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. DivideByZero

    Jesus is a zombie... didn't he rise from the dead? .... just saying.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Entil'za

      Yep..you are just saying...nothing wise.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • DivideByZero

      neither are you OR this article.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • donnie

      Not only was jesus a zombie, but his followers act like it too. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood. Also being mindless drones. I would think if any group of people were going to embrace zombies, it would be their christian counterparts.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • jane doe

      That was funny. lol... You have a point. Jesus is a zombie

      October 28, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Entil'za

      @DivideByZero- sadly...you add nothing wise yourself. pity

      @donnie- oy...go learn a bit of theology will ya

      October 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Entil'za

      No Jane...unless you mean funny in that they don't understand simple theology. That's more tragic than funny though.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      Theology teaches us that christianity borrows from other religions.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Read Mark. There was no resurrection. That was added by the others.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  2. Larry C. Wilson

    I really am amused by the number of people who think they can say what God wants if they can't quote the appropriate Bible verse. As for Halloween, it is an elision for All Hallow's Eve, meaning the night before All Saints Day. Of course Christianity took over all the major pagan holidays in the same manner as the Romans naturalized the Greek gods.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  3. @Smidget

    You are a hypocrite. You said that Christians have no clue what it feels like to be disrespected and therefore must earn respect. How do you know what anyone else has been through? What an arrogant and selfish statement.

    @Brandon- I respect what you're saying but, you're giving them way too much credit.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Smidget

      No, I didn't say that Christians have no clue what it feels like to be disrespected. I said that Christians have no clue what it feels like to be persecuted. These two words do not mean the same thing.

      I see a pattern of twisting reality to suit one's own motivations emerging....

      October 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • @Smidget

      As someone else has pointed out, Christians have been persecuted in history too. Not to mention recently how it's considered trendy to make fun of Christians. I see a pattern of hypocrisy emerging here.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • donnie

      it isn't trendy to make fun of christians. It is just natural to laugh at what is clearly a joke.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • @Smidget

      There you go. There's one for your team Smidget. What a stellar example of how intelligent you people are. Bravo!

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

      Of course you're correct. How silly of me. Christians living today claiming to be persecuted in a country in which they hold an astounding majority can totally relate to the plight of Christians that were actually persecuted throughout history. Being laughed at by a few people you think are evil sinners destined for hell anyway is clearly equivalent.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • @Smidget

      There you go again, Smidget. How would you even begin to know who I think are evil sinners? Your whole entire argument is counterproductive and again hypocritical. You are declaring that Christians pass judgment on you for not believing in God and in the same sentence pass judgement and make assumptions about people here who do not agree with you. You are just as guilty of every single biased judgement you are trying to use against Christians. It doesn't matter how big the words you use are, you're behaving no better than the other guy who responded to this particular comment. It's clear that this response will probably go in one ear and out the other because you're so determined to feel sorry for yourself that you have to come back with sarcasm so you have yourself a pleasant evening.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Smidget

      And to which judgments are you referring? Certainly not the bit about evil sinners destined for hell, right? Because, sweetheart, that wasn't me that said that, it was the Bible. Are you claiming that your Bible is wrong, hypocritical, or judgmental? I would certainly agree with you on that, but I get the feeling that that isn't quite what you were aiming for, here.

      October 31, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  4. Scott d

    Them Christians gonna party like it's 1599!!

    Seriously, how weird would it be to be stuck in the 16 th century?

    October 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  5. Preethi

    If you go to Africa specially Kampala, Kigali, Botswana you will get the real deal of a Halloween when you meet wit ch doctors. You will then no longer find it fun. You will run faraway from it with your tail between your legs. If these wit ch doctors come here to NA and they find Halloween here, they will be greatly thrilled and find many an easy prey. If you go there and see the real deal you will wisely shun this whole thing..

    October 28, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Scott d

      Don't look now, but you're nuts.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • *frank*

      This is useful information....thank you...thank you...

      October 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • runner305

      Good. Keep the witch doctors over there, we wish to enjoy Halloween over here. Stop with your drivel.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  6. ProudMuslim

    As a Muslim, we are also against halloween but it's difficult for kids to understand why so we have a candy hunt in our house on that day just so that the kids will not feel they are missing out on anything. It works out great (and adults end up fighting with each other because they wanna help their own kid find the most candies).

    October 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • OpeningTheDoor?SteppingThrough!

      >>> adults end up fighting with each other <<<

      Of course they do. You said Muslim, right?

      October 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • ProudMuslim

      I think you opened the door on your face and the trauma caused you to lose a lot of brain cells.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      You know, I have to respect your way of staying true to your beliefs but still finding a way to make the holiday fun for the kids. Compromise goes a long way.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  7. BalazarsBrain

    Great job Christians!

    Keep debating the most irrelevant issues in the world like Halloween, Harry Potter, Condom use, etc. Maybe some day you'll mature beyond these childish topics like the rest of the human race.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Babs

      Thank you.
      As a Christion myself I am Soooo tired of being painted with this stupid brush.
      I wish the general population understood that we're not all idiots. Most of us do spend our time on things that matter. Like hunger and homelessness.
      As for trick or treat... eat some candy and lighten up.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  8. Steve

    You will all burn in hellll!!! No seriously thought, pointless article.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  9. PDEngineer

    The greatest enemy of any religion is the people who practice it.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • ProudMuslim

      Everyone follows one thing or other but each has given it a different name.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  10. irony

    christmas was a pagan ritual, it has nothing to do with christianity, it was adopted in the hopes that it would cause pagans to convert. if these people are going to condemn pagan rituals they should take a closer look at their own religion.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Kevin

    This was a shock until today. Funny how this article matched with my story. I have a friend who lives in Italy and I had asked her about Halloween. She said that she didn't take part in the celebration because she was Christian. I was shocked because I was raised Catholic and Halloween was always my favorite holiday. Which makes sense because this is my most favorite time of the year, fall.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  12. Lexxvs

    If conservative and fundamentalist Christians’ stance on everything will make news you will have news for each and everyday of the year.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  13. TruthKeeper

    Some "Christians" are only "Christian" by name only,...they don't read the Holy Bible daily , meditate on it, and most importantly write the commandments of God in their minds and hearts. I will not rebuke you,...let God rebuke all fakes/lukewarms/imposters

    October 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • TR6

      Yes, it’s very important to have gods commandments written on your mind and heart. Especially the one about NOT COOKING BABY GOATS IN THEIR MOTHER’S MILK. (Exidus, 2nd set of 10 commandments, #10)

      October 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Some Christians aren't sure what Christian means.... ::facepalm:: We're looking at you.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:38 am |
  14. Bill

    I attended a catholic grade school (yes, with nuns for teachers) and we had a great time decorating our classrooms with ghosts and goblins and all the fun things that kids make for Halloween.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  15. Flora

    ...Are you serious? As a Christian, I only have this to say: THESE PEOPLE ARE INSANE. Halloween is a time for fun, sweets, dressing up and, if you're into that, acting like an idiot. Nothing more. End of discussion. Now plesae stop pointing at every little thing that puts you off and screaming that it's the Devils work, you're just giving your own religion a bad name. Now THAT'S the Devils work.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Eric

      He who is faithful in least is faithful in much....what sharing does light have with the darkness, or unbelievers from believers?

      Exactly how could it ossible be OK to celebrate holidays that are pagan? Christmas is not even acceptable since it's a pagan celebration taken over by the corrupt religious leaders as a way to get more church attendance and money. Then you get into the pagan aspects of Easter, Valentine's Day, and on and on. No true christian can take part in these pagan celebrations and also be in God's favor. Just because "YOU" say it's ok doesn't matter, it is what GOD says is ok – you do not make the rules.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • BCA

      god sucks, and acting like a weeny towards harmless holiday cheer means you suck as well.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Eric is out of touch and possibly drunk.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  16. JT

    "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."

    Hopes of strengthening faith? Stop lying for jesus. It's all about scaring and converting susceptible people into your faith and church.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Quincey9

      Organized religion has ALWAYS used fear as a control method.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  17. Rob

    Christians should embrace Halloween. They worship a jewish zombie.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Quincey9

      Ya mean the gezus guy... or whatever his name is? Yeah, nothing says 'god loves you' like a depiction of a guy bleeding and nailed to lumber.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  18. Quincey9

    There's always gonna be someone who has to pi$$ in everyone else's cheerios. Give it a rest, christians.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  19. *frank*

    Nothing says holiday cheer like showing kids scenes of rape and murder. Whee!

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

      The typical zealot mindset.. focusing on death. Wanting death. Always looking for evil in every nook and corner.
      Off in your world of doom and gloom. That is your life alright. You see why people hate religious idiots? Do you want to be like that in this life? Apparently you do frank.. congrats.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • *frank*


      October 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • megman00

      You can do that any time of year, just flip on the TV. Don't use lame excuses to bolster your ridiculous worries over an otherwise fun and delightful time of year.

      October 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Yirmeyahu

      I think it is clear that those who have replied misunderstood "Frank"'s intent since he presumably was commenting critically on the so called "Hell houses".

      Nevertheless is ironic that "Answer" chose to respond, "The typical zealot mindset.. focusing on death." when it is the holiday itself and those who practice it who do so. I really don't particularly care, but I did cringe the other day when I visited the home of a woman who had just returned from her husbands funeral. While I do not believe she celebrates halloween, her neighbor had a number of "tombstones" and skeletons "decorating" the yard right along her driveway.

      Play dress up and such, but let's not pretend that it's those who do not observe Halloween who are preoccupied with death and evil.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  20. thegadfly

    I thought Halloween WAS a Christian celebration. At any rate, it's just as commercialized as Christmas and Easter.

    October 28, 2011 at 6:52 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.