I grew up in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches that believed Halloween was a Satanic holiday. I heard my pastors tell countless stories about the evils of Halloween. This was in the days when Mike Warnke traveled the land passing himself off as a former Satanist. In 1972, Warnke wrote a bestselling book titled, The Satan Seller. Warnke’s writing would lay the groundwork for later writers such as Lauren Stratford (Laurel Wilson), who wrote Satan’s Underground, and Johanna Michaelsen, who wrote The Beautiful Side of Evil. These three authors, along with radio shock jock Bob Larson, helped fuel the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. While their shticks varied, one thing they all had in common — well, besides being exposed as frauds — was their opposition to Halloween.
Many Evangelical churches believe it is important to replace evil things with good things. (Please see The Evangelical Replacement Doctrine and The Replacement Doctrine: How Evangelicals Attempt to Co-opt the “World”) In their minds, Christianity shouldn’t be all about what Christians can’t do or what they are against. As a teenager, I saw this put into practice at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Instead of having Halloween parties or letting families decide for themselves whether Halloween was evil, the church-sponsored replacement events focused on fall or harvest. I really don’t remember much about these parties, but two highlights come to mind. One year, the event was held in the country, complete with a hayride, apple-bobbing, and trying to make out without being caught by the youth director. Several of us decided to wrap the youth director’s car with crepe paper. Cool right? Well, he didn’t take his car home that night. The automobile sat all night, and come morning, a heavy dew caused the color to leach out of the paper, ruining the car’s paint job. To this day, they are looking for the boys who committed this vandalous act. By God, I will take their names to my grave! I’m no snitch. 🙂 Another year, the church held a fall event in the church’s annex. The highlight of the night was a blindfolded trip through what was billed as Joe’s Body. We were led down lines that displayed various things that were meant to represent the various parts of Joe’s body. It was quite gross, more funny than scary.
Having come of age in an anti-Halloween environment, I refused to let my children practice Halloween – a fact that should surprise none of my readers. Not one of my six children went trick-or-treating — ever. Every year, I would remind congregants about the evils of Halloween, and without fail, church members would quietly and secretly ignore my admonitions. Unlike the pastors of my youth, I wasn’t a big proponent of replacing worldly things with Christianized versions. I took the approach that Christians were called by God to holiness; that we had a duty to stand against Satan and the world, even if it meant we did without.
Some Evangelical churches have decided to reclaim Halloween for Jesus. Instead of preaching against Halloween, these churches and pastors repurpose the holiday, sponsoring hell houses, haunted houses, and other “scary” events. Some of the events have turned into huge money-makers for their sponsors. One such church is Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas. Trinity describes Hell House this way:
Hell House was first opened in October of 1991 and is a creative alternative to the traditional haunted house. It is a theatrical dramatization of real life situations. Each year over 10,000 [at $13 a pop] people walk through its doors with an ambiguous expectation.
With Hell House now entering its 29th year, we attempt to keep that ambiguity going by offering new, fresh, in-your-face scenes and ideas. This year there are 11 scenes, with the walk-through taking an estimated 45 minutes (not including waiting in line). The maze-like walk will take your group through the scenes. Each scene will give you a look into the real life “hellish” issues that some deal with everyday.
Hell House is not meant for children under the age of 13. There are guns, blood, violence, intense scenes, and disturbing images.
What this blurb doesn’t say is that Trinity uses their Hell House as a means to evangelize teenagers and adults. Scare attendees, cause them to be fearful, and then swoop in and tell them that the answer to their fears is THE GREAT PUMPKIN — also known as Jesus. As the following one-minute videos show, Hell House is all about evangelizing impressionable, vulnerable teenagers.
Best I can tell, COVID put an end to Trinity’s annual Hell House.
Evangelical-operated haunted houses and similar events exist for one purpose alone: to manipulate teenagers into making decisions to ask Jesus to save them. I have long argued that Evangelical churches and pastors almost always have ulterior motives; that their friendly smiles and benign “ministries” are just pretexts for what they really want: conversion and addition to membership. It’s all about the numbers. These preachers know that more asses in the seats equals more Benjamins in the offering plates. Rare is the Evangelical pastor or church that does something with no expectation of return — either by adding to their membership or improving their image in the community.
It is for these reasons that people should avoid Evangelical-sponsored Halloween events, even if the activities seem innocuous. Most communities hold safe, fun secular Halloween activities. Why not support them, instead? Let’s not let Evangelicals steal yet another holiday! My God (Loki), they stole Christmas from Santa and Easter from the Easter Bunny, turning them into holidays about a virgin-born baby, his death thirty-three years later, and his resurrection from the dead. Don’t let them do this to Halloween! Keep the witches in Halloween!
Other posts about Halloween
Happy Halloween! by ObstacleChick
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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