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.

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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. Selena

    Halloween does have pagan roots. However, so does Christmas and Easter.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Katie K

      Exactly! Christmas is close to Winter Solstice for a reason – it was easier to "convert" pagans by keeping their rituals around the same times. Hmmm, "sun" comes back to the earth, "son" comes back to the earth. Hmmm, spring is "rebirth and resurrection" for the earth and Easter is "rebirth and resurrection" for "Jesus". I could go on and on, but "believers" wouldn't believe me anyway.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  2. Buford

    Well, if they say that Halloween is a pagan holiday they they need to go back and do research on the Christmas and Easter because they both came from Roman pagan holidays. Both of these holidays that they church embrases are based on Roman and Greek gods that were celebrated on those days. Fun to me that the church only uses what it wants and throws out the rest.

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

      Norse Mythology as well. The concept of "Yule" and the 12 Days of Christmas are concepts from Norse paganism in addition to it being part of the Winter Solstice, which is important in many pagan religions.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Matt

    We make a big deal about this every year yet Christians still celebrate Jesus' birth during the Winter Solstice to counter pagan holidays and we don't talk about that.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  4. SweetzombieJesus

    "Harvest festival" on Monday. "Hell houses" that are meant to scare children. I hate to tell them, but they're celebrating Halloween.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  5. kevin

    Christians, and any religious group for that matter, DO NOT KNOW HOW TO HAVE FUN!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  6. Barney

    Um. What? Is this a serious conversation? Loosen up people. Have some fun for God's sake. I love Jesus Christ and there is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing up in a stupid outfit and having some child-like fun. The problem is when....every other day of the year, parents raise their children the wrong way. That's when Halloween can become something of a temptation and seduction to weird, evil crap that is actually taken seriously. It isn't Halloween, it's the parents.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  7. Jim (retired AF colonel)

    And some Christians claim Mormonism is a cult!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  8. schwarzey

    What would Santa Claus think?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  9. auticus

    You guys better stop celebrating Christmas and Easter too... because those were pagan holidays with a different name (Yule & Ostara).

    October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • J.W

      Maybe you are right if those particular pagans worshiped Jesus Christ as their savior.

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

      I agree with you 100%

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

      That makes no sense. The issue here is that they are saying halloween is evil because it is rooted in a pagan holiday. Yule was a pagan holiday in part celebrating the return of the sun (see where the birth of the "son of god" comes into play?) and Easter is what Ostara used to be. The only things that changed were that the sun etc were changed to "Jesus".

      What it is was ripping off the pagan holidays and calling them their own. In fact all eight of the pagan sabbats were changed to christian holidays.

      Candlemas = Imbolc
      Easter = Ostara
      May Day = Beltane


      Then again the whole christian religion uses pieces of other religions as well. The concept of a virgin birth, death and ressurection were done by several religions before christianity.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  10. Josiah

    What, not a word about Christmas and Easter's Pagan roots?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  11. Bill

    The Cross is a Pagan symbol that the Christians worship.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  12. Kaliym Islam

    Christmas and Easter also have pagan roots. Seems like there is selective censorship taking place.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  13. EP

    Regardless of your opinion on Halloween and churches. I disagree with the last statement. Yes there are non religious traditions added to Christian Holidays like Easter and Christmas which celebrate Christ's birth and resurrection, but Halloween is not a Christian holiday to which non religious traditions have been added. It is a pagan holiday to which secular traditions have been added. Christmas although it has some components that have pagan origins has always been the celebration of Christ's birth until recently where its has become more about secularism, gifts, and a guy named Santa.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Pan3

      You got it wrong! All Christian holidays are based on Pagan Holidays. Including Easter and Christmas

      October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • ChrissyinFL

      Sorry EP, it seems you have it backwards. Both Christmas and Easter were originally pagan holiday times by different names that were hijacked by Christianity to replace the local pagan beliefs with Christian ones. The early Christians found that they needed to replace the local customs and holidays with the religious message in order to try and displace the pagan beliefs. Christ was not born in December at the winter solstice time. Easter is similarly an overlap of customs.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

      Whether it's Christian or Pagan it doesn't matter any longer. It's just another money making vehicle for merchants!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Marvin

      You are mistaken about Christmas. It's a Roman holiday that was re-used by Christians for the birth of Jesus. Nothing wrong with that, but it would be a mistake to call it a Christian origin holiday. There's no date in the scriptures for Christ's birth and even the exact year is uncertain.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • MarkinCA

      You way want to recheck your facts. All of these holidays were and still are Pegan holidays that the Christians took over and added their stuff to. Most all the rituals that the Christians have are Pegan. And why do they always try to equate being Pegan with the devil? Pegans don't even believe in the devil. Christians just say that to try to make the Pegans look evil – when they are not.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  14. bsitz

    They dont celebrate it because of its Pagan roots? Yet they celebrate Christmas? Makes sense....

    October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Ocean41

      Yeah... what a shallow article, would had been nice to hear some theologians for their positions. Christmas is a well known pagan celebration that was adopted by the Christians long ago; Halloween, it seems, is not appealing to religion...

      October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Raeann

    I have learned in my walk of faith that many people want to put me down for believing in Jesus. They just don't have the same view of God that I have. That said, I don't for any thoughts or purposes think that Halloween is evil. It is so commercialized that now it does not resemble in any way the pagan holiday it was. Same with Christmas and Easter. I choose to follow what scripture says... not what the greater society says.

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

      Yup.... there is few of us out there.... but like Jesus said, narrow is the way that leads to eternal life, but WIDE is the way that leads to perdition.

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

      If they commercialised Klan rallies and made costumes and hand out candies would you get into that too?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Pan3

      People are putting YOU down!? As a gay man, Christians are ALWAYS putting me down.
      Typical Christian hypocrit!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Varun

      People are right in putting you down because you believe in scriptures written behind a mountain when no one's watching.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Andrew

    It is so funny that when there is a Christian article all the Athiests crawl out of their miserable holes and have some retarded over used comment to make. Look the only way that this debate will be solved is when we die. So shut up all ready with the God vs No God debate. We will all find out who is right when we are 6 feet under, because there are made up points to proove and disproove each others argument. I will also say that Christians are huge killjoys and everything is a sin and offensive. Drinking is a sin, smoking weed is a sin, celebrating Christmas and Halloween is a sin. Eating is a sin everything we do is a sin, driving a red car is a sin,. Really get over your self. I also beleive that the bible says somewhere that pointing the finger at someone elses faults is a sin, but they tend to over look that sin all the time. We all argue way to much about stupid petty crap. It goes on and on and on and on and on and no one ever wins....and the majority of us are tired of listening to you children bicker. Shut up already with your unsolveable argument. Your all ignorant for arguing about crap that will only be revealed when your dead. We argue way to much and know way to little...It's such a worn out argument.

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

      Religion will be the end of this world....

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

      As an atheist, I will continue to comment seeing as though the Bible Banging Crowd has been responsible for some of the worst legislation in this country as well as causing more deaths through Religious War than any other group.

      If you could ban Bible Bangers and "Ban Everything" Soccer Moms from voting, we would have no, repeat, no stupid laws on the books.

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

      You are full of win!

      October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Zulu

      Well said Andrew..

      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  17. Greg Morgan

    Okay, so there are a few right-wing religious wackos who have a problem with Halloween. So what? Since this is a perfectly harmless bit of craziness, why does the story deserve top billing on CNN? Who is the CNN editor who made the decision to publish this story, and what is being done to educate him/her on what kinds of stories are worth covering?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  18. ers

    Happy Halloween all!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  19. Millz for christ

    ....Just like a pagan to misdirect and hide in the shadows. So I guess all those movies are not really based real-life events...liars

    October 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  20. Honeyblade

    I don't understand why this is on the front page, but this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZLyUK0t0vQ isn't? You have a job to report things that are important to this nation, you are not doing that job.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:42 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.