Friday, October 23, 2009

    Just in time for Halloween: "Hell House"

    If you're still looking for a Halloween-themed program to get your youth thinking, I strongly recommend the documentary "Hell House" about a church (Trinity Church -Assemblies of God in Cedar Hill, Texas) that hosts a yearly alternative to the local haunted house events. Instead of ghosts and goblins, their "hell house" includes scenes like a girl getting an abortion, a gay man dying of AIDS, or a girl at a rave being slipped a roofie and raped, and of course all with the implication that these people are going to hell for their misdeeds.

    To be clear
    : I find this portrayal of the Christian faith so far from anything I believe -- these folks might as well be practicing a completely different religion from the one I call Christianity. But -- the documentary is excellent and lets the subjects speak for themselves. Particularly powerful is the scene where a couple of local young people confront one of the organizers about the whole project. The film could certainly stimulate some great conversation about faith, fear, grace, sin, evangelism, and culture vs. Christ.

    On a side note, I just watched Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" last night for the umpteenth time. Funny how all the scare tactics the Church was using back in the middle ages during the plague still seem to be in vogue today.

    Check out this episode of the radio program "This American Life" which features an interview with the director of "Hell House."


    Nick said...

    Agreed. Good documentary, but almost disappointing representation of Christianity. And yet these "Hell Houses" are common all over the country.

    Those looking to catch this documentary should look for it on the Documentary Channel if you have it via satellite or cable. That's where I found it at least.

    Brian said...

    Thanks for commenting, Nick. I got a hold of the doc via Netflix (they even have it for instant viewing).

    KaGe said...

    I understand they want to have something other than the run of the mill haunted house on Halloween. And honestly Hell is a scary topic. But what concerns me when I hear about any sort of "Fire and Brimstone" preaching is the total buy in to scaring people to Jesus. Should we be afraid of Hell?'s scary as hell. But should it be what we lead with? I don't know. I do believe (and I guess I haven't done the study on this so I don't have numbers) that Christ almost exclusively led with love...not condemnation. Even when he was hung on the cross he asked God for their forgiveness (which just happens to be an act of love). So although I think the topic of Hell is something that all Christians should be versed in, I don't think it's so much of a outreach event.

    Man I can't wait until Christians in America finally decide to love instead of scare/hate/offend/isolate/intimidate/et al other people. Maybe we wouldn't be looked on as hypocrites then.

    Brian said...

    KaGe, I totally agree that we need to more more on the "love" aspect of our faith.

    Another disturbing aspect of this story becomes clear if you listen to the "This American Life" radio story I link to at the bottom of the post. In it you get a clear sense that the kids involved in this are partially motivated just by the sheer fun of getting to play out violent scenarios, and the way they joke around about the whole thing leads me to beleive that they really don't take it seriously. At the end of the Halloween season, this church actually has an Oscars-like ceremony where they give awards to the best "abortion girl" performance, best "girl raped at the rave" performance, and so on. The cavalier attitude they take to the whole thing is disturbing.

    Finally, there is a real thread of implication within this Hell House presentation that if you have been molested, it's your own fault and even if such abuse leads you to commit "sins", you will still go to hell for it and there is no forgiveness coming your way from Jesus.

    Jay Miklovic said...

    I do believe a healthy discussion on hell with our youth is important, and even that a degree of fire and brimstone is not unprecedented... especially when dealing with our youth who have been 'religious' their entire lives and have the attitude of a mini-pharisee not realizing they have been blessed to grow up in a Christian family.

    My issue is that the Gospel is good news... good news to the poor, the broken hearted, and the desolate, good news to those who have been in the very situations the 'hell house' exploits. Moreover God is so alive and at work in horrendously messy situations, and I wonder if the people who create these 'hell houses' have ever ministered in these situations they illustrate.

    After ministering this year in some pretty rough situations this presentation makes me nauseous. Before actually dealing with these situations I may have thought a 'hell house' was a good idea... I would have been wrong.

    Reality is scary enough... no need to fake it.

    Anonymous said...

    I respect your opinions, but this video disturbs me. Not in a 'disturbing but challenging' kind of way... 'disturbing and horrifying and disgusting' kind of way. Why anyone would chose to do this is beyond me.

    I would never show this to my youth (let alone watch it myself). Not a chance in hell.

    notimportant said...

    Myself and a friend of mine have been doing a "hell house" at our church and were going into our 5th year this year.....except we call it Hell's Gates..however I'm appalled by this church's use of the ministry...we are very carefully with what we use and how we present it...I make sure when announcing it people understand...we ARE NOT trying to scare "the hell" out of anyone...ours presents situations and choices and ultimately in life every choice leads to another one....generally we have hundreds come through and maybe have 10 complaints among all of am I saying your wrong in your judgement on them..not completely because I think there are some things u don't touch, not because it isn't the truth but because you don't know who and what's in each group that comes through...there is a way to do it that the flesh feels the sting but the heart isn't wounded...after all that's what its about :)