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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. J. Andrew

    Ya know, it would be really funny if these were not the Christian's options. If you are Christian, and are raising your child christian, and also have reservations about supporting Halloween...then DON'T. Don't let your child trick or treat. Don't let them participate or participate yourself. I am not saying to prevent kids or yourself from having fun, but if it is something you are against then...don't participate it.

    October 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  2. CSX

    In ALL things, do to the glory of God. Honoring death and murder, has no real place,,,,except pagans.

    October 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Tony Lohnes

      How about a common day of rest? Does it have to be religious?

      http://www.saveoursundays.ca

      October 30, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Alex

    Because "harvesting hearts for God" doesn't sound creepy at all.

    October 30, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Charon

      hehe I think the aztecs used to do something like that =P

      October 30, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  4. lumière

    Come to the light and hope in the risen Lord and Savior!
    Why celebrate ghouls and dead?

    October 30, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • tensor

      Because Christians have pilfered and plagiarized every other religion's traditions and beliefs for 2 centuries, why stop at Halloween?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      What good is hope that is based on a lie? There is no proof that any god ever existed, there is no proof that there is any life after this one... Why not enjoy this life and try to be a good person? Why not accept the fact that your life is finite and simply enjoy what you've been given? Why not let eternity take care of itself?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • CBW

      for those of you have no faith- don't hang around the belief blog aimlessly 24*7 and make a fool of yourself with inane comments

      October 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      CBW, freedom of speech allows us to participate in public discussion. You are the one making a fool of yourself.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • CBW

      Why are you striving so hard hanging by this blog when you don't have brain cells?

      October 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      CBW: Apparently you have nothing constructive or informative to say, so you resort to insults. Says a lot about your intelligence and character.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • CBW

      Do you have a life outside of this blog? you keep ranting raving like a old woman. What is your real problem in life?

      October 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You are the one trying to engage in conversation. You are the one foolishly engaging in personal attack instead of giving any real reason for why my posts offend you. Do you have a point, or an opinion, or anything that gives your presence here substance? Seriously. I have no idea why you have replied at all. Why are YOU wasting your time with this?

      October 30, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • CBW

      If you are hanging out here just to engage people with your inane comments and keep repeating yourself , you have a problem in life. Go get a life outside the blog. It looks like you are not only delusional but also a fool.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • tallulah13

      buzz buzz, little gnat. Maybe I'll get back to you when you have something valuable to say.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • CBW

      We can't teach the old dog new tricks. You are a perfect example of one of those. Continue entertaining yourself with your drivel.

      October 30, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  5. Luke

    Halloween is just a stupid tradition mostly held in the USA intended to sell candy and costumes. Another American nonsense such as the belief of democracy and the freedom. When I read this forum, it disturbs me that Atheists have become like Christians, trying to convert everybody else to their way of thinking. If you believe or dont believe in God, just leave the rest of us alone. I am sick and tired of Christian and Atheists preachers. Get a life and take care of you own life.

    October 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Hey Luke, have you seen all the articles on this very blog, debating the religious beliefs of various political candidates? Until this becomes a non-topic, until ALL Americans realize that the Consti.tution, and not the bible, is the law of the land, you will find atheists speaking out. It's freedom of speech, and if you are tired of religious people and atheist alike, then what the h.ell are you doing on something called "Belief Blog"?

      October 30, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Goodone

      Yes, but atheists are right 😉

      October 30, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  6. Kas

    Just how concerned should you be about the dark past of Halloween and similar celebrations? After all, in most people’s minds, Halloween is little more than a time to dress up and have fun. But would you not agree that it is important for parents to make sure that whatever recreation their children pursue is wholesome and not harmful?
    A school inspector from France with more than 20 years of experience in teaching was asked about the influence of Halloween on young children. He commented: “I am worried that going from house to house threatening adults in order to obtain sweets can have long-term negative consequences on children. It can foster a selfish and egocentric personality. They learn that by exerting pressure, by demanding with threats, by making others afraid, they can obtain what they want.” Parents must therefore ask themselves, ‘What “lessons” will my children learn from celebrating this holiday?’
    Not surprisingly, many families find that giving in to childish demands for treats and costumes can be an expensive undertaking. “Halloween . . . is not a holiday,” observes Robert Rochefort, general director of France’s Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions, “it is event marketing.” Halloween fills a shopping lull prior to Christmas. In other words, it is just one more thing pressuring people to spend money—money that in many cases they cannot afford to spend. Do you really need to follow the crowd in this regard?
    Of even greater concern to Christians, however, is the fact that Halloween and celebrations like it are steeped in paganism. The apostle Paul wrote: “I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:20-22, New International Version) He also asked: “What common interest can there be between goodness and evil? How can light and darkness share life together? How can there be harmony between Christ and the devil? What can a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16, Phillips) The Bible thus condemns the whole idea of putting a Christian mask on a pagan practice!
    Also, the Bible warns against the practice of spiritism. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) While it is true that the vast majority of those who celebrate Halloween would claim to spurn Satanic practices, we should, nevertheless, be aware that historically this holiday has close connections with the occult. Thus, it can serve as a door leading to spiritism, especially for impressionable youths. Pagan rites and traditions tainted by spiritism simply have no place in Christian worship; they are far from harmless.
    Finally, there is the fact that Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day are all based on the beliefs that the dead suffer or that they can somehow bring harm to the living. However, the Bible clearly shows that such beliefs are not true, saying: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) For that reason, the Bible counsels: “All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [the common grave of mankind], the place to which you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) Since the dead are unconscious and thus incapable of harming others or suffering themselves, we have nothing to fear from them. At the same time, prayers to help them are of no use whatsoever. Does this mean that there is no hope for our dead loved ones? No. The Bible assures us that “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Acts 24:15

    October 30, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Wow. Pretty much everybody I know went trick-or-treating as a child, and frankly, they are a very decent bunch of people. Not an extortionist among them. Perhaps instead of trying to force your personal agenda in such a melodramatic style, you could consider that most people who celebrate Halloween have a very good time and nothing awful happens.

      Then you could take a moment to look at the article about the children who were murdered by parents who were adhering strictly to the lessons of the bible, found here:

      https://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/26/punishing-kids-in-the-name-of-religion/

      I'm thinking that literal obedience to the bible is a heck of a lot worse for children than dressing up in a costume and receiving candy that most adults enjoy handing out.

      October 30, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Kateslate

      This would all be fine if we all considered the Bible our resource, but we do not live in a theocracy. You state biblical passage as fact. Many of us do not consider the Bible to be a factual resource. Lots of good storytelling in attempts to instill values, but hardly factual, and, in fact, downright self-contradictory at times and confusing to boot! So let us not create policy by the Bible, but simply by good common sense principals that we can all embrace.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  7. Free

    They forgot the movement to hand out Bibles to trick-or-treaters instead of candy. Those Christians have renamed the day "JesusWeen"!

    http://jesusween.com/

    October 30, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  8. AP

    Jesus is dead....get over it....

    October 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  9. Free

    "Please Lord, grant me the power to psychologically torture them into loving you."
    Ned Flanders praying for help from God to make his "Heck House" more effective. Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XVIII. 😉

    October 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Brilliant!

      October 30, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  10. Paul Bronstein

    The only evil in this world is the one that men creates. The idea of evil and demons is deeply misunderstood. There can not be light if their is no darkness.

    October 30, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Free

      I agree that the only "evil" in this world is man-made, but the only "good" in this world is also created by people.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Barry Cardonick

      Man created religion and the bible. How much more evil do you need?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Paul Bronstein

    Thats fine and all but isn't Christmas also based on a pagan holiday ?

    October 30, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Robert

      No.

      October 30, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • AGuest9

      Yes, just like Easter.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Yes. Most ancient cultures celebrated a mid-winter festival, many of them involving gift giving. The Romans' Saturnalia is one example. From the clues given in the bible, the time of Jesus' hypothetical birth was more likely to be September. Early church leaders co-opted the older holidays for their own reasons, probably to placate the masses for whom those mid-winter festivals were the highlight of the year.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Free

      Yes. "Christmas" was recognized as pagan for most of Christian history. It was only hijacked a few hundred years ago. At best, it's Christian religious celebration can be seen as a fad.

      October 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Stupid non-believer

      Yep, just like all the Christian holidays that were hijacked from other belief system, and that includes the resuection of Hey-Zeus. Christians are thieves. How about some original ideas guys?

      October 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  12. Widemouth

    Who's looking for hell? http://www.squidoo.com/hell-eternal

    October 30, 2011 at 3:50 am |
  13. Hooligan

    you don't like Halloween

    FINE, don't celebrate it... but I will. I enjoy it, I have since I was a child... and will continue to.

    Go force your faith on someone else

    October 30, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  14. Reality

    As previously noted:

    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 30, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  15. FSilvermane

    And BTW as a Pagan I do not worship Satan because I do not believe in Satan,..let me repeat this I DO NOT BELIEVE IN SATAN. Kind of hard to worship that which you do not believe in. I also do not believe in the Christian God though he had some good ideas in general,..I am of the belief that while a wise man named Jesus [or Joshua or Yeshua] did exist and did preach love and tolerance that those who followed him really screwed up and either misinterpreted or purposely misquoted him to make his words match THEIR ideas. But hey we have freedom of Religion here in the US,... if you want to worship Christian God feel free,... if you want to boycott Halloween because of this feel free,... if you want to have Harvest carnivals instead feel free,... as long as you do not infringe on my freedom to go out with my friends Trick or Treating with their kids or infringe on me dressing up and partying I am ok with it. Heck I am even fine with those "Hell House" things,..One it gives me another reason to believe that some Christians are misguided,...and Two it keeps those Christians busy and off the streets while I am out enjoying Halloween. All this being said while I revel in the secular part of Halloween I do also have my own "little rituals" for this time as per my religious leanings......

    October 29, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  16. cajuntide

    Im a beliver ( no not a christian there sick in the head by all acounts) we do it up big for halloween and the kids love it. Our church even has a carnavel that the kids go to dress up and have a great time this mess about the devels holladay is a joke concidering Christmas was a pagen celebration at first that the church took in to get pagens to join.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  17. God Where Art Thou.

    Halloween is absolutely wonderful.

    Every person needs rights, freedoms, and hope. My favorite holiday was never Christmas and I was born into and dragged to every church imaginable until I could fight them off with logic.

    Religion based on fiction is a pipe dream. Have you every see how your collection plate money is spent. Have you ever been to the Vatican and looked at over a billion dollars in gold statues, priceless antiques, and just plain Narcissistic decadence.
    Isn't it frightening to see Christians leaders pretend that they are the role model for the world? This whole thing started with the Catholick Church who had a contest to see who had the best stories to be put into a religious book. These fictional stories were compiled into what is now the New Testament. It is supposed to be the Truth with a capital T. But it is Fiction with a capital F. What makes believers of fiction superior to believers in fact? Hype. Stop the crap. No religion is based on reality. Nonsense based on nonsense leads to insanity. Our laws are insane because of this.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • God Where Art Thou.

      Every week is Halloween in my neighborhood.

      Pedophile Priests dressed up in robes, with the little hoodie, with the huge money belt, while speaking Latin in Mass to nobody that is able to listen.

      October 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Kas

      THE Bible is not the source of popular religious and secular holidays that are celebrated in many parts of the world today. What, then, is the origin of such celebrations? If you do some research, you will find it interesting to note what reference books say about holidays that are popular today..

      Halloween. The Encyclopedia Americana says: “Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to a Druid [ancient Celtic priesthood] ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods—a sun god and a god of the dead . . . , whose festival was held on November 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The festival of the dead was gradually incorporated into Christian ritual.”

      October 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  18. Bonnie

    I don't see why this is a debate among Christians or anyone else, for that matter. To each his own. We have decided not to celebrate Halloween but we aren't going to debate with anyone else about why they should or shouldn't. Everyone has to give an account to God for how they lived, so each person and family should decide for themselves what's acceptable and what isn't. This seems like small potatoes compared with how we live our daily lives. What holidays we do and don't celebrate-Christian or otherwise-should be a family decision. Period.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Amen

      Well bonnie.. don't you know.. being a chistian means they know more about everyone else in the world and how they should lead their lives.. If you don't, then you surely are not a good/true christian.. A day's meal is not worth eating if they don't "preach the word of god" (aka shove their ideology down other's throat and shamefully deny ever doing that) ..

      October 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  19. Amen

    This year, I want to be really horrific.. so I decided to go around as a catholic priest..

    October 29, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • God Where Art Thou.

      I'll sing Amen to that!

      October 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Lee Cherry

      Love it

      October 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Lee Cherry

      IF YOU CANT FIND GOD, GUESS WHO IS LOST??

      October 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      If you can't find god, it might be because there is no evidence that any god has ever existed.

      October 30, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • JF

      IF YOU CAN FIND GOD, GUESS WHO IS PHSYCHOTIC??

      October 30, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Lee Cherry

      You said: "IF YOU CANT FIND GOD, GUESS WHO IS LOST??"

      The reason why we can find no empirical evidence for God's existence is not because "God is a magical being completely able to hide from us." It is because God is imaginary.

      There is no evidence that any god exists.

      Cheers!

      October 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  20. smartaz

    Halloween is a nonissue with most Christians. You don't see a bunch of billboards promoting anti-halloween propaganda. Most Christians celebrate it in some form usually as a fall festival. It is no different than how atheists or other religions celebrate Christmas despite not believing in the religious aspect of the holiday. Some people just take divides in our culture and beliefs to ruin the holiday enjoyment.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:40 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.