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. notChristian

    What most christian zealots don't reallize is that most of their celebrations/holidays are the result of 'christianization' of existing pagan celebrations.
    They moved the 'birth of their savior' to the middle of winter (think of the classic nativity scene... ok, how many lambs are born in the middle of winter?) to coincide with the pagan 'birth of a new year' celebrations.
    Easter was co-opted from the pagan 'spring equinox'/fertility celebrations (still maintain the pagan symbols of fertility with rabbits and chicks). Easter is also the only classic christian celebration that still follows the cycles of the moon (first sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox).
    Someone else has also mentioned that Halloween is a christian event developed to overshadow the pagan 'new year' celebrations.

    October 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • bobcat2u

      Also the bible states that the sheperds were in the fields tending their flocks at the time of jesus birth. They would not be in the fields in the middle of the winter.

      October 28, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Reality

      Christmas, the embellished story of the birth of a simple, preacher man named Jesus.

      As per most contemporary NT exegetes, his parents were Mary and Joseph although some say Jesus was a ma-mzer, the result of a pre-mari-tal relationship between Mary and a Roman soldier.


      Jesus was not born in Bethlehem at least the one we are familiar with and there were no pretty wingie thingies singing from on high, no slaughter of the innocents by Herod, no visiting wise men and no escape to Egypt.

      "John P. Meier – Professor at Notre Dame

      Meier [Marginal Jew I,216-219] notes that the "affirmation of Jesus' descent from David might easily be placed alongside his birth at Bethlehem as a theologoumenon (a theological insight narrated as a historical event) if it were not for the fact that numerous and diverse streams of NT tradition also affirm Jesus' Davidic lineage."

      "Meier suggests that the belief that Jesus was "son of David" may have been held by Jesus' followers prior to his death, with his resurrection then being understood as a form of enthronement. However, he notes that such messianic views, whatever their provenance, cannot prove Jesus was "literally, biologically of Davidic stock."


      Conclusion: the holyday of Christmas is historically a non-event. Ditto for the Feast of the Magi and the solemnity of Mary aka New Years day.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  2. Rob

    “People are celebrating the devil’s holiday.”

    How disconnected from reality can you get? Unbelievably pathetic.

    October 28, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  3. Mr Chihuahua

    Jesus hates people to have fun lol!

    October 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  4. Iqbal Khan

    Check out what Jesus really say....

    What Did Jesus Really Say? – Kalamullah

    October 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  5. ghera

    All this absurdity masks and ignores the incredible amount of good that has come from the Church- Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II, the magnificent art and music. It also ignores the good and beauty that has come from Judaism and other religions as well. Of course, you will never admit to that. It would make you actually consider another perspective and likely give you a headache.

    October 28, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • 'pini

      Whole issue harkens back to the 1600's and the Salem (actually Beverly) witch trials.

      Be afraid of anything unknown, and don't look for knowledge, just condemn.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  6. waycist

    There is no Christian debate on Halloween,, they don't care. The only place Halloween is being debated is on campus where limp wristed left wing fairies have decided to get offended by white people dressing us as rappers, indians, arabs etc....

    October 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Mark Twain

      A true follower of christ obeys God and loves God with all his heart. God and the devil do not mix.There are no exceptions to evil in the word of God in the new testament .Water and oil dont mix its plain simple. There is no such thing as being in a little of both and still enter into heaven.We dont have the right to change the meaning in Gods eyes of sin sin is sin and obediance is obediance.A denomanation the mixes with evil is not a true doctrine of the word of God.We should not let man tell what God is But we should let the Bible be the one who defines God.Through prayer and Obediance.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • AGuest9

      I guess in your town, the date hasn't been changed from Oct 31, and you don't have whackos standing out on the corners handing out little leaflets about how you are leading your children down the path to hell?

      October 28, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Ned Nickerson and Nancy play golf with Mortimer

      You need to get a dictionary to sit beside your bible... (obedience x 3).... Why do people who can't write or spell think anyone cares what they write ?

      October 28, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  7. Motar

    As a *religious* child, I participated in Hallowe'en. As an indifferent teen, I developed an interest in the occult. As a new Christian adult, I felt unsettled about both. So, I went to the public library and checked out a few secular books. What I learned about Hallowe'en and the occult convinced me. I walked away from both and never looked back. What's your story?

    October 28, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      As a christian child, I dressed up for halloween. As an indifferent teen, I was still forced to go to church. As an indifferent adult, I still went to church. Then I read the bible a dozen times.After reading it, I realized it was completely false. Now, I'm a happy adult and embrace being human and not living in fear of the security guard in the sky watching my every move. It's refreshing.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      As a *religious* child, I participated in Hallowe'en. As an indifferent teen, I developed an interest in the occult. As a new Christian adult, I felt unsettled about both. So, I went to the public library and checked out a few secular books. What I learned about Hallowe'en and the occult convinced me. I walked away from both and never looked back. What's your story?

      As a 'religious' child, I participated in Halloween, and summer bible school, and all kinds of things. As a caring teen, I started looking at the whole world around me, with the encouragement of parents and peers who asked me to choose for myself. As a college student, I took religious courses and began to question everything I heard. As a learned adult, I continued to learn about everything around me, and question further, and felt uneasy about religion. I walked away from it with relief as it took away a guilt I'd never deserved.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:45 am |
    • Motar

      Bearer of Bad News: I would be interested in hearing more about your Christian childhood. What and who led you to choose Christ when you were young? How did your life change as a result?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Motar

      Prawn: I second your discoveries and decision concerning *religion*. Any attempts we make in our own wisdom and strength to connect with God are futile. Have you given *reasoned faith* a try?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  8. amy

    Is there anything Christians won't try to ruin?

    October 28, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  9. solowd

    religion is for retards

    October 28, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Hey, c'mon, that's not quite fair. To each his own.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  10. Lisa

    I consider myself a born again Heaven bound servant and follower of Jesus Christ. When i was trick or treating as a child, it didn't enter my mind that I was celebrating Satan or "his holiday", it did enter my mind that there was candy to be had. The reason it didn't enter my mind is because my parents didn't put it there. I did the same with my children. I think you are only celebrating Satan if that's what you believe you are doing. It's all in your motivations. I also believe that extreme "anything" is bad, extreme Christianity is no exception and no different than anything else.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  11. ghera

    Any group has the potential to be drones- political parties, groups that begin by feeling oppressed by a majority and then use it as an excuse to hate and spew vitriol in the name of justice. Remember the icon of mindless drones- Nazis were not part of a religious party. They used their hate and mindless drone allegiance to slaughter millions of innocent people- Jews, Catholics, Romani, Gays.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  12. Sam I. Am

    How can a ritual intended to keep evil spirits AWAY be inviting the devil?

    And if these fundies practice having a Christmas tree, Yule log, Easter grass, eggs, or chocolate bunnies, they are just as devilish (and hypocritical) as having a jack o' lantern on a doorstep. In fact, the very dates of Christmas and Easter are pagan, arranged around the time of the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, respectively. Those festivals were co-opted by early Christians to more easily convert the "heathen masses" (sheesh!)

    October 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  13. Anon

    Ironically Halloween / All Hallows' Eve is a Cristian tradition even if they took it from the non-Christians..

    October 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  14. msadr

    I blame the Catholics. They are the ones who convinced everyone that Pagan = evil. Ridiculous. Just because it's Pagan doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it. It's a perfectly good holiday the way it is. It's a celebration of the time when life takes a rest. It's a celebration of sleep, and with sleep, change. It's wonderful, good and right. I'm a Christian who loves Halloween.

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

      Excuse me,I am Catholic I have never heard that pagan= evil.We celebrate all Sanits and Souls day Nov.1st. Don't blame the Catholics you are wrong on that one.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Catholics aren't typically fundamentalist. Children in parochial schools have Halloween parades and dress up in costumes.

      October 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  15. tr

    So, the ultimate being in charge of the daily workings of the vast universe is concerned about your kids putting on costumes and getting candy from neighbors?

    This is why the whole notion of god doesn't make sense. What kind of god gets butt-hurt over such ultimately trivial things?

    October 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  16. VTMaid

    Doesn't the Eucharist represent the blood and flesh of Christ? You'd think a group that makes a holy ritual out of vampirism and cannibalism would be a little more on-board with trick-or-treating. I guess the devil's in the details.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • msadr

      the Eucharist doesn't represent vampirism or cannabalism. Learn a little and grow up. The majority of us are sick of such foolish, offensive and ignorant analogies.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • CJ

      We drink wine and eat unleaved bread for Eurchiast that is a far cry from pagan or zombies.Get a life people...

      October 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • AGuest9

      We were always taught in school that we were eating Christ's flesh and drinking his blood (which I thought was absolutely disgusting, and carefully looked inside the chalice the first time).

      October 28, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  17. Gayle


    October 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  18. Peter

    True worship requires that we continue to examine the things of this world. The bible says: anyone that continues to do the things of the world and befriends the world makes himself an enemy of god, whether you wear a cross around your neck or preach from the pulpit.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      The bible says a lot of things. Most of them are untrue.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • msadr

      What about Halloween is "of this world"?

      October 28, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Bearer Of Bad News

      The naughty costumes maybe? And sweet mother of satan I do love those costumes. I live in the perfect city.

      October 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  19. Gayle

    All Christian holidays r Pagan in origin. X-Mas, Easter, Valentines day, etc. All PAGAN!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  20. Keith

    Right wing extremists need to get a life. This is like their paranoid concept of a "war on Christmas". Next time a Christian starts thinking that consumerism is a "war on Christmas", they should go find out how many of the CEOs of the consumerism driving companies consider themselves Christians.

    October 28, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Nathan_Brazil

      Ummm...Keith. The concept on the "war on Christmas" is not about commercialism. It is about the active effort to remove all religious references from the holiday. The active effort to never say "Christmas" but say "Holiday Season" or "Winter Holidays" instead.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:43 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.