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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. bobcat2u

    Alright. Let me get this straight. Some of these holier than thou churches aren't going to celebrate halloween by letting their people wear costumes and what not. But they ARE going to still have other activities on that same day ? What's the difference ? Potatoes-Potahtoes
    Such hypocites.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  2. PaulC

    From the beginning, through the inquisition, witch hunts to the present the Christians never give up on directing and dictating your life. God save me from religion.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Unit34AHunter

      Amen. Now to Brother Maynard and the Book of Armaments!

      October 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  3. D2

    Mainstream Christendom did, in fact, embrace paganism in order to obtain greater numbers. True Christians are obligated to observe the 7th day Sabbath and the feasts or holy days mentioned in scripture. Most believe these days are Jewish, but they are not. There are some similarities, but that does not make these days Jewish. It's similar to an atheist celebrating Christmas along with mainstream Christendom, but that does not make the atheist a Christian nor does it make the Christian an atheist. God does not accept any kind of worship. He expects His followers to worship Him in spirit and in truth-John 7:24. The question is: Can we worship the God of truth with a lie? The answer is obviously a resounding, No!

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

      SDAs are obligated to observe the 7th day Sabbath and other Hebrew feasts...

      October 29, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  4. Tom

    Fundies = Fun dies

    October 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  5. Huhwhat8

    Uh...so are we talking about the same holiday here... Halloween? So sure, there's some dark meaning behind it but the majority of the participants don't celebrate it in an evil manner or even know it's origin. My daughter is going as a witch but has absolutely no idea that it has anything to do with being "evil". Why? Because she doesn't care. Nobody does except for the extreme, just like every issue in the country. Pull in the commentors from both extremes. Just another opportunity for CNN to make tools of believers vs. non-believers.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  6. shawn

    they took over the pagan solstice and called it christmas, and then made up a story of virgin birth in a manger so they could completely own it.

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

      I thought you were leaving...be gone with you...NOW please.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  7. Todd Brooks

    FEED THE LIONS....End Christianity NOW!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  8. beamerguy0

    Not all christians are like that, I am a re born christian and go to church regularly and Halloween is my favorite holiday! It is not a evil holiday, people just make it that way. Its a fun holiday and best time to watch some great scary movies.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  9. Christ_Follower

    I think this article missed the point about why Halloween is questionable as Christians. Our family is Christian and we dosn't celebrate halloween for the following reasons:

    1. 3 John 11 is clear that we are not to imitate that which is evil (halloween is pretty much a celebration of evil/murder/occult) and
    2. Philippians 4:8 and other scriptures state: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    Not sure how Halloween glorifies God in any way shape or form! Just think about it. I'm sure I'll get some responses to this posting!

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

      That said, I would bet you still have a pagan evergreen tree in your house every December.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Unit34AHunter

      Uh, no. Hallowe'en is not a celebration of evil and murder. Easter is a celebration of evil and murder. Hallowe'en is just a time at harvest when you venerate the ancestors.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Don Juan

      Has it ever occurred to you that your magical sky daddy is completely made up? Try reason for once instead of embracing the mindset of bronze age goat herders. Glad I'm not one of your kids.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Unit34AHunter

      Halloween does not glorify god(s) nor in any other way comment upon it or them. If one should do no thing that does not glorify god, then your conduct on this thread is surely a sin in the eyes of god, Christian.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Robert

      Indeed, the Bible clearly states you shouldn't adorn a tree during celebration yet how many Christians do this? BTW, Christ_follower, how many atheists and gays have you killed lately as the Bible instructs you to do? I don't condone this violence, but your God seems to. Perhaps you should question why a loving God feels it is necessary to Flood babies our have his angel of death kill first born sons just to make a point.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • libertarian

      where in the bible does it say "Thou shalt suck the fun out of a harmless holiday meant for children"? you s uck dude.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  10. StraitAsAnArrow

    I'm going to dress up as someone who rose from the dead.

    Jesus, or Zombie? Zombie or Jesus? I just can't make up my mind....

    October 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Is that someone who rose a live or still dead?
      After you answer that...it should bea easy even for you to decide.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Unit34AHunter

      Well,l why not Zombie Jesus? Or even "Supply Side Jesus in an Economic Recession."

      October 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Mostly because the concept of resurrection has nothing to do with zombies.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Don Juan

      What's the difference? 😉

      October 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • brokenpinata

      Zombie Jesus, DUH!

      October 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Entil'za

      @Don Juan

      "What's the difference?"

      One is alive while the zombie is still dead. 😉
      My gosh the haters need to crack open a simple book on theology.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Don Juan

      I have no need for books on myths.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Unit34AHunter

      Xtianity is fiction. Xtians are immoral in general and galloping hypocrites. George Romero could do justice to the Jesus story by concluding it with a ghoul's feast.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Answer

      @Entil'za

      Support religion much?

      October 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Entil'za

      @Don Juan- "I have no need for books on myths."

      It is your right to feel and believe that way. Just like you are allowed to believe you are loved.

      @Unit34AHunter- Xtianity is fiction. Xtians are immoral in general and galloping hypocrites. George Romero could do justice to the Jesus story by concluding it with a ghoul's feast."

      Prove that it's a fiction. Plz provide the author, the location it was written, why, how and when. Plz provide evidence that can be proven. Thank you.

      @Answer- "Support religion much?"

      As an American yes. Don't you?

      October 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  11. Robert T. Cale

    There's enough genuine evil in the world already without pinheads having to invent new evil by demonizing an innocent, fun holiday. Nobody loves God more than I do, and Hallowe'en is my second favorite holiday, right after Christmas.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • LittleBearCB

      Easter then Epiphany then Falling asleep of the virgin Mary then Christmas for me. Halloween is 'fun' and I personally have nothing against it, but it is not on the top of the list. (btw the western 'all saints day' starts on the evening of Halloween)

      October 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  12. Terri

    Amanda...my husband and I took the time to take several teens to one of the type you went to. I was already upset mid-way through it. But we were not allowed to go out until we went through the whole thing. And then at the end, they literally separated all of us at different tables to try and convert us. We are christian. And we did not appreciate the charade that it was. And to make it worse, I actually went into a panic attack. I have a brain tumor (no insurance so can't get it out) and it has caused me to change how I live day to day. And if in a crowd, I panic. And even though I was in full panic, they would not allow me to get my husband to help calm me down and help me out. I am still angry. Instead of being "Christian" and then use trickery, they actually taught the teens with us that being christian the way that group claimed to be that they wanted no part of being Christians. Luckily I was able to make them understand that those people did not represent what true Christians are.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by Terri contains No True Scotsman fallacy.

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/No_True_Scotsman

      October 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  13. Shawn

    Are these people serious? Is this some kind of joke? Do people really believe that Halloween has anything to do with the devil? Do people still believe there is a devil? I just came back from Europe where people are coming to their senses and religion is on a sharp decline. I’m afraid of you people…..I’m going back to Europe.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Dave

      A speedy departure would be most appreciated. If you can't lighten up then I see no hope for you in todays society.

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

      TOO BAD FOR YOU SHAWN!!! if you don't believe there is a devil, you're already serving him.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Unit34AHunter

      Hey Sondra, ye moron, you might remember the 1st Commandment and ask yourself where you get off imagining that you have the authority to speak for the gods. I think you may have mistaken yourself for god and elevated yourself in his place.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  14. Unit34AHunter

    Honestly, why would anyone care what some evangelical wingnut bigot thinks about Halloween? These people are as dumb as rocks.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  15. me

    F–k the fundamentalist Christians!!!!!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  16. JK

    Not all christians celebrate Christmas and Easter. Some actually try to adhere strictly to Bible teachings and not get involved in pagan rituals or celebrations of any sort. Jesus did say there would be a distinction between true (wheat) and false (weeds) christians.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by JK is No True Scotsman fallacy.

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/No_True_Scotsman

      October 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Not sure if that is a fallacy in this case. JK did not make the call on what is a true Christian but cited info on it from the source material.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Jay Dubb

      That's "the truth"

      October 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Jackie Treehorn

    Wow, Christians are wacky...!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  18. Tom

    FundaMENTALalism is aptly named because it is most definitely a MENTAL disorder.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  19. DC

    I am a christian and will not celebrate Halloween. Can't you just deal with it? Its my choice, remember?

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

      Let them that don’t want any
      Have fond memories of not having had some

      October 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  20. Toggi3

    People just need to let their kids dress up and get candy, they dont get many years as children and when those years are gone they are gone for good. Stop filling them with ideas that they are sinful corrupted creations and everything inspired by other world views are the devil's work, it's unhealthy for the child and its unhealthy for the entire species. There's nothing occult or 'pagan' or 'satanic' about halloween, nor is there really anything christian or religious of any sort. Its just an American tradition where kids dress up and get candy, seriously.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Toggi3

      also, I know very well the *origin* of Halloween, but that does not make it what it is today or actually define it. Kindof like how christians celebrate christmas in the most pagan manner possible, filling their homes with evergreens, putting wreaths on their doors, telling children legends of jolly gift giving wizards.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:44 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.