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. BoDacious01

    I think "Christians" should refrain from celebrating any holiday that is of pagan origin. Leave it to the Neo-Pagan, Spiritualist and down right Heathens to have the fun associated with Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.... The Christmas tree and Easter egg are both pagan symbols usurped by Christians to try and convert Pagans to Christianity.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      Yes, you're very right. When Constantine made Christianity official in his empire (read the 'Edict of Milan'), he basically ordered many Christians to practice some paganism with their non-Christian counterparts, therefore inserting many pagan ritualism into Christianity. Many other versions of Christianity (false doctrines) were born from this event. True Christians, however, will know the difference between Christian-paganism and true Christian doctrine.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Matt V

      In that case you should refrain from celebrating Christmas as well. The date of Christmas was set to coincide with the winter solstice, a pagan holiday that signifies the changing of seasons, so that the transition for paganism to christianity would more convincing to a pagan if many of the holidays remained in place.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Crz

      The Puritans thought Christmas was ungodly. Of course they disliked Halloween as well. They thought people shouldn't do anything on Sunday but go to church and pray. They didn't like sports, theater, dancing, cardgames, the list goes on and on. It seems possible that these latter-day Puritans are heading for a similar sort of belief structure. I got one word for them: Restoration. If you take away the fun, the fun will come back with a vengeance 😀

      October 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      Matt V...And you are right also.We do have a get-together to celebrate Christ's birth. I mean, we believe in Christ, His virgin birth, His death and resurrection, so we honor Him only on such dates. And it's a good way to see family and friends we haven't seen all year long and talk about the true Spirit and meaning of Christmas (for Christians of course).

      October 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'm curious, George (no pun intended). What day do you celebrate Christ's birth, since December 25 is really a pagan holiday?

      October 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Crz

      Huh. The formerly loquacious BoldGeorge has fallen quiet. I'm sure he'll answer tallulah13's question any minute now.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      tallulah...we celebrate Christmas on Christmas. But we celebrate it Biblically, just remembering through prayer, the meaning behind Christ's birth. I never wrote Christmas in itself is a pagan holiday. When you add the commercial aspect of it, like just gift-giving, shopping-madness, Santa Claus and partying, yes, that's when I think pagansim is the mostly influential aspect of Christmas in this day-n-age. But anyone can add paganism to anything Christian. Doesn't mean I have to "go with the flow".

      October 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Crz

      So you must celebrate it in the spring when Jesus was actually born, right? The Romans started celebrating his birth on the old holiday of Saturnalia, which was part of the Solstice celebration. I guess they thought it was appropriate because that's the day the sun god was born. But real Christians don't follow those old Pagan beliefs, do they?

      October 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  2. Dr. Rev. Cecil Peason Jr.

    Why do we need to put a "Christian Spin" on everything? Halloween also known as all hallowed eve, is not the devil's birthday. The costumes were originally worn to scare off evil spirits, not to bring evil spirits to the surface. Is Halloween a christian holiday? Not really, but neither is Columbus Day, or Martin Luther King Day. Yet people have to difficulty in taking those days off work. Christians have holidays, Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. Not every holiday has to be about Christians. Halloween is not even a legal holiday. It is a day for kids to dress as all sorts of people, and go take part in the good will of the neighborhoods, and businesses. Imagine that, people giving something away for no real reason. No wonder Christians are having a problem with the festival. People are actually showing good will towards each other no matter the religion or church attended. I love Jesus with all my heart, but guys, this is unreal. Christians need to stop worrying so about kiddy festivals, and start worrying about real problems like giving coats and blankets to the homeless, and giving food to those who are hungry, and even more so, judging their own lives rather than hopping up on a soap box and judging someone else.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  3. sally sue

    God has three or four holidays, why shouldn't the devil have at least one?

    October 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  4. Edyce Smith

    TRUE Christians, do not celebrate any secular holidays because they all have pagan backgrounds. TRUE Christians adhere to Bible principles and commandments. TRUE Christians are the same 24/7, not just on Sunday. The apostle Peter and the other disciples stated "You must obey God rather than men." In today's shows us how far so-called Christians have veered from True worship

    October 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • groundlerings

      Since th Bible didn't exist until centuries after Christianity was founded by a Jew, did no true Christians in those first 3 centuries?

      October 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  5. Klaark

    Co-opt it, like you have every other pagan holiday, you pathetic nutjobs.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  6. Patrick Williams

    I am a Christian. I believe that God exists and Jesus is His Messiah who came to lead us back to our origin (The Infinite One). The only thing we can take with us from this life is the Love, compassion and kindness we developed and showed to our fellow-humans and any true knowledge. That is it. I just wanted to state this since many people seem to be against believing in anything they cannot sense with their 5 senses.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  7. Let It be...LET IT BE!

    I don't tell them NOT to celebrate christmas. And I don't combat the christmas holiday. So why go against the Halloween holiday?

    Just worry about yourself. Leave everyone else up to themselves.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  8. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    America already has a Halloween tradition – watching the Tear Pity Tea Party Inbred DNA Mutant Tri-Polar Disorder One-Celled Brain Intelligence Deficient Maggot Puke KKK Fox Nazi News Junkie Mentally Handicapped Moronic Tribe of Uneducated Racist Greedy Insane Ant=Government Freak Show Loser Brigade Cult debate who hated Obama and the middle-class the most.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • groundlerings

      Although I'm an Obama supporter, your post makes you no better than the worst of any ideology. Stick to the topic.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Light In The Black

      Put this to Hip Hop – you may have a hit ...............................................

      SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

      America already has a Halloween tradition – watching the Tear Pity Tea Party Inbred DNA Mutant Tri-Polar Disorder One-Celled Brain Intelligence Deficient Maggot Puke KKK Fox Nazi News Junkie Mentally Handicapped Moronic Tribe of Uneducated Racist Greedy Insane Ant=Government Freak Show Loser Brigade Cult debate who hated Obama and the middle-class the most.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  9. Magilla824

    What could be more horrifying and Hallowe'en-like than a religion based on human sacrifice?

    October 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  10. fritzzler

    I smell a Jew behind this question. Divide and conquer. would you ask this about Judaism and Kabbala?

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

      Would that Jew's name happen to be Jesus?

      October 29, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      grounderlings: Hee!

      October 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  11. Seek Truth

    Jesus Christ (translated means son of isis)
    Real name "cesarian (son of cesar)
    also son of cleopatra.
    Ceasar was declared a god by the roman senate, so Cesarian was the son of god.
    Cleopatra declared herself the reincarnation of the Virgin goddess isis
    so Cesarian was the son of a virgin.
    Cesarian is now the hier to both the throne of Egypt & Rome.
    Rome & Egypt go to war, Egypt loses, and Cesarian flees to India for 13 years
    and studies Buddism.
    The 33 year old cesarian returns to Palestine as jesus Christ
    to avoid capture and death by Octavius, who has claimed the throne of Rome.
    Jesus was crucified as a political figure that was a threat to rome
    and a threat to the Jewish priests scared of losing thier power and prestige.
    Jesus did NOT die on the cross.
    He was given a foot board to step on (no other prisoners ever had)
    He was taken down early, and given special herbs that only the rich could afford.
    Jesus (Cesarian) married his half sister Now called Mary Magdalene and they had two children.
    The blood line lives today as royalty.
    Your whole bible story of Jesus was hijacked by the church.
    They dont want to lose that cash cow, or the control they have over the minnions.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • rh

      wow..... may God be with you.... you are going to need Him... BIGTIME

      October 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Shells


      October 29, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • sk8ter02a

      Its amazing how real history can get mixed and twisted into legend over thousands of years. I think religion has done enough damage to the human mind. It held us back for generations with promises of heaven and threatening us with hell. People have such a strong need to believe in something they believe to be larger then themselves. Let the kids have their halloween and their imaginations

      October 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Sam

      Seek Truth, you need to give your life to Jesus Christ who will take away the veil the devil has put on you as evidenced by your post. Jesus loves and died for your sins. Accept him today and put the devil to shame. Everyone is a pilgrim passing through this world, but where you spend eternity is a matter of choice. But I can assure you He is ready anytime for you and He is waiting for you because he loves you!

      October 29, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Brittney

      And exactly how do you know all of this?

      October 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • TheSara

      Excellent Post!!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • groundlerings

      The whole virgin / messiah mythology we think of for Jesus existed in ancient Egypt long before it was transferred to the Jesus story. We've really been duped by rewrites of history.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Livelystone

      What a bunch of baloney........ there was no foot plate for Jesus and true followers of Him today work the same miracles that Jesus and the Apostles did!

      Including raising the dead.

      On the other hand there is a blood line of Jesus and it is available for anyone willing to have His blood sprinkled on their heart.



      October 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Chad

      Seek Truth:
      Where in the world do you get that stuff from?

      It cant be gotten from the bible.. Is it just made up, what's your source?

      October 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • groundlerings

      Livelystone: you're just regurtigating the mythology you've been raised to believe but offer no evidence to negate the post to which you are responding. Simply claiming that something's true because it's in the Bible reveals a profound lack of knowledge about how the various texts were written, rewritten, and voted upon by the more powerful of the early sects to define what they believed happened centuries earlier. The Bible is fine for general reference of a time, but is far from the Word of God.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  12. Nom de Plume

    An interesting series of posts that fall along predictable lines. There are a few points that should be cleared up.

    The question is whether it's appropriate for Christians to celebrate Halloween. Part of the problem is that, with the strong supernatural overtones, it was hard to put a Christian spin on many of the traditions. Neither All Saint's Day or All Soul's Day have really offered a replacement for the old traditions. And for a long time, Halloween folklore in the post-Pagan British Isle had a decidedly dark tone.

    Secularists, perhaps unaware of the long history except for the high points, ask "What's the big deal? It's all imaginary fun." This is surprisingly similar to the Christian take on such things. It would do well to recall this issue has come up many times with pagan observances, starting with 1st Century questions about discount cuts of meat that had been offered to idols.It really comes down to two points: Does it dishonor Christ, and can it cause other Christians to sin?

    Before anyone thinks this is nit-picky, consider a communion table inscribed with the words "This do in remembrance of me," with a child in a devil costume sitting on it. (yes, that's happened). That's not cool. Or consider that some forms of divination games that were once part of Halloween folklore are considered sin by Christians. Both are the same issues that faced 1st Century Christians when confronted with pagan practices, and the same metric applies.

    Modern efforts to put a Christian spin on Halloween pretty much falls along the lines of the CNN article. Treating it as a harvest celebration actually takes it closer to the more benign aspects of ancient celebrations while allowing children to enjoy dressing up in costumes. Hell Houses take advantage of the seasonal emphasis on horror.

    Emphasis on how Christianity has co-opted pagan traditions seems overblown to the point where some have claimed observance of Christ's resurrection is "borrowed" from pagan spring celebrations. Actually, we Christians celebrate Christ's resurrection in the spring because historically it's tied to Passover, which happens to take place in the spring. The egg bit has been Christianized to the point where it's hazy – how much is dues to pagan tradition and how much is due to Lent? At one time, Christians weren't supposed to eat eggs during Lent, but were permitted to eat rabbits.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • groundlerings

      You should study more history and the movement of various Christian sects out of the Middle East and into Europe. You are incorrect if you believe there's no connection between Solstice / Equinox celebrations and Christmas / Easter (originally a Pagan celebration called Eostre).

      October 29, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Nom de Plume

      Grounderlings, if you look at history, you find that the Venerable Bede in the 8th Century wrote that the Germanic tribes once honored their goddess Eostore in a period called Eostur-monath, which roughly corresponded to the month of April, and feast during that time were named in her honor. Bede also wrote that by his time, feasts to Eostre had died out and the Germanic people called the paschal season Eostre. Bede doesn't elaborate, but most likely it has to do with a feast during the month of April, and the celebration of Jesus' resurrection occurs from late March through April, depending on the Paschal Moon. Note that the term "paschal" comes from Passover, a Jewish feast already ancient by the 1st Century.

      Note also there was already a feast celebrating Jesus' resurrection. It's not unusual, then, that Germanic tribes took to calling the big feast after Lent, which usually took place in Eostur-monanth, after their old big feast in the same month. To take that and say observing Jesus' resurrection came from the feast of Eostre would be a bit like claiming the Fourth of July was taken from ancient summer solstice festivals.

      BTW, if the name Venerable Bede sounds familiar, he's the same one who invented the idea of the Christian era, what we call AD.

      October 29, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  13. NNW

    Yes, the origins of Halloween are in deed Pagan. However, any critical look at the version of Christianity produced by Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicea (i.e. mainstream Christianity), would reveal that many of its practices and beliefs are also heavily Pagan. The reason is obvious and political: the Council needed a religion that the Roman population could accept, which at that time was battling between Christianity and Paganism. Therefore, any Christians who would reject Halloween because of its Pagan roots would also have to reject many aspects of Christianity due to the same. The end result would look something like the practices of "Messianic Jews" or very early Christians.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Nom de Plume

      Bad history, NWS. The only conflict between Roman pagans and Christians in the 3rd and 4th Century were the persecutions. Other than Christians not participating in some observances and all sorts of rumors and half-truths circulating among non-Christians, there wasn't much friction. The 1st Council of Nicea came about because of friction among Christians, over such things as when to celebrate Jesus' resurrection, over the nature of Christ, over whether someone baptized by a heretic needed rebaptism, whether to accept Christians who had recanted under the last persecution, and maybe a few other issued. Co-opting pagan traditions for Christian celebrations was a separate issue, adopted piecemeal.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Ground Zero


      All true.
      But the larger problem was this.
      Everybody had a different idea of what Jesus was.
      Some followed the book of Mark, others the book of Luke, ect, ect.
      Constantine wanted one book to unite all of the factions.
      Or to put it another way
      to control the massess.
      The church does not want you to see the real Jesus.
      The real Jesus had no use for a church where you passed a plate for money,
      The real jesus taught that god was in your heart, not in a church.

      Thou shall not have false gods...................
      Everytime is see a picture or video at the vatican
      people are bowing/kneeling in front of the pope.
      Why do we need a pope ?
      You are supposed to have a personal relationship with god
      Now the church steps in and says you have to go thru me to get to god.
      Rubbish !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  14. itsjustme

    Christians are forgetting that MANY holidays have pagan roots.

    Halloween is one of them - it is Samhein to the Pagans and Wiccans. A high holy day that is in honor of the dead and the signification of the turn of the wheel of the year.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • ohsnap

      You are right, which is why I don't celebrate any of them. I don't care if others do, but I don't join in.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  15. Gwen Lee

    I so agree with what Steve just said about Halloween:
    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 12:41 pm |
  16. Nick

    Traditional media. A few individual pastors and the writer implys that most Christians believe like them. The media like most non-Christians do not have a clue to what mainline Christians believe and why they believe it. Talk about making a mountais out of a mole hill, a classic example.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  17. Livelystone

    Christmas and Easter are Christian holidays with pagan roots that have been successfully planted in the hearts and mind of the church, thus separating the church from learning the truths that would release blessings from above.

    Who cares about halloween, it is not a Christian holiday nor is it a day of worship....... it is chance for kids to have fun and for parents to spend time with the neighborhood children.

    Churches that make a big deal out of halloween are missing the real monster in the mirror



    October 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  18. CommonSense

    Jesus, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are all equally mythical figures. Of course, everyone with an adult mentality knows that. But the latter two are useful, enjoyable happy characters.
    But there is no joy in from an ignorant, hateful character who says repugnant, sadistic trash like this:
    "Do not love the world or anything in the world. "
    The Bible, celebrating two thousand years of Ignorance and Hatred.

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

      so does the talmud. Mostly against christians.

      October 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  19. Deba

    I think christians use their satan as an excuse. Halloween is a time when people can put on a mask and escape the shackles of their inhibitions. Christianity feeds on inhibition, hence they're going to consider its absence problematic.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  20. Eric Rife

    Religions are intellectually bankrupt and without moral authority. A pox on them all.

    October 29, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
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.