Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    Christian Teens Stage "Hell House"

    If you are looking for some way to engage your students around the cultural observance of Halloween in a few weeks, I strongly recommend the documentary "Hell House." This film follows one church's efforts to create a Christian version of a haunted house. What makes it Christian? Well, instead of ghosts and ghouls, we get a girl suffering through an abortion while taunted by demons, a gay man who dies of AIDS and goes to hell, a girl at a rave who takes drugs and is raped (her fault for being morally weak!) and on and on.

    These "hell houses" are cropping up all over the country, most often sponsored by church youth groups who spend months preparing, building sets, making costumes and rehearsing their lines. All in the name of evangelism. The documentary lets the church folk tell their own story with no outside judgment or commentary by the filmmakers (though there is one really interesting scene where some local teens confront the youth minister on what they consider to be the intolerance inherent in the whole project).


    I wonder that these hell houses are just an excuse for some Christians to have fun at Halloween while claiming they are not endorsing paganism and the occult. On the other hand, the participants seem genuinely convinced that this is an effective tool for bringing people to Christ. What a great conversation you could have with youth after watching this film, looking at issues of evangelism, thoughts on the afterlife, understandings of God in scripture (lover vs. judger), and the ways different churches understand the central focus of the Christian faith. Check out a useful review of the film here.

    For more fun, check out this clip of every one's favorite cranky atheist, Richard Dawkins, interrogating a Colorado evangelical pastor about whether or not these hell houses are trying to scare people into "being good."

    --Brian

    8 comments:

    Scott Cheatham said...

    Nice clips. The Hell House has been a pretty amazing event. I've taken our youth here in Colorado and know Keenan Roberts (featured in your second clip). What Dawkins fails to mention in his little film is the finality of the hell house which is heaven. Everyone, even the ones he worries might have nightmares, are in the end taken to heaven where Jesus talks to them in a very peaceful, tranquil manner. The last impression they receive is one of peacefulness.

    Tommy said...

    I've seen this movie. It is horrible, I saw it after I saw "Jesus Camp" Both movies made me pretty sad as to the kind of attitude people can have in regards to God. In some ways these people are just as bad as Islamic-Extremists, in that both feel culturally repressed and take that repression out in a violent manner. Not a physical violence in this case, but an intellectual and emotional violence

    Brian said...

    Scott and Tommy, thanks for commenting. I must admit that this film (and Jesus Camp) present an "expression" of Christianity that is pretty foreign to what I see in the churches I serve. In fact, when I took my youth group to see "Jesus Camp" my teens were floored. They had no idea that there were Christians who thought that way or practiced their faith that way. Both films represent a slice of the Christian pie, in a sense.

    Youthhacks.net said...

    HH just looks like regurgitated medieval folk theology of hell.

    emergentjourney said...

    i went to a hell house when I was in high school and saw a guy from my class pretending to kill himself. the one I went to was very intense and i found it confusing as a teenager. i am sure they have a good heart, but I did not get the message when I went as a youth

    Gunther81 said...

    This seems just plain sick to me. Things like homosexual relationships and abortion are personal choices. One of the things that bugged me most was the implication that AIDs was created by homosexual people, which is ridicules, fictional and mean. There is NOTHING morally or otherwise wrong with being homosexual, and I'm strait so my opinion is in no way biased. I don't believe hell is real but if it is, can any of us truthfully say we actually DESERVE to go to heaven, regardless of what gender we find ourselves emotionally attached to?

    Brittany said...

    You have missed the point of the clip. Yes, absolutely none of us deserve Heaven! That was the beauty of Christ. He died, so that we could live. He is our only hope. He is they way, the truth and the light! Don't give up on your search, there is more to this life than just living and dying. I pray that you will find your answers in the Bible. It is the truth.

    Pete said...

    As servants of Christ, we do need to remember our mission as Christ commanded in Matthew 22:37-39 and Matthew 28:18-20. In our culture today, we have too many people afraid to teach the truth for fear of possibly offending people. The truth is offensive and will always be attacked by skewed movies like this and Jesus Camp. Some ministries get it right and others need some work and gentle reminders on what our calling is, but I think to completely dismiss these alternatives to haunted houses completely is ignoring a useful tool for the church today. Check them out for yourself, including the behind the scenes stuff and make the decision for yourself on whether this is something you'd want to take your students to.