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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.

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. GOD

    Maggie

    John4:23 states "Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him."
    Is there any thuth in Halloween? How can any body call themselves a true christian and get involve in lies. You need to read your bible again or if you do not understand what you are reading,you need to ask for holy spirit so you can understand the way of God.
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    MAGGIE.................This is GOD
    Stop reading that silly book, i did NOT write it.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • LPC

      Sorry, I don't see God as being too worried about little kids dressing up and getting candy once a year. I'm thinking it makes him smile just as we do. I am a Christian.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  2. Boogeyman

    imight dress up as Pat Robertson this Halloween...NOW THAT IS A SCARY DUDE!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  3. Joe

    The Christians already co-opted Halloween centuries ago. That's why it's called Halloween–the eve of all hallows day. The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when the dead were thought likely to walk the earth again, was turned into a day to honor the souls of those who had gone to heaven. Best they just leave it alone now, since their co-opting obviously never got rid of the original pagan intentions anyway.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • mattmchugh

      You make the mistake of thinking the type of person that objects to Halloween on religious grounds can be influenced by fact or rationality.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  4. Boogeyman

    i respect Jesus PBUH and Christianity..i respect Muhammad PBUH...i respect MosesPBUH and real Judaism(not zionism)....but i laugh at you fundamentalists lunatics from all of these and other faiths who want the world to be as sick...twisted and as sad as you....pathetic people....let the kids have fun losers!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  5. Cody

    Well Christian have been copying, appropriating and vilifying Pagan holidays for centuries....why stop now?

    October 29, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  6. Colin

    It is beyond me how Christians can consider their belief as "monotheistic". They believe in God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, guardian angels, normal angels, saints, Satan and demons, all of whom are immortal and have magic powers of some kind (or "sacred powers" if you see a difference) and periodically visit the Earth from their magic "after-death" kingdoms. Just becuase there is a "pecking order" to their deities, as with the Greeks, Romans and Hindus, does not make them monotheistic.

    It is a sad indictment upon our intelligence as a species that so many of us, in the 21st Century, still subscribe to this Dark Ages hocus-pocus.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • JPX

      Word.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • thepreacherspeaks

      Colin, if you're going to claim the illegitimacy of Christian doctrine then you first should be familiar with Christian doctrine. All orthodox Christian doctrine (arguments about who that includes is for another place, but suffice it to say "normal Christianity") states there is 1 God. Trinitarian doctrine, which exists as a subsidy of understanding under the Doctrine of God, provides explanation of how 1 God exists in 3 persons. I'll admit, it's our best guess at understanding how God appears in multiple forms (father, son, holy spirit), but it is a logical effort at understanding something that is otherwise illogical or above logic. Plus: this goes back WAY farther than the Dark Ages. 🙂

      October 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  7. RobK

    You know what? It's a fun time for kids to dress up and be scared and get candy. I don't think I have EVER in my entire life met someone who actually celebrates Halloween as a some pagan holiday. Suck it up people.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  8. Naomi Kraft

    I find it interesting that very few of the posts here note that the "church" had the Day of the Dead and All Saints Day as a intercated part of their beliefs 100's of years before Celtic records show any such worship of the dead. Seriously people do the research if you must have an opinion.

    Also check history. Halloween wasn't celebrated in the USA until the ealy 1900's. Guising or dressing up was child's play. If you must have an opinion at least get the facts straight. Then choose you reasons for or against celebrating. Thanks you for your time.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  9. CrapWeary

    Will Americans never grow weary of attacking and defending the simplest pleasures and traditions of our country? Can nothing be done and enjoyed without an argument? Are we becoming more and more like the religious zealots we are constantly at war with when we interject religious arguments into every facet of the American experience? Isn't it ridiculous to equate something as innocuous as Halloween with devil worship? Come on people. Lighten up, live a little, and don't let yourself find a way to start an argument over life's simple pleasures. Isn't daily life hard enough without all that crap?

    October 29, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  10. ollie

    it is really sad the christian bashing on here. Some people are very conservative and others not as much. Im not sure the need to bash christians, joke about jesus, etc.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  11. Little White Lies

    Uncouth Swain

    Hey Swain, the kool aid is poison.
    Stop drinking.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  12. RickRam

    The ultra-right Christians say they hate Halloween. But then they go to church and pretend to eat Jesus' flesh and drink his blood. There's something extremely wrong with this picture.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  13. Chris

    Celebrating Halloween is just plain wrong! Remember, Haloween is Satan's Birthday!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Boogeyman

      Loser...who the heck told you that ?.......have you ever had an IQ test?

      October 29, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • RickRam

      And Thanksgiving is the turkey's death day.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • JPX

      Certainly you must be joking, right? Only a high school drop out would hold that opinion. Why not celebrate Satan's birthday? He doesn't seem like such a bad guy, he's just misunderstood.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Chris

      Yes, that was just a gag!
      http://www.landoverbaptist.org/subjectarchive/halloween.html

      October 29, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  14. humanbean

    And the Christians steal yet another holiday from the Pagans and make it their own. Can they not come up with anything original?

    October 29, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Boogeyman

      lol

      October 29, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • JC

      Yes, we can. It's called RESSURECTION. No other Pagan Religion owns this one. 🙂

      October 29, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • TheMoreYouKnow

      *Sigh*
      The church strategically created the celebrations when they did in an attempt to make the transition from paganism to Christianity easier and further spread the religion without changing too much from the converts way of life. What they did was rather smart actually...

      October 29, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • tallulah13

      Hey, JC. Osiris says you're lying.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Mattyj

      Yeah, Christians didn't come up with the resurrection either. Look up the story of Osiris...

      October 29, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • PallasAthene

      Hey JC. I hate to burst your bubble...wait no I don't...but Christianity doesn't own resurrection. By any means, it definitely does NOT. Before Jesus, Osiris had 12 disciples, died and was resurrected three days later. Mithras also had 12 disciples, and was resurrected three days after his death. Oh and both of them were 'virgin births.' The Mithras deity was 600 years before Christ.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  15. MN Man

    Some people take their mythology so seriously!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Boogeyman

      is celebrating the theft of native American land on Thanksgiving un Christian too?...im sur Jesus never condoned genocide on the natives!

      October 29, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  16. Halloweenlover!

    do the research, cnn, Halloween, the old Celtic new yr. is older than 1,400 yrs! Why do some Christians think Halloween is the Devil's day, when the Religions the existed before Christianity DIDNOT worship satan, cause they wouldn't have heard of that till Christians came along. Just because a holiday existed before Christianity came along, doesn't make it evil. BTW thanks for getting a level headed response from the Methodist. The Methodist church I grew up with had a Halloween pary every yr:) IT's a free country, if you don't want celabrate fine, but let my favorite holiday alone!

    October 29, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Little White Lies

      *** Halloweenlover!

      do the research, cnn, Halloween,
      ---------------------------
      You actually think CNN is going to read and reply to your post ???

      October 29, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • JC

      Ummm. Christianity means follower of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the Creator of all things seen and unseen....sooooo.....if Christ exsited before everything was ever created because He is GOD, then that makes Followeres of Christ cominging before any man-made religion. Let's THINK before we write, please.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Mattyj

      Wow, JC. Jesus was alive roughly 2000 years ago. The is a lot of recorded history of the time before he lived. People in this time had religion as well. People didn't start following Jesus until he was alive. Therefore followers of Jesus came after followers of other pre-existing religions. This isn't hard...

      October 29, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • BoldGeorge

      It's a shame to see that you know more of Halloween history than Christian history for that matter. That's almost like saying you know more of G.I. Joe than WWII history. For your info, humanity has been worshiping God and many other deities well before Jesus walked the earth. You can call yourself an atheist all you want but it is a basic inner human trait to look up to a superior being whether you were brought up with it or not since childhood. It's been proven. But it's free-will that dictates as you grow up, that you either choose to lose this indoctrination, stay with it or shift your beliefs elsewhere. As for me, I use to like Halloween, use to love. Had lots of fun but when as I grew and learned it's history and who were really behind its inception, I lost interest in it. I am a Christian and I cannot be into both Christ and Paganism. I choose Christ.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  17. MVV

    Christians should know that one of the pillars of our faith is the triumph over evil and death; it began with Lucifer defying God and being cast from Heaven, Christ rejecting His temptation in the desert and then as the originally worded creed denoted, “Died for our sins, descended to hell (modern: the Dead) and then rose again.” Being a Christian means recognizing that death is everywhere, but we should not fear it as we have been delivered from it by Christ and our faith in Him. Some would suggest that Halloween is in fact a celebration of this spiritual triumph; a mocking of the occult and a recognition that it is in no way equal to the power of God.

    According to the American Catholic, “A later custom developed where people would go door-to-door on Nov. 2, requesting small cakes in exchange for the promise of saying prayers for some of the dead relatives of each house. This arose out of the religious belief that the dead were in a state of limbo before they went to heaven or hell and that the prayers of the living could influence the outcome. This may have been the precursor to Trick-or Treat.” As a priest once said to my students, “Have fun with Halloween, don’t take it seriously, and most importantly remember the solemnity of All Souls and All Saints Day.”

    If we want to take the true “evil” out of Halloween, turn on our lights, accompany our children, be vigilant in our supervision and build upon our community by meeting a few neighbours. The seriousness of life and benediction of the honoured dead will, too, have its rightful place in November.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • JPX

      I hate to break it to you, MVV, none of that stuff happened. It's called "make-believe". Stop wasting your life on nonsense.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  18. RobynH

    It is very interesting that the very same ultra right wing "Christians" who constantly bellow obnoxiously about the non-existent "War on Christmas" are so eager to denigrate, attack and destroy the celebration of any group or faith or belief that does not follow their own narrow-minded, intolerant guide to salvation and living. Freedom for Crazy Christians ONLY.

    Being forced to spend eternity in the company of these people, now that would be Hell.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  19. SIGH.

    Fundamentalist christianity should really be considered a cult. The level of psychological abuse is insane. As a child, I went to a fundie church camp where they would have "campfire night" – a special HUGE bonfire was built and the "counselors" (if you want to call people engaged in psychological torture counselors) would walk around the fire screaming and pointing at the kids, yelling stuff like, "You see this fire? Imagine being inside this fire! Imagine your skin melting off! And you beg and scream for a drop of water and none comes!!" To clarify, this was done to 8, 9, 10 year old kids. This happened every year at camp. I wouldn't allow my child to step his big toe inside a fundamentalist church. These people are sick. And that's not a judgement – it's a FACT, from experience.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Little White Lies

      Go Lions.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  20. Jesusstolemybike

    Then Do not celebrate it, Your religion stole all the holidays anyways from the pagans. Halloween was called old hallows eve a day to honor the dead of the loved ones. It is said on this night your dead loved ones can return for one night to visit the living. The Devils holiday??? How dumb can you be this holiday was around long before The christian religion was even formed. Do you not find it strange every holiday you stole has turned into nothing more then a gimmick for making money?

    October 29, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • DOUG1975

      slighly off there – Nov 1st is All Saints Day – the day to honor the saints and martyrs... Nov 2nd is All Souls Day – the day to honor our departed loved ones and friends. i know, slight technicality. but youre right. Oct 31 was called All Hallows Eve, but was shortened to Hallow'een. No one really can debate that throughout history the church took the 'if you cant beat em, join em" approach to pagan celebrations as a way of converting them – after all, just look at Christmas and Easter (which were solstice celebrations)

      October 29, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • TheMoreYouKnow

      A. The church strategically created the celebrations when they did in an attempt to make the transition from paganism to Christianity easier and further spread the religion without changing too much from their way of life for converts.
      B. All Hallows eve is the day before All Hallows Day which is now referred to as All Saints Day and the day after is All Souls Day.
      C. Samhain, the Celtic tradition your referring to, was a medieval celebration meaning that no it was not around before Christianity.
      D. Yes, they have become capitalistic times to make money; however, the people who have turned those holidays into such a thing don't represent the Church, They are merely taking advantage of a way to make money.
      E. I don't know why you are so angry at Christianity but you shouldn't speak about something unless you know...

      October 29, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • JC

      Ummm. Christianity means follower of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is the Creator of all things seen and unseen....sooooo.....if Christ exsited before everything was ever created because He is GOD, then that makes Followers of Christ coming before any man-made religion. Let's THINK before we write, please.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Mattyj

      Hey! That f'er stole my bike too!

      October 29, 2011 at 11:47 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.