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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. Mark

    I was raised Catholic and my Parish celebrated Halloween. These idiot fundamentalist Christians don't like to have fun in any form.....I am surprised that they can reproduce because that is also fun .Yes Halloween originated as a Celtic celebration not to bring evil but to ward it off....and to me that is a good thing. So relax the gates of Hell will not open because people celebrate this fun and harmless day.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Suzanne

      amen!

      October 29, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      thank you

      October 29, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Patti

      Same here.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  2. Reality

    Mocking Wicca and Paganism and their celebrations of Halloween?

    Spells, curses, covens, black magic, witches, voodooing dolls, hoodooing the results, shadow books, maypoles,
    horned god(s) and triple goddess(es), Gerald Gardner et al??

    Never!!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  3. AvdBerg

    The following is an excerpt from the article ‘Sainthood by the Pope’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Halloween

    Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, trolls, demons, poltergeists, black cats, witches, broomsticks, skeletons and jack-o-lanterns. What is it all about? Many observe Halloween but don’t know why.

    Halloween began long before “Christianity” during the days of the pagan priesthood of the Druids of Ireland, with the belief that this is the one night in the year that ghosts and witches are most likely to wander about. The earliest Halloween celebrations were held in honor of “Samhain” or Satan, the lord of the dead.

    It was also an ancient Roman celebration held as a festival in honor of the ancient Roman goddess, Pomona. When people dress up as demons, witches, goblins and skeletons, they are mimicking Satan, the devil, and demons. They are acting out the capricious frolicking of the ancient pagans who masqueraded as evil spirits, or who built fires, left gifts and offerings to placate the impish, macabre spirits, as well as “Samhain” the lord of the dead.

    On October 31, Halloween is observed as the Eve of All Hallows or Hallowmas. It is still regarded by many today as a church festival commemorating the evening before All Saints Day, which is on November 1.

    How many customs have been borrowed from ancient paganism? For openers there is Christmas, Easter, New Years and Halloween. A few moments research in some of the higher level encyclopedias will prove that Halloween is also a pagan celebration.

    ~

    Also, to give people a better understanding of the issues that divide this world we have recently added the article ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’ to our listing of articles.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).

    October 29, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • Reality

      "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

      Martin Luther "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

      October 29, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • Mirosal

      wait wait wait ... you're using the babble .. I mean buy-bull .. oops bible as evidence based solely that it SAYS it's evidence. You DO realize you've made a hole as big as the middle of that circular argument don't you? Just because I don't believe a word of your book, don't paint me as evil, you have NO idea what kind of person I am. I have an incredible sense of humor, because I like seeing just how gullible people really are who think that a 2000 year old book, with stories dating back 1000 years before THAT are the word of some mystical magical invisible cloud-dwelling being. And befopre you start in, I spent over a decade trapped within the confines of a "religious" education. I KNOW what your book says.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  4. Stephanie Palmer

    This is an incredibly stupid issue. Why is it an issue at all? Halloween is simply a night when kids can dress up, pretend to be whatever they want, and go and get a lot of candy. What idiot would think it was anything else. Do these twits actually believe if their children go out, they will consort with a devil? It's actually much like Christmas. Christmas is a day when families gather and kids get lots of presents. Who in his/her right mind would celebrate that day solely as Jesus' birthday. People who have actually read the bible know that he was born in the spring. So this issue is not only not an issue, but boring as well.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  5. Detroit Mark

    The can co-opt if they like. And we'll just start calling it Xoween and Holidayoween just like we do Xmas. Xtianity is what needs to be stamped out. Not kids having fun.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      My 2nd wife and I used to call the whole seasson Happy Hallow-thanks-mas-eve .. covered all 4 days in one fell swoop lol

      October 29, 2011 at 7:32 am |
    • sleepytime

      Contrary to popular belief the X in "Xmas" has a religious origin not a secular one. The X comes from the first letter in Christ in Greek and the usage of X in this way dates back several hundred years.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  6. Ed

    Virtually all Christian beliefs and symbols come from earlier pagan beliefs. The cross, the fish, resurrection, etc. are all borrowed from pagan faiths. If Christians can celebrate Easter and Christmas (both pagan), why not Halloween?

    October 29, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • grumpy

      Because god will send them to hell and steal their souls.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • Marc

      The zeitgeist is not an authority on the roots of christianity. With over 90% of it's material being discredited, I wouldn't be drawing from it's rhetoric to claim that Christianity has roots in paganism.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • Reality

      More on the "roots" of Christianity:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      October 29, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  7. SomeoneOutHere

    Yea, you better watch out for that 5 year old in her princess costume when she comes to your door because she's opening the door to evil! lol, what a joke Christians are, lol!

    October 29, 2011 at 7:25 am |
    • Mirosal

      Better be careful, maybe she got that wand of hers from Olivander's down on Diagon Alley!! lol

      October 29, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Pet Sounds

      Little do you know that after she gives you her fake smile and an innocent "Trick or treat!", shes off with that candy you just gave her to a pentagram lined with candles and lambs blood to commune with demons.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • Rachel Kyler

      Is it necessary to demonize the entire religion because there are a few nuts? Show a little more thoughtfulness.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • SomeoneOutHere

      A few nuts? Christianity is that pure? Boy, get your face out of the bible and look around.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  8. Spiritual Gypsy

    Halloween is a time when my family gets together for an evening outing and my husband and I watch our kids trick and treating around our neighborhood. Then we go back and join the rest of my Seminary community in parties along with the rest of the Seminary folks who have children and the kids get to play and we adults take a study break. Halloween is all about candy and enjoying a family activity. Crazy ultra ultra Christians. Thank God I'm Lutheran 🙂

    October 29, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • grumpy

      Thank god I'm an atheist. 😉

      October 29, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • SomeoneOutHere

      Uh, Lutherans are Christians. I think you need to forget the study break and learn more about Christianity.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • Spiritual Gypsy

      This is address to the person stating I need to come back from my study break: When I stated, Thank God I'm Lutheran-duh yes I know I'm Christian BUT since in this article most of the crazy Christians do not align themselves with a real denomination that's why I made my statement. Besides as type A as Luther was-and minus the unfortunate comments he has made about Judaism, heh, he's alright. By the way, since I am also of African descent and still acknowledge my traditional African religions, hell those crazy Christians wouldn't like me anyhoo. Peace!

      October 29, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  9. Bob

    I wonder if they will have a Priest raping a alter boy as one of the scenes in a hell house.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:17 am |
    • jupiter522

      But we really don't want to tarnish the image of the catholic church now, do we? They have such moral high ground as do all religions of course.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • Pet Sounds

      Most likely not, the priests probably believe that will be done in heaven.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  10. Pet Sounds

    Mirosal, this is off topic but I was wondering why your posts don't have the reply button? Every other post including my own I can reply to. Have you been... excommunicated? lol

    October 29, 2011 at 7:15 am |
    • Mirosal

      I ex-communicated myself decades ago lol .. the reason you can't reply to mine is because you cannot reply TO a reply lol I am replying to you, the originator of the thread. If you want to reply to my comments, simply reply to the first message (probably your own) and it will appear below my message

      October 29, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • Light In The Black

      "Reply Button"

      Lets see if i can explain this.
      When you "post" a comment, it has a reply button.
      When you use "reply" to post a comment
      your reply does not come with a "reply button"
      i dont know why, problem with CNN is my best guess.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  11. Mark Taylor

    Gauge 2 – good Groucho moment... I'm against it! Seriously no I'm not. You are generalizing and that is never a good thing to do. Not all Christians flip our over Halloween. The Methodist church I attend even has a pumpkin patch and an organized trick or treat event. You are doing the same thing that racist bigots do, you are making an assumption about a group of people and assuming they are all unintelligent idiots. There are some very bright people who are Christians – John Polkinghorne for instance – look him up. Not all Christians hate Halloween. I love it.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:14 am |
  12. AGAPETUS

    Hypocrite Christians, complain that some people celebrate a pagan ritual and and then celebrate their own pagan ritual but desguise it as a celebration of the birth of their saviour.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  13. Victor81

    We are the product of 4 and a half billion years of slight corrections in DNA. Let's try and act like it and understand the difference between belief and knowledge. ALL of humanity's great religions have evaporated over time with knowledge. So too will our current ones when their extraordinary claims are debunked. The world will be a better place when we start using our brains and putting our beliefs aside. I can't wait. Happy Halloween!

    October 29, 2011 at 6:55 am |
    • Pet Sounds

      I wish that were true. But as each day science detects the undetectable theists will simply move their god farther from its sight and claim it can't be disproved.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:02 am |
    • Mirosal

      or, they'll say that "god" felt it was time to show us something new, and that's why it was discovered. You'll never get anything useful or evidentiary out of buy-bull thum-pers because it it always a circular argument.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  14. Kevin

    Very simple....if you want to celebrate Halloween, then celebrate it. If you don't want to celebrate Halloween, then don't celebrate it. Simple, I don't see the issue here.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  15. SCAtheist

    And we want to elect one of these morons to run the country?

    October 29, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  16. Pet Sounds

    Mirosal, as the economy worsens they'll start letting anyone with two cents to rub together in. Including gays and muslims. Got to keep those profit margins on the rise.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:53 am |
    • Mirosal

      Yep, gotta pay for their air-conditioned dog houses, their teen-age hoo.kers, new Cadillac, hair stylist, make-up artist, tv production crews etc etc

      October 29, 2011 at 6:58 am |
  17. Lalala

    Hell Houses? Harvesting hearts? Jeez Louise, glad I'm not in their congregations.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:36 am |
    • Mirosal

      I'm sure there's a big black market for harvested hearts lol think of all the transplants you could do!! As far as hell houses .. just look at ANY monument to mythology .. i mean place of "worship" ... they are just places of hypocrisy. Places that have signs that say "all are welcome" and yet preach that gays and muslims and anyone else who isn't one of them should be sent to their "hell"

      October 29, 2011 at 6:41 am |
  18. Merlin

    Some many years ago, when I was still in grade school, my First Baptist Church hosted a "haunted house", conducted throughout the Sunday School Building. With its witches, werewolves and monsters, it was among one of the coolest I'd ever seen. The fact is was hosted by the church guaranteed no serious mischief would take place and the kids attending were safe and well "treated". I'd say it stimulated more interest in what a Christian atmosphere should be. Open, inviting and caring. I was impressed the church administration recognized Halloween for what it was by not trying to deny it exists. (Nobody was pressured to be "saved", either. It was just for fun.) It is possible to achieve Christian goals without losing focus throughout the journey by making some exceptions. I wish others would get the message. IAll Christians shouldn't be profiled as a bunch of wingnuts just because of the extremists. Of course, there are always those who love to criticize, no matter what.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:32 am |
    • Mirosal

      I'm sorry, but your own "holy" book tells you stories of a talking snake conversing with a naked woman, an Earth that became a water world for 40 days, and a poor carpenter who became un-dead. Sounds more like a good sub-plot for a Harry Potter book.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:47 am |
  19. Whatever

    Don't mess with Halloween. There is something essential about a good party at the turn of the seasons, and don't forget that God intended nature as a roadmap to his doorstep. God is not vanilla, God is not something that you can put in a box and market, God is good, but he is not tame, in the words of C.S. Lewis. Local assemblies that forget this become superficial and one dimensional, they lose their love and become mere accountants of the human experience.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:28 am |
    • Mirosal

      I'll never mess with Hallloween .. it's too fun. Your "god" isn't vanilla or marketable because "god" isn't anything but the same 3000+ year old myths in new packaging. All you've done is taken the god of peanut butter, and the god of chocolate, put them together, and now it's called Reese's. Same "gods", all rolled into one neat little package.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:54 am |
  20. daremoe

    Considering all the problems in the Christian/Catholic church (i.e. pediphiles), I would think there are many serious problems than need to be addressed.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:18 am |
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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.