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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.

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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. SurRy

    Oh geez. It's a time to let kids dress up and get candy. Get a life.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  2. CJ in Victoria

    Christians are responsible for destroying the original meaning of Samhain which is now called Halloween. Christians decided that one could never celebrate your ancestors on the Autumn equinox.Also, it was the Christians that decided to adopt the name Halloween and move the date a day before the holy day of all saints day.
    The Taliban of the US making a flap over Halloween can't seem to pick up a history book and read it to understand that they're fighting over a Christianized celebration.
    I say bring back Samhain the way it was meant to be! Honor your true roots!

    October 29, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  3. Clyde M

    It's like the old joke–Puritanism: the fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.
    Halloween is innocuous. There is no devil and even if there was he gets no special sway on Halloween. Dressing up, getting candy, and embracing fear is harmless and fun. It only starts to get weird when adults start to make it weird.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  4. Kevin

    Some agree that such holidays as Christmas and Halloween have pagan origins but still feel that it is not wrong to celebrate them. After all, most people are not thinking about false worship when they observe holidays. These occasions also give families opportunities to draw close together. Is this how you feel? If so, likely it is love of family, not love of false religion, that makes taking a stand for true worship seem difficult. Be assured that the true God, the one who originated the family, wants you to have a good relationship with your relatives. (Ephesians 3:14, 15) But you can strengthen such bonds in ways that God approves. Regarding the matter that should be our chief concern, the apostle Paul wrote: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—Ephesians 5:10.

    Maybe you feel that the origins of holidays have little to do with how they are celebrated today. Do origins really matter? Yes! To illustrate: Suppose you saw a piece of candy lying in the gutter. Would you pick up that candy and eat it? Of course not! That candy is unclean. Like that candy, holidays may seem sweet, but they have been picked up from unclean places. To take a stand for true worship, we need to have a viewpoint like that of the prophet Isaiah, who told true worshipers: “Touch nothing unclean.”—Isaiah

    October 29, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Mirosal

      Kevin, grow up, get a life, and get your head OUT of that book of myths. I'll bet you think that a door to "hell" really will crack open don't you? Why can't you see that your entire "faith" is nothing but tales from a 2000 year old collection of stories that were 1000 years old (or older) by the time they were written down? Get your head out of that book. By your own saying, the entire planet is unclean. Does that mean you're going to walk around wearing a haz-mat siut for the rest of your life?

      October 29, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • CJ in Victoria CAN

      KEVIN, you need to grow a brain and READ some history before you post your repugnant nonsense here!
      I love that you can type nonsensical versus and drone this crap about Halloween. I suppose we should stop celebrating Christmas because Santa-Claus is actually Odin the Wanderer and Christmas was invented to replace the Saturnalia festival of the Roman Empire by the "Roman" Catholic Church in 14th C.E. Wow.. amazing what these idiot Fundies shall come up with next!

      October 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • Kevin

      Mirosal and CJ in Victoria CAN,

      (Romans 1:18-23) 18 For God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are suppressing the truth in an unrighteous way, 19 because what may be known about God is manifest among them, for God made it manifest to them. 20 For his invisible [qualities] are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable; 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened. 22 Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish 23 and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed creatures and creeping things.

      (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) 3 If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, 4 among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  5. Joshua

    Contrary to what Mr. Wlaters says, neither Santa Claus nor the Easter Bunny is "non-religious." The former almost certainly has his roots in pre-Christian pagan Yuletide celebrations and at the very least is explicitly connected to contemporary Christianity - being based on an actual St. as well as the English Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny and his Easter eggs are both very ancient pagan spring equinox symbols, both representing fertility and abundance.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Ravensun

      The very name for the Christians' highest holy day, Easter, comes from the pagan term for the spring equinox, Ostara...

      Christmas trees were co-opted, too. They're very much a pagan tradition, as is the Yule Log, and the very -date- of Christ's birthday celebration coincides with the winter solstice.

      Oh, and this Devil's holiday business? Please. No self-respecting pagan would worship a Christian god of evil!

      The name, "Halloween," comes from a contraction of "All Hallow's Eve," referring to the day before November 1st, which is All Saints' Day in the Christian calendar.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  6. stephen douglas

    Bugger off, fundamentalists! What hippacrates. Easter itself has pagen symbols, and that is probably the single most important Christian time of year there can be. Should we stop celebrating it? Furthermore, I always thought Halloween was a time to honor the dead, as in All Hallows Eve, so it was a time of rememberance. I see no problem with that. As for Christmas, I don't hear the outcry over the fact that it has become dilluted with glitzy marketing and overstressed shoppers. This is just some idiots sitting around with too much time on their hands, attempting to stir up some trouble in order to sound important or relevant.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  7. Paul

    Great, replace one make believe world for another.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  8. NorthVanCan

    Im going to trick or treat at the most religious persons house that i can find. Dressed as the devil. boooooo.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Isaac

      Mind if I join you? Sounds like fun!

      October 29, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      let's go trick or treat at rick perry's house, or mitt romney, maybe even pat robertson lol .. if we go to sarah palin's or michelle bachmann's, it won't do any good, they'll just think they are looking in a mirror when they open the door lol (names not capitalized on purpose)

      October 29, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  9. Isaac

    I'd never believe in a religion that is that narrow minded when it comes to having fun. Lighten up. There's no secret motive with Halloween. It's just wearing silly masks and eating candy!

    October 29, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  10. Allen

    In a conversation with my family several years ago the topic of the increasing violence and use of weapons to settle arguements came up. My mother wondered why this was happening more and more. I reminded here that for the first 10-12 years of my life, like so many other children I was given knives, guns, bows, arrows, and allowed to watch television programing which was saturated with combat at various levels (mostly cartoons); with the defeated left lying on their backs. We were desensitized to the realities of violence and the consequences. The same holds true with the holidays we so innocently celebrate. Chrismas and Easter both instruct us that lies and deception are okay if they make someone feel good (Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny), and Holloween lets us know that being evil, even for just a little while can be fulfilling. What great lessons for our children!

    Ephesians 6:12
    King James Version (KJV) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    God is real folks and so is the devil. So you best deside whose camp you want your children to feel at ease in.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • Mirosal

      they are real huh? you sure about that? Why are you sure? because some book and a guy at a pulpit says they are? Yea that's gonna fly. uh-huh... bring this "god" and this "devil" here.. go ahead, do it. Your "god" is in the same place as Zeus, Isis, Thor, Ra et. al. nothing but a modern-day myth, and in time it will be realized, just as all the other "gods" of the past are known as now.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      "God is real folks and so is the devil."

      And you know this how??? God is no more real than the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny you referenced in your post. You KNOW nothing...it is only your opinion. An opinion rooted in ancient supersti.tion by primitive men who knew even less about reality than we do today. Things like your God which show no manifestations in reality are equal to things that do not exist. Secondly I and all my friends grew up watching the harmless fun of make-believe violence in cartoons and never turned to violent behavior. That's a strawman argument. You want violence...read the Bible....now that's a book full of disgusting examples of violent behavior oft times perpetrated by your God himself.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • John Richardson

      Kids have played with toy guns and knives and bows and arrows for decades. Violent crime has been trending down in the US. Your sociology is as baseless as your religion.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Mirosal

      oh.. you mean that wonderful pure holy book that contains more murder, geno-cide, sacrifice, in-c-est, por-nog-raphy, betrayal, deception, misogyny, infant-ici-de, than almost any other book ever printed? Yea, that's a sure-fire way to win hearts and minds.

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

      God is real? Burden of proof lies on the believer!! Care to provide that please...we've been waiting for a very long time for this and every time a christian has the question posed to them they use circular reasoning and most times each christian has their own fairy tale version of how to prove said god.
      The only camp I want my child in is one where she thinks for herself and lives the only guaranteed existence we have knowledge of. I want her to know the verifiable truth, not stories that lie and brainwash or use the threat of hell as a way to control her. I want her to know that the age of the earth is 14+ billion years and not 6000; I want her to understand that humans have evolved from a common ancestral ape like creature to fit their environment; I want her to understand that she can be happy without the need for supernatural intervention. I want her to have the ability to solve her own problems in this world and to know that life has one beginning and one end and there is nothing thereafter (at least nothing that has ever been proven). I want her to take credit when good things happen in her life and for having the strength to get through this life without passing the buck.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • inthespirit

      The truth hurts Allen. I fear there are many hurting people responding to your words. One day, we will ALL know the truth and I for one am glad I celebrate it now.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Light In The Black

      So Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam will turn me into a killer......huh ?????

      October 29, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • SurRy

      It sounds as if you were raised in quite a violent home. I'm sorry. As children we were not permitted to play with toy weapons of any kind (including toy squirt guns). Perhaps that's why I don't need to rely on made up stories to tell me how to live as an adult.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  11. Michael

    I grew up in the South with Southern Baptist parents that dressed me up as something different every Halloween when I was a kid. My parents are both Christians and so am I and have never looked at Halloween as a demonic holiday. It was always promoted as a fun night with parties, games, candy, and yea of course costumes.

    If you don't want to join in on one night out of the year to have fun then don't but those that try to push there non-Halloween views down someones throat and make other feel bad for what they want to do is nothing but wrong!!! Let everyone believe the way they want to.

    It seems to me that here in America we have forgotten how to have fun. Everyone is so serious.....loosen up folks it just a fun night!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  12. Trevor

    I have an idea, why don't all you mentally challenged bible thumpers keep your imaginary friend to yourself and let the rest of us have some fun.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  13. chris

    for the kids have fun. For the teens, hava a blast, for tha adults, lets get trashed,

    October 29, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  14. Joe

    For kids- just let it be. For teens- co-opt it. For adults- counter it.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  15. chris

    Who gives a crap what they think about halloween. Have fun kids!

    October 29, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  16. Hosagi

    how can a halloween be a devils holiday when the religion that invented it does not believe in the existence of Satan or The Devil? Satan and The Devil are beings invented by Christianity and as such are not part of the Druidic Teachings. Forcing your Assumptions based on little to no fact on to a religion that you obviously have no clue about doesnt make it true.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      They get upset b/c this is one holiday that they haven't managed to steal from the pagans, unlike their theft of Christmas and Easter. This is one that they are up against another brick wall with b/c they can't find a way to change it to suit their delusions.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  17. Jim

    Halloween – Jesusween...whatever just so long as we're giving the economy its much needed boost. However, there is cause for concern lest people react too harshly.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  18. cecilia

    other than the fact that it is legalized extortion promoting begging – there is nothing wrong with it. Have fun kids and parents – I spent a lifetime watching my kids and grandkids having fun – what is the matter with people

    October 29, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  19. Hosagi

    i find it interesting that christians call Haloween a "Devils Holiday" even though the religion that invented it(the druids) have no clue who satan(or the devil) actually is.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Mentalcrunch

      Neither do you, and I dont think that you want to shake his hand!

      October 29, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Mirosal

      Bring this "devil" along... while you're at it, bring your "god" too. I fear neither one of them... if anything they both should be afraid of me, for within every person lies the power to kill off any god or devil. Just ask Zeus, Apollo, Isis, Thor, Odin, Osiris et. al. Oh that's right, they are all gone now!!! In time your "god" will disappear from society as well.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • John Richardson

      Pull what's left of your mind out of the trash compacter, mentalcrunch!

      October 29, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  20. Mentalcrunch

    Hernandez is actually acknowledging Halloween the way that he choses to. The holiday should be either ignored by Christians and without counter active celebrations or events, whey THEY deem somehow religious or righteous. Or Chrisitans should opt and simply be at home or church in prayer and fasting. That should be the only two options. Face-painting and candy giving is just a "Christians" way of celebrating Halloween, without acknowledging that that is what they are actually doing.

    October 29, 2011 at 7:50 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.