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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. Katy Holmes

    First of all I just wanted to say that our "invisible" being is what you may think it is, Jesus can manifest his presence to beleivers who have enough faith. You should not bash others beleifs, and what this article is trying to say is the same thing that our church has been saying for years. Halloween is what you make of it, we celebrate it and dress up and get candy, play games, and go on hayrides. However, when you see the sick and demented people dressing up like horrific and satanic beings this can have an effect on children as well as others who are vulnerable and without faith. This is scary to most Godly worshipers, and makes us feel uncomfortable. I dont think it can be stopped, we just choose to distance ourselves from it by celebrating at our church. I just wanted to say a few words about this situation, and hope that you all may find the Lord and know how good he is, as well as all of his promises. And know that God, Jesus, and his promises are not a myth but are in the Bible and are very real. God Bless!

    October 29, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • stannard

      Tis a spirit not a ghost..don't you believe in the holy spirit . Why would we not instruct inform and celerbrate .. God bless

      October 29, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • 21k

      but he didn't help out SIX MILLION innocent people who were murdered by the nazis, eh? oh that's right, they weren't on your team.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  2. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Christians should leave holidays alone. They have already co-opted, stolen, and assimilated enough culture from "unruly" pagans. In fact ALL religious FREAKS would be better off just keeping their stupid $h|+ to themselves, then no one would have any problems with them. What an idea!

    October 29, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      Your comment is so civilized isn't it? You atheists push your non belief on everyone so what's the difference?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • sybaris

      The difference that non-belief is the default mode.

      You are not born believing in gods and do so only because of your environment and ONLY through subscription to hearsay. The problem with that is people gain political stature and make decisions based on those beliefs and imagined whispers from their divine leader, so they say. This affects the lives of millions of people and based on what would individually be called a delusion but en mass called a religion

      October 29, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      Well, your arguments at least were methodical and didn't resort to petty name calling so I'm not going to argue with you. I pray that you at least keep your mind open to the possibility of God and hope you have a good weekend.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • JonSnow

      @Joxer

      Saying "I'll pray for you" to someone who doesn't believe in the same fairy tales as you is just like the Christian version of giving someone the finger. Shame on you.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  3. jim

    Christians should leave it alone. They stick their noses in far too many things that are none of their business. The Romans had the right idea. These days tigers are endangered. I'll bet they would fancy a fat christian as much as any lion.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Jeannot

      Religion would have gone bankrupt a long time ago if management of other people's lives was not a business principle.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  4. Chris

    What a bunch of clowns. Same people who think Harry Potter leads kids into eternal damnation. Really?? I mean...really??!! You think God, the omnipresent and omnipotent creator of the universe gives a rat's tail about innocent kids dressing up in vampire costumes. Get a freaking life, weirdos.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Raider Steve

      Couldnt have put it better...

      October 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  5. real christian

    there goes cnn anti christ again... christian debate???
    no real christian participates in this nonsense...

    October 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Raider Steve

      real Christian? Here we go......

      October 29, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      Hmmm, you remind me of the Pharisees in the Gospels. Love is what Jesus taught and all you should be concerned about. Love of God and Love of others.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • JonSnow

      No, they just take the holiday over and say there is "no debate". Don't they?

      October 29, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Evidence or GTFO

      No True Scotsman

      October 29, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • KeithTexas

      Why are you here then? Not one of the real guys I guess.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  6. Jeannot

    Doesn't anyone question the enormity of debating what other people can or cannot celebrate?
    Are we just a big spiritual Gulag?

    October 29, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  7. Nathan

    Ha! You got me! I thought this was going to be an at least half-serious attempt at journalism that would inform us about All Saint's Day and the history of Halloween and explore whether and how All Saint's Day might have meaning in contemporary life, Christian but maybe secular, too–or even analogues in other faith traditions. Instead, we get one more religious nut and no serious reporting at all.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  8. Sun&Sky

    The decline of Catholicism has the church terrified of losing its money base. A day will come when the Catholic church will be relegated to a few parishes in the middle of nowhere. None too soon, IMO. Besides, there is only one true goddess, and Her name is Nature: treat Her well.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  9. CarolBrady

    Who cares???
    These adults against Halloween are the same people who, as children, delighted in the day.
    Religion has warped their sense of fun.
    Get a life you barrel o'freaks

    October 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Judith

      Or have they warped religion?

      October 29, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • CarolBrady

      Sadly religion is warped.
      Only in religion could a murdered be a martry, a pope who looked away from the child abuse in the church is on the way to being a saint...pretty warped

      October 29, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Jeannot

      From the moment when other people dictate how and when you communicate with God, something's fishy. I think our communications with your imaginary friend(s) should be personal, and WE should decide its impact on our daily lives.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  10. iamdeadlyserious

    So no one can have the one pagan holiday that Christians didn't co-opt?

    That's just plain mean.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  11. Beth Batzel

    I am a Christian author. I have two books published. The first one is all about spiritual warfare. It was my pastor who insisted that the book be written, to let people know that even Christians can be attacked be our enemy.. yet receive the victory through Jesus our Lord. It has stirred up much debate... The second and newest book, is "The Furnace of Affliction, finding and overcoming the hidden sin in our lives". This book let's us know that ech one of us will at times "mess up'.. (sin) yet, we have an advocate with the Father.. Jesus, and again, it is only through him, that we have victory , and overcome!.. As to your "debate" on Halloween, it is understandable why many people allow their children to "celebrate" this event. Over time society, as with many other things of God, has dismissed and CHOSEN to ignore the root of this event and time, and only focused on the "party "atmosphere, they have created. Therefore if ANYONE speaks ( even basic TRUTH) against Halloween, they are viewed as an extremist, a religious fanitic, or a "bah humbug" individual... So, in truth we can "debate" all we want .. but the truth of the matter, is twoflod,... one, we absolutely need more teaching on the matter.... and then it simply becomes one's CHOICE.... just keep in mind to every choice ( good or bad) there are consequences!

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

      As a true Christian I am very pleased that I have not read your books.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • CarolBrady

      Wow, so you drank the kool aid a lot huh???

      October 29, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      Why is it that most Christians forget that it all boils down to love? Love God and Love other people, that's all there is to it. Do you really think dressing up as a scary monster is going to invite the devil into your life? Christians need to get back to those two core values and get rid of all the extra mumbo jumbo.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Chris

      Ma'am, what you really sadly don't understand is that this is precisely what Jesus was NOT all about: one is not a Christian because he says all the right things and abstains from swearwords and reading the "wrong" books. One is a Christian for the things he does or doesn't do to others, for his true and non-ostentatious faith, for his or her prayers and everything that's hidden. And because Halloween is no longer a Pagan holiday, but just a party event, there is also nothing wrong with it, just like there is nothing wrong with reading Grimm tales or Harry Potter to kids. Vampires, elfs, werewolves and dwarfs have been part of our common imagination for centuries...reveling in those stories is not a sin, and it won't "open the door to evil". So why don't you go back and read the Bible a little more closely, instead of pointing your finger (which is again something Jesus would not endorse). Tx.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • rose

      Im waiting for the day when religion goes the way as these pagan holidays. They lose steam as people lose fear.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      @ Chris IMO you are a wise man. I think you truly understand what Jesus was trying to teach people.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • Ba'al

      I'm seasick from tryng to read your haphazardly strewn drivel. Isn't a large part of being an author the ability to use proper grammar to convey ideas effectively? Guess not...

      As to Halloween; you christians need to mind your own %#*$ing business for once. We non-believers actually embrace the idea that you have the right to live your lives as you wish, within reason. It speaks to your arrogance and intolerance that you won't afford others the same right.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Chris

      @ Joxer: I do, and I have a strong feeling that you'll go to hell and roast there until 2823 while the devil is plucking out your eyes. Greetings.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      @ Chris Ummm, Ok. I'm going to assume that was a joke and give a friendly ha ha. Greetings to you too.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Chris

      @ Joxer. It was. I am in a foul mood. Shame on me for ruining my Saturday morning with a silly discussion about Halloween. Enjoy your weekend.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      @ Chris You too!!

      October 29, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • JonSnow

      Please, keep writing this stuff. More examples of why religion hurts society as a whole are welcome.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  12. Jeannot

    Religion being first a tool of control, it is normal that religious people just can't leave other people alone.
    Conversion HAS to be part of the business strategy in order for the religion business to survive.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  13. sybaris

    Hmmm, dressing up like characters from fairy tales once a year or going every Sunday to worship a fairy tale character.

    Your call

    October 29, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • JonSnow

      Don't forget that you worship a zombie, but dressing up as one? That's a nono. Oh, and you get to eat and drink that zombies flesh and blood. But if you act like you are doing that on Halloween? That's ALSO a no no. Isn't religion coo?

      October 29, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  14. Judith

    In true Christianity the 31st of October is properly known as "All Hallow's Eve," the "Eve of All Saint's Day." It is marked by a vigil and then on the 1st of November, All Saint's Day is a celebration of the lives of the saints.

    Halloween is not the same as All Hallow's Eve because as stated above it is a pagan festival but it has no connection to Satanism or Satanic Verse. Halloween in pagan verse is generaly called "The night of the restless spirits" and is as equally holy as the Christian version.

    However the general population look at halloween as nothing more than a evening of silly pranks and equally silly costumes without any connection to God, The Saints or Satan and such a celebration is as valid as either the Christian or Pagan versions.

    To say as somebody did that it should be banned along with Christmas and Easter because they show that lies and deception are good because they make somebody feel bette is simply absurd. To say that Santa Claus did or does not exist shows ignorance and little more because Santa Claus is the legend of St Nicholas who was in fact very real and if anybody reads his story they will see the connection with today and why children hangs stockings over the fireplace. The Easter bunny is in truth a simble of the new beginning of life and they use rabbits because the first floury of new baby rabbits occurs around Easter and new things start to grow, though Easter no longer follows the seasons since 1956. Ask a woman what Oestrous Cycle means.

    What is so wrong about a little deception if it makes another person feel better? How many times have soldiers told their dying buddy that he was going to be alright when in fact he could see he was going to die? How often do men tell their wives they look great in something when it makes their rear look like it was stolen off of an elephant. Somebody will want to kill the tooth fairy next.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      The tooth fairy is a myth spawned from Satan. Only through Jesus can we have money left under our pillow at night when we lose a tooth. Praise the Lord.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Rick

      Very well said.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Deception is one of the worst traits of the human race, whether it's telling an ugly person that they're not ugly, or refusing to tell a person who smells bad that they F*in' STINK, or letting a lying politician get into office because the lies he spun during campaign were just sooooo pleasant to listen to,..... but then we all knew they were lies to start with because all politicians lie to get into office and then they never deliver! The list goes on and on, with religion being perhaps the worst offender! Humans are so pathetically stupid and weak that they require fairy tales just to get by?! Give me a break! Not me!

      October 29, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  15. pmmarion

    I notice that they did not say anything about what Catholic's believe. November first is All Saints day and the day before is All Hollow's Eve. And it does have religious significance for some. Personally I think it is ALL a bunch of stuff and nonsense, but hey, that's just me.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  16. Charlene

    OMG , Halloween is a night of fun for little kids and a chance to dress up. It is hardly a Satan worshiping free for all. Some of you people need to lighten up .Yeah we're all going to hell for dressing up and going door to door .

    October 29, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Judith

      I sure hope you all have fun Charlene and as a Christian, if I was forty or fifty years younger I would be doing the same.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  17. Steven Colo

    These are the same folks that tried to ban Harry Potter, right? We still have Harry Potter and we will still have Halloween. They seem to believe that they can stamp out anything they disagree with.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  18. mike mcglynn

    Christians worship jesus number 23 thats right; the 22 other jesus like myths exised centuries before jesus with most of the same stories of virgin birth rising from the dead exc. exc. its just a follish myth to control. nothing personal; just that jesus was not an oringinal son of a god.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  19. Reality Check

    So let me get this straight every sunday and on major holidays "christians" can gather together and "worship" their invisible being, but its up for debate whether other people can dress up as other non-existent imaginary beings ONE DAY out of the year?

    October 29, 2011 at 8:37 am |
  20. todd

    Hell Houses. So we can scare you into believing what we want you to believe. Remember folks, keep Saturn in Saturnalia.

    October 29, 2011 at 8:36 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.