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. Ryan

    They must be forgetting that the majority of "christian" holidays are specifically around pagan ritual dates or pagan symbols such as the ester egg.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Question Everything

      SHHHHH don't say that too loudly, you might cause a stir in the flock.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  2. Brandy

    You can either reject it, receive it, or redeem it. A lot of Christians have decided to redeem the evil part of it, with Halloween Harvests at the churches to provide a safe environment still letting the kids dress up, and allowing them to play games and have candy. Easter and Christmas are considered pagan at their origin. But, as a Christian, our church and many others have redeemed the holidays for the celebration of our Lord, and not the pagan gods that they originally served. The bible even says not to get hung up on "disqualifying" ourselves from our reward in Christ because of what other people think about holidays or celebrations.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  3. chris

    who cares

    October 29, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  4. Lady Morgahnna

    Love Halloween and Love Samhain! Happy New Year! The wheel keeps turning as it always has and always will – Blessed Be!

    October 29, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  5. Brune

    The Christians have cause some much trouble and conflict throughout history for thousands of years. Why can't they just their beliefs to themselves as with other religions and let people live their lives. Life is what you make of it, if you do bad things bad things will happen in return and vise versa. It is wonderful to believe in God but ultimately, what you do in your life is what makes the changes in it.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  6. David

    The funny par is if you replaced every Christian reference with an Islamic reference the same people calling Halloween evil would be all over his article trolling Islam and calling this article Islamist propaganda.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  7. The Dude

    Christians started Halloween by inventing the Zombie Jesus story. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eqKb5ViN_Q

    October 29, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • The Dude


      October 29, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  8. The Dude

    How about Christians go FUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKK themselves?

    October 29, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Dur

      I love that video, I think it encapsulates a number thoughts a lot of us feel. It's too bad we don't have any alternative that would make ignorant people feel as safe as their jesus.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  9. Suzy

    BTW I hope everyone has a Safe and Happy Halloween!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  10. kyle w

    Faeries were believed to roam the land during Samhain, dressed as beggars asking for food door to door. Those that gave food to the faeries were rewarded, while those that did not were punished by the faeries. This is reported to be the first origin of the modern "trick or treat" practice.
    so i guess giving food to the poor is evil now?

    October 29, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • sybaris


      And there you have it. Something that christians are sorely lacking in.............knowledge of history, germane and/or external to christianity.

      Religion depends on ignorance for survival

      October 29, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  11. Suzy

    Some people just absolutely amaze me. It's funny how I was just having this discussion a few days. Someone comes into my store and buys 100 dollars worth of candy. I said "you must get allot of trick a treaters" and he said No that Halloween was of the devil. I then asked what was he going to do with all the candy?? He said his church was having a festival Monday night. I said and you see a difference???? He didn't say anything and he left and I didn't want to push it because I didn't want to lose the sale..lol People can sit back and say they don't do Halloween because it's of the devil but I am here to tell you that if you Celebrate Halloween Day in any way shape, form or fashion then you can keep your mouth shut about those babies that go trick a treating because your no better. I mean kids dress up and go door to door to get candy and some churches decorate, kids dress up and they get candy..Now I ask you, what the heck is the difference other than the children are a little safer in the church? There is no difference, it's just a different way of going about it.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  12. Millard Roswell

    Christians need to take a pill and hide somewhere until Halloween is over. You people have THREE months to celebrate Christmas (and I know that because the Christmas junk is ALREADY in the stores) Halloween is ONE day out of the year where kids and adults can run around in costumes and not have their sanity questioned (thanks Lewis Black) And if youre scared of paganism, take a little look at the pagan origins of some of youre other favorute holidays. Ill get you started: Christmas and Easter.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • Pipy


      October 29, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  13. Just another addiction!

    I know so many young "born again" people who grew up with alcoholic parents. It seems to me these folks have just exchanged one addiction (alcohol) with another (extreme Christianity). In neither instance does the individual take ultimate responsibility for their life. Very scary - much MORE so than a few Halloween costumes/customs!

    October 29, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Lady Morgahnna

      I agree wholeheartedly!

      October 29, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  14. Brooke Franko

    The problem that seems to exist is that Halloween has Pagan roots that are rather obvious. On very close inspection, however, most of Christianity has great ties with the old Pagan religions. Also, Halloween is not evil. The sometimes pranks that occur have been much more recently been added to the holiday. Some groups will never get over their problems with Halloween because they are in such denial about their own religion's roots. The bottom line is, id does not hurt anyone to go trick or treating. Other vicious tricks will continue even if there were no Halloween and some Christians will continue to be against anything that they do not understand.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  15. Chris

    God knows your heart. Celebrate the way you want and let God take care of the rest. You know in your heart, as does God, what you are celebrating. Enjoy it!

    October 29, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  16. ReligionIs4Dolts

    I dunno about Xians, but Halloween should be a big hit with Muslims, especially their women, since they're trained to wear costumes in public all the time anyway.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • bilal

      only becuase my clothes look different than yours doesnt make me the scary guy. Might wanna cross your state lines one time and i could promise, there is a big world out there that DOES NOT dress like you or HAVE to dress like you. thanks.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  17. rinchi

    You realize most of Christianity's beginnings are rooted in paganism? This is absurd.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      What? You mean they ripped off Yule and Samhain and who knows what else from pre-existing pagan culture. Nooooo. Not Christians.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • rinchi

      I know, right? Let's just ignore that fact the entire Christmas story isn't even IN the bible! THIS holiday is the evil one! Not the one that is a total lie!

      October 29, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • JD

      The KJ version Bible clearly tells the story of the birth of Jesus in the manger and the shepherds and the wise men visiting. You need to actually READ the Bible before saying something isn't in it. His birth is what the Christmas story is all about.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      You obviously have no knowledge of Christianity. God made a Covenant with Abraham and his heirs, the Jewish people. They are His Chosen People. They may forget that from time to time, but God never forgets or breaks His Word. Jesus was Jewish so salvation started with the Jews and continues with those that accept the Gospel message. Monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are not rooted in paganism which typically worships the creation, not The Creator.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      Here we go. SouthernCult! Gee, the Jews name themselves as the people chosen by the god they made up? Don't see any conflict with that? Hmmm, well there was certainly no way to corroborate since no one else on the planet called their god Yahweh. However, sure enough, other cultures that had absolutely NO CONTACT with Jews or the Middle East, DID have their own gods (Native Americans, for instance). How did that happen? Hmmmm. Don't suppose you ever ponder that do you?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Perhaps you have heard that for those that believe no explanation is necessary, and for those that don't no explanation will suffice? God's existence can be proven by reason as well as by faith. You evidently lack both.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      SouthernCelt: You cannot disprove the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster just because you can't see Him.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  18. Little White Lies

    **** Entil'za

    Oddly enough...many ppl saw Jesus. Moses even saw God. Sorry...you are wrong. Invisiblity is not an aspect of God.

    Moses was fiction, he is not real.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  19. teepee

    Lord, so many people responding to this subject going to hell when they die...

    October 29, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • rinchi

      As a Christian, you cannot say that. Only God determines who goes to hell, not you or your righteousness.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Victor81

      No such place. Just a concept created for power and control of weak minds.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • bilal

      hmm this must be a very common line with christian people. one time i had this x-air force guy who even faked crying for me saying he cant see me going straight to hell for not being christian. so, the bible i read it asks for the reverance to Jesus to follow him not to become a super judge yourself or some sorta allotment incharge of the heavens and hell.
      If God starts judging us, i have no idea how many will succeed for the better place..
      if heaven and hell theory is right then christians got it all wrong about them going straight to heavens. ummm very wrong. Rewards or punishment = Justice. if its only Rewards regardless of the deeds then its NO judgement for christians.. i dont believe it, sorry.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      No such place? Exactly what the Evil One would like you to believe. Several Saints have seen it, including Sister Lucia (one of the Fatima children). You could have asked her but she died a few years ago. I suppose you don't believe in Heaven either? Can't have one without the other.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  20. leothefirst

    The fact that this is even up for discussion shows how incredibly narrow-minded the Christians have become.
    Halloween is worshiping the devil? Get a life!
    Halloween is having a fun time and if you radical Christians (and yes, I call you radical if you try to force your believe system on every freaking thing on earth) should read what the bible says about tolerance.
    I am Christian and I will dress up, have fun and so will my kids.
    I am against radical elements in every religion. If you personally don't like Halloween, stay at home and lock the door. But don't force your opinion on everyone else.

    October 29, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Sandra

      Who's forcing you to do what?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • leothefirst

      Everyone who tries to convince me that Halloween is celebrating the devil... And everyone who wants to make me believe that I will go to hell for doing it.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Pam

      Halloween came from Pegan worship and if Christian's celebrate Halloween, they are celebrating the origin's of this Pegan religion, no matter how you want to look at it. It may seem harmless to celebrate but if you call yourself Christian, ask yourself....would Jesus celebrate Halloween, Is it something that God would approve of? Research how Halloween got started, and then you might change your mind. Being a Christian means taking yourself out of wordly customs that are not from God.

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

      Christmas and Easter also have pegan roots. Would Jesus celebrate those? The Bible defines the holy day of the week as Saturday, would Jesus go to church on Sunday?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • SouthernCelt

      Traditionally, All Saints Day is Nov. 1 (even for Protestants :-). "Hallows" meaning "saints," and "mas" meaning "Mass"; the preceding evening (Halloween) is the "Vigil or Eve of All Hallows". It has a lot in common with the day before Ash Wednesday, particularly in New Orleans.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • leothefirst

      " Being a Christian means taking yourself out of wordly customs that are not from God."

      That made me think...
      I guess I will leave church and become a real Christian again. The crusades, conducted in the name on Jesus, were certainly something God wouldn't want. Children being molested by catholic priests is certainly something God would not want.
      I tent to believe if Jesus would see what evil has been done "in his name" he would turn his back on what is called his religion.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:13 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.