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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.

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. Bill

    Well, I don't see any more harm in celebrating Halloween than reading the bible. In fact, I would say the bible is the most horrifying horror script ever written. It involves the mass murder of humans (Yahweh killing off all species in Genesis), devils and demonic possession, the raising of the dead (jesus, lazarus) and ending with total apocalypse (revelation). I say this makes for a big budget horror movie that must be made. We all seen movies of mass murder (silence of the lambs, halloween), demonic possession (exorcist, evil dead), raising of the dead (night of the living dead, dracula) and an apocalyptic ending (2012, the road). We even watched films like the Shining were a man hears voices to kill his child...reminds me of the story of Abraham. How can we condemn this holiday when the church preaches these horrors.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • jonathan

      Don't worry Bill God has not put you on his hit list ...not yet anyway.. 🙂 🙂

      October 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • HeroicSlug

      It's a pretty shatty piece of fiction, alright. I prefer Sci-Fi, myself. Fantasy all starts looking like Lord of The Rings rip-offs after a while.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  2. Mr Chihuahua

    I wouldnt mind playing dress up with a hot Satanist chick lol!

    October 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  3. Mojo

    Christians should quit their ti**y whining and mind their own business. It's 2011 people!! Free your mind, bail archaic belief systems.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • trav

      might i remind you that Christains will soon rule the world whether you like it or not. You have no opinion and nothing you can do can stop it. 2012 is the beginning of this change where the world will take us seriously.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • TR6

      @Trav: “Christians will soon rule the world… nothing you can do can stop it”

      Time to increase your meds. Christianity has been on a decline ever since the dark ages ended and took an especially big hit when Protestants and Catholics broke Christian power in half. It’s been in an accelerating death spiral since the industrial revolution and the catholic pedophile priest scandal has pounded some of the last nails into its coffin. Christians stand about as much chance of rulings the world as the Nazis and there’s nothing you can do about it.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  4. Greg

    The people who are opposed to Halloween aren't true Christians. They are simply idiots. Ignore them and enjoy the holiday. Consider dressing as a born-again for added entertainment value.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • trav

      You must be pagan

      October 29, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Paige

      I should go as a skirt person. LOL!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  5. trav

    If you really love Jesus and walk in discernment than you will know it is not of God and you will not take part of it.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • DPLJLB

      ah shut up.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Paige

      Then why did God make pumpkins, jackbutt? LOL!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Mojo

      Along those lines, if YOU, Trav, really loved Jesus , you would follow his teachings of being non-judemental, all accepting, loving and considerate of your fellow man, regardless of what they believed, race, social status, etc., as he did.

      No go worry about your own soul and let others worry about theirs.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  6. SaintGenesius

    Halloween is the single most popular night for people to go out; it even beats new year's eve. That means there are either a lot of people who don't believe in Christianity or a lot of hypocrites.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  7. popeye1128

    This debate would be funny if it weren't so sad. What with everything else going on, picking on Halloween. I hope a giant pumpkin falls on the Halloween haters. 🙂
    Boo!!!!!

    October 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  8. Reality

    Mocking Wicca and Paganism and their celebrations of Halloween?

    Spells, curses, covens, black magic, witches, voodooing dolls, hoodooing the results, shadow books, maypoles,
    horned god(s) and triple goddess(es), Gerald Gardner et al??

    Never!!!!
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    October 29, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  9. anb

    I agree with ryan and Bill. And Frank, all they do is think wrong – and (try) to hold back humanity's advancement.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Brian, Detroit, MI

      Exactly

      October 29, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  10. Joe

    Funny thing about Christians... If they truly believe their faith, then EVERYTHING has already been planned out by God and we know what the end result is! There's nothing we can do to change this. They should not worry or have fears about such things. So why do they keep TRYING to change everyone and everything??? It's already done! Just do your best and worry about the important things – not Halloween!

    October 29, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Reality

      o From Edward Schillebeeckx, the famous contemporary theologian: , Church: The Human Story of God,
      Crossroad, 1993, p.91 (softcover)

      "Christians must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history" .

      "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human
      activity there is possibility of free choices.

      Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings.

      For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."

      (assuming there is a god)

      October 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Joe

      Do all Christians understand the history of the Bible? It's strange to me how some denominations take the bible literally. The early (Catholic) church decided what writings went into the bible! Most denominations that take it literally do not like or believe in the Catholic church, yet they believe word for word the books THAT church created as ...The Bible. Interesting!

      October 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Joe

      Intersting... God ..the scapegoat of History? Who REALLY put Christ on that cross?

      October 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • TR6

      @Reality: “For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women”. The Christian god is all knowing past, present and future so everything is preordained or the Christian god is false. I know which way I’m betting

      October 29, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  11. kennie eastwood

    We worry about people losing there faith by some outlandish things.Do children think they are worshiping the devil?I think there is too much narrow mindness.If someone believes you will not be Abel to change there mind(why do you think religions want the children young and often in worship?) Lets get with the principles Jesus taught and not the mickey mouse of small minds.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Supporter

      I agree Halloween is mainly for kids and family they enjoy each other carving a pumpkin or attending fallfest etc. If your faith is so wavering that Halloween peals you from the fruit of our lord and savior you have bigger fish to fry.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • TR6

      @Supporter: NO, No, NO! Halloween is all about hot chicks in skimpy costumes

      October 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  12. Marc

    Why is this even newsworthy? Another example of the media trying to invent contoversy so they have something to report.

    October 29, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Brad

      I think that the CNN people think Christians are silly (at best) or stupid and dangerous (at worst). Especially the "conservative" or "fundamentalist" Christians. So they like to write about any issue that makes Christians look more silly or stupid to non-Christians. They may not even be trying to smear Christians, it might be unconscious. Just my opinion :).

      October 29, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Carol

      You are SOOO right. And to each his own, it's supposed to be a free nation.

      October 29, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • TR6

      @Brad: Christians look silly and stupid and dangerous on CNN because they are

      October 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  13. Griff

    Oh no a war on Halloween! Well I've gotta say, it sounds like a tour through one of these "Hell Houses" would cause a lot more psychological damage to my kids than going out to trick-or-treat.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Margot707

      These are the same ones who tried to ban the Harry Potter books and others of that genre.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  14. Lesly

    "A Christian debate over Halloween: Counter, co-opt, or embrace it?"

    A better question is, why legitimize this intra-Christian debate?

    October 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • OdysseusV

      Better to just bury your head in the sand with the rest of Zombies huh??

      October 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  15. Navier

    Yes, as merchants, we love, love, love all these holidays. The holidays mean $$$ for us. Keep them coming. We love to take people's money and sell them cheap made in China stuff (the profit margin is about 200-300%) they wear for 1 maybe 2 days... Please do celebrate them

    October 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • OdysseusV

      Which is exactly why Revelation 18th Chapter says the merchants will cry boo- hoo over Babylon the great empire of false religion when the kings of the earth finally get the balls to destroy her and do away with all her pagan holidays!!

      October 29, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Tallulah13

      When my nephew was a child (not too long ago), he wore his costumes until they wore out or he outgrew them. I suspect he wasn't the only one.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • A1000lies

      Halloween doesn't require you to spend any significant amount of cash. It's the mood of Halloween and the season that is special about it, its FUN. Anyone who believes it to be a cash cow or devil worship is narrow minded and people should feel sorry for them.

      October 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Navier

      Do remember not just Halloween. We count on Valentine, Easter, and especially Christmas. These holidays are made for us to make $$$. That's how the gov't measures the economy: how much people spend on the holidays and how much the businesses are making profits. One bad Christmas sale number and bad corporate earning would be close to recession and 2 bad Christmas sales and bad corporate earnings would definitely mean recession. And 3 continuous bad Christmas sales would mean the end of the world!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • TR6

      @A1000lies: Halloween is many things to many people but to merchants it is the 2nd biggest cash cow in the world. Only Christmas is juicier

      October 29, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  16. lastofall

    1 Thessalonians 5:22

    October 29, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • TR6

      Exodus 23:19

      October 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  17. ryan

    christians already love fairy tale nonsense. they should either embrace it or stop being idiots.

    October 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  18. Stop already!

    There is no debate already! Get over it! If you don't like Halloween, don't participate! If you don't like Christmas, don't participate! If you don't like the U.S. leave! SHEESH! Plain and simple. Don't be trying to ruin everyone elses fun simply because you are sour, bitter and angry!

    October 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • TR6

      Ridiculous! Next thing you’re going to say is if I’m against abortion I shouldn’t have one

      October 29, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  19. OdysseusV

    Hating an individual is very unchristian! However hating bad practices like adultery, murder, stealing that is Christ-like!

    October 29, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Brian, Detroit, MI

      Since we have already proven that everything told of in the bible is a bunch of made-up crap, why are there still christians? Are they too stupid to learn?

      October 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  20. OdysseusV

    To ignore something like for example God or his word. Does not mean that it has no value! That just means that that person has not seen the value, usually from only a superficial look at the Bible. When one studies it deeper then one begins to see great understanding in its passages. And that one's life is enriched greatly. And that one now lives with great hope for the future. Something most people of the world lack. e.g. reason suicide is the number one cause of death worldwide!!

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

      God's word? Yeah...I love the way Lot got wasted and screwed both of his daughters, who became impregnated with his inbred, incestual offspring. That made him a "righteous" man according to your God's word.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • OdysseusV

      Lot's act was not righteous but a loving God overlooked his sin, and I think all of us here would be happy for God to overlook a few of ours!!

      October 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • *frank*

      You think wrong.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Supporter

      I completely agree with you odysseusv all Christians need boundaries 🙂

      October 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • usvsthem

      Is that to say that only "God" exists and everyone else is false? Are they all damned?

      October 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • TR6

      “When one studies it deeper then one begins to see great understanding in its passages And that one's life is enriched greatly”
      Your right! I was raised a Christian and what finally convinced me the whole thing was a pile of lies and to become an atheist was carefully and deeply studying the bible. Not the cherry picked verses pastors like to quote; but, the real thing, cover to cover.

      October 29, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • TR6

      @Paige: “..I love the way Lot got wasted and screwed both of his daughters” VIRGIN daughters. And this was after god obliterated Sodom and Gomorra because the inhabitants were naughty

      October 29, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Suicide is NOT even remotely the number one cause of death worldwide: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index.html

      October 29, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Why is it that christians never research the facts before they say something is true? It just proves them to be fools or liars.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:39 am |
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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.