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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. Bill

    "You've got to be taught before its to late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You've got to be carefully taught."

    October 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  2. sweetcraver

    Why should anyone be concerned when Christians don't approve?

    October 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Red

      Ha! I agree. (Christian here, btw)

      The loudest among us are often the ridiculous and not doing anything. The quietest among us are visiting hospitals, running NPOs, and giving back to the community. Imbeciles like Pat Robertson and Michelle Bachman speak loudly, marring all of Christianity's name. It's upsetting.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • TR6

      Just look at what they did to stimcell research

      October 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  3. reikimaven

    I have no problem with fundies (or anyone else) having whatever relationship to the Creator that works for them. What I DO have a problem with is the fundies trying to force their views on everyone else. If everyone would butt out of everyone else's personal business, we'd have an over-abundance of resources and energy to tackle real problems.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  4. OdysseusV

    Self-righteousness is a sin according to the Bible! So when a person thinks he is superior to his fellow then he is not being a true christiian, afterall Christ died for all of us. And being self-sacrificing is truly what it means to be a Christian!

    October 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      So, quit being so smug and self-righteous then, OdysseusV. Are you trying to give Christianity a bad name?

      October 29, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • TR6

      Oh no! Being bigoted, hateful, condescending, spiteful, two faced and damning everything and everyone that doesn’t exactly fit your definition of righteous it truly what it means to be a Christian. At least that’s most of the ones I’ve met.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  5. Oswald

    Obviously this subject has touched raw nerves in Pagan, Wiccan , Christian and other faiths and those who do not believe. The debate is lively, sparks fly. It's all the energy of the season folks. That's why there are over 2000 comments on this thread. Mankind has decided that for whatever reason, this time of the year is special. Enjoy it. 🙂 Blessed Be.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Cap'n Rita

      Brightest Blessings, Oswald! So far, the only comment that is in true keeping of the Sabbat.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Oswald

      Thank you.Cap'n Rita. May you enjoy the holiday. MM

      October 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • TR6

      RAmen

      October 29, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  6. RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

    Here's a quick and easy way to put an end to this debate: ask yourself: what did Christ have to say about Halloween? Was he for it or against it? (Be sure to cite chapter, line and verse to support your answer.) Clue to solve the dilemma: If Christ didn't have anything to say about it then neither do you.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • OdysseusV

      Christ said what does light have to do with darkness or Christ with Belial ( the Devil), So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Halloween is darkness!

      October 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      @OdysseusV: You're good at pulling verses out of your hat to support your own private interpretation, but I noted that you didn't offer the scripture, line and verse required as to an authoritative, definitive answer. Let me save you some time: There isn't one. Oh, there is that one scripture though that you might be interested in: II Peter 1: 20 "...no...scripture is of private interpretation."

      October 29, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • TR6

      1:RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM, 0:OdysseusV

      October 29, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  7. James Baker

    Lighten up. Christian are the cause of way more misery than fantasy. Lighten up. Fundies like Michelle Backman are imorale and sick.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  8. OdysseusV

    True Christians should worry about ALL holidays that have pagan origins because their God says He exacts exclusive devotion from His followers. So mixing of Paganism & Christianity is apostasy plain and simple. Jesus said you can't serve 2 masters, you would not be fair to either!!

    October 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • RoadRunner, Albuquerque, NM

      Well there just went Christmas and Easter, probably Valentines Day and St. Patricks Day as well. What do we have left? Whitsunday? BTW, have you considered writing your own Bible? You seem to think you know much more than Christ, who never mentioned Halloween, did he? If I missed it, please cite chapter, line and verse. If not, then quit trying to speak for someone who you clearly do not know.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • reikimaven

      If "mixing of Paganism and Christianity is apostasy" one would assume you would do away with virtually every Christian holiday (symbols such as Christmas trees, mistletoe, celebrating on Dec. 25 rather than springtime when Jesus was actually born, Easter eggs, etc.),

      October 29, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • A Christian

      From your comment below, I thought we were on the same page. Guess not. I guess you think that anyone who disagrees with you isn't a "true Christian".

      October 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Scott

      @reikimaven: Your right! I stand convicted by the Holy Ghost. As a good, god fearing Christian parent I will change my ways. Instead of colored eggs and chocolate rabbits, this year I’m going to give each of my children bloody nails and a crown of thorns

      October 29, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  9. MJ

    So many Christians are so lost in their own self-righteousness. They are SPECIAL they are RIGHT and they know EVERYTHING! In reality, they are simply suffering from delusions of grandeur and lack the ability to think for themselves. Hence the popular comparison to sheep... Bah........Bah.....

    October 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Diane

      Most christians are christians because their parents were, and that was what they were brought up to. Nothing more. Had they been born in the Middle East, they'd be devout muslims instead.

      "Your" religion isn't right merely because you were born to it.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Kat

      SOME Christians! Not all. I am a Christian and I hate when people count me among the "crazy Christians" These people are a stain on my faith. These people do not represent the Jesus I read about in my Bible!

      October 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  10. Red

    Christian grad student here. I live right outside of Salem, MA, the unofficial Halloween capital of America. It's crazy up here during this part of the year. If anyone should be upset, it should be me. People go all out here for months with decorations, costumes, etc. But I'm not.

    I'm pretty apathetic towards Halloween myself. I find that the holiday brings up a great time for conversation among Christians, wiccans (around here in Salem), and all those in between. However, people on both sides go to ridiculous extremes. Halloween lovers string up realistic and bloody corpses in family-friendly neighborhoods. Churches set up "hell-houses" designed to scare folks into becoming Christians. Ridiculous.

    I don't think Christians should make a big deal out of it anyway. Most of the time, It's a fun family tradition.

    I'd be more concerned about my dental bills than the pagan roots of Halloween.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Amanda

      TO DIANE:
      AGAIN WHO ARE WE TO JUDGE ANYONE'S BELIEF?? STOP!! NOT EVERYONE IS BORN INTO A RELIGION FYI.. SOME PEOPLE FIND IT, LOL AND FOR YOU TO SAY ANYONE IS WRONG IS STRAIGHT IGNORANT. YOU OBVIOUSLY NEED EDUCATE YOURSELF A LITTLE MORE SWEETY...

      October 29, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  11. Don't be fooled

    Thanks to false christianity, the lines of what is biblical and what is not has become blurred. Can you imagine Jesus condoning this kinds of practice? He threw out money changers from the temple. When asked, he wouldn't even do an act of worship because he din't want to be obeying the Devil. He didn't want to accept anything from the Devil when he was offered all the kingdoms of the world. As it relates to halloween, I can just imagine him saying: so what Halloween has pagan, demonic origins, it is just soooo fun...and so cute to see the kids dressed up in ghosts and goblin outfits...and we get to eat candies....yea!!!...NOT. I am pretty sure he'd be disgusted!!!

    Some people celebrate pagan holidays and don't care the origins. They just want to do what everybody else is doing. Just like to follow the crowd. Some are just looking for any excuse to party regardless of the meaning of what they are doing. True christians have a different way of life. It is not centered on hedonistic pursuits at the expense of biblical standards. This is the difference.

    This is simple, do it if you want but don't pretend that this is condoned by the Bible. And don't hate on others who refuse to do it because it violates their bible trained conscience. Leave people alone with their beliefs.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Chris

      What I am tired most is that people keep insisting they know how Jesus would feel. Stop putting words into his mouth and actions into his body. That's what's disgusting.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • *frank*

      I don't like your Christ either.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Scott

      Do you celebrate Christmas? Do you give gifts? Do you accept gifts? If you do, don’t come around dis’ing Halloween and telling me about “He threw out money changers from the temple”. The modern celebration of Christmas celebrates the victory of the “money chanters” over everything Christ stood for… Do you buy candy at Easter…?

      October 29, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  12. OdysseusV

    Not all Christians are Christ-like , which is what christian is supposed to mean. Christ would never kill his fellow in war or by religious persecution! Most of the wars since Christ died have been over some man-made problem in the name of Christianity.
    But some true believers still follow Christ example of turning the other cheek and do not get involved in the wars of man. Nor do they preach their version of political ideals to their fellow countryman! They understand why Christ said my Kingdom is no part of this world!!

    October 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • A Christian

      Very true! Ghandi (a non Christian) said it very well:

      I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.

      Too true of too many who profess to be Christian.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • john swanson

      May i remind you sir,some of the worst perverts in the world are so called men of GOD.Im so DAMN tired of hearing holy rollers such as you spouting religious crap and doing the opposite in your private life.Every thing you are saying you probly do the opposite and laughing the whole time.If you are a so called minister,i would like to know how much did ur watch cost,or shoes,or that beautiful suit you wear when you tell me im going to hell.AMEN BROTHER

      October 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • *frank*

      *I don't like your Christ either.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  13. GCDb

    People who are very religious have nothing to worry about when it comes to Halloween. It WAS a pagan event but now is just a fun day of dress-up and candy seeking. It has lost all of its meaning...just like Christmas. Kids don't have any idea of it's origins, they just know it's fun and they get candy. Most kids, not all, also don't have any idea of Christmas's origins, they just know that it's fun and they get presents. At least during Halloween they're not lied to about an imaginary man giving them things (i.e. Santa). Like I said, Religious people have nothing to worry about with Halloween. If anything, they should worry about Christmas.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  14. tree

    There are no real Christian Holidays, they are all taken from "Pagan" Holidays. One of the reasons why Christianity grew to such prominence, was that they didn't fight the others so much on their faith, but took bits of the other religions and melded it into their own. If you read about religions prior to Christianity, you see the routes of the the Jesus story.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  15. TL

    Blessed Samhain to all the celtic adherents out there. Try to enjoy your new year amidst all the rest of this annual distraction (FYI not a "follower" but I respect the ways of the Goddess...I am on the African Traditional Religion path, which is parallel).

    I agree with the person who said if you don't want Halloween then give back Christmas and Easter traditions too. In or out, pick a side llol. Personally, I don't really celebrate Halloween-not because it's "of the devil" but because I respect it as a cultural holiday at its root.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  16. A Christian

    For me, Halloween is a fun evening time when I decorate my house and the neighborhood kids come by for candy. Neighbors visit over hot cider, we reaffirm that we are a community.

    For those who decry it's pagan roots, you better not have a Christmas tree or holly in your home, a birthday cake with candles, or "bless" anyone who sneezes. These customs also have pagan roots. To me pagan means pre-Christian or current earth based religions, not evil.

    Those who believe Halloween is evil are free to do so, they just can't stop the rest of us who see it as evening of harmless fun with our family and friends.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • rk

      halloween is a fun time for my family and my oldests son's b-day. it is a great American holiday and its a shame some people cant take some time to have a little fun and instead ruin a good time for everyone else.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • A Christian

      Tell your boy Happy Birthday!

      October 29, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  17. Amanda

    ....i'm an athiest, HOWEVER I have respect for everyone's beliefs! I do not appreciate everyone making negative comments about people who do not share the same beliefs as they do. You believe in whatever it is you want to believe in and leave it at that.. don't be close minded though. I don't believe in "God" or "Heavan" or "Hell", and I sure do NOT talk down apon people who celebrate Christmas, and Easter. There is no point of it! What is the point is being adults and knowing that NOT EVERYONE shares the same opinions/beliefs, and that we are all intiltled to being different. Halloween is a part of the "Bible" FYI, so why take it away?, Come on now.. GROW UP.. I refuse to make this a debate, but I will make it known that everyone has a right to believe in what they want and there will ALWAYS be differences!!
    (TO SATANGUY--> super funny btw.. nice sense of humor.. very well needed)

    October 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  18. OdysseusV

    The Celts and the Greeks & Phoenicians carried all these religious customs and rites with them into western civilization through Helenism and migration. E.G. She was Astoreth to the Assyrians, Ishtar to the Chaldeans, Isis to the Egyptians, Venus Astarte to the Greeks, and Easter to the Romans. Each case she is the goddess of fertility. How else did eggs and bunnies get into catholic rites except the apostasied paganized christianity!!

    October 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • john swanson

      The problem with you and a lot of religious people you take everything to damn seriously.Lighten up,I think JESUS would want you to.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  19. kupp67

    The Devil does NOT exist. Santa Claus does NOT exist. And there really is no Easter Bunny. What does exist is the humor generated by those who live in fiction land. Maybe Spiderman can save them.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • john swanson

      RITE ON ROBIN.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  20. stubbycat

    Halloween is harmless, but a fear-laden,loveless, condemning, cursing, self-righteous churchianity that claims to represent the amazing Jesus is not.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:12 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.