Evangelical Christians | Evangelicals | Gay Youth | Halloween | Religion

The Return Of The Hell House

The "Hell House" is one of those annual inevitabilities, like the January 1st hangover, that is as nauseating as it is persistant. Every October, Evangelical churches open up Hell Houses around the country, elicit some rage in the press, and close up shop by mid-November. In theory, the Hell House is a Christian alternative to traditional haunted houses; a healthy and wholesome affair that brings together families, boosts the attendees' moral fiber, and provides a little light entertainment.

Brian Kirk, at Patheos, explains the reality:

Instead of vampires and werewolves, guests are treated to scenes such as a young girl having an abortion, a gay man suffering from AIDS, a teen dying in an auto accident who failed to give his life to Christ. In each scenario, these presumed sinners are tormented by actors dressed as demons. The implication, none too subtle, is that each deserves both their suffering and their one-way ticket to damnation. The gay man, molested by his uncle as a child, chose to have sex and contract HIV. The teen girl chose to get drugged at a rave, raped, and become pregnant. The boy in the car wreck chose hell because he refused to listen to his parents' religious teachings. The message of these hell houses is that the same fate awaits us all. But wait! There's hope. These terror tours usually end with a glimpse of heaven and the opportunity to give one's life to Jesus. [Emphasis added.]

Not incidentally, Brian Kirk is himself a Christian minister, and his objection isn't just to the psychological torture that is the Hell House's metier. He's also bugged by the irony implicit in the whole Hell House project. In response to the depravity and darkness they perceive in American culture, Kirk explains, the Evangelicals who operate Hell Houses have created an entertainment that revels in darkness and depravity to a degree undreamt of by the culture's most unabashed darkness-peddlers. Writes Kirk:

Perhaps most telling ... is the apparent excitement expressed by the Christian teens who help to organize and present the gruesome scenarios. It's clear that the youth involved are partially motivated just by the sheer enjoyment of getting to play out the violent tableaux. At the end of the Halloween season, Trinity Church actually hosts a dress-your-best ceremony where awards are presented for the best "abortion girl" performance, best "girl raped at the rave" performance, "best demon," and so on. The cavalier attitude they take to the whole affair is disturbing.

See an ad for a Hell House AFTER THE JUMP ...


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  1. I went to one of those years ago. The abortion scene was unbelievable. The girl was screaming at the doctor to stop because she changed her mind. Then the doctor laughed and said IT IS TOO LATE NOW and threw the baby onto the glass. Anyway, one good thing came out of it. I came out to my parents that night because I realized that my fears about going to hell for being gay were absolutely ridiculous.

    Posted by: Star | Oct 30, 2011 11:50:47 AM

  2. why don't they just do what they WISH they could do and show a room full of Holocaust-era Jews being gassed and then spending an eternity in Hell being tortured for "not being Christians"?

    After all, that's EXACTLY what these people believe. WHy not follow through, eh? Abortion? Gays? Come on, folks. You know you think Anne Frank is burning in Hell for all eternity. Why not just admit it and put THAT into your Hell House?

    oh, but we all know why...

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Oct 30, 2011 12:49:50 PM

  3. Yes, because when women go to raves they CHOOSE to be drugged and raped. No wonder The Church is losing members left and right. They are worse than their so-called "sinners".

    Posted by: FernLaPlante | Oct 30, 2011 1:04:26 PM

  4. Reading about the fun the teen actors in the Hell House seem to be having, being a gay horror fan myself, I would hope that some of those teen haunted house participants are enjoying the thrill of it all on an artistic/performance/exhbitionistic level and are just playing along with the messages of hate and judgement, naive of what harm they really commit. One can hope.

    I went to one of these local Hell Houses for a TV news story and it seemed like a reguar cheesy haunted house but with a lot of preachy judgement going on. The thrill of horror is the feeling of being excited and alive through fear. Too bad they get off on it not for fun, but for propoganda purposes.

    Posted by: S | Oct 30, 2011 1:41:43 PM

  5. Being so repressed, one would think these teens couldn't wait to get the release of (at least) pretending to be naughty for a night.

    Posted by: S | Oct 30, 2011 1:49:03 PM

  6. Kiwi, how is it that you seem to know what everyone else "wishes" he could do? Do you claim clairvoyance? I understand your hostility to evanelical Christians, but could you at least go after them for what they actually DO and not what you imagine they want to do? I was just on another thread defending gay men against the charge of all being child molesters. If I can do this, can't you refrain from calling me a cryptic Nazi?

    Posted by: Mary | Oct 30, 2011 2:05:53 PM

  7. hey Mary, what do YOU believe happens to non-Christians when they die?

    What do you believe happened to the more than 6 million Jews that were exterminated during the Holocaust? Do you believe they're in Hell, since they weren't Christians? Do you believe one must be a Christian in order to avoid "Hell"?

    These are very clear and direct questions I'm asking you, and I'd like to hear your clear and direct answers.

    I know what I'm talking about, Mary, whether you like hearing it or not. These groups of Evangelicals who put these appalling Hell Houses together believe that damnation awaits all who walk a different path than them. They absolutely believe that Anne Frank and Gandhi are in Hell.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Oct 30, 2011 2:17:27 PM

  8. Star, your story is especially telling. It seems more and more obvious that one of the main recruiting mechanisms of American Evangelicalism is to reify young people's internalized homophobia. You managed to escape it. Many others aren't able to, but as the "Christian" right wing continues to lose its grasp on the nation's cultural discourse, the situation will hopefully improve.

    Clicking around on twitter I recently discovered a cluster of interrelated profiles at a certain relatively prestigious southern public university. They were the various young evangelicals, members of "Young Life", of facebook groups like "I hate Barack Obama" etc. Certainly not the mainstream at a nationally selective university, even in the South. But what's striking was that so many of them seemed screamingly gay. "Gay Face", gay clothing styles, and oh-snap gay attitude evident in their twitter posts. A few of them even seem to persistently "joke" about being gay - but are always hasty in reestablishing their "straight" cred by retwitting some bit of fraternity banter about tits or whatnot. (which would obviously be incongruent with real Christianity, if that were anything close to what these people represent) It's as though they have to occasionally reposition their fingers in the dyke of heteronormativity and little pesky spurts of reality keep slipping out.

    Posted by: St. Theresa of Avila | Oct 30, 2011 2:32:23 PM

  9. Kiwi is taking one of Christianity's main tenets--that belief in Jesus will lead to salvation--and following it to its logical conclusion. Even if you, Mary, have never particularly thought it through, it's still true. It's really the main thing about Christianity that led me to question it and eventually become an atheist (it's not the only reason but it started me down the road).

    Posted by: Zell | Oct 30, 2011 2:54:48 PM

  10. I'm lucky enough to have been raised in the United Church of Canada - a humanist approach to Christianity that in no way promotes nor practices exclusivity nor false messages of "only one worthy path in life."

    You show me someone who justifies their anti-gay beliefs with "Christianity" and I'll show you someone who thinks the more than 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust are in Hell.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Oct 30, 2011 3:00:52 PM

  11. Why is it always a "gay man suffering from AIDS"? Why isn't it "straight man suffering from AIDS"? It just proves that AIDS has become a politically correct illness which is promoted by various interest groups as a "gay man's disease". Gay men themselves are responsible for this horrible association.

    Gay men need to stop demonizing our sexuality by constantly associating it with an illness.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 30, 2011 5:29:01 PM

  12. These people, I really don't want to call them Christians, think that everyone is basically evil and bad and they have to be scared into being good. I just don't understand them. Granted, there have been some horrible horrible people over the years but for every Hitler, there's been a Mother Teresa-someone making the world a better place, notwithstanding any homophobic actions on her part.

    Posted by: Grover Underwood | Oct 30, 2011 5:31:01 PM

  13. Going to cheesy haunted house show is going to make people convert?

    Posted by: jaragon | Oct 30, 2011 5:40:51 PM

  14. "The tragic irony is that it's the people who seek Heaven in the future who create Hell in the present."

    Posted by: Caliban | Oct 30, 2011 5:49:47 PM

  15. How about a cautionary anti-Hell-House that depicts Evangelical Christians going through life joylessly, with a HUGE stick up their a$$, because they're so repressed and see "satan" in everything from Harry Potter to Halloween?

    Posted by: Caliban | Oct 30, 2011 5:52:55 PM

  16. Kiwi, I believe we had a misunderstanding here. I assumed you were accusing these evangelicals of anti-semitism. This is a separate question from whether such people believe Jews, or anyone else, are going to hell. But I'll give you a direct answer. Yes, I believe, as Christian theology has always taught, that anyone who does not accept Jesus as his Savior is going to hell. This includes an awful lot of people who I would really like as human beings - Anne Frank and Ghandi would be among them. It also includes virtually everyone in my family, which is an unpleasant thought (so I try to not think about it.)

    If you want to blame me for this theology and assume I'm rubbing my hands together with glee at the thought of anyone going to hell you can go ahead. This is what you're going to do anyway, isn't it?

    Posted by: Mary | Oct 30, 2011 11:49:59 PM

  17. ^^^

    Well, Mary, I can't speak for Kiwi, but I can speak for myself. And to me, you don't need to "rub your hands together with glee" at the thought of eternal torture and damnation of your non-christian loved ones and non-christian human beings you "really like" or I guess, the billions of other human beings you share the planet with who do not also call themselves Christian (or atleast the same kind of christian as you)... No, no, your gleefull hand-rubbiing is not required because your admission that you find some kind of justice in the thought of so many people suffering for all eternity is enough to remind me why I'm proud to have thoroughly rejected my christian upbringing.

    And I don't think anyone is "blaming" you for the the existence of the theology, but of course you are to blame for accepting it.

    Posted by: Chaddy | Oct 31, 2011 6:32:34 AM

  18. Ah, tis the season for anti anything!!!

    Posted by: Jeffrey Dunivant | Oct 31, 2011 8:45:22 AM

  19. Mary, I consider you a mediocre excuse for a human being and one of the laziest thinkers in the country. It's because of people like you that culture is still so prejudiced.

    Make no mistake - you have blood on your hands, and you will pay in this life and the next for all the harm that inflict by CONDONING IT.

    You believe that the more than 6 million Jews exterminated in the Holocaust are in Hell, for eternity, since they weren't "Christians"

    I hope you never, ever have children. It would be awful for young impressionable minds to be raised by such a non-thinking intellectually lazy and fear-based idiot such as yourself.

    You promote the idea of a God that is less compassionate, understanding, intelligent, graceful and empathetic than your average everyday human being.

    I say that with complete sincerity - may your womb forever be as barren as the wasteland of your useless and unused brain, and as empty as that collection of valves that you call a heart.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Oct 31, 2011 4:15:13 PM

  20. God is love.
    Some of God's followers - on the other hand - are just perverse and perverted assholes who engage in schadenfreude

    Posted by: Drew | Oct 31, 2011 5:09:22 PM

  21. Kiwi, have you been drinking or getting high? Maybe you need to take a chill pill.

    You don't say what I have "blood on my hands" FOR. And I'm offended by your constatnt attempts to link me with the Holocaust and anti-semitism when I never hurt anyone in my life or condoned anyone's killing. The fact that I believe people are going to hell for not being Christians doesn't mean I'm RESPONSIBLE for their going. I didn't develope Christian theology. And this probably won't come as a surprise to you, but.....I'm not God.. and haven't the faintest idea why "being good" is not enough to get us into heaven. You'll have to ask the Lord when you meet Him. However, the idea that we only get to the Father through the Son (ie. to God through Jesues only) has been a basic tenet of Christianity since it's inception. It is not, despite that you like to believe, something invented in the 20th century by right-wing Republicans. You are free to believe whatever you wish, of course, but stop acting as if Christianity as it was practiced for several thousand years is something surprising to you.

    Your constant personal attacks are hard to understand in light of the fact that I've complimented both your body and your intelligence in the past. I even left a reply to one of your blog entries giving you moral support and complimenting you on how nice you and your boyfriend look together. For this I'm put in a category with Hitler and told I'm a mediocre excuse for a human being.

    By reading Towleroad and trying to understand the gay community I've shown far more interest in being tolerant and open-mined than you have toward conservatives. But I don't judge the whole LGBT community by your rude hysterical behavior. Many posters here are very fair-minded people.

    And not to worry about me breeding. It's not likely since I just turned 50.

    I have no "hate" toward anyone. I still think highly of your talents and wish you the best. There's a better side of you, Raymond (yes, I know your real name.) Try to develop it - you'll be happier in the long run.

    Posted by: Mary | Oct 31, 2011 6:54:18 PM

  22. These are not "good, christian people". They are sick, twisted bigots. Satanic, even.


    Posted by: DeeperStill | Oct 31, 2011 7:13:56 PM

  23. And so are you, Mary!!!

    Posted by: DeeperStill | Oct 31, 2011 7:15:31 PM

  24. A rave? Do they still have those?

    Posted by: Jess | Nov 1, 2011 12:22:10 AM

  25. Mary.....mary mary mary...

    "Your constant personal attacks are hard to understand in light of the fact that I've complimented both your body and your intelligence in the past. I even left a reply to one of your blog entries giving you moral support and complimenting you on how nice you and your boyfriend look together. For this I'm put in a category with Hitler and told I'm a mediocre excuse for a human being."

    No, you're in a category with Hitler and you're a mediocre excuse for a human being because you believe that despite all my "good" qualities I will still burn in Hell for all eternity, since I'm gay. Just as you believe that the more than 6 million Jews exterminated during the Holocaust are burning in Hell for all eternity simply because they "weren't Christians."

    Thats' why you're a mediocre human being, Mary. You think that God doesn't care about the quality of a person's life, about their gifts and work toward humanity and peace - you think God only cares that people follow YOUR interpretation of one of the world's many religions.

    That is why you have blood on your hands, and that is why you're a mediocre human being. Attempt to discern.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Nov 1, 2011 1:32:31 PM

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