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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. Plantkiller

    Halloween has its roots in pre-Christian tradition, but does nont contradict it in any way. Samhain, the holiday that gave rise to it, was merely a day to remember members of the community who had passed away in the preceeding year and make your emotional, spiritual and mundane "goodbyes." The traditions of dressing as dead things was meant to be life-affirming – to keep the dead from being tempted to return and remind the living that they are alive and life is worth protecting.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Al

      Jesus is dead... Hmmm! Now I understand the fundamentalist objection to little kids dressed in scary costumes; it scaring Jesus away from returning!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  2. PatrickB

    Halloween is my FAVORITE day of the year – 100x more enjoyable than the materialistic, greedy, retail corporate driven CHRISTMAS holiday. Talk about taking Gods name in vain!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  3. caliconor

    I don't understand how Christians don't like Halloween when Easter is all about Jesus turning into a zombie.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • TC

      Was that sippossed ot be some lame attempt at a joke? Ressurection and zombie? Hmmm that don;t exactly have similarity.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  4. Joel

    To each their own. So long as Halloween is not made illegal, I don't care who believes what.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  5. The Truth

    No one cares what the Bible says....it is a collection of tall tales....a great piece of fiction for those who are too stupid too think for themselves....

    October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • TC

      What is funny is you actually think you know it all becasue you can summarily dismiss something – and who is the one that can't think for themselves? Hmmm – we're looking at you.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  6. RCM

    modern halloween is one of many roman catholic church festivals, see below.
    When Pope Boniface IV reconsecrated the Pantheon in Rome on May 13, 609 AD, renaming it the “Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs,” he established that anniversary as a day of celebratory remembrance for all of the Church’s martyrs. Pope Gregory III later changed the date of remembrance to November 1 when he dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica to “all saints.” November 1 became All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallow’s Day. The night before became All Hallow’s Eve (“Halloween” being a colloquial contraction of that phrase). While Halloween began as a localized celebration, Pope Gregory IV extended its observance to all of Christendom in the 9th Century AD.

    As Christianity spread throughout the world, pagan holidays were either Christianized or forgotten. Samhain was absorbed into Halloween. Costumes and gifts and bobbing for apples were preserved, incorporated into the new holiday. They remain a celebrated part of Halloween to this day, many centuries later.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • TC

      Thanks RCM – glad someone is here to explain the facts – seriously. Nobody ever bothers to look at history.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  7. electric52

    It amazes me how religion is still stagnant. It is still stuck in the Dark Ages. If there is a Hell then any truly bad evil person will not be tortured in Hell, but rather he will be welcomed with open arms by the Devil. It's the exact opposite of what religion says about being welcomed into Heaven. God isn't going to accept an evil person who is not penitent. Likewise the Devil isn't going to accept anyone who isn't truly a bad person. YOU RELIGIOUS IDIOTS try to play on the fear and more importantly, the ignorance of humanity. And you wonder why only 25 people show up each Sunday to your pitiful services. But we live in America and you HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE AN IGNORANT IDIOT

    October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • PatrickB

      Can I get an AMEN people????? Well said!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Mozart

      Apparently you also have the right to be an idiot.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • PatrickB

      Oooh! Snappy comeback there "Mozfart!" It's really hard to argue with your logic!!!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • TC

      Intersting how you call people you subscribe to a religion "idiots" when your description of hell shows your lack of knowledge; hence idiocy can I get an Amen!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  8. ELR

    Praying for people to get a sense of humor.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Binky42

      Hoping for people to stop wasting their time with prayer.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • ELR

      I don't have time to worry about what other people do with theirs.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  9. Tim

    Wait, they don't like halloween?? But their entire religion is about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a dead guy so they could live forever - a guy that rose from the dead with other zombies. It was the earliest zombie apocalypse I read about.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • newton

      all i know if i was at a dinner party and the host told us to drink his symbolic blood and eat this bread as a symbol of my body, i'd be thinking – howd this turn into a weird S&M party?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • jp

      That was good !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! love it

      October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  10. AnnieM

    Christmas is the pagan festival of Saturnalia and Easter is the pagan festival of spring called Aahtar. Give me a break. All "Christian" holidays were originally pagan (or Roman) holidays.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • TC

      Exactly – Christians used pagan celebrations to incorporate into their tradition and culture.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Peter

      Be careful what you say. God will kill you for speaking the truth. Stop telling the secrets "they" don't want people to know. You might take down the entire cult if people learn too much.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • TC

      You don;t have to worry about God killing you -especially if you tell the truth – I'd be a whole lot more concerend about the devil becasue he hates the truth.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • ChristiansArePagansInDisguise

      This is exactly right. All Christian holidays were adapted from pagan holidays in order to ease the transition of mass converting an entire population. This was all determined by the Council of Nicea. Its amazing the amount of Christians that dont even know their own religion. For example, Christmas day is widely recognized as Jesus' birthday. However, according to astrological data derived from the bible itself, jesus' birthday would logically be sometime in July. In my opinion, most christians are only christians because theyve been so since birth and are so terrified that a benevolent, peaceful, loving god would damn a child to hell for minor infractions that theyre too terrified to think for themselves. Is it any wonder why the church is on the downslope? After centuries of brainwash and scaring people into a faith that has its very foundations soaked in lies, greed and blood, people are finally wising up and learning to think for themselves. Im no atheist, and I do belive in god, but i sniffed out the bs of the church long ago.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • ChristiansArePagansInDisguise

      thses people are all just a bunch of right-wing religious zealot bored morons who are about 2 sermons away from jihad

      October 28, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  11. ProjectZ

    Anyone who takes Halloween seriously is probably not too bright. It is for fun and for kids to get candy and dress up..jeeez.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Oh Come On

      your the only one that hit the nail on the head

      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  12. citizenUSA

    If there were no Christians there'd be no debate.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Peter

      I like this. Let's make a forum troll game out of it. Post your responses below. Let's replace Christians with religion though.

      If there was no religion, there would be no...

      October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  13. Clint

    Anyone whose "faith" is so weak that they feel threatenned by halloween doesn't seem to faithful to me.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  14. Craig

    Why isn't "lighten up about it" an option? Ask any child what Halloween is about, and they will reply that it's about free candy, not satanic indoctrination. If the militant fundamentalists spent as much time solving real problems instead of creating imaginary ones, they may actually achieve some relevance on this planet.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  15. torqueflite

    Which all goes to underscore the simple fact that there is no fun in fundamentalism, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion. They spend their lives trying to make everyone as miserable as they are. Halloween is the least stressful and most enjoyable holiday.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • newton

      agreed. these fundamentalist extremist people are clinically psychotic and need mental consultation rather than faith. Instead they try to transfer their psychotic delusions to others for cash, I guess to make them feel like they are valid rather than completely psychotic

      October 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  16. Binky42

    Thanks to Christianity and it's negative view of Halloween, my collection of turn-of-the-century Halloween greeting cards is incredibly rare and collectible. You can't say the same for old Christmas and Easter cards.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  17. Denvercherub

    Lovely reading the comments. Can we get 20 more people saying the same thing? Christianity is based on pagans yadda yadda. This is only half true anyway. It's pagans and sumerians sheesh

    October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  18. jsl123

    Christians need to study religious history and find that all modern religions are derived from pagan beliefs. And I mean real history not what you have been fed since Sunday school.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  19. capnmike

    Religion, ALL OF IT, is an enormous stinking crock of lies and crap made to control the minds of the brainwashed, gullible and immature. They can't STAND anything or anybody who is out of their control, or believes any other version of their lies, or, gasp, knows it for the garbage it really is. That being said, Halloween is really kind of silly anyway.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  20. Jim

    "We preach peace, forgiveness, tolerance and love. We practice vengeance, persecution, hatred and domination. My personal beliefs are supported and validated by my convictions. Oh, and never forget .... my religion is truth, yours is a lie." paraphrased (unknown).

    October 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • AnnieM

      Amen Brother!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • PatrickB

      Its so sad... and so TRUE.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
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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.