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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. Tam

    It's one day of dress-up and silliness. Get over it.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  2. trex

    Christians that truly believe that Hallooween is evil, should really start looking around themselves for true evil. Take for instance, if you drive a car, YOU ARE EVIL because we send troops to the middle east to secure oil and some never come back or are wounded severly, not to mention all the children and innocents that lose their lives due to this conflict for oil. . The reason they are there is YOU, the Christain who drives a car.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • trex

      As one who does believe, I am concerned for the ultra conservative, "Christians", that require YOU to believe as they do on all dogma. This is VERY TALIBAN LIKE.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  3. CT

    I dont classify myself as Christian and believe that Christians made it up like they made up everything else. For something to fear. Many people on this post have it it on the head. It was twisted up by the egoistic Christians.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      The same can be said about any other religion, not just Christianity. Heck, the same thing can even be said about Atheism. Perhaps there is a One true God and Atheists made up the idea there isn't one so there wouldn't be the accountability factor. You can go either way.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  4. Dorkus Maximus

    Jesus must be rolling in his grave over what some of these "Christians" are up to.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • groundlerings

      Jesus isn't in a grave.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  5. ttony21

    Jesus told me to love my fellow man. He didn't say anything about letting my kids (or myself) gorge on candy and dress up as Spiderman. The way I see it, that's a free pass from the man upstairs 😀

    October 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  6. BoldGeorge

    tallulah13 (like that moniker btw)
    YOU WROTE: "However, I feel very sad for your child. Dressing up for Halloween is fun and simply another way use your imagination. It's sad that you think that fun and imagination are evil."

    Thanks but you definitely don't need to feel sorry for my kid. He is a very happy and healthy boy believe it or not. And he has a tremendous imagination as most boys his age have. Most people have the wrong impression that if Christians don't celebrate certain holidays like unbelievers do, then our lives are boring and unimaginative. There's a lot to learn about biblical Christianity and I tell you, it's loads of fun. By the way, you don't have to always do what others do to have fun.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Since you say "There's a lot to learn about biblical Christianity" I can agree 100% with you. You can learn that Jesus was plagiarized from Horus, Mithra, Krishna, and Attis (among others) and there is absolutely no historical record of the man named Jesus because he is simply a mythological allegory like this rest of them. Everything Christianity brings to the table was taken from older pagan traditions and at the end of the day Jesus is a real as Santa (who ironically share many of the same historical myth too).

      So read up on that too and then you will see why all us "non-believers" just chuckle at the entire interference in our lives from all religions.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      True enough about the fun. However, there is no evil in dressing up. If there was, my nephew, who is a very kind-hearted teenage jock, would be in jail. When he was younger, there was no keeping that kid out of costumes. Halloween was his favorite time of year. I suspect he would still be wearing costumes and trick-or-treating if he could get away with it.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      tallulah...It's fun no doubt. I myself use to put on costumes and had a ball. But as I grew up and realized and learned the true meaning behind Halloween and the representation of it, I went against it. Hey, my kid dress up all the time, not just on this holiday. He loves superhero costumes so I play with him on any given day. I tell you, as a Christian, I couldn't have it any more fun. Don't know where people get the idea that we cannot or don't have much fun because we don't believe in Halloween or Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. There's a billion and one other things to have fun with. We just want to represent Christ and his Truthfulness in a most truthful way. There shouldn't be anything wrong with that, should there? Remember, biblical Christianity is not what people make it out to be. It's unfortunate that some people calling themselves Christians make others judge us otherwise.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I guess I just don't see the evil in Halloween, George. Kids (and adults) dress up. They have fun. Sometimes they do scary stuff. Very few people think any further than that. It's a chance for a kid to pretend to be something or someone else, get some candy maybe stay up late and watch a creepy movie. If that is evil, then evil really isn't much to fret over, is it?

      October 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Well, one day your child will grow up and perhaps learn about the evils of Christianity.

      October 29, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Solitude Santiago

    Some Christians, like Hernandez, believe Halloween’s pagan roots can open the door to evil. Hm.
    What about the Christmas tree? That comes from the burning of fir branches to celebrate winter solstice. Or Easter eggs and the Easter bunny who were the symbols of Eostrae, the goddess of fertility.

    October 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  8. Tyler

    lol at adults with imaginary friends

    October 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Surprised

    Halloween was originally a Pagan holiday and the Christians twisted it into the evil thing it is today when they concurred the Pagan cultures in war many years ago. Additionally, Pagans do not even believe there is a devil – that was also made up by the Christians.

    October 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  10. Rod

    Christians should celebrate their holidays with other Christians and leave the rest of us alone to enjoy our holidays.

    October 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  11. jemzinthekop

    Religion: Trying to take all the fun out of life since its inception.

    October 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  12. jonny

    Right Wing Christian Propaganda Machine hard at work.

    Nothing more.

    October 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  13. Al Russell

    Pope Julius adopted the Pagan Winter Solstice for Jesus' birthday in the 4th century, essentially creating Christmas in order to pacify the peasants who refused to give up their local traditions. Easter was co-opted from the Germanic Goddess Ēostre. Yule logs, mistletoe, holly berries, the Magi and the North star story, the great flood, a reincarnated son of God, all of that was swiped from various early non-christian faiths. There are really too many to count. All of Christianity is derivative of pre-existing myths from earlier cultures. So, why get all exclusionary at this late date? I guess Christmas, Easter and All Saints Day will have to go as well, unless they're all complete hypocrites.

    October 29, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  14. nina

    christians complain about the alleged interference with their celebrating Christmas and now they want to ruin Halloween?

    Maybe xtians need to lighten up, and mind their own lives instead of other people's

    http://ntrygg.wordpress.com

    October 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Al Russell

      This is because many Christians refuse to accept that other faiths have any value. The same rules simply do not apply to them because only they are right and everyone else is wrong. There really is no reasoning with people who refuse to see any viewpoint but their own. If they were able to reason properly we wouldn't be seeing articles like this one.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  15. klarg

    So very asinine. The holiday, as presently observed, springs from a melding of Celtic observances, and All Saints' Eve (All Hallowed Eve) the evening before the All Saints' feast day observed by the Catholic church. So the holiday has long been co-opted. Of course, many of the most vociferous opponents of Halloween come from a denominational heritage that frequently questioned whether Catholics were Christians – so a bit of the Halloween "backlash" comes from this combination of ignorance and bigotry.

    October 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  16. bettyboop

    These people really get on my nerves...idiots. If you ask a child what does halloween mean to them they will tell you...getting candy, dressing up and getting candy. These "adults" on their holy pedestals are the only ones concerned about the "evil" it brings. Give me a break, let the kids be kids and get some free freakin' candy. Oh and I am a Christian.

    October 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Surprised

      I agree. It was the Christians who made up Halloween to put over All Hallows Eve years ago. It was originally a time to celebrate our deceased loved ones because the belief was that the separation between the realm of the living & the realm of the dead was the thinest and easiest to communicate with them. Of course since this was the holiday of a religion other than Christianity, the Christians had to make "their own" holiday. What is known today as "Halloween" with all the scarey stuff was invented by the Christians. Get over it Christians!

      October 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • gggfg

      i dont actually know anyone scared of halloween. cnn must have found the 3 people that are out in the woods or something

      October 29, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Neville

      I don't think there is anything wrong with Halloween. I think its origin is an evil thing but its just not the same today. Still i think if people don't think its right to celebrate it, im not going to complain if they want to stay home..

      This is coming from a kid. and seriously adults are so ridiculous getting worked up about this. candy just rots your teeth anyway.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  17. Nancy M. B.

    My mother had a saying - "Somebody's always tryin' to take the fun out of life." That applies to those fundamentalist killjoys who try to demonize a perfectly nice, innocent, fun holiday. Get a life, already!

    October 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Dick

      My guess is that this is why fewer and fewer kids are returning to the church upon reaching adulthood.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • wayh

      To Dick......Bzzzzzt, wrong answer. You sure are ONE,D–k!!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Guest

      Dick, To get grown up go to church is to brainwash them with religious stuff when they are innocent kids. How about let kids be kids and let their adulthood free of that nonsense brainwashing at churches, mosques... Please leave kids brain free...

      October 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  18. supernaut1988

    grown ups that have imaginary friends are dumb

    October 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  19. hawksky

    There should be no discussion as to what Christians should do about halloween. It is a pagan holiday, not a Christian one. Christians need to stop defining other peoples beliefs. Christianity is your choice, practice your religion and learn to respect others religious beliefs.

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

      You are half right. Halloween comes from All Hallowed Eve, the evening before All Saints (Feast) Day. It is a melding of Christian observance and Celtic observance.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Except religion exists to preach tolerance, not actually practice it.

      October 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Allie

      Actually Christianity doesn't teach tolerance. Christ did say to be kind to one another, but he was very authoritative about teaching the gospel to everyone, not just letting them go their own way. ( :

      About Halloween, however, I don't see a whole lot wrong with it..

      o.o

      October 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  20. Light In The Black

    100 people go down in a plane crash.
    1 person lives.
    Christians thank god for the 1 who lived.
    But dont blame god for the 99 who died.
    Could your god not stop the plane crash ?

    The christian answer is always........God works in mysterious ways.
    Pathetic.

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

      100 people go up in a plane flilght
      1 person dies.
      Non-Christians blame God for the 1 who died.
      But dont thank God for the 99 who lived.
      God could have stopped it, but why?
      We don't want Him interfering with our lives anyway.

      The non-Christian answer is.....Stay out of my life (unless I really need you,
      or about to die with 98 others in an irrational illustration of justified unbelief)

      Some say it's narrowminded to say that Jesus is the only name by which man must be saved.
      When in fact, it's a miracle that God loved us enough to make a way for us to be saved at all.

      God is good even when Christians and Non-Christians are pathetic.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • groundlerings

      You should study other spiritual traditions, B. You'll find there are many ways to reach what our culture calls God. Christianity provides but a few of them.

      October 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • G

      B,

      October 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
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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.