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. notChristian

    There are far too many problems with Christianity in general for me to go into detail on, so I'll stick with one issue that stands out from this 'article';
    Currently, many political, religious, or social groups tend to use misleading language intentionally to serve their agenda. No one is more guilty of this than the American Christian Right.
    They are playing on the fact that Americans have been dumbed down, and don't have a good vocabulary, or the drive to improve their existing vocabulary.
    There is NOTHING inherently evil about Paganism. It is simply a religion that is not Christianity, and therefore it is perceived as being in direct conflict with Christianity. It pre-dates Christianity by thousands of years. It is the worship of the Earth, for all intents and purposes, and the FACT is, Christians have killed MILLIONS more people in the name of Christ that Pagans ever did in the the name of the Earth.
    Christians: You choose to worship Jesus as the Son of God. Not everyone shares your belief. Get over it, already. I'm not a Christian, and I'm not evil because of it. Just educated.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Well said.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • agnostic

      notChristian, you can also add the part where Christianity likes to steal holidays from paganism. A religion bred on fear ... what a great way to have faith.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • snotrockets


      October 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      your not evil just going to hell.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Michael

    Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • JonSnow

      Proverbs 29:20 (NLT)
      There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • JonSnow

      Also, if that verse you quoted up above was true Mike, congratulations, you worship a sadist.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Gwen Lee

      The Lord does not "make" wicked people. We have our agency to choose whether we will be and do good OR be and do wrong. We have our agency to choose but we do not have control over the consequences of that choice.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • JonSnow

      So Gwen, are you saying th bible is WRONG? Interesting. You are making claim that the bible, (an infallible message from God) is in fact fallible.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Steve

      II'm not particularly religious, not a member of any denomination but Halloween is nothing more than the glorification of evil and a desecration of the dead, the way it's celebrated in the US. Although it has non-Christian origins like most holidays including Easter and Christmas, the emphasis on evil is especially bad for children. The incredibly macabre celebration of Halloween gets worse every year. How much better to just celebrate the fall harvest.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Gwen Lee

      JonSnow, It is wrong to take one passage of scripture to totally prove a point. We must take all that has been said on the subject to get a clear picture of what the Lord wants us to know. Therefore, to use the scriptrue quoted to "prove" that God made the wicked is incorrect. The scriptures indeed say that the wicked will be destroyed (day of disaster), but they also show that we have our choice whether we will be one of the wicked or not.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Manish

      Makes sense.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • JonSnow

      Gwen. So to sum up what you said:

      1. I took it out of context.
      2. You can't hold passages of the bible to actually mean what they are saying.
      3. Everything is up for massive interpretation. (Your interpretation)
      4. Even after all that, the bible is still valid and to be taken seriously (But only the parts that are valid and to be taken seriously.)
      5. This part, is not one of those parts.


      October 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Steve, I find your post to be confusing. I know there can be cemetery vandalism on Halloween, but that's something that happens throughout the year, anymore. And there are drunk, stupid people on every holiday. I don't see any "glorification of evil." What I see on Halloween is the chance for everyone to use their imagination. Have you looked around at the decorations people put up to celebrate the day?

      People at work lighten up a little, have a little fun. Yesterday my friends and I spent our lunch break at the dollar store, buying silly costumes for our co-workers. We got a lot of laughs with those, something most workplaces could use in these times of economical stress.

      Personally, I think it's a hoot when I see a kid in his/her costume six months later, in a grocery store with their mom. It gives me hope that imagination has survived.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  3. Gwen Lee

    I would much rather celebrate Christ's gift of Life and Heaven rather than Satan's chains of Death and Hell.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • JonSnow

      How do you feel to know that you were so awful you made god kill himself?

      October 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I would much rather enjoy harmless fun in this one life that I am given than waste my time hoping for an afterlife which has absolutely no proof to support its existence.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  4. Anti Sarah

    Look, they're just p!$$ed because they didn't called back on October 21. Better question: Should the heathens take over Xmas?

    October 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Despite the whining of the "Christianists," the legal holiday on December 25 has become for most Americans The Holiday Of Childhood Remembrance," and we wish the "Christianists" would stop trying to force us to celebrate THEIR way–like with Halloween.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  5. Michael

    Proverbs 15:31 If you listen to correction to improve your life, you will live among the wise.

    32 Those who refuse correction hate themselves, but those who accept correction gain understanding.

    33 Respect for the Lord will teach you wisdom. If you want to be honored, you must be humble.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • JonSnow

      Genesis 38:8-10 NASB

      Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  6. Bob

    There is no "debate" aside from a small minority with extreme views, as is the case with most issues, the media is making you think you have to take a side or have an opinion on something that has peacefully existed in the mainstream for decades. Another lazy news item that gets trotted out every year.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Coty

      Perfectly said Bob!

      October 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Light In The Black

      Its a story, stop shooting the messenger
      because you dont like the message.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  7. CarrotCakeMan

    Most Americans would appreciate if those "Christianists" who want to tell us how to live our lives would tend to their own lives instead. "Christianism" is not a religion, it's a right-wing political movement that pretends to be churches so as to avoid taxation and IRS auditing, so they can use their money to throw elections in violation of IRS regulations. REAL Christians DO NOT seek to force their "beliefs" onto others.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  8. Michael

    James 4:4 You are not faithful to God. Don't you know that to be a friend of the world is to hate God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      Hey, he made the world for us, so excuse us if we show a little appreciation! Bugger off!

      October 29, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • JonSnow

      Deuteronomy 23:1 ESV

      No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  9. Jdomn

    How are Santa Claus and the Easter bunny NOT religious? Santa Claus is based on a Saint who was a follower of Christ... I mean, that's why "Santa" is part of that name. Our way of celebrating him might not be historically accurate, but it isn't intended to be. Just because many people celebrate the holiday and attach no spiritual meaning does not mean it is no longer Christian– it just means a lot of nonChristians have adopted a Christian tradition. The Easter bunny is a symbol, but it is a symbol of the Christian holiday because Easter is about eternal life, and rabbits are a great symbol for life because they reproduce so quickly. Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are categorically Christian.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      No, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny are ways Americans celebrate these holidays without the ugly "Christianist" attempts to tell everyone else what to "believe."

      October 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • matt houston

      According to University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration - and the Easter bunny - can be traced back to 13th century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.

      Spring also symbolized new life and rebirth; eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility. According to History.com, Easter eggs represent Jesus' resurrection. However, this association came much later when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany in the 15th century and merged with already ingrained pagan beliefs.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Joe

      Do a Google image search for Todd Schorr – an amazing surrealist painter – and Santa and the Easter Bunny. The painting of Santa and EB going at with knives and axes is priceless. All while a baby Jesus looks on eating a chocolate bunny.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Joe, those are great. Thanks for sharing.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  10. Michael

    1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love is not in him. 16 For everything that is in the world does not come from the Father. The desires of our flesh and the things our eyes see and want and the pride of this life come from the world. 17 The world and all its desires will pass away. But the man who obeys God and does what He wants done will live forever.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • JonSnow

      2 Kings 2:23-24 NKJV

      Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  11. Tim

    CNN- lets find out what each small ignorant segment of society thinks about every benign holiday celebration and post it as a headline on your site! That's great and worthy journalism!

    October 29, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Jdomn

      This was my favorite comment. Thanks Tim. Nothing like some quality "journalistic" pot stirring.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      CNN is doing the right thing, warning us about these "Christianists" without condemning them, so ALL Americans can make up our OWN minds to reject "Christianism."

      October 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Light In The Black

      I guess Tim will decide from now on what is worthy
      for the rest of us to read.
      Tim, if you dont like a story.......dont read it.
      Also, do you actually think CNN will read and listen to your post ????
      MOW RON !!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  12. Michael

    1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance

    October 29, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • JonSnow

      Genesis 19:30-36 NIV

      30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

      33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

      34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

      36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Are you saying your deity tells you to seek free advertizing? Well, thanks for showing us your "all-powerful" deity can't even get its own free advertizing.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Light In The Black

      From the Smurfy Bible.

      Bow before my Smurfiness
      give all of your Smurfberries to me keep none for yourself
      Smurfette will be blessed with many Smurfy babies
      Smurf the other Smurf
      Smurf no other Smurf before you

      My book is just as good as your book.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  13. hawaiiduude

    Are we going to also have an article published here that will read: "A Jewish debate over Christmas: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?" or "A Jewish debate over Easter: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?"

    I don't think so. That would be anti-semite.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      or maybe we should have "A Christian debate over Talmudism: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?"

      3ws encyclopediaegypt dot com/israel/l032001.htm

      that has got to be the scariest book out there.. watch out stephen king!

      October 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  14. Michael

    Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • JonSnow

      Proverbs 21:19 (New Living Translation)

      It is better to live alone in the desert than with a crabby, complaining wife.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Jdomn

      JonSnow... You can't say you disagree with that Proverb, can you? lol

      October 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Emilio Dumphuque

      That's words from Saul of Tarsis. I wouldn't trust anything he said, if I were you!

      October 29, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  15. Joseph

    If you want a truly frightening story that will give you nightmares just read the history of CHRISTIANITY. Oh, and for those who live in glass houses need not throw holy crosses....

    October 29, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • hawaiiduude

      i;m even more scared by the anti-christian teachings found in the talmud. Who's so called bible is that anyway? It's the most anti-christian religion out there!

      October 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  16. John


    October 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • tallulah13

      John, I've made it my mission in life to follow you around and "Report abuse". These videos are not on topic and the music is boring new age tripe.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  17. john316

    I thought all Organized Religion was one big "Helll House Ministry"......we just need to tax them like every other corporation.....

    October 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • The real john

      Please. The athiests would be up in arms having to pay taxes just to hang out together. That would be a travesty

      October 29, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • JonSnow


      I know! All those daycare centers would be the hardest hit! AMIRIGHT?

      October 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  18. Light In The Black

    **** Entil'za

    "The Council of Nicea never addressed the books of the Bible (and thus could not have changed them)."


    October 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • JonSnow

      Yeah, they only just chose which books could give them the most power and control. Gosple of Thomas? Nope. Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Ignatius? Nope.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  19. Mtnmedic

    It cracks me up to see "Good Christians" celebrating Halloween and sucking up to the marketing hype that is. Hypocritical idiots.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • LPC

      It makes me sad to see "Good Christians" being fearful of children dressing up in costumes and getting candy from neighbors once a year. I am a Christian who fears not the candy...or the costumes.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  20. Michael

    Ephesians 5:11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

    October 29, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Joseph

      Dressing up like a pirate and asking for candy is NOT mentioned in the bible. Go back to whipping yourself for watching CSI and stfu..

      October 29, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Jdomn

      Grounderlings, I accidentally clicked report abuse when I went to click reply. I'm sorry about that. My web browser froze for a second, but I didn't mean to do that. Even though I don't agree with what you said, I appreciate that we have the opportunity to disagree.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Jdomn

      Michael, that is a beautiful passage, but it doesn't say anything about a silly community tradition in America. When an 8 year old dressed as Super Mario comes to my door on Monday, should I try to save his soul? Get real. I think Jesus has bigger fish to fry.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • LPC

      You see Michael, as a Christian I view it as foolish to be afraid of little children having fun and dressing up in costumes to get a little candy each year.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • THX

      "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God." – Ecclesiastes 2:24

      Eat, drink and be merry. God wills it.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • PFUI


      Rantings of that nutty Paul of Tarsus again - pfui!

      October 30, 2011 at 12:12 am |
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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.