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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.

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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. bennycat

    How about, if you don't like it, ignore it.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Quincey9

      Because that would make WAY too much sense, silly.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  2. War Machine

    No author or correspondent, or poster here, has the b@lls to diss Judaism or Islam. Always picking on them Christians.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • nami

      'cause we know we can, without getting killed

      October 28, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Jagged

      That's funny right there, I don't care who you are.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • JLS639

      How would this be even remotely relevant to this story? Did Muslims or Jews attempt to co-opt this festival as a religious holiday?

      BTW, there is plenty of "dissing" on assorted Muslims. I guess it is just not nasty enough for your tastes.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  3. JLS639

    "Hernandez calls it harvesting hearts for God"

    This sounds like a line for a sequel to "Children of the Corn."

    October 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Ooooh, you better copyright that right now! The Syfy channel has done worse with less!

      October 29, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  4. Matthew

    The irony is that Halloween began as a Christian celebration. The druids at that point were keeping a hold on the people through fear. As Christianity came in, they hit upon the idea of having people dress up as what frightened them most as a way of confronting their fears.

    Many of Christianity's traditional symbols actually derive from pagan origins. By incorporating these things into itself, the church made itself more appealing to the people that they were seeking to convert. Easter eggs and Christmas trees are two such examples.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • JLS639

      "druids at that point were keeping a hold on the people through fear"

      We know this is true because the Christian missionaries said so. No other writings survived, so this must be true, right? Christian missionaries were always liberating people from fear, ignorance and bloody pagan sacrifice.

      [The tone of this post is meant to be ironic.]

      October 28, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Albert

      But let's not confuse "Christianity" with what the Bible actually teaches. Todays so called "Christians" are far removed from anything the Bible teaches. The Bible actually foretold that would happen. History certainly proves your point, but I defy you are anyone to show where in the Bible Christians celebrated Christmas, Easter, or Halloween.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      'The irony is that Halloween began as a Christian celebration. The druids at that point were keeping a hold on the people through fear. As Christianity came in, they hit upon the idea of having people dress up as what frightened them most as a way of confronting their fears. '

      ::cracks up:: No, man, the irony is you rewriting history.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  5. george in texas

    one thing that is bothersome is christianity so full of hate for everything that moves differently. one feels so guilty being a christian.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • nami

      That just tells me that you are neither a real Christian, nor knows one. LOL

      October 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  6. JT

    When Christians stole the Winter Solstice it still took the 19th century for them to accept the pagan symbols of the tree and yule log, etc. I think this is just one pagan holiday they could not successfully steal so they still have issues with it.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  7. MEME

    I'm christian and I like Halloween. Pft, these Christians who oppose like everything are such downers >_>

    October 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  8. Ancient Curse

    Candy.

    Enough said.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  9. Erin

    Honestly, if you don't feel it should be celebrated, why are you perpetuating it by having "Harvest" parties and "Hell" Houses? It doesn't balance the idea and doesn't make it better because the Jesus stamp was put on it. You're celebrating it the way you feel it should be done instead of just ignoring it. Same with Christians who think present giving and Santa Claus are pagan Christmas things, then don't "make it better" by bringing your own thing in. If you don't like it, don't celebrate it. Period. Sensationalism never seemed to come up when Jesus was teaching, seems like he was a pretty simple guy when it came to his message.

    I will say that all holidays now have gotten so out of hand. Lights and crazy yard things for any holiday, commercials for Christmas during the last two weeks of October?! It's gotten so out of hand.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Albert

      Christian churches these days are nothing more than social clubs. Big money making social clubs. Ask them what the Bibles message is and you will get a blank stare. Ask them what movie is playing at the Church this weekend or what night Bingo is and oh, they sure know about that stuff.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  10. Albert

    The irony here is that Celebrations such as Christmas and Easter are also deeply rooted in pagan traditions. Interesting how "Fundamentalists" pick and choose what is right and what is wrong. Hypocrites!

    October 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  11. MMallon

    "Harvesting hearts for God." Hmm... for someone who doesn't celebrate Halloween, this dude sounds like a serial killer.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • HaHa

      LOL

      October 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  12. george in texas

    christianity feels so regimented. it is against the spirit of freedom. it hates the rich and yet leeches on the rich

    October 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • mercy4me

      George, you don't know what your talking about....I bet you live in a tent on Wall Street, don't you. You don't even make sense...good grief!

      October 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  13. Wholly Mary

    GAG ME! Buzz off and the fish you swam in on.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  14. hjs3

    Oh Dear...not again
    These poor souls would take the fun out of a day off...

    HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE

    October 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      They'd fck up a wet dream in a wh0rehouse.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  15. george in texas

    i enjoy halloween more than christmas. actually christmas brings in depression. this is not to to offend but stating the rality for a lot of people.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Andrea M

      Same here. Christmas to me reminds me of my dad's death when I was a kid, he died shortly after the holiday. Halloween however was his favorite holiday and reminds me of what a great dad he was, doing my face paint early before school and all that.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Agreed.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  16. davied

    Halloween should not be celebrated with ghost or devil costumes. I agree that it is a day where satanists do their rituals and so on. I am not against it but am against anything having to do with death, spirits, demons. Dress your kids like little angels lo.

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

      Demon... did you say demon. I am scared.... help

      October 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Answer

      Death will always be fulfilled. Accept it.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  17. joe

    wait maybe not....
    yes, i disagree.
    i think i do anyways.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  18. TiredofTrueBelievers

    Boy, that "Hell House" sounds like a load of fun. Am looking forward to the day when the 'true believers' go back in their caves and save us from their simple minds...

    October 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  19. joe

    i disagree

    October 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  20. KeithTexas

    Christians long ago decided what to do with Sidhain, they co-opted it. All Souls Day and All Saints day are celebrated for that purpose. Everyone except Evangelicals knows that.

    Evangelicals don't know this because some hillbilly in Tennessee who never read anything except the bible figured out your religion. You are stupid people led by stupid people, you are not practicing the Christianity of the Apostles.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:30 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.