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. Pet Sounds

    "Some Christians, like Hernandez, believe Halloween’s pagan roots can open the door to evil."
    If there really are people trying to "open the door to evil", I say go ahead, knock yourself out. I'm sure you'll be met with the same silence prayer receives.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • Mirosal

      These people will never learn that there IS no door between the spirit world and ours. Simply because there is NO spirit world. It's all a myth, just like the Babble .. I mean buy-bull .. oops sorry bible

      October 29, 2011 at 6:36 am |
    • Pet Sounds

      Well color me retarded! lol Thanks for letting me know.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:29 am |
  2. Howie76

    Hope these so called christian don't put up a christmas tree because that is pagan and watch out for the easter bunny.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  3. Howie76

    When and where did Jesus say that Pagan events were evil and not to participate in them?? I'm talkin New Testament. So these guys need to really read the whole bible vs the sentences that like. Concentrate on the New Testament.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:11 am |
  4. TexasPagan

    It would be nice if the article included "Here is information about the Pagan holidays" instead of "This is what we're doing to steal the Pagan holidays, and, by the way, they worship the devil and are all going to hell."

    October 29, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  5. Carroll

    Hey I know... just let the kids have a night of fun and forget about religion. How about that? Religion.... humm, I'd like to interject more here... but I don't want to upset anyone's apple cart. Le the kids have a night of fun and forget about religion already.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  6. Gauge2

    The Christian approach to life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtMV44yoXZ0

    October 29, 2011 at 6:01 am |
  7. tony

    Isn't it wonderful that we can live in a country where anyone of us can freely believe in what we wish to believe, freely celebrate what we wish to celebrate, and enjoy life the way we wish to enjoy it. People may ask us to believe as they do, but should not force us to.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Howie76

      Where have you been. The conservative are trying yo take over the political system so we all think like them. They need ot be taxed.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:12 am |
  8. TG

    Known for its witches, goblins, and other grotesque decorations and paraphernalia, Halloween—also called All Hallows’ Eve or the eve of All Saints’ Day—can be traced back to the ancient Celts of Britain and Ireland. On the full moon nearest November 1, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, meaning “Summer’s End.”

    They believed that during Samhain, the veil between the human and the supernatural worlds was parted and that spirits, both good and evil, roamed the earth. The souls of the dead were thought to return to their homes, and families would put out food and drink for their ghostly visitors in hopes of appeasing them. Thus, when children today, dressed as ghosts or witches, go from house to house threatening a mischievous trick unless they receive a treat, they unwittingly perpetuate the rituals of Samhain.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:00 am |
    • TexasPagan

      (Actually, some of us very wittingly participate in the age old celebrations)

      October 29, 2011 at 6:07 am |
    • AGuest9

      Sounds like Christmas Eve dinner – put out an extra place setting for the dead.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  9. captnavenger

    Once again, we get to read about what Christians think, what they want, who they think is going to hell, how they would prefer the rest of us live our lives, etc., ad naseum.

    Sorry, but guess what? Who cares what you bullies want? Grow up and get out of everyone else's business.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:57 am |
  10. Paige

    Skirt people including Pentacostals are just stupid anyway. Christmas and Easter were originally, and still are, pagan holidays. The Romans just allowed the Christian holidays to coincide with them to make the "new religion" easier to stomach.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:46 am |
    • AGuest9

      One more thig we have to put up with, thanks to the Romans.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  11. Mark Taylor

    Ah ah ah... SOME Christians throw their belief on everything and ruin it. Halloween is totally cool, we love it. Skeletons and bats, even a severed hand with rats on the porch. Evil is where your heart is, it has nothing to do with silly decorations that celebrate and put a little fun in existentialist anxiety. Stop pigeonholing and generalizing. I'm a devoted Christian and I say Boo!!!! Enjoy Halloween.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:33 am |
  12. unowhoitsme

    Christians throw their belief on everything and ruin it. Yes, it may HAVE BEEN a bad holiday, but it isn't now. I personally don't endorse what "used to be" when it involved killing innocent people. (look up its history) But today, innocent kids dress up in costumes (to pretend their someone else for a few hours) and get candy. It's great! I'd rather that they do that than sit home on their electronics. Christians, you ruin life as God planned it wih YOUR rules. Go hide under a rock and leave the rest of us alone. Besides, you rarely practice what you preach. How "satanic" is that?

    October 29, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • Kathy

      Halloween never included the killing of innocent people. It's a Celtic tradition when they believed that Oct. 31-Nov.2 were days when there was a thinning of sorts from the other world, where those who have passed, can visit. And that included evil people or spirits. They collect candy now, but people used to go to houses and collect "soul cakes". Masks and then later costumes were worn to protect against evil. I think Christian fundelmentalist are against Halloween, not because it depicts evil, but because it's a pagan celebration that hasn't died out yet over several thousand years.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  13. Eden440

    Halloween is a term you should break down. Hallow means sacred or holy and een is the evening. I was once a warlock and even I know that Halloween gives strength to the evil one. So celebrate your holiday and make void the word of God with traditions of man, as for me, I refuse to celebrate. I love my Heavenly Father too much to hurt him in such a way. I only care about what pleases the Lord now and worry about whose feelings I hurt later.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:19 am |
    • Mirosal

      In this ENTIRE 28 billion light-year (so far) across universe, do you really think there's ONE being watching over the millions of galaxies, untold trillions of stars, and the millions of planets around those stars? If you do you really need therapy, or at least some de-programming. ONE being, millions of galaxies, and this "god" of yours is going to get mad about one little life form among 7 billion of our species on THIS little rock orbiting a small yellow star on the outer fringes of just one of those galaxies? mad because someone put on a mask and said trick or treat? you really are a very gullible sheep.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:28 am |
    • Paige

      You are as crazy as a bedbug. Of course, what do I expect from someone who thinks he was a warlock?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:48 am |
    • TexasPagan

      The term "warlock" is actually a Scottish term meaning "oathbreaker or traitor." It's also a term used by Hollywood for B-rate movies where people have pointy hair and shoot lightning bolts out of their eyes. When you say you were a warlock, what are you referring to?

      October 29, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  14. Jordan

    Why don't they keep their stupid mouths shut about it. Thats what I'd like. No one cares about your religion, or the imaginary punishments and curses it entails. You're out of date, and contribute nothing to society but judgement and bigotry.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Jordan ... don't worry about it too much. In time this "god" will also pass into the realm of mythology as well. Everyone knows that Zeus et. al. never existed, so why do they think their "god" is real? Easy .. because their own book of myths SAYS it's true lol ... yeah, the ultimate circular argument. If their book has so much "evidence" .. why has it NEVER, EVER, been used as such in any court here?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:22 am |
  15. LoL

    Christians of today trace their roots and especially their holiday traditions back to paganism. If they really wanna be thorough about their ignorance, they should travel to our nation's capital and protest all the greek, egyptian, and roman mythological paintings and symbols around D.C.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:11 am |
    • AGuest9

      Thanks to the Masons, who are, after all, The Illuminati. ROFLOL.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:10 am |
  16. be

    Many Christian feast days were simply the christianization of former pagan holidays. Halloween is no different. The name is actually derived from "All- Hallow's Evening"....or the evening prior to the Catholic Celebration of All Saint's Day. Part of the tradition of dressing up as a "ghost" stems from the tradition of dressing up the evening prior to All Saint's Day as your favorite saint. As with most of our christian holidays, we have come full circle......it started as a pagan holiday.....was christianized as a feast day......and has been secularized over the years.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:56 am |
  17. kidb

    In a silient room no thoughts of my own,calmed down I ask oonly the subject,the third time peacefull feeling comes now happy,was told

    October 29, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  18. DarkDrew

    Leave my Holiday Alone.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  19. guslv

    Leave it alone and quit making a big deal out of it! The kids (like I once was) have a blast trick or treating and getting all that candy. Guess there will never be an end to people making a big deal out of nothing!

    October 29, 2011 at 4:34 am |
    • Mirosal

      Haloween has evolved into a day for the kids.. let the kids have FUN for at least one day out of the year!! If you went out when you were a child, WHY would you ever deny your own kids the same fun? If you went out, but won't let your own kids out, you're nothing but a hypocrite

      October 29, 2011 at 5:02 am |
  20. linda mott

    Sometimes people need to stay out of things if that is what they want but keep it to themselves.Peole are trying to take real fun away.
    To many children set in front of tv and computers look around at all the over weight children parents get off your butts and
    play with your children.

    October 29, 2011 at 4:31 am |
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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.