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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.

Movies that scare the people who scare us

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. vivian

    u guys don,t realize this but demons do exist and they r trying to take ur soul!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Dan

      O nos!!111! Are they stealing my internets, too?!?!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      I heard putting salt across doorways helps.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  2. Cherries

    Holidays are just another excuse for stores to sell you extra stuff. Either way you look at it, the "true" meaning of holidays is long gone. EVERY holiday is a commercial holiday.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • merindres

      I agree

      October 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  3. The 666 Club

    Praise Satan!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Why?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Praise, Jesus. He is Lord.

      It was Jesus who loved you and me and was crucified for us.

      Satan only destroys lives.

      Jesus heals and restores lives.

      I plan to spend eternity with Christ.

      Why would you want to spend eternity with Satan in eternal punishment?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • TR6

      @ Barry G.: “ Why would you want to spend eternity with Satan in eternal punishment?” It would be much better than having to put up with a heaven full of people like you

      October 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Answer

      Just think about heaven ...

      All the christians together demanding God to service their every need. They all want their ranks and social status – nagging to God that their neighbours aren't TRUE christians like themselves. Bickering about the lack of entertainment. No rock and roll, no s-e-x, no alcohol.. whining for an eternity for God to fix heaven more to their liking. That's heaven for ya. What a rotten bore.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Ricky

      Barry G, how can eternal punishment be fair punishment for minor errors in a finite lifetime by imperfect persons?

      Oh, you worship that ass-hole of god, the Christian one, and he's cruel but not fair. Got it. But ya gotta think that a god like that would beat the cr@p out of a patronizing wimp like you anyway.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  4. Sao

    2 Corinthians 6:15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  5. Ryan

    Are they going to stop celebrating those other holidays with pagan roots, like Easter and Christmas?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Insight

      Many relegious leaders leading a comfortable life on these slaves

      October 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • TR6

      Of course not. That’s when they rake in the most money

      October 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • toadears

      My guess on that would be to answer: Never. They still are claiming the pagan celebration of Winter Solstice as the birthday of Jesus. Old habits die hard. As the Book said, 'My people perish for lack of knowledge.'

      October 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    Christian communion represents eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood. Why no outcry over this obviously pagan ritual?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Love Christ

      Well we do that because the word became flesh and the flesh said, "eat me and drink me", if you want eternal life.

       52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

       53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • toadears

      It's symbolic and represents something natural being consumed in honor of something supernatural. Silly question really. When you eat a cookie shaped like a tree, are you destroying a forest? Are you eating a tree? Jesus told them 'take, eat, this is my body.' He was sitting in front of them and they were not cannibalizing him at the time. It is symbolic of honoring his murder as a sacrifice. Then he said, 'this do in remembrance of me.' It is all about remembering. This is also the reason that many churches have a remembrance table at the front of the sanctuary just below the pulpit. They serve the Lord's supper from this table. It is also used to hold flowers all the other times the supper is not being served. The flowers are most often placed in memory of someone in the church who has recently died. It is ritual, but not pagan.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  7. Jake

    Of course CNN a liberal secular-humanist paparazzi is a major authority on “What Christians Think’ NOT?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • toadears

      That is exactly the type of condemning Christianity that no one needs. Leave it out! CNN is covering something Christian. Let it go at that. If people who aren't believers have questions, answer them with, at the very least, civility. I think it is a step in the right direction that CNN offers this column at all.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  8. Name*Donna

    are you alien? human species?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  9. mark

    Does anyone really care what these whack jobs think anymore?
    Keep your beliefs out of my life!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Entil'za

      And yet...you willingly came on to a belief seaction and click on a article that was obviously about Christianity. Yet..you want them to stay out of your life??

      October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  10. *frank*

    In Soviet Christianity, bald-faced lies about people coming back from the dead trick YOU!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  11. toadears

    Every year the Druids would demand payment from the villages. They carried a human skull with a candle in it. No flashlights back then and the skull was a reminder to the people that the Druids could kill. The Druids were into dissection for scientific investigation reasons, on a primitive level, of course. The villages were to leave bounty at their gate for the Druids to come by and pick up. Either a sizable portion of the year's crop harvest or a small child, in lieu of goods. Many times people left the children as bounty because having kids was easy and planting and harvesting crops was risky, depending on the weather. This was ancient times. No pesticides, Farmer's Almanac, etc. It was easier to have another child and rid themselves of an extra mouth to feed over winter than to lose part of the harvest. The Druids could use the children any way they liked. Some were killed and dissected, some were offered up as religious sacrifices, some were kept and indoctrinated into the Druid faith. When the Catholic church in Rome decided to make or break Europe into Christianity, this is one of the high holy days of pagans they decided to adopt. They named Nov. 1st as All Saints Day in order to minimize the pagan holiday of Oct. 31st, which was known as All Hallows Eve. These are the roots of this holiday. The merchants have brought this holiday to forefront in the west for mercenary reasons. To send small children into the dark dressed as the dead and ask for treats, well what can you say? The Druids (yes they are still with us) must be laughing their butts off every year. Whatever. But try telling people the truth and they'll lynch ya for it. To have churches acknowledging it is ludicrous, but so be it.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Oswald

      Where do you get your knowledge of the Druids from?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • CelebratingXtian

      Oh, get over it. No one is "celebrating" the devil, and if they are, they probably do on a regular basis. If you ever get a Christmas tree, you're a hypocrite.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      So, you're taking a creative writing class at the community college – congrats. That's about all anyone got out of this.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • toadears

      Allow me to apologize for learning anything at all. Glad it's Friday and school is out. I met Druids in England. Stone bloody Henge, as a matter of fact. I know their stories. I know their rituals. I know what the channels in the stone are about. I know they moved their Eastern US headquarters to North Carolina to sit across the street from Billy Graham. Deliberately. I also know they do not consider themselves to be satanists, so why do you? They are pagans. I learned all this in the 1980's. No internet. All you have to do to learn about anything these days is research it online. Of course, that might cut into your infantile posting of insults to other posters online. I do sincerely apolizie. I had forgotten it was the weekend and the little jackof...... ummm.....kids without dates would be online posting. Ahhhhh....American superiority. Soon to be over. And the world will rejoice.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      ...and now you're a certified tool who took a creative writing course. That's even better.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  12. vivian

    i mean beat

    October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  13. dougaussie

    yes it was the unbelieving PAGANS who had easter and christmas rituals who were TOO DUMB to see they worshipped DEMONS and rocks, dancing around nude all night while half drunk on drugs and covered in tatoos. So what were the Christians to do? Your such whingers, you fully acknowledge your going to hell forever and it doesn't even bother you one bit. You speak of christians as being stupid but if all the christians lived in one state of the USA i can tell you where would be the safest place to live. I can tell you whose kids would graduate and live successful lives. Halloween is just another DUMB PAGAN attempt at worshipping evil, like darkness is somehow good, but you can't see that because you cant handle the truth.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Tom

      Jesus gives good head.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • CT

      So you are smart because you believe in a different fairy tale? ROFL!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • TR6

      Please, Please, Please go segregate your selves off in a single state. It would vastly improve the world for the rest of us. I suggest Texas, it’s big enough, it’s very Christian and you can have Rick Perry as your Pope.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  14. Sao

    Romans 12:2
    New International Version (NIV)
    2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Insight

      Why can't you hand over your job to a person really need it and go heaven and do nothing.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  15. Sao

    THIS ARTICLE IS BASICALLY FOR OR ABOUT SUPERFICIAL CHRISTIANS (KNOCK OFFS)

    October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • vivian

      athiest are u

      October 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  16. Chris

    Does it matter? Christianity itself is full of contradictions and ignorance. It would be more shocking to hear about them doing things that actually make sense.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Entil'za

      A great deal of ignorance resides with those that call stuff contradictions when they are not.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Josh

      ent..Here are a few "Hippocratic" bits of Christianity ...Christmas and Easter.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Tom

      Jesus never contradicted himself. You will never find anything technically wrong with his words, except for the fact that they offend you.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • TR6

      @ Tom: “Jesus never contradicted himself”

      Challenge accepted
      If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? - 1Jn 4:20
      "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household."
      - (Matthew 10:34-36)

      “Whoever is not with me is against me” Mat 12:30,
      “for whoever is not against us is for us” Mark 9:40

      JESUS ON FOOLS – Matthew 5:22
      "But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
      JESUS ON FOOLS – Matthew 23:17,19
      "Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?"

      "I and my Father are one." John 10:30 (KJV)

      The father is greater then I
      "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." John 14:28 (NIV)

      October 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  17. Barry G.

    Remember Jesus said: Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my father in heaven.

    That means that many Christians will be shocked on the Day of Judgment.

    On one occasion Jesus described the Judgment Day and said that many who claim to be his followers will be rejected, and when they ask why, he will say to them: I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was naked, and you didn’t clothe me; I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.

    Then those rejected will say: Lord, when did we fail to do this for you, and Jesus will say: Whenever you failed to care for the least of my brothers or sisters (in other words, anyone in need), you failed to care for me.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  18. kso

    any christian becomes irrelevant as soon as they mention satan. wasn't he a character in dungeons and dragons too?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Barry G.

      The earliest Biblical references to Satan are found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and they appear after Israel went into Babylonian captivity. While in captivity the Jews were exposed to the Persian religion Zoroastrianism and its two principle deities, Zoroaster and Satan. One was a principle of light and one of darkness.

      The figure Satan served a useful didactic and theological purpose for the Hebrews, as they taught about the reality of the God, which they had painstakingly come to learn, in a personal and intimate way.

      The first Christians were Jews, who believed that Jesus was the messiah. They had anticipated the coming of the Messiah (Christ is the Greek word for Messiah) for hundreds of years.

      After the conquest of Alexander the Great, Greek language and Greek thought was transmitted throughout the Mediterranean world. This included a knowledge of pagan deities and their trappings.

      The Jews and early Christians spoke Greek, because of Alexander’s conquest, and the figure of Satan served a useful purpose for their instruction, as they taught about being seduced into rebellion against God.

      It became all too clear that evil is an active and dynamic force, which is extremely virulent, subtle, and treacherous; and, Satan becomes the very personification of such evil forces, which destroy countless lives, relationships, families, countries.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Barry just lost the game...again.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  19. Name*Donna

    wow...i never realized how many people just are hateful toward christians. if you dont believe, fine. but dont be hateful...grow up

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

      Shoving your own opinion down another's throat seems to be the American way these days...

      October 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Oswald

      I

      October 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Oswald

      I am neither hateful nor childish in my beliefs. And I am not Christian. Those who are, I bear no animosity towards, and will celebrate Samhain in my own way. So should we all. BB

      October 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Barry G.

      Don't be surprised.

      Jesus said no servant is greater than his master, nor is the one sent greater than the one who sent him. Jesus said if they hated me, they will hate you too. It is enough for a servant to be like his master.

      Peter, Paul and the others rejoiced when they were persecuted for Christ's sake. You and I should rejoice too.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  20. Amanda

    I found myself in a Hell House that was advertised as a Haunted House a few years ago, and I was furious. If you're really dedicated to changing hearts and minds, you don't need to lie to people to get them inside.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • TR6

      If it wasn’t for all of their lies, Christianity wouldn’t have any followers at all

      October 28, 2011 at 6:48 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.