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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.

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. edgarx

    Christians: live and let live. Die and let die. Keep your hands off the human species. We don't need your childish fantasies !!!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  2. dano

    The bible is fiction!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Evidence?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Answer

      Read your bible – it says it is fiction.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  3. Brandon

    Look how easily a crappy article like this can make all of you generalize all Christians. How many Christians do you actually know that go out of their way to try and counter anything Halloween?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • 40acres

      Brandon, I'm not sure those here are trying to generalize about all Christians (some may be) but are more likely directing their comments to the group of Christians that this article is about. I hope you are not generalizing all commentors as commenting on all Christians.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Brandon

      Im just working with what I see.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  4. Virginia

    As a matter of fact, many so-called Christian holidays are based on ancient pagan ones, including Christmas and Easter. Many so-called Christian saints were originally gods and goddesses of pagan cultures, "christianized" to convert the pagans. And the story of the savior who sacrifices himself so we can live is more ancient than the Christ story. Hallowe'en is nowadays about having fun, but you know the definition of a puritan: someone who can't stand the idea that someone else might be enjoying himself.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  5. Brandon

    Im a Christina and Halloween is my favorite holiday by far. Not sure what the fuss is all about.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Brandon

      *Christian... excellent typeo.

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

      Perhaps the problem is the use of the general term "Christian" (or Christina) in these discussions since it is obvious that there are only a small group of Christians that have a problem with Halloween. I kinda wonder how many people of other religions have a problem with it and are not discussed here (maybe none....maybe some).

      October 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • *frank*

      "Im a Christina"
      Have you told your wife your secret?

      October 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  6. TR6

    Christians are just P.O.d because it’s the only pagan holiday left that they haven’t been able to take over

    October 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • LB562

      Protestants is the correct word.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  7. pat

    I think if churches stuck to the great commission and the two commandments Christ gave, Love they God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (assuming you don't hate yourself which violates #1) then this issue would not be necessary. It is mostly harmless fun and as with any other human subject there are those that go to extremes, but free will is free will.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  8. pastafaria

    And yet Christians unanimously embrace other pagan traditions such as Christmas and that B.S. about Jesus's virgin birth. What a bunch of idiots!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  9. D

    Christmas trees? That's pagan. Easter Bunny? That's pagan. Staring at my sandals? Ooh, you better believe that's a pagan.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  10. Jay Cizen

    I am a Christian and put the "fun" in fundamental – I believe the bible. The reason I would never celebrate Halloween is that I think it does nothing positive to engage children in death and violence . It's irresponsible. But more so, with so much tragedy and loss in life, why not celebrate something like a "World Changer Day" where kids dress in the role of the person that they would one day want to become. Complete with candy at the door and a good word from your neighbors about how well you look and really could change society for the better.

    It seems everything that tries to establish structure and boundaries is being called into question – yet you wonder why with so much "intellect" life seems to be slipping away right in front of us. It's the choices we make everyday that put us where we are.

    Last, it's real easy to pick on religion and faith as the evil for saying Halloween is misguided. But if it's truly no big deal to you, join the fire department like I have in the past and see for yourself that dying and other horrendous situations are really no moment to celebrate – for any reason.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • 40acres

      I'm not sure where you live but in my neighborhood children dress up like Lady GaGa, Michael Jackson, President Bush, President Obama, Charlie Sheen (shudder), and many other things like princesses, kings, batman, superman, wonder woman, pumpkins, cats, dogs, fire hydrants, etc., etc.....they do not seem to be fixated on death and violence (though there are some).

      October 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Jay Cizen

      Tell me, if your child lived the life of drug users Lady GaGa, Michael Jackson, and Charlie Sheen would that really make you proud? But I agree not every kid is immersed in the darkness, but that is what it's all based on in totality. I just think we can do a lot better than looking the other way when it comes to our kids.

      I think the death and violence is indeed part of it when so many mock churches for not wanting Halloween but doing another event. The only difference is that the nightmares will be less for the church kids...

      October 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
  11. g.c.kells

    According to the Bible, Christ was born in early autumn, not in December. Christians co-opted the pagan winter solstice celebration, even keeping some of it's traditions (i.e. the tree, mistletoe, and any reference to yule). Easter is also a borrowed tradition, even the name of the holiday has pagan roots. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Christians decided to co-opt Halloween as well, Lazarus and Jesus were both zombies, maybe that's the connection they could use.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  12. Nguyen "Dan" Feldman

    Christmas has pagan roots, too, but you don't see Christians "debating" that. In fact, Christmas used to be banned in part of Europe for this very reason. Christians (and really any theists) crack me up, but then they also make me depressed about the nature of humanity. People just hear what they want to hear. Grow up.

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

      "You don't see christians debating that" "fact christmas used to be banned in Europe" – christians did debate it that is why it was banned for sometime. Hallmark won't have that nonsense nowadays 😉
      Remember all holidays are elective – we don't have to celebrate any of them, or we can celebrate some or all of them. It is up to the individual. spread tollerance.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  13. A in Pa

    Christians, over analyzing everything and reading too much into a simple and fun holiday.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • 40acres

      I think you should change that to "some people" rather than Christians.......as with all groups, you shouldn't stereotype them.

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

      It's perfectly fine to stereotype those losers.
      The religious type uses broad generalizations themselves to marginalize every group that they disagree with. Take for example these : "All atheists and agnostics.." "All gays ..". It's fair to redress the christian lot in the same manner that they employ. Fair is fair.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  14. WC

    Some churches stage Hell-Houses–every Sunday!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  15. Lankgard

    Really? Christians are upset with the pagan roots of Halloween? And yet they celebrate Easter, which is a name directly derived from the pagan Germanic goddess Eostre? And they celebrate Christmas during the pagan Yule and Winter Solstice celebrations, and depict the little baby Jesus in a manger with lambs. Lambs which could not possibly habe been born during December, but instead in the Spring, when all lambs arr born. Go figure. Silly Christians. Cherry picking their outrage again while blatantly ignoring other things.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Jane

      You are trying to make sense out of something that makes no sense on any level. I'm so happy not to be burdened with such nonsense.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • vivian

      ehh you are wrong Easter is a Christian celebration that when Jesus defeated the death and bet satan.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @ vivian – bet him for what?

      October 29, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  16. D

    Hey Christians, may I direct you to "pocm dot info"

    October 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  17. Bla

    Bla bla bla, the same crap year after year. Who cares about what Christians think of Halloween? The ones doing all the whining also believe that the majority of the world's population are destined for an eternity in hell because they never believed the right thing. That alone should invalidate their belief system. Go away, you're all just a bunch of adult children. Grow up.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  18. dano

    The Bible is Fiction. did you not study Science. Get a grip!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jay Cizen

      Is this the science that is always scratching heads wondering what went wrong when a new discovery comes along? http://www.intelligentdesign.org/

      October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  19. Holli

    At least if Halloween is a "pagan" holiday it is an honest pagan holiday. Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays (Easter is even named after the fertility goddess Ashtar whose symbols are rabbits and eggs) but Christians are so stupid they either dont know or they claim it is okay because we are blaspheming the lords name by mixing them. Get over yourself and read the bible instead of bashing others over the head with it. Maybe you will learn something.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  20. joey

    humans are funny

    October 28, 2011 at 5:22 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.