.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Jason

      Spot on comment! Thanks!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  19. tensai13

    Jesus has returned! He joined the Atheists.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  20. don

    One more time at this. As a 73 year old Christian who has done Halloween as a fun thing since a kid I don't believe I ever saw the devil or any of his friends. We never hurt anyone and no one ever hurt us. Lots of strange costumes from time to time but then again on any given day you see people in strange costumes.

    If doing something offends you then don't do it. Just don't tell me I cabn't.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:09 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.