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. RunForthePews

    Hey Christians........ BOOO !!!

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

      Hey atheist ... still craving that blotting out for eternity I see?


      October 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  2. Colin

    If a person believes that an immortal being reads their mind and will cause them to live happily ever after they die, we call them a lunatic. If a dozen do, we call them a cult. If a billion do, we call them Christians.

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

      No we don't.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Little White Lies


      You are batting a thousand today !!!!

      October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  3. mannycl

    I'm a Christian myself and consider all this debate rather stupid. Halloween is just entertainment and tradition. Those who want to see more than it actually is will always find a reason to do so. Let's enjoy it and forget all about them.

    Happy Halloween to every body!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  4. Portland tony

    Throughout my life I have never ever seen religious trappings attached to a pumpkin. Lived in many places through the entire US and the only change I've seen is that more adults seem to party on Halloween than in the past. Used to be a kids time for make believe. Now everybody making believe. Same way with Christmas. Used to be a kids time. But that's what happens in a society that has to sell more stuff every year.

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

      No, you are wrong. In the 30's and 40's just as many adults celebrated Halloween, just as it is getting back to doing now. Nothing is new, it just comes around again.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  5. Marcus

    If you don't like Halloween, don't observe it. Simple as that... Same goes for TV shows, music, food, etc, etc. Meanwhile, stop whining, shut the @#$% up, and leave the rest of us alone.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Zeke2112

    Tee hee! Silly sky-man believers! Don't you realize that the Christmas and Easter holidays you love are co-opted pagan holidays as well? You crack me up!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Carol

      We don't really care what the Pagans do or did. It's now.

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  7. Carol

    Every year we go through this Pentecostal angst, let them have their Hell Houses, that I would not put one foot in, and we other people, Christians and etc. will have fun with our Ghost houses, trick or treat, and costumes! Sick minds of humans open the door to evil, or wrong doing, not ghosts.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  8. Eric

    My wife and I are Christians and we have decided that as a family we will not be celebrating Halloween. It's a personal decision rooted in our faith that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins so that we may be reconciled to God. As Christians we are called to be in the world, but not of the world.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • NoSnickersBars?

      Poor decision.

      Candy it tasty.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Little White Lies

      How can anybody be "born" with sin ?
      How nice, the church has you in "sin" debt from the first breath you take.
      Nice scam.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  9. ted


    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  10. Sam

    I am a Christian. We as a family do not celebrate Easter or Christmas for the same reasons. We do not miss any of them. A list was posted of the attributes of a Fundamentalist Christian. I would dispute some of the details, but overall embrace the list as defining me personally.

    Such hatred against Christians and Christianity. I will admit a lot of it is deserved. But, why sink to the level of those whom you dispise?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Carol

      You are a fundamentalist Christian.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  11. monomial

    Christmas was originally based on a pagan holiday but I'll bet most Christians do not even know that.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  12. BU

    All religion is a DISEASE of the mind! Be part of the solution, not the problem!!!

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  13. Kaz

    umm... All Hallow's Eve? All Saints Day? All Souls Day?
    There's nothing evil or un-christian about praying for the souls of the deceased, hoping that they make it to heaven, that they can look with pride (not shame) upon their living kinfolk.

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/civilization/cc0070.html has a great article about the history of the Catholic Church and Halloween – including the idea that some of the pranks on halloween night were a way for the greater population to torment and tease christians who expressed their faith.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  14. why

    The average time an atheist spends in the belief blog is disproportinately HIGHER than the time spent by that of a believer. Why?

    October 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Katie K

      Ever heard the saying – "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer"?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      We have a lot of catching up to do, is why.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      Because atheists read things other than the bible?

      Also, athiests aren't the ones attempting to write public policy based on our dusty tome and archaic belief system. So we're naturally concerned with how religion plays out in public life.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Liutgard

      Haters gotta hate?

      October 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Little White Lies

      They are trying to help you find the truth.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  15. Kevin

    Do these idiots realize that Halloween is actually what the Christian church invented to REPLACE the pagan holiday of Samhain? Moronic bible thumpers.

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

    Yes the Ancient Celts made bonfires October 31 because is got dark early then too and guess what? They saw things like bats because they ate the bugs that were drawn to the flames and oh no! they thought the bats may be spriits of evil trying to poison the harvest. Jump ahead a few hundred years and now the Witch trials in Salem MA, oooohh scary stuff! Burning people to death for practicing medicine and me oh my there's a cat and a caulren on the fire ( most people cooked in a large pot over the fireplace way back in the day). Now there's pumkin carving OH NO!! more evil!! and it was actually a turnip or other vegie that was hollowed out to put a candle in since there was no electricity. Costumes and such did'nt happen until the 20th century and then it was mostly comic book characters and REALLY scary stuff like cowboys and princesses.The candy thing came from Soul cakes that were given as payment to children on All Souls Day who went door to door asking to pray for the souls in Purgatory that they may get enough prayers to send them to heaven. I say leave Halloween alone have fun and don't be stupid.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  17. Sarah

    I find it hilarious that conservative christians have issues with Halloween being a pagan holiday when in fact Christmas is also deeply rooted in pagan tradition. Jesus was not born on December 25. December 25 falls much for in line with the Winter Solstice which was of great importance to Pagan religions. Even the 12 days of Christmas, the concept of "Yule", etc. are ALL based on Pagan tradition. I have nothing against religion, however, picking and choosing what you want to support is not part of it.

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

      I am a Christian and agree with you 100%.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Jimmy Ou

    If we have to base things on religion then Easter and Christmas should be abolish. Religion is a guideline on how to live a certain way. Religion isn't a way to live by but with. Holidays and events like Halloween are meant to bring friends and family together. Its not to celebrate evil or worship Satan. I'm Christan and I celebrate Christmas because I'm with family, not the birth of Jesus. Halloween is about going out with friends and family, not worshiping anything or anyone.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  19. Red Pison

    All religions are cults, they just vary in size.

    October 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  20. Ed

    This is not a Christian debate. This is a pagan debate, trying to influence and ridicule christian beliefs.
    All this is preparing the way for the NWO…

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

      There is no need to ridicule Christian beliefs. Those are ridiculous enough on their own. Time to up the dose on your Lithium, Ed.

      October 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Katie K

      Um, what's the NWO?

      October 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Little White Lies

      **** Ed

      This is not a Christian debate. This is a pagan debate, trying to influence and ridicule christian beliefs.
      All this is preparing the way for the NWO…

      Bring it on.
      The old world order aint working out too good.

      October 29, 2011 at 9:25 am |
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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.