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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.

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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.

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. hmanity01

    sigh

    October 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  2. Ron

    Halloween is a harmless celebration. As a Catholic I observe the Days of the Dead on Nov. 1st and 2nd (All Saints and All Souls). Halloween is an extension of this for me. God has more important things to be concerned about. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

    October 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  3. EBC

    Well best look into Christmas too, it is another pagan holiday that the christian's ripped off from the pagans and made it their own.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  4. Paul Willson

    Get over ikt conservatives. And stop the devil in all of lifes enjoyments

    October 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Albert

      I like your thinking. I would probably enjoy having s3x with your wife or daughter. Can I have their number please?

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

    How sad for the children of these backward fundamentalists. In all the years I've celebrated Halloween, I have never seen anyone worshiping Satan. Regardless of the holiday's origins, today it means that people dress up in costumes, carve pumpkins and kids get to go out trick-or-treating. No harm, no foul. The fundamentalists are totally off base here.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  6. rmtaks

    boohoo, some holidays of the people you subjugated are still around in some form.

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

      That's....actually a good point.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  7. Mr Chihuahua

    I like it when hot chicks dress up as cats for Halloween. Meow lol!

    October 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  8. iamkatann

    Why should Christians have a problem with today's Halloweens celebrations? I mean, their bible tells, what could be the very first zombie tale – Jesus' resurrection.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  9. Sandra

    Christian Fundamentalists, well really all fundamentalist religions, grouse and gripe about anything that isn't written in their book of fables aka bibles, totally disregarding that many of their most 'holy' days are direct ripoffs from pagan holidays. Funnily enough you don't hear pagans raising such a hue and cry when said fundamentalists celebrate their holidays in a public manner.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  10. Better Panic

    I believe it started 3,000 years ago in Ireland and merged with a roman tradition later. But anyway. If your God is so powerful and all knowing I am sure he/she is not worried about much of anything. Life is full of serious issues, sometimes you must lighten up and enjoy the life you have.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  11. KeithTexas

    Joe Hernandez, pastor of Worshipwalk Church in Los Angeles, which belongs to the conservative Pentecostal tradition. “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

    This guy is a stupid as they come. The devils holiday is Christmas.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • TR6

      Well the food is sinfully delicious, we get raked over the coals by the retail industry and there’s hell to pay when the bills come due in January

      October 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  12. Observer

    Does anyone know if those churches participate in the cannibalistic Christian communion services where they symbolically drink blood and eat a body?

    October 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • it's not alot

      so glad there are people like you in the world.
      we would have a good time hanging out.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  13. david

    They really could focus on more productive things.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  14. Doug

    "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." Hmm, sounds like the devil to me!

    October 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • BloomingHere

      Sounds like human culture, evolved in over the centuries, to me. There's no need to believe in mythic personas, good or evil!

      October 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  15. Matt

    My fundamentalist neighbors used to scare the kids more with their Jesus costumes, and church propaganda pamphlets than any scary mask ever did.

    Listen, whatever Halloween WAS in the past (Pagan or what ever) it is just another Hallmark Holiday now. Dress up in a costume, have a good time, and that's that. Nobody is going around worshiping Satan, especially not young children.

    If Fundamentalist Christians (And I know I'm taking a leap assuming they actually use logic whatsoever) think that Halloween is evil, they must think the same of Theater, Shakespeare, Hollywood, etc. Even further, if the origins of Halloween were the pagan tradition of WARDING OFF EVIL, and they oppose this, who is truly embracing evil?

    Face it, Fundamentalist Christians are the bottom of the intelligence barrel. I sincerely hope Jack Horner succeeds in cloning a T-Rex so we can feed it some of these nutjobs.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Ace

      @Matt
      Dude I partially agree with you, people need to ease up on the whole halloween thing like really?

      October 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jen

      You sound very wise, Matt. I agree that fundamentalist Christians have little to no intelligence. After all, they think we roamed the earth with dinosaur's a few hundred years ago. God help us all.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Albert

      Your arrogance and ignorance is what scares me. Take the Bible or leave it. That's what it all boils down to. Bible principles make it very clear as to why a Christian should not celebrate Halloween. Whether on is "Fundamental" or not has no bearing on this argument. Stealing is stealing, adultery is adultery, pagan is pagan. It is that simple.

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

      I have read the Bible, cover to cover. It is full of plot holes, inconsistency, and bad math. To me, anyone who believes this ought to believe scientology, mormonism, and whatever other book out there because clearly their critical thinking is at a very low level. It is unreasonable to ask a reasonable person to believe in an invisible deity. Period.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Matt

      I have read the Bible, cover to cover. It is full of plot holes, inconsistency, and bad math. To me, anyone who believes this ought to believe scientology, mormonism, and whatever other book out there because clearly their critical thinking is at a very low level. It is unreasonable to ask a reasonable person to believe in an invisible deity. Period.

      Also, Paganism is star/sun worship, which Christianity evolved from once it invented or twisted the sun into the "son". Bro, before you go calling people ignorant, make sure you're not.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Answer

      @Albert

      That line you used "take it or leave it" ..

      Most have left it! It is really clear that they have chosen to REALLY LEAVE IT!
      YET to you it is not apparent that you have accepted their choice and you won't let it go! You really don't like people who choose to leave it do you?

      What you really want to say here is that "leaving it" is not an option THAT YOU AGREE WITH.
      You're a really dense moron aren't you? What is really in your heart do you even know? I can tell you just by looking at your words that you can not accept others that have "left it" because you were hoping that they would "take it". Poor fools like you wanting to talk beneath a veneer of falsehood stating that people can choose to "take it or leave it" but really you only want others to "TAKE IT". You want no other choice then that – become like yourself – and ONLY then you will like them. You are a sad person.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • Albert

      @Answer You are the dense one if you cannot understand what I am saying. Your response is hypocritical not to mention unintelligible. My point is, if you don't like the Bibles message, than don't follow its teachings. It really is that simple. If I decide I want to have s3x with your wife, and believe that the Bible is okay with that, does that make it OK? Should I think you and others are fools for thinking otherwise. Get an education. Seriously.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • David H

      Geez Matt.
      So you think they are stupid, ok. So they don't like a holiday because it makes them feel uneasy in comparison to the things they choose to embrace.
      I think it's quite more rude to talk of feeding christians to giant lizards because YOU think they are STUPID.
      The greatest gift is love and love beats all. That's what Jesus preached and what christians try to share. Among us christians there are people of varying intelligence. Many of us are physicists, engineers, neurosurgeons, teachers, bus drivers, old people in a rocking chair not doing much, poor people, rich people, people of all races and nationalities, and so on. There are also varying degrees of understanding and misunderstanding of the central line of truth among us. We don't want anyone killed, and we believe in peace and love everlasting. I suppose you think that idea is useless, and in your superior mind, those who believe in it deserve to be fed to dinosaurs.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @Albert – no, the bible doesn't say any such thing about Halloween. Come on. It only says what you want it to say, day by day.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  16. mike

    @bobcat2u & others:
    It's about providing a Christian alternative. People aren't dumb... they realize that if there's a major holiday, especially one that largely involves children's activities, people are going to celebrate it. This is especially true of children, who haven't yet developed the sense of self control to say "I'm not going to do that because it doesn't fit with my beliefs". Rather, they ARE going to do that because all of their friends are. In fact, I suspect that's actually what started things like trick-or-treating, easter egg hunting, and presents left by Santa in the first place... parents didn't want to leave children out of the celebration, and as time passed, these holidays became increasingly child-centric. Look at Thanksgiving... it's been less than 400 years since the original feast (an act of diplomacy), and already we have all sorts of children's plays, children's events, etc... I've even heard of some people giving their kids presents for Thanksgiving, so they can "practice being thankful". Weird, for now... but how much longer before that becomes commonplace?

    October 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Damo

      And there needs to be a "Christian Alternative" because...?

      Why stop here?

      Let's get a Christian Alternative to President's Day! And a Christian Alternative to Black History Month! Maybe a Christian Alternative to Columbus Day?

      It's this sort of silly stick-in-the-mud thinking that has turned so many people against Christianity these days.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • KeithTexas

      Thanksgiving was not an act of Diplomacy. It was an act of Desperation by people that knew that if they didn’t' have the help of the native people they would not survive another winter.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  17. Mr Chihuahua

    Jesus stole my Reese's and left me the stale Red Vines!!! Damn you, Jesus lol!

    October 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  18. Misha Gastonai

    Majority of Christians don't have any problem with Halloween. Yet another anti-Christian "story". Thanks CNN!

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

      It brings in the predictable web ca$h traffic...

      October 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • JT

      Oh look...CNN is persecuting us poor Christians. See, I'm just like Jayyyysus.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • ZoeyJ

      Anti- Christian story ???? Please check this website out http://WWW.MASTERSWELCOME.COM and http://WWW.RODPARSLEY. COM (check the addresses, they are the same) this is a large church passing out door to door "FREE" tickets to a "HALLOWEEN" event the weekend of Halloween- the tickets and website are VERY professional and are a promotion for a haunted Halloween event, talk about DECEPTIVE, since when did God or Christ mislead mankind ????
      Jesus save us from your followers !!!! Please tell the Christians to stop with the judgement and witch hunts.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  19. Robert

    The really funny part about all this hoopla over the pagan origins of Halloween is that these fundamentalists completely ignore the pagan origins of major Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas. I mean look at Easter. Where did than name come from? What is the deal with the bunny and the eggs? Basically, if you don't go to a church a majority of what is considered Easter is pagan in origin.

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

      Robert, Easter and Christmas turned into pagan holidays because of the world. Real Christians know the meaning behind each. The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, while great for kids, are just ways to make the holidays accessible to all, not just Christians.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nope, Brian, it was the other way around. The Christians, in order to convert pagans to their religion, began celebrating the birth of Jesus, which is generally agreed occurred in the spring, at the time when pagans were already celebrating the winter solstice.

      And during the 19th century, Christmas was even less a religious holiday than it is now.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Rob

      Not only that but they haven't even bothered to look up what the pagan holiday of Samuin was celebrating. It simply ways a festival to celebrate the end of the harvest. So yes everyone is worshiping Satan in memory of the crops they just brought in. It couldn't be that they liked to celebrate after a hard season of work. Thank you for the useless article CNN, and thank you to the conservatives who show themselves to be ignorant every time they launch into another anti-Halloween agenda.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Answer

      @Brian

      Spin and twist..
      Your lot will eventually convince yourself that the stories you tell from your perspective will be the right version. The people who know will always keep the facts straight – for the history that really happened.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  20. TommyTT

    Jews have the same mixed feelings about Halloween, and more observant Jews ask their children not to observe it–again, because it's pagan. I wonder if they (actually "we," since I'm Jewish) realize the extent to which Jewish ritual also developed from pagan influences. The well known "Mah nishtanah" (the Four Questions) chanted at Passover, for example, appears to be a melody originally used in worship of Ishtar. Bottom line: the human race and its religions form a long continuity of influence and sharing. I teach our children to be clear about their own religion but, at the same time, to appreciate the richness of human cultural history.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:08 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.