home
RSS
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. Monbois

    Correcton: Halloween isn't innocent fun for "many" American Christians, it's innocent fun for 99% of American Christians! I'm sick of the 1% radical Christian element in this country getting 99% of the corporate media's attendtion just because their wacky points of view are more controversial and hence sell more advertising dollars.

    These are the same nutjobs who belong to the Tea Bagging party and want to have a holy war as much as Osama bin Laden did.

    You don't wanna celebrate Halloween, ya prudish hypocrites? FINE! But don't try to ruin the fun for the rest of us, ya party-poopin' lunatics!

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

      LOL! I could not agree with you more!

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

      RIGHT ON!!

      October 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  2. Brandon

    All these people calling christians stupid are just as bad as the christians calling pagans and atheists stupid. you ALL need to grow up. Its funny how people bash on so called christians for cherry picking their arguments without even acknowledging that the article posted had a statement from a pastor who saw nothing wrong with halloween. And if you really study your history, christians didnt try to "take over" pagan holidays... when the early settlers came to the west, christian leaders attempted to ease tension between christians and the pagans by merging our beliefs so we could celebrate together. Thanksgiving anyone????

    Im a christian and i have friends from every faith you can imagine. Being friends with other beliefs and celebrating certian holidays has done nothing to harm my faith and the christians who think halloween is evil and harmful are only proving how weak their personal convictions are. How about some mutual respect? Not ALL christians are against atheists and pagans.

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

      I, as a pagan, appreciate Christians like yourself, Brandon. But, to clarify, yes, Christianity did, in fact, coopt/take over pagan holidays. It started in Rome. The Caesar at the time wanted people to convert, and seeing as people were used to celebrating on certain times of the year, basically relabled the old holidays with their new Christian meanings. That's a pretty dumbed down version of it, but it get's the basics across.

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

      Oh and P.S. all you so called "christians trying to use the bible to bully us into hating anyone who doesnt follow our beliefs need to remind yourselves of the bibles basic and biggest teachings which are love thy neighbor and do unto others....

      October 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Monbois

      Um, just because someone isn't a "Christian" doesn't mean they are, by defautl, a "pagan", which is, at best, derogatory Christian slur. They simply aren't Christians. And early Catholic church leaders weren't tyhing to "ease" followers into Christianity by merging traditions – they were wholeheartedly stealing them so the "pagans" wouldn't have them to celebrate anymore, which is the whole reason Christmas is on Dec. 25, a former holiday having something to do with Jupiter, and not in the spring when it is believed Jesus Christ was actually born. The chruch stole it, redressed it, and has claimed for 2,000 that Christmas and many other traditions were Christian all along when they weren't. They're such liars.

      Hell! Not only is the Old Testament not even Christian, it's not even Jewish! Stories such as Adam & Eve and Noah go back to the Sumerians in ancient Iraq!

      In the end, religion's all just BS anyway, so who cares?!

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

      Did you not see how I said " pagans and atheists"? i didnt JUST say pagans. But the discussion here is about pagan holidays. I also didnt say they were trying to convert anyone into our faith by merging our beliefs, i said they tried to adopt pagan traditions to ease tensions. And yes, when Ceasar converted and tried to force his empire to convert as well, he did attempt to take over the pagan traditions believing it was the best way to get his people to convert. That wasnt entirely successful as is the case with ALL attempts to convert or convince anyone of opposing views especially when it comes to religion or spiritual beliefs. However, the reason we continue to celebrate pagain rooted holidays arent because of caesar. It DID come from an intention to have a peaceful existence between everyone here in america. But we could go abck and forth all day and night im sure and im getting away from my point which monbois seems to have totally skipped over. Mutual respect. If someone in your life has used christianity to condemn you then by all means, be angry at that person. But to say ALL christians are one way is just as naive and derogatory as saying all pagans worship the devil. its just ridiculous. As a christian I feel like the pastor in this article who condemns halloween is very naive and misinformed. and i feel like every person who says crude or insultful things about other peoples beliefs wether is be their christianity, paganism, atheism, buddhism etc are the people keeping the tension going and making the problem worse.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Smidget

      Brandon, I respect what you're trying to do here, but you're making some critical errors in your attempt. You want mutual respect, and I think that a lot of people would agree with you in that desire, but it is not respectful to attempt to slant the facts toward your own viewpoint. Basically everyone does this, so I am certainly not meaning this as an insult toward you, but you did it as well. You misrepresented history in a way that makes the side you are on look better. This is quite disrespectful to people who aren't on your side. Think about this for a second, as this is what you said:

      "And if you really study your history, christians didnt try to "take over" pagan holidays... when the early settlers came to the west, christian leaders attempted to ease tension between christians and the pagans by merging our beliefs so we could celebrate together."

      For the sake of argument, let's say that you are absolutely correct in the motivations behind "merging" the holidays being to "ease tensions between Christians and Pagans." When one realizes that the tensions were there because the Pagans had been invaded, killed, and made to assimilate to the invading peoples, this tidbit about wanting to ease tensions does not really make them look any better.

      My point is that in order for their to be mutual respect, there first has to be SOME respect. I can't expect you to understand how it feels to be an atheist in America, because you aren't one. You have never had someone that you have known for years change their opinion of the quality of your character immediately upon hearing the words "I don't believe in god," as if that somehow renders all that they had previously known and liked about you irrelevant. You do not understand how it is insulting to an atheist to hear people called "godless" in a negative sense, as if one can have no good without a higher power. Christians think they are persecuted, and get offended when non-Christians don't pay them what they feel is the appropriate amount of respect. They have no clue what being persecuted is, or how disrespectful this constant need to drive their sense of self-righteous moral superiority down unwelcoming throats really is.

      Respect must be earned. There's a lot of work to do yet.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Brandon

      my intention wasnt to attempt to make " my side look better". But to address your point, it wasnt just christians who invaded the west. Im fact the reason early settlers came to america was to escape religious persecution and general tyranny of british rule back then. But still, non christians arent the only ones who have been persecuted. throughout history every race, religion, political view has been persecuted.. even by death. Youre right though, I dont know what vit feels like to be an atheist. But because there is so much heated debate surrounding the subject, i know what it is like to have people i believed i had a respectful and meaningful friendship with totally trn their back on me because I was christian and they assumed because I was that i was going to judge or condemn them as others have. NOONE is exempt from losing people based on their beliefs because unfortunately most people refuse to just say lets agree to disagree and move on without disdain on some level. I dont agree with what you and alot of the people say or believe but I dont think you are any less or any more of a better person because of it. My point was that there is NO reason for people to get ugly about this subject just because the media and politicians want us to. My purpose for commenting on this article was because I didnt see many people trying to have a respectful debate on the matter. It was mostly one side or the other being very immature about it. My reason for bringing up the historical side of it wasnt to make me or my faith look like the hero in the story, there were simply alot of people who werent bringing up the whole story and just focusing on one aspect of it and totally ignoring the fact that there were and are some christians who are trying...

      October 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Smidget

      America doesn't have anything to do with the origin of Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. You're about 500 or so years ahead of yourself, here. This all took place in what is now Europe centuries before the colonization of what is now the US. You mention Thanksgiving in your first post, but that doesn't have anything to do with Pagans. That was between the primarily Christian settlers and the Native American populations, not Pagans. "Pagans" isn't just a word that describes people who don't believe in the Christian God, it's a specific religion and culture.

      I get that you're trying, and that's awesome. I wish more people attempted to be respectful of the views of others as a general rule. But certainly you see how hostile our society is becoming toward non-Christians. I feel that the majority of Christians are perfectly worthy of respect, and are themselves respectful of others. Nearly everyone I know is some form of Christian, and the huge majority of them are lovely people. The problem is the loudest ones in the group are not so lovely. I guess the problem isn't that Christians as a whole need to be nicer, it's that the nice ones need to be louder.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Smidget

      I'm sorry, that should have said "1500 years" not "500 years."

      October 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Brandon

      Unfortunately noone wants to pay attention to people who want to just let differences go and find some form of peace. We can be as loud as we want but people like us will always be overlooked in favor of someone shouting radical things that create drama. I really hope you aren't taking my comments as attacks towards you personally because they aren't and i'm not attacking anyone who isn't a christian either. One of my very best friends is a total atheist and he is a better person that some "christians" i know. We simply disagree on the subject of religion but we can talk about it without getting angry and hostile towards each other. Peaceful debate doesn't get attention though. I mean i came back to this article after dinner and it took me a great while of sorting through the arguments to find our interaction again.

      I still feel like maybe youre misreading my posts though. I am not saying that america created halloween and im not saying thanksgiving was anything more than an example of early christians trying to have some kind of peaceful coexistence. im in no way condoning or making excuses for anyone. I find any type of persecution based on simple differences disgusting. I am simply pointing out that everyone has suffered that and hanging onto it will only keep us from moving forward. im no more responsible for the persecution of people than you are and im not trying to deny anyone their own personal spiritual journey in life. i just dont want anyone to be misinformed and to research the matter before commenting on it. what you and wraith have said isnt untrue and nor is what i said. were just talking about different points in history. the first christian settlers wanted there to be peace. it wasnt until greed and egos corrupted the people that "christians" started persecuting non christian people in this country. before the colonization of america yes, the tradtions of pagans were being taken away from them. i thought the article was about halloween in america though so thats what ive been commenting about. at any rate, this is today and we can either be part of the problem or not. i see no reason for believers or non believers of anything to not put differences aside considering were all stuck on this planet together. were all in the same boat here.

      October 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  3. Ahmad

    I agree that Halloween was a Pagan holiday that was just taken over by Christians to try and bring Pagans to Christianity. This has been the story of the history of Christianity. I was reading an article about this very topic here which covers the issue well: http://www.reviewofreligions.org/5071/halloween-harmless-or-harmful-fun/

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

      I always thought it came about in the 40s and 50s when pranksters were causing mischief on Hallow's eve, and trick or treat became a way to give candy to prevent mischief. But what you say is pretty cool too even if that is true.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  4. History Lesson

    Its sad to see that people dont know their world History.. Considering the Romans were Pagan and they conviened at the council of Nicaea when they decided on what Christianty would consists of. I would say Catholics are just as steeped in Paganism as Halloween. There they altered the bible text to fit the message they were trying to convey.. IE absolute authority and obidience to the church. They tweaked old greek, roman, babylonian, and egyptian folk lore..

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

      Here! Here! Strictly speaking, shouldn't these fundamentalists be getting ready to burn in hell for defying the orders and edicts of the Catholic church and not banding over every time the Nazi pope tells them what to do?

      October 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Entil'za

      http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/sbrandt/nicea.htm
      "The Council of Nicea never addressed the books of the Bible (and thus could not have changed them)."

      October 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Entil'za

      "They tweaked old greek, roman, babylonian, and egyptian folk lore.."

      No evidence of this. And before you show your ignorance..coincidence is not evidence.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  5. Brian

    As a Christian, I see nothing wrong with celebrating Halloween. It is All Saints Eve. It may have "pagan" roots, but so does Christmas. The reason why these holidays, or Holy Days, were created was to compete with the pagan holidays and give them Christian meaning. If you read the Bible carefully, it does not condemn celebrating certain days as being special. It does warn against "judging" people for participating in a special day or refraining from a special day since all days belong to the Lord. Halloween is a time to realize that evil has no power over us and those things which scare us aren't all that scarry when we realize God is on our side.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  6. Monbois

    Correcton: Halloween isn't innocent fun for "many" American Christians, it's innocent fun for 99% of American Christians! I'm sick of the 1% radical Christian element in this country getting 99% of the corporate media's attendtion just because their wacky points of view are more controversial and hence sell more advertising dollars.

    These are the same nutjobs who belong to the Tea Bagging party and want to have a holy war as much as Osama bin Laden did.

    You don't wanna celebrate Halloween, ya prudish hypocrites? FINE! But don't try to ruin the fun for the rest of us, ya party-poopin' kill-joys.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  7. Evolutionist Pagan Gay Atheist Abortion Doctor

    I'm dressing up as Nero for Halloween. He killed thousands of Xians. Love him!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  8. Willis

    I know religious and non religious people and they are ALL fine with Halloween. Why is this an issue with ANYONE? It's a day to dress as anyone or anything you wish, whether tastefully or not. Dress up as a terrorist for example, and the only people you'll offend are people with personal issues they need to address. People need a sense of humor.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  9. Alex

    ah, the "church", still good biz, eh christian devils?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  10. B2Tall

    Just another case of a religion trying to control every aspect of people's lives.

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

      Wrong. Some Christians yes. But many devoutly religious Americans take their kids trick or treating. It's curious this is even a headline, but since it's CNN it makes more sense. Who else has an anti-Christian agenda? Most Christians are fine with Halloween. Some are not.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  11. lroy

    Since you guys are bringing up Easter, the reason we have the Easter bunny (who happens to live in my backyard...very cute) is that there was one outside Jesus' tomb that Sunday. That's why!
    You guys just wanna eat the candy, doncha.

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

      Yeah, and St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland too...

      and George Washington chopped down that cherry tree...

      Wow, the stuff people will believe!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  12. Chris

    Pagan roots can open the door to evil? What about the fact that Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 25th because it was already a Pagan holiday? Or the fact that Easter comes from the pagan celebration of fertility and the Romans just started celebrating the ressurection of christ at the same time to ease the transition to christianity.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  13. rad666

    Wow his depiction of hell house shows things that happen here in earth all the time so does that mean we're already in hell?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  14. Tom

    Lol. Christians are dumb. Halloween is fun.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Must have took you a whole minute to figure that line out.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  15. bruce6va

    Slow news day, eh? For crying out loud CNN, show some journalistic integrity, stop pandering to the Christians, and report the NEWS already.

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

      Apparently this IS news! Look at how many people have read and commented.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  16. ModMn

    To all the posters slamming "christians", please read the article which clearly states not all of us christians have a problem with halloween. I am a christian and enjoy Halloween (of course, I am Presbyterian, which is Church of Scotland and Sotland is an old Celtic area where many of those pagan traditions were celebrated).

    October 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  17. If horses had Gods their Gods would be horses

    For a group that pontificates love, acceptance & forgiveness .. they sure are a bunch of haters. Actually, I believe it's more fear than hate ... afraid the stories are true while at the same time afraid that their stories aren't.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  18. Turp Griswald

    After we drop Halloween, we'll need to drop Christmas and Easter (the dates and rituals of both traditions are based on Pagan holidays). I guess for holidays, we can celebrate Corporation Day (when Corporations were elevated to human status by Roberts et al.).

    October 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  19. Jerry

    Then tear down your Christmas Trees. Because they too come from Pagan Tradition. Without Pagan Traditions passed down through the centuries, we'd have nothing but a Christian Heaven and a Christian Hell to look forward too. Christians had to steal from other belief systems to make up their own. I'd say 'borrow'. But you might get a little slack from the martyrs who lost their lives in the name of Christianity. They may say something different.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  20. steve505

    Christianity ITSELF ripped off ideas and customs from paganism. But Christians today are much too braindead and much too uneducated on history to understand this.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • TR6

      Well if they look anything like Kim Kardasian I’d be interested in a trade

      October 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66
Advertisement
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.