Churches in the midwest construct vast "hell houses"
to scare visitors to Jesus. Originally begun as a response to Halloween haunted
houses, these elaborate stagings, crammed with theatrical effects and high-school
actors on October 31, try to outdo each other in their ultra-realistic depiction
of sin and horror.
My curiosity was piqued, so I did some research. I found this
exhaustive site (caution, fancy menus require IE) which dates from 1999,
which includes a detailed description of a visit to a Hell House. There’s even
short video from a news broadcast. I also found this
page, which provides a virtual tour of a hell house:
The First Room visited was a funeral home with a funeral in progress.
A young lady laying in a casket, mom, grandma and sisters weeping for their
lose. They seen how Satan had deceived this young lady into believing that
she was born a lesbian and she had died from aids. A demon jumps out from
behind the casket and informs the group how he had convinced her into believing
that this was the way she was and how they had led her into hell without the
hope of escape.
New Creation Evangelism, Inc of Clearwater FL sells a Judgment House
kit. Its literature describes it as "an 8 scene drama that makes people
aware of the reality of heaven and hell." It shows "them the joy
of having a relationship in Heaven with Jesus." Also shown is hell, "the
ultimate haunted house, which is where they will spend eternity if they do
not accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior…" Their kit is more
expensive than the one for Hell Houses; it costs $250 U.S. But for this expenditure,
a participating church becomes a Covenant church. They receive a new script
each year, attend a training conference. Also included is a manual, advertising
kit and telephone support.
page rocks. They provide detailed stats of the efficacy of the Judgment
House–"Experienced 18 salvations per hour of presentation!" I’d also
like to see that manual:
3. Once you have reenacted the calamitous car accident, lay prone in front
of the over-turned car. If you are portraying a teenager who has accepted
Jesus Christ, strike a beatific expression and look skyward.
If you are portraying a teenager who has rejected Jesus, writhe on the
stage floor and beg for mercy.
4. After a minute, stand and direct audiences to Room 4, the Hall of Queer
But I jest. It’s not my intent to mock any form of Christianity here. I just
think the concept as a pedagogical strategy is totally absurd. Scare people
back to Jesus? What a medieval concept. When in modern human history has this
strategy been effective? Surely this runs counter to principles central to the
Christian faith. Converting people through fear is, well, pretty fascist. I
hardly think that seeing a couple of men kiss (though apparently it’s actually
a man and a woman in a beard) is going to set someone on the path to a healthy
spiritual relationship with God. And if it does, what kind of act of faith is
that? "I believe because I’m scared out of my wits?"
I’m reminded of the reason why cathedrals are so awe-inspiring–the builders
wanted to convert people the moment they entered. At least in that case they
built the majestic instead of the horrible.