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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.

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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. Karen

    Spell check!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • bipar08

      grammer garu?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  2. dan

    christian holidays are rip offs from pagan holidays. even christmas. http://www. goodnewsaboutgod. com/studies/holidays2.htm

    take out the spaces and copy and paste.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  3. freetime1

    " Halloween is a celebration of evil and has no place in the life of a believer."

    For lots of none believers Christanity is a celebtation of evil and a lie that has no place in a thinking persons mind.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • reality check

      Think about the numbers of people that have been hurt/killed/tortured by these false rumors. Time to end it! are you brave enough, smart enough?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Matt

      Ramen.

      October 28, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  4. PatrickB

    Any "christians" that bemoan another religions holiday can go eff themselves.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • spiralbrain

      And then they go begging to the House requesting that a law be enacted recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith (H. Res. 847). I agree, they can go eff themselves.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Brian

      Hear Hear

      October 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  5. Huh

    So, Christians can attack Halloween as a whole and it's find and dandy.

    Atheists attack public displays of Christmas, and they get strung up a tree.

    Makes sense.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Stan

      So, if your an non-believer or don't promote Christmas as a religious holiday, I would hope your working that holiday or any religious holiday since those days mean nothing to you?!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  6. So tired of the radical noise

    These are the same people who believe that T-Rex and caveman were scrapping for the same food. Thats because their tiny brains can't come to a correct conclusion. If they read a book (other then the Bible) once in a while maybe their world would be a little larger. Extreme religion will be the doom of mankind. I don't care if its Islam, Christianity, etc. keep your hatred out of the light of other religions and points of view. you DON'T know if your right.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • reality check

      Think about your life and religion and society, completely wiped out and then maligned by another religion, by brutal force. This is what the church did to paganism.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  7. thes33k3r

    Please allow me to take this opportunity to officially announce the formation of a new world-wide Christian megachurch organization and the simultaneous formation of numerous affiliate groups and organizations with the express intent of bringing more of the world's population to the knowlege of Jesus Christ's love. We seek to spread the good word that not only is the U.S. a Christian nation, but the whole world will be too.

    We will be using the internets to transmit multiple S3xual Transcendency and Divinity Seminars to promote abstinence-only s3x education with a special focus on the condemnation of the use of condoms. We know that when teens and young adults think that condoms are an option, they will be much more likely to commit the disgustingly heinous sin of s3x outside of marriage. Our ultimate goal is to foster the spread of our S3xual Transcendency and Divinity Seminars, first throughout the entire country, and then the world. We will be working directly with the Catholic Church to organize these events.

    One of the most important goals of our organization is to take every step necessary to preserve the innocence of young children by shielding them from the horrors of a secular worldview. In this effort, we will be sponsoring the outstanding and centuries-long Catholic Church endeavor known as the Roman Archdiocesan Priests Initiative to Save The Schoolchildren. This program has touched the lives of so many people that they are truly innumerable. We are proud to be affiliated with a program that is so widely-known and has had such a profound effect in practically every country in the world.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • janedoe

      I'm having a hard time trying to tell if this is a joke or not. The concept of withholding condoms to promote abstinance should be considered manslaughter. This is why aids is infecting thousands of people. Kids might not always live by the moral code their parents expect but to allow them to risk an STD as a consequence is ethically unstable. Pray for your children that they can make good ethical choices, like abstinence, for themselves but don't subject them to captial punishment for indescressions that you likely perpetrated when you were a youth as well.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Little White Lies

      What the flock ????????

      October 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • BarefootFreddie

      Good one-By the way, for you folks wondering about this post-Connect the capital letters of the groups' name...R.A.P.I.S.T.S.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  8. Christiancult

    "Pagan roots?" Because there's nothing commonly-accepted by mainstream Christianity with roots in paganism...

    Sarcasm...

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Frank S

      Yep... even the origin of Christmas happening on December 25 was brought about by competing cults (which is what Christianity was in the 3rd-4th century, a cult) having their winter solstice celebrations. A lot of what Christianity is and does was historically based on co-opting other peoples' traditions. When the "war on Christmas" is spoken of, it should be remembered who fired the first shots 1700 years ago.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Hi

    Idiots, Halloween did start in Celtic territory but it started because on Halloween homeless people knocked on your door, said that they will pray for their dead family members if they gave them food, so they did, now it evolved into this, oh and by the way Jim J. maybe were not in Gods image!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  10. The Good News is

    SALVATION.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  11. Doc Vestibule

    Jesus did both a trick and a treat at the same time when he performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
    Too bad fish aren't much of a treat.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  12. That Guy

    Who cares what Christians or any other religions are doing.
    Keep your beliefs to yourselves.

    Religions have been the cause of most of the worlds problems. Genocide, Wars, Greed...

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Nathan

      "Emrbace"...proofread much, CNN?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • NOPE.

      religion has caused them? i think man has caused all of the worlds problems.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  13. Ron

    These people probably don't even realize the incredible irony of their views. Do they really not know that early Christianity basically highjacked pagan festivals and turned them into Christmas and Easter so they would be more palatable to the pagan peoples that they were intent on 'converting' (by the sword if necessary)? Where do you suppose the custom of decorating and lighting trees at the end of the year and hiding egg in the spring come from?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  14. worldbelow

    My 10 year old has been taught the truth – that the bible is a book of adult-rated fairy tales.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  15. Jon

    The Encyclopedia Americana says: “Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to a Druid ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods—a sun god and a god of the dead (called Samhain), whose festival was held on November 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The festival of the dead was gradually incorporated into Christian ritual.”—(1977), Vol. 13, p. 725.
    The book The Worship of the Dead points to this origin: “The mythologies of all the ancient nations are interwoven with the events of the Deluge . . . The force of this argument is illustrated by the fact of the observance of a great festival of the dead in commemoration of the event, not only by nations more or less in communication with each other, but by others widely separated, both by the ocean and by centuries of time. This festival is, moreover, held by all on or about the very day on which, according to the Mosaic account, the Deluge took place, viz., the seventeenth day of the second month—the month nearly corresponding with our November.” (London, 1904, Colonel J. Garnier, p. 4) Thus these celebrations actually began with an honoring of people whom God had destroyed because of their badness in Noah’s day.—Gen. 6:5-7; 7:11.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  16. really

    Jim Roope or CNN, please proofread your articles before publishing them to the web. This one is riddled with grammatical mistakes and errors.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  17. Jeremy

    Jesus was the first zombie.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  18. Douglas

    Christmas, December 25th was originally when they worshiped the winter solstice or the sun. The Catholic church changed it to Christmas and celebrated the Birth of Christ even though Jesus Christ was born sometime in the Fall season.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  19. Bobby

    Pagan roots.. Christmas tree are Pagan, are specifically advised against decorating the trees like the Pagans in Jeremiah..

    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Bobby

      Jeremiah 10.. Learn not the way of the Nations........

      October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  20. JT

    Guess they better stop celebrating Christmas, too. Christmas trees and ornaments, people. T'weren't nowhere near Bethlehem. Oogity-boogity!!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:32 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.