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.

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“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.

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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. Halloweener

    Wonder what else they're going to do once they have all the children lured to one place

    October 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  2. TR6

    I am so tempted to come in to work for the costume contest on Monday as a zombie jesus

    October 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  3. JT

    Just another holiday exploited by the retail industry, same as Thanksgiving & Christmas. What does buying presents, trees & decorations got to do with the birth of Jesus? The meal we eat today had very little resemblances to what pilgrims had hundreds of year ago.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  4. Luke

    Happy Samhain! My favorite night of the year.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  5. Rhonda

    I always wonder why the same Christians that boycott Hallowe'en because of its pagan roots are not concerned about the pagan elements in Christmas (the tree, mistletoe, etc.) or the calander (Odin's day, Thor's day, Freya's day, Janus' month, Mar's month, etc.). And then there's the tradition of naming Church buildings for saints; harking back to naming pagan temples for gods. Anyway, the Bible says that Satan is a defeated foe who should not cause Christians fear. Unless you are going to become a hermit you will find pagan influences at every turn. Just relax, play a little annual dress up and treat the neighborhood kids. Jesus won't mind, and the neighbors won't roll their eyes.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • heehawgoat

      Yes Jesus, Amen!!! lol

      October 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Moe Smith

      it's called hypocrisy. plain. simple. period.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  6. infidelio

    If the evangelicals want to get rid of all pagan symbolism they should be honest enough to admit that there are several other pagan icons that they seem to accept: Christmas trees are a derivative of the pagan yule log, easter eggs clebrate the start of pagan spring, holy water has its origins in the ancient recognition that life and water are intertwined.

    Perhaps it is time to explain that "pagan" originally came from the word "pagani" which alluded to people who lived in the country and were the last to come under the rule of the church and its inquisitors. If they want to talk about EVIL lets start with the inquistion when women who were herbalists were accused of being witches and burned at the stake. Of course no rational person believes in the power of a witch but there still seem to be some people who want to carry on these strange and cruel beliefs.

    It is remarkable that this paranoia and hatred lives on in a modern society...

    October 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  7. Jim Rousch

    Are you really going to listen to a group of idiots who used to burn people for believing that the world was round? REALLY?

    October 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      As long as you brought up idiots, could you name several of the many who were burned for believing the earth was round?Because if you don't ,there is a real danger of you appearing as an idiot.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • libertarian

      name them?? ARe you really expecting this person to be able to NAME THEM?? How about Ralph, James, Rufus and Wanda.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Not all of them, just a few ,so the poster, or you for that matter appear with proof instead of the idiocy suggested.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  8. Jim Rouch

    Are you really going to listen to a group of idiots who used to burn people for believing that the world was round?

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

      Ummm, the world is round.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  9. David from Nor Cal

    Anyone else find it ironic that the modern event of Halloween is derived primarily from Christian tradition that was imposed as an attempt to superseed the old pagan rituals of the day (as is the case of most every major christian holiday ex. Easter, Christmas, etc). It is tied to the Communion of the Saints in the Catholic tradition and is called All Hallows Eve (bear any resembalence to Halloween??) in the Catholic tradition. It is followed by All Saints Day (Nov 1st) and All Souls Day (Nov 2nd). Those from Mexico might more recognize the event as the Day of the Dead.

    The ignorance of religious people can truely astonish me......

    October 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • heehawgoat

      Jesus loves the truth... and he agrees with you brother...lol

      October 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  10. Jim Rouch

    The church has about as much credibility in fighting evil as much credibility in it's "expertise" on Halloween as it does predicting Christ's return.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  11. Mike Hill

    Samhain (pronounced Sowen) is one of the original Celtic fire festivals and means "Summer's End" -when the sun's power wanes, and the strength of the gods of darkness, winter, and the underworld grows great. Christianity has stolen many Pagan holidays and co opted them to suit their purposes.

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

      Amen Jesus...lol!!!

      October 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  12. waycist

    The only debate about Halloween is coming from college campus' where limp wristed left wing harpies have decided to become offended by white people dressing up as indians, rappers, arabs etc....

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

      Suck it racist

      October 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Thinker

      Seriously? I hope this is a troll, because those things are offensive. Painting yourself in black face to imitate a rapper is incredibly racist. It's mockery. Because of course, this is just for play. You wouldn't really want people to think you are black. It's alright to deviate from whiteness because it's only a costume. No one wants to give up their white body because it's superior. That is what dressing up as a race of oppressed people says, Waycist.

      But if troll...lawl.

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

      dang, I was going to dress up as a gay Indian Muslim Rapper

      Now that I know I'll offend people, I'll make sure of it !

      HA! loosen up panty wastes

      October 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • waycist

      waaa waaa,,, you're a waaaaaycist,,,,lol,,,Like I said,,the church doesnt care about Halloween,, just sniveling fairies like these two.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Light In The Black

      **** waycist

      The only debate about Halloween is coming from college campus' where limp wristed left wing harpies have decided to become offended by white people dressing up as indians, rappers, arabs etc....
      I am a left wing harpie, i celebrate Halloween every year
      and you are a biggot.
      Or maybe a christian.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  13. Samhain

    The opinions of fundamental Christians are as irrelevant as those of flat-Earthers, and just as puerile.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  14. Brad

    I have an idea. The church could mind its own business for once and try to stop priest molestation of children...

    October 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  15. me

    Halloween is fun. Get over it. Try focusing your attention on priests that molest children – get mad about that for a while.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  16. Devin Colavecchio

    Halloween was never an "evil thing" It was meant to be a time when souls that remained could pass on. If I remeber correctly All Hallows Eve was originally on the 30th but Celtics were pushed out by Protestants (Christians) so they could celebrate I believe it was Saints Day. I am tired of listening to people preahc, love, kindness and understanding and then in the same sentence be judemental, degrading and outright hypocritical.

    Simply let people be, practice as you wish, and worry about your own "sins"

    October 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  17. heehawgoat

    "Some Christians... believe Halloween’s pagan roots can open the door to evil. That’s why Worshipwalk is hosting a harvest festival"... Thank you CNN... Just another example of how Christians, Catholics, and other Bible toting Religions have doctored History and culture to fit into what they believe is the truth... These C.S's have been doing this since their beginning... Sure changing Halloween for a Harvest Festival seems harmless but this is how they erase the important details in history... Most of their Holiday's today make "no sence" to rational human beings... Christmas and Easter??? Double meanings... celebrate jesus birth? celebrate santa? Celebrate jesus return? celebrate easter bunny?

    October 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  18. Herby Sagues

    These guys still believe Satan exists (as a real, tangible being)???
    Why do we care what a delirious man thinks?

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

      Sure he does. He's cool.

      October 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • libertarian

      yea, he talks backwards and listens to Motley Crue.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  19. Monbois

    The only thing that can "open a door to evil" is either evil itself – which Halloween is not – of irrational, paranoid fear, which is what these lunatics are experiencing and tring to spread. BOO!!! I laugh at how you jump, you fraidy-cats!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  20. Mat

    If they scrubbed all Christian Holidays based on Pagan tradition, they would have none left. Christmas and Easter are both based on Pagan Holidays. That is, unless you can figure out the relationship between the Easter bunny, eggs, and Christ.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:52 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.