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.

Movies that scare the people who scare us

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.

I was a zombie movie extra

“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. teepee

    I cannot prove God physically to you people other than so many different forms of life that exist in such harmony on this planet...I can just about guarantee that the existence of God will be one of the last things on your minds before you die. Jesus saves.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      "different forms of life that exist in such harmony on this planet"

      Like all the wars that humans wage against each other? Like how we're all just perfectly safe from wild beasts, from bears, lions and alligators down to tiny little snakes and spiders? Like how we're all just impervious to the poisons found in numerous venom sacs (in animals) and those found in numerous plants? Way to go, god. Nice way to make us all feel safe and harmonious down here.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:49 am |

      Yeah, whatever moron.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • sybaris


      You really need to spend some time at the zoo

      October 29, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • bilal

      while i agree about God existence. Jesus saves? NO.
      Jesus never even told you that. we are all responsible for ourselves. We have been given a body with a thinking mind and alive soul. We must do good deeds for the day of judgement. I cant go out doing DUIs and keep having false hopes only because i heard the line "jesus saves". peace out..

      October 29, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  2. Scott

    I did not see any discussion that November 1 was cooped by the church as All Saints Day ( a church holiday) an the Al Hallowed Eve (halloween) was created by this process. Hallowen is direct result of the church taking away a peoples holiday (just like the reasons for WHEN we celebrate Christmas.)

    October 29, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Dur

      Well most of us who are relatively well educated know that, but those of us who are even more highly educated can see the parallels between pagan, islamic, christian, hindu, judaism, etc which lead us to see that all of them are silly little farces. No disrespect but your religious convictions are stupid, you should find something more constructive to do.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  3. teepee

    The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Dur

      There is no god, but there are remarkable patterns in nature that facilitate every action you see occurring in your daily life. god is such a nasty thing why would you even want to side with such an evil thing? I mean he is the one that gives us earthquakes (he designed the tectonic plates), disease (he created the first virus, which by the way 5-10% of your DNA is comprised of old and relatively new viral elements), and stupidity (he's the one who told you as a child that he was the only one to listen to don't pay any other philosophies any mind, they'll send you to hell). I have reasoned deductively that you are the fool for believing myths not unlike halloween.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  4. Newt Worries

    both beliefs are make believe........christians believe in a fake story and halloween is a fake story..........so is santa, the easter bunny, the tooth fairy......etc

    October 29, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • BD70

      Holloween may be make believe but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun!

      October 29, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  5. mitchfeinberg

    this is when it gets freezing cold outside its because of all the skeletons and stuff on the store shelves god says it should be 70 degrees all of the time there has to be some good reason because of god for halloween its proof the people of the world together really are more powerful than god groups of people together cause the controll over the world people have to know whats right the christians have to praise god for halloween god created the earth and god wanted there to be halloween its a holiday its people praying together for the halloween skeletons candles alcahol drugs kind of things and stuff its better to protect the world i believe that god will protect me inhalant inhalant thanks god it was its because of things that have died god created halloween to protect things that have died people dont know we have to have a holiday for people to pray together that is the reason why its the holiday for the people that have died praise jesus christ the ressurector of life and the giver of halloween thanks god

    October 29, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Ken Wilson

      Mitch- there is a key on your keyboard just 2 keys to the right of the "M" – it's called a period (looks like a dot) and will go a long way towards making your explosion of thoughts actually readable and somewhat more simple to comprehend. Oh, and capital letters generally follow the period, though not always as helpful/necessary.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Dur

      Jung-style collective consciousness is just as ignorant as Pope Damascus and the bible.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  6. teepee

    you non christian people have a point, but your insulting and unfair way of giving it kills any reason you may bring to the table.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  7. BD70

    These right wing christians need to loosen their underwear.

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

      There are fanatics in every religion.
      Let's not start assuming all Christians are the same like we love to do with the Muslims.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • IronDitka

      Thats why he said "right wing" Christians.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • BD70

      Maybe so....let me rephrase that....they ALL should loosen their underwear. Better?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  8. Myths

    Halloween is a celebration of the circle of time- beginnings and endings. Christianity, being especially connected to funerary ideas and imagery (you die to the old life and are reborn into the new) should be celebrating this holiday with gusto! You may disagree with how others "celebrate" the cycles of seasons and life/death, but banning such a holiday altogether is not an appropriate response. Taking the opportunity to teach our children to celebrate life, and how precious it is because we are, in our bodies, mortal, is something we should all seize. Show others how to celebrate it through example.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Norm

      As Colbert mentioned, Christians should love Halloween.
      Jesus...Rose from the dead (like a zombie) but we eat His body and drink His blood instead of the other way around.
      It's the truth so don't get angry...

      October 29, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  9. Lee P

    As long as you live in a democracy, then you live your life the way you want to live it, and celebrate whatever you choose to celebrate. There are some churches that condem Halloween, and tell their parishioners not to participate; instead they lock themselves in church and pray. If any of them dont like it, they can choose to walk out. Teh same goes for Halloween. I dont see anything wrong wit having kids dress up, and go out "Trick or Treating." You dont like it? Then dont take your kids out. There are also people that are fascinated by Horror, and getting a good scare from time to time, which is reason why Haunted Houses are now so popular, and Horror movies make up for at least 50% of all movies produced. You dont like it? Dont do it. Let people live their lives, and live yours in peace. Last: Grow up!

    October 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  10. Elliott Carlin

    Perhaps Halloween will become as commercialized as Christmas, thus attempting to render the message worthless.
    Can't wait to see how the Pagans tackle Easter.
    O wait, they already have.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Myths

      Oh wait, all Christian holidays include pre-Christian imagery and ideas, used to instead relate the Christian message. What's the problem?

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

      Dude get your facts straight. Pagan rites are at the heart of Halloween, Christmas, and Easter... Unless you think the jesus bunny came down from bunny paradise to give you eggs that you can use to cleanse your dirty thoughts, because you can't entire the eye of a needle or something like that... Lame.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  11. barbara

    I think we are one of the few countries in the world that celebrate Halloween. It's nothing but a money maker. I find it disheartening that with so many people starving in the world that Americans (despite our weak economy) can find the money to waste on candy (much of which later gets thrown out) and costumes. It's a stupid, stupid thing.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Babs, if the americans don't have their opium, they'll riot.
      let it be.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • sybaris

      And ain't it funny how the christian god answers the prayers of these people who participate in Halloween and ignores those of the starving people of the world.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Ken Wilson

      There's always something that can be given up in the name of feeding starving people. Like half of what you ate for breakfast. I'm not saying that we should ignore it, but the blanket "It's not fair because there are starving people" approach rarely produces any meaningful results. I celebrate Halloween AND donate money to overseas organizations that feed starving people, and everyone is free to do the same.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  12. teepee

    Christians are probably the most critical, and yet lazy religious people out there...as I've seen anyway...I AM a Christian...those people will send you to hell in a Christian second...yet they never publicly stand up for a fellow Christian (obama), they never publicly share the Gospel, all they seem to want to do is go to church, hold up their hands, close their eyes and sway side to side...Like that is so Holy...

    October 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  13. Twitchy

    "harvesting hearts for God" Now if that's not barbaric, I don't know what is.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • teepee

      no different than harvesting hearts for any other cause...surely you are smarter than that...there is something out there that you do care about other than picking your nose isn't it?

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

      Sounds like some sort of Halloween Horror movie. Teepee: I do have better things to do than pick my nose, but it certainly isn't fretting over some celestial "force" that apparently that apparently cares deeply for us, but then allows so much suffering to occur. Miracles, jesus, god these thinks are just as fantastic as the Pagans who also worshiped similar ideas. Open your eyes man Nature isn't god, you made him just as people have for centuries right between your ears.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  14. denvervet

    Ok, let me clear this whole matter up..........if you celebrate this holiday as a pagan and worship the devil and stuff like that then yes you will go to hell. If you celebrate it out of love and fun for your family there is nothing wrong with it. Would someone please explain this to the Jehovah Witness Cult?

    October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Dur

      Pagans didn't worship the devil as you seems to think.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • Ken Wilson

      There must first be a "hell" in order for it to be a destination. The bible is true because the bible says it's true...the bible is true because the bible says it's true....circular reasoning is true because circular reasoning is true.....starting to get the idea? Believe whatever you want (I believe I'm a decent-looking guy)....just don't punish others with whatever it happens to be (I don't parade around in a Speedo).

      October 29, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  15. Schoolgirl

    What those who object to Halloween celebrations fail to accept, see, educate themselves about... you pick the verb, is that what we celebrate as Christmas has it's origins in ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of... Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Egyptians believed that the winter solstice period marked the death and rebirth of their national god Horus, the god of the sky and the sun. Thus light was shed to celebrate him, and since Egypt was about 5,000 years from electricity a log would be burned for 12 days... Need I say more?

    October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Myths

      Don't forget Germanic and other Indo-European roots to the current celebrations and dates of most Christian holidays. The point is to celebrate our lives, the great gift given to all by God. What is the problem? Are we so ungrateful that we fail to enjoy and celebrate what God has given to us?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  16. Mike

    Christians like that should stop for a moment and think of the kids. Halloween lost all of it's inner rooths to leave it as a candy holiday for EVERYONE to have fun. In other words, it's not even a holiday associate with the church. A friend of mine couldn't pass halloween because of these so called rooth, but when i step up and told that to the parents, we had a blast having fun time together.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  17. 21k

    here they go again, wanting to impose their silly beliefs on everyone else. pretty soon we'll be back to drowning witches.

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

      no different than you imposing your prejudices against the Muslims...just saying.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  18. stannard

    Were God to be against halloween , it would go away. Why do some profess so much faith, an show so little.. The devil isn't more powerful then God.

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

      First off Halloween has never been about "the devil", what's the matter you scared demons are coming for your soul in a few nights?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • sybaris

      By your logic Hitler wouldn't have been born.


      October 29, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  19. Jean

    I thought all you guys were all about diversity. Live and let live. I always read these comments and you guys are always patting yourself on the back for your diversity. BUT, your lying to yourself. You do not allow Christians to believe what they want.. If some Christians want to not celebrate Halloween then what is the problem. They are not expecting non Christians or other Christian groups to believe the same way. They simply are not comfortable celebrating Halloween. How does that hurt anybody? Why do so many of you fear this? I think it is really remarkable how many people are afraid of Christianity. If we did not have Christians, how would the world be better off? Do you realize how many Christians volunteer and give money to help their fellow man?How many go to other countries to shelter and feed the hungry and cold? I think you should not condemn Christians because of a few bad ones that is really sad. So America do you really have Real diversity? I do not think so.

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

      Diversity is fine, culture is fine, but ignorance... ignorance is unacceptable.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  20. Little White Lies

    Gods holy day is Saturday.
    The Vatican has all you Christians going to church on Sunday.
    You are breaking gods law, with the approval of the church.
    I guess that explains those upside down crosses you see with the pope.

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

      You 'Christians' invented Halloween with your 'All Soul's Day', saints and your belief in malevolent spirits from hell walking the earth and controlling people. You created this tradition and now you reject it. You are not about following Christ's teachings at all. You are about fear and unhappiness. You want to control and suppress humanism. You and all the other 'religious' will always keep humanity from ever developing its best. Throughout the entire history of Christianity, those in control of religion have destroyed or suppressed so much knowledge and it seems that's what you all still want to this very day. You want everyone else to be dumb sheep that keep giving money to the pastor so he can buy another Mercedes Benz because God wants him to be rewarded for his work. The crap you rationalize astounds me.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:27 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66
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.