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Hell Houses
October 31, 2013 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Evangelical churches across the country run "hell houses" on Halloween. These attractions show how "sinful" activities can ruin young lives. Some churches are trying to be more positive in their messaging. For those who are interested, you can now buy your own "hell house" outreach kit.

Here are a couple of previous discussions on the Blue.
posted by reenum (68 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The 2001 documentary Hell House, which follows a church group as they assemble and run a Hell House, is on YouTube.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:17 PM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


In New Orleans, they openly worship Satan.
posted by ColdChef at 7:19 PM on October 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


I attended in my youth! Although the one we always went to wasn't a "hell" house; it was Judgment House. (summary on the differences) I think it would be fun* to see what would be involved in managing/directing such a production- one storyline, 10+ rooms, probably at least a hundred actors. Acting in one is probably fun, too, particularly if you get to do something dramatic like die in a car wreck or scream in hell.

*This is my idea of fun now, taking on massive responsibilites. Something is very, very wrong with me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:25 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rave Scene - Youth culture often sees itself as wildly indestructible. The underground world of rave clubs and drug usage proves to be a deadly combination, and hell's demons rejoice.

So they reenact a Skrillex video?
posted by griphus at 7:35 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I clicked on "more positive", I was really hoping that somewhere had decided to run a Hell House where what you saw were the paranoid, negative, unhappy lives of people who spend all their time judging and excluding other people. Where you get haunted by the faces of the people you've hurt and the uncertainty of whether God really does hate all the same people you do, and where the world seems to be an ever more scary and foreboding place as the number of people you can trust gets smaller and smaller... but, no, alas.
posted by Sequence at 7:36 PM on October 31, 2013 [59 favorites]


I saw a link on Facebook today from a Christian friend explaining how Halloween is a perfectly fine holiday for Christians as the whole point is to laugh at the devil on the night before All Souls Day. I guess the idea is that Christians are safe from Satan, so it's fine to mock him for one night by dressing up and laughing at the idea of devils and skeletons, etc.

I'm not Christian but it was nice to see something other than Halloween = evil from a Christian.
posted by COD at 7:43 PM on October 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


I want to make a Hell House about the dangers of spending your time and energy making Hell Houses.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:49 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey guys

Hail Satan

Hail Satan, one and all

Merry Halloween you spooky ghouls
posted by Teakettle at 7:50 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


We used to go to Hell Houses and chant "WE LOVE SA-TAN!" until chased out. Of course, we'd also go to haunted houses and chant "WE LOVE JE-SUS!" Basically my friends were equal opportunity assholes.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:57 PM on October 31, 2013 [14 favorites]


Oh my God, I'd be so for someone doing an ultra-camp over-the-top parody performance of some of the scenarios described in the "outreach kit" link, but it'd require giving money to the people who distribute them, so...?
posted by kagredon at 8:11 PM on October 31, 2013


There's an old This American Life episode about the making-of process for one Hell House. The show makes putting the thing on sound cathartic; it comes across as an opportunity for evangelicals to let their hair down.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:11 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


From ColdChef's link:

But child actors still roam the haunted house like it’s a daycare center. Ten-year-old Heaven Wilt gained the cast’s respect by making a man pee himself on her first night.

“I’m locked in a cage, and I’m screaming ‘I’m the anti-Christ,” Wilt said. “It’s funny.”


I don't like scary things but now I want to go to this!
posted by rtha at 8:15 PM on October 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


Lesbian Haunted house as a response - "“Each Hallowe’en radical evangelical groups all over the USA and Canada build hell houses. Beginning in the 70’s, these performer-animated installations showcase gruesome retribution for the sins of fornication, abortion, suicide, occultism, and— of course—same-sex relationships. This Hallowe’en Toronto artist Allyson Mitchell reclaims this hellish scenario with her crowd-sourced, lesbian-feminist, queer-fear-fighting and reinforcing ‘Kill Joy’s Kastle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House.’"
posted by el io at 8:24 PM on October 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


The scariest thing in ColdChef's link is an offhand mention of Pizza Pringles. Everything else about that haunted house sounds amazing.
posted by padraigin at 8:24 PM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had a former boss that wanted to tell me all about how amazing the one at her church was, it was like watching a video of an insane person for a psych class...I felt horrible for her daughter.
posted by trackofalljades at 8:27 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the interesting things I learned from Robert M. Price's excellent podcast The Bible Geek is that it's likely, in the early days, Satan was not so much an evil figure as an adversary, like in the legal sense. He created trials for the faithful that proved their faith.

It's not hard to be a "good person" if nothing bad ever happens to you. If you fold the moment you hit adversity, you really weren't that good in the first place. The righteous were righteous because they chose that, even though it'd be easier not to be. That's the whole point of the book of Job, after all. It's kind of a quantum mechanical interpretation of faith; if you don't check if it exists, it doesn't.

While it's probable that this version of Satan's purpose began to break down before the time of Jesus, his tempting of him on the mountain seems to carry with it a vestige of this role.
posted by JHarris at 8:29 PM on October 31, 2013 [17 favorites]


When I first heard of the "Hell House" concept, I was reminded of the (very) short Clive Barker story "Down, Satan!" from one of the Books of Blood collections.

In the story, a sincerely pious man with a great deal of money decides to build a literal Hell on Earth, with the intention of luring the Devil inside; The man reasons that doing so will place his soul in such jeopardy that God will have no choice but to intervene and reveal Himself in all His glory, thus rewarding the man's faith. But in so doing, the man transforms into the very Devil that he attempted to entrap, as his New Hell ends up being a very real torture/death camp.

Maybe the metaphor doesn't quite hold up, but it is interesting all the same to see the zeal with which people will throw themselves into the roles of monsters if they're told that it's all for a good cause.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:33 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, I've been in one of those.

One thing I haven't seen anyone mention so far is the "left behind" room. It had nothing to do with the terrible, terrible books of that name. It was about the self-hating fear that you're not really Christian enough to go to heaven. It's really common in evangelical circles. Suddenly and inexplicably finding oneself alone can trigger a very real fear that you have been abandoned by God and by everyone you know. The place I was in did a good job of playing off that fear. Anyhow, the staff were friendly and all in all I didn't have a bad experience. I'm glad I didn't notice the inexcusable homophobia room until I was already on my way out the door.

I was in that house for years.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:37 PM on October 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


He created trials for the faithful that proved their faith.

Oh man I just had a vision of Lucifer from the comics as the judge in Phoenix Wright with Phoenix and Edgeworth arguing over matters theological. I think I just hurt myself.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:37 PM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fred Clark mused about this very subject earlier tonight on his blog, and pointed out something that frankly creeped me right out. Brrrr. Bet he was holding a flashlight under his chin when he wrote that one.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:38 PM on October 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


Colorado church New Destiny Christian Center runs a big Hell House every Halloween and encourages other evangelical churches to do so as well. They sell a Hell House “kit” — a kind of how-to manual for running one of these — for $299. Marc Herman of Pacific Standard shares some of the advertising for this manual and its various “modules,” including “Domestic Abuse,” “Rave Scene,” “Mother’s Womb Abortion,” “Teen Suicide,” “Drunk Driving,” “Gay Wedding,” and, of course, “Hell” and “Heaven.”

Gross.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:48 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


What makes these Hell House deals totally terrifying...

Is when you realize it's what they believe.
posted by Windopaene at 9:24 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Near the top of the list of my pet peeves is churches (almost always fundamentalist) that hold an alternative celebration for Halloween and call it "Holy-Ween."

YOU ARE DOING BOTH CHRISTIANITY AND ETYMOLOGY WRONG. STOP STOP STOP.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:25 PM on October 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


I've wondered about this sort of thing. Are the actors just doing it for money, experience or fun, or are they actually Christian? Would a non-Christian even be able to be an actor for a hell house, or would they be rejected?
posted by BiggerJ at 9:26 PM on October 31, 2013


that hold an alternative celebration for Halloween and call it "Holy-Ween."

YOU ARE DOING BOTH CHRISTIANITY AND ETYMOLOGY WRONG. STOP STOP STOP.


Wait, so singing "Push the Little Daisies" in the car at the top of your lungs isn't one of the sacraments?

Shit.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:32 PM on October 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


Are the actors just doing it for money, experience or fun, or are they actually Christian?

My understanding from the eponymous documentary is that the actors come from the church congregation -- it's basically an excuse for a little bit of community theatre.

That said, I'm sure that in towns with huge fundie populations, and at really big megachurches, they probably do put on a pro-level show.

That said, there's a whole secondary entertainment industry build around fundamentalist Christianity, and I'm sure the more elite Hell Houses are one of the main pillars of said parallel industry.
posted by Sara C. at 9:43 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I have to say, my favorite moment in the documentary Hell House is the scene where they're talking about the set design and overall concept for the Harry Potter = Satanism area, and it turns out they don't know the difference between a pentagram and a star of David. I mean, unless they're making some exciting new anti-semitic claim that Judaism is Satanism?
posted by Sara C. at 9:46 PM on October 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't believe that this is a real Thing. I thought it was a crazy thing made up for that one King of the Hill episode...even Hank Hill thought they were nuts.
posted by littlesq at 9:47 PM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fred Clark mused about this very subject earlier tonight on his blog, and pointed out something that frankly creeped me right out.

I'm glad the Slactivist commentators echoed what I've thought since I was a teen stuck in my fundie church: if you believe in Hell and believe in children getting a free pass until they've reached a certain level of sentience, then the only logical course of action is to get abortions for yourself and kill every small child you see. This is the only way to guarantee their entry into Paradise. If the child is allowed to live, then they may grow up to be atheists or Muslims or drug addled ravers and therefore doomed to the fiery abyss.

The real holiday message is that Baptists and Evangelicals are essentially a death cult. Kill your beloved children to save their souls, or let them live and have the strong possibility of eternal torment in the Black Halls of Unquenchable Fires. Either way, suffering and horror are inescapable.

Now this should be in a Hell House. Might scare the whole lot of them into the loving arms of their local Buddhists.
posted by honestcoyote at 9:48 PM on October 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


I dunno, the real problem with a HUGE percentage of modern American Christianity, of both the liberal and fundamentalist varieties, is that nobody is really interested in what their various sects ACTUALLY believe about the afterlife. Pretty much the entire popular mythology of the afterlife has little to do with what (most?) Protestant groups actually believe, and completely ignores purgatory, a major subset of Catholic doctrine on the afterlife.

So you get a lot of hand-wavey weirdness anytime someone who is not an actual theologian starts talking about Heaven, Hell, etc. No matter whether they're the soft fuzzy Christians we're all basically OK with ("Cake or Death" Episcopalians and the like) or the ones we enjoy mocking in FPPs like this. People pretty much just make up whatever they want, and none of it bears much relation to actual Christian eschatology. I mean, the whole concept of a Hell House illustrating how doing X or Y sinful behavior will damn you forever unless you say some Magic Words is heretical in and of itself, before you even get to the advanced contortions required to think that all unborn embryos go to Heaven.

I still remember the day I actually listened to the Nicene Creed in church for the first time. Weird stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 9:58 PM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Just to clarify, I have no problem with any of the above. People can think whatever they want about what happens after you die. You just don't have to start thinking about the unborn embryos in the Heaven of the church where you have to Accept Christ As Your Personal Lord And Savior, at all. It's all fucking weird, illogical, and directly contradicting stated doctrine of even the most mainstream denominations.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 PM on October 31, 2013


Well yeah Sara but if they actually followed their creed there'd be a whole lot more giving to the poor and fighting for the downtrodden and a whole lot less fuck you got mine and megachurches and prosperity gospels.

I mean the Pope caused a stir when he said "hey guys let's dial back the culture war bullshit and worry more about poor people," which shouldn't exactly be a controversial position.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:12 PM on October 31, 2013 [11 favorites]


Back in 2004, a bunch of well known comedians got a hell house kit and did their own production. I wish I could have seen it.
posted by bruceo at 10:50 PM on October 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read Fred's dissertation and I think, damn, but evangels are stupid people. As in, they Just. Don't. Think.

I guess I feel sorry for them.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:52 PM on October 31, 2013


This kind of thing makes me think of the oppression haunted house we ran in college; I wasn't supposed to calldo it that, but that's what it was. It was a series of rooms with actors demonstrating oppressie behavior, like harassing the gay kid or wife beating or what have you. Discussion groups at the end so we could all be appropriately solemn. The point was to confront people with their privilege, but much like a hell house, it was mostly a chance for college kids to be spooked by danger. I feel like the message is just really lost in the campiness.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:59 PM on October 31, 2013


In 2004 I went to Hollywood Hell House. Penn Jillette, in costume as Lucifer, caressed my cheek. Andy Richter was Jesus, Sarah Silverman was there, Paget Brewster, Bob Odenkirk--in short, it was awesome. And all they did was run a straight hell house; no modifications to the script. It's self-lampponing in the right context.
posted by jjwiseman at 12:06 AM on November 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


JHarris wrote: It's likely, in the early days, Satan was not so much an evil figure as an adversary, like in the legal sense. He created trials for the faithful that proved their faith.

Yes, the Hebrew word "satan" (no capital letter implied) means "oppose"; if it has the definite article (hasatan) it means "the opponent". It's used in a non-theological way in the Hebrew scriptures, but also as (what is presumably) the title of an entity prosecuting righteous people, e.g., in Job.

Anyway, I have an idea for a Purgatory Palazzo. It would held in a stairwell, ten stories high. As visitors climb the stairs they would see helpful examples of people correcting their lives, and eventually exit out into a party room where they would be served raw vegetables, healthy dips, and kale juice.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:32 AM on November 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


I still remember the day I actually listened to the Nicene Creed in church for the first time. Weird stuff.

Yes! There is some weird stuff in there! At some point when my grandfather was still alive my family was talking about the Nicene Creed and it turns out that among the five or six of us at the table there were at least four different versions being said; a few people said the original but some of us were modifying it. For example, I never say "the resurrection of the dead" because I'm not sure I believe that, at least not literally, and I don't want to say it. My grandfather (and I thought this was SUPER interesting) never said "under Pontius Pilate" because he always felt like Pilate got a bad rap and we were foisting too much blame onto him and not taking enough responsibility ourselves (which is a really cool perspective, I think, and especially interesting for an elderly New England WASP who went to church as a matter of routine but was not deeply religious). Someone else (Mr. Pterodactyl, probably) had yet another emendation but I forget what it was. Still, yeah, I think it's interesting actually to sit back and think about what you're saying when you profess your faith.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:14 AM on November 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


The show makes putting the thing on sound cathartic; it comes across as an opportunity for evangelicals to let their hair down.

Oh, yeah, on the actual topic of the thread, I think this is a really interesting idea, that these Hell Houses serve as the closest you'll get to an evangelical bacchanal.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:15 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing I did not see mentioned in the article which it is important to note about these kind of things is that they are not intended to attract people to evangelical religion, but to isolate and religious believers down into a dedicated community. Evangelical churches draw on what they call the "early church" as their role model and do everything possible to heighten the sense that they are a persecuted community in order to explicitly strengthen in-group ties.

This is not some silly scaremongering exercise - its a very deliberate brainwashing tactic designed to enforce compliance and reliance from their members.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:36 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


The reason churches needed creeds in the first place was to bring the inevitable chaos of idiosyncratic belief into line with theology. It doesn't really work anyway, never has.

I think it would be fun* to see what would be involved in managing/directing such a production- one storyline, 10+ rooms, probably at least a hundred actors.


I've never done a Halloween one, but I've been involved in managing a couple of Christmas productions with 100+ actors and multiple concurrent scenes - ours was also mirrored, so we could run two groups at the same time, who experienced the same storyline but didn't run into each other. It's a total blast. The logistics are intense, and it takes a ton of planning and cross-checking and military-style organization, but there is great camaraderie and a real sense of accomplishment. Probably the trickiest part is that everyone who's in it wants to see the whole thing, and you really can't. The best you can do is go on a night that you're off and see it as an audience member; it's impossible to ever see your colleagues doing their own scenes, because you're always doing yours. Directors/stage managers get the birds'-eye view, so those roles are extra fun.
posted by Miko at 5:48 AM on November 1, 2013


Growing up at an Assemblies of God, we did a "Bible Character Dress-up" night. I was thinking about this last night. All the women dressed up in some modern version of what they considered biblical clothing (you know, the long robes, etc...) Not much variety, and I don't think anyone is going as Salome. Which got me thinking. Why *didn't* I go as one of the Four Horsemen, or Abaddon, or Legion or some other dark evil force (Ba'al, Molech) I mean there's all sorts of biblical characters that are evil and perfect for Halloween, but I guess the whole point was to be not like "the outside world".

So my dad had a little laughing clown. We strapped it on my chest, then I pressed the button and laughed. I was "The Joy of the Lord" (as in that song "The Joy of the Lord is my Strength"). It was creative, at least.
posted by symbioid at 6:39 AM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's been weird watching what was considered mainstream evangelical Christianity change over the course of my 43 years. The "conservative" First Baptist Church I attended in south Mississippi was completely devoid of such stereotypical foolishness. You'd occasionally hear about somebody's parents getting all hysterical about D&D or fantasy literature or something, but it was generally seen as someone going off the deep end, not a valid theological position. Evolution wasn't controversial. Abortion was a matter of personal conscience (this, in particular, shocks people when I tell them about it now). Moderate, social drinking was a non-issue -- some folks were teetotalers, and some folks weren't.

It wasn't exactly diverse, mind you -- as in most places, Sunday morning remained the single most segregated hour of the week there, and this church in particular was very white collar. But it was a good place, and was filled with good people.

It's not recognizable anymore, nor is mainstream evangelical Christianity. My very conservative parents go elsewhere now (following many of their moderate friends to a smaller, more liberal congregation).
posted by uberchet at 7:57 AM on November 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Which got me thinking. Why *didn't* I go as one of the Four Horsemen, or Abaddon, or Legion or some other dark evil force (Ba'al, Molech)

Heh. Twenty years ago, at the Bible Character Dress Up night at my church, I got three other friends and we went as the Four Horsemen. We all just wore one solid color (black, red, white, gray) and clopped coconut halves together like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (coconuts painted to match our clothes, of course.) We galloped in long circles around the perimeter of the event, calling out "Conquest! War! Famine! Death!" and laughing maniacally.

We won for best costume that year.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:03 AM on November 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Someone else (Mr. Pterodactyl, probably) had yet another emendation but I forget what it was.

Yeah, it was me. I don't say the filioque because that change to the Creed wasn't adopted by an ecumenical council. The Anglican Church keeps making noise like it's going to drop the phrase, but it hasn't happened yet.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:04 AM on November 1, 2013


Near the top of the list of my pet peeves is churches (almost always fundamentalist) that hold an alternative celebration for Halloween and call it "Holy-Ween."

By "ween" they mean penis.
posted by straight at 8:36 AM on November 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fred Clark mused about this very subject earlier tonight on his blog, and pointed out something that frankly creeped me right out.

If I may, I think it's worth it to quote in-full the concluding few paragraphs of that blog entry:
New Destiny’s abortion mythology posits that every fertilized egg is a fully human person, and also that every fertilized egg that dies before reaching an “age of accountability” ascends to Heaven. Without some kind of fantastic intervention from alternative timelines and imaginary alternate universes, that presents an unnerving picture of Heaven. Let’s assume, as New Destiny seems to, that all these unborn children arrive in Heaven in some more mature form. (Where would such mature bodies come from? They never existed in reality. Would they have belly buttons? Would they all be female? Never mind all that for now, just go with the assumption because the assumption is what the abortion mythology requires.)

What are these people like? Can they speak? Can they think? They have no experiences, no memories, no relationships. They have never inhaled. They have never cried, never laughed, never fallen, never gotten back up. I suppose the same inexplicable miraculous process that gives them the bodies they never actually possessed could also be invoked to give them the power of speech, but what would they have to say?

And keep in mind that this will be the majority of Heaven’s population. Those of us with lives and memories of those lives will be the minority, and all around us will be these odd, silent, isolated children that never were, inhabiting their unearthly bodies.

The “Hell House” vision of Hell is scary, but their vision of Heaven is far creepier.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Conquest! War! Famine! Death!

Isn't the first one supposed to be Pestilence? Or is that just a Nethack thing?
posted by JHarris at 1:16 PM on November 1, 2013


That's sort of a general pop culture thing, but in the actual text the first rider is either "conquest" or "victory" depending on how you translate the Greek.

(Or come to think of it you could get a hell of a conspiracy theory out of the first rider representing the Nike corporation, but it's probably a couple decades too late to find anyone who finds them all that threatening…)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2013


Atom Eyes, Fred's point about the incoherence of evangelicals and the "age of accountability" is a pretty good one, but the part you quote is silly at best and has some pretty ugly attitudes as well.

I don't (as a Christian) have any particular belief that fetuses will be resurrected persons in the kingdom of heaven, but if they were, they would just grow into their personhood and relationship with God the same way as anyone else living in heaven. Angels have no life on earth prior to living in heaven, but we don't assume they must therefore be brainless monsters.

And Fred's weird scenario implies some pretty unpleasant things about the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. Does he shudder to think that people who on earth have very limited mental function would be weird, creepy monsters if God welcomed them into heaven?
posted by straight at 1:45 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does he shudder to think that people who on earth have very limited mental function would be weird, creepy monsters if God welcomed them into heaven?

The thing is, what are people in heaven like? Are they "purified" in some way? If so then people in heaven are arguably not the same people they were on Earth and some people might not want to go. If not, then I see lots of people who are ostensibly Christian who I would not want to be in the same afterlife with, or it's not going to be a paradise at all, but instead will seem a lot like Earth.

Angels have no life on earth prior to living in heaven, but we don't assume they must therefore be brainless monsters.

Presumably angels have their own system of acclimation to their culture, but this is rapidly leaving the track of scripture and heading off into fan-fiction. (What's the difference? Not a whole lot.)
posted by JHarris at 1:52 PM on November 1, 2013


I think the blog post is pretty silly and not really sophisticated enough to bother about. Granted that all conjecture about the nature of the afterlife is pretty much the same way, conjecture, but I can't get het up over trying to argue that this blogger is right here or wrong there or anything else about it. It's sort of - well, wankery.
posted by Miko at 1:55 PM on November 1, 2013


Speculation about the nature of the afterlife is silly conjecture. I think that's Slacktivist's point. If all these people are so certain what this heaven is going to be like, then it is worth examining it and figuring out what that really means. He's not honestly speculating what it would be like, he's pointing out that these people haven't thought through their beliefs, and they don't even know that for which they hope.
posted by JHarris at 2:17 PM on November 1, 2013


for what its worth, I know Keenan Roberts. He is a stand up guy. If you disagree with him, fine. It doesn't bother him and he won't think you are anything less than awesome for it. He's the type of person that walks his talk. Anyway, that's that.
posted by shockingbluamp at 2:22 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, it's fine to write this sort of thing on your blog. I have no beef with that. It's just not something much worth engaging theologically. I don't really think you can say that anyone who believes [whatever] about the afterlife hasn't thought through the repercussions of that belief, or that what you're suggesting the ramifications might be for them are actually where their thinking process would take them. Once you get into the realm of making up the potential ramifications, you could just as easily make up different ones, consistent with the basic beliefs. In this instance, though, it's just a little game.
posted by Miko at 3:01 PM on November 1, 2013


If I believed aborted fetuses went to Heaven, I'd be preaching the wonders of abortion at every turn. Just think: your children need never suffer the iniquities of life! By letting them be born, you are directly imperiling their souls! Why, actually giving birth would be a monstrous act!
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:09 PM on November 1, 2013


I get what you're saying Miko. But Slacktivist (Fred Clark) is actually a Christian himself, although a much more progressive and open-minded one than those with which he spars, and he is partly speaking to his degraded brethren when he writes. It's not a matter of an atheist shooting holes in whatever he can find, both Clark and the Hell House people have a common, or at least similar, ground, although Clark's is much much more well-considered.
posted by JHarris at 5:33 PM on November 1, 2013


Oh, yeah, on the actual topic of the thread, I think this is a really interesting idea, that these Hell Houses serve as the closest you'll get to an evangelical bacchanal.

What's especially compelling about it, I think, is that Hell Houses are often put on by church youth groups, and the different rooms of the houses are really the closest these kids are ever expected to get to all these various "sins". So enacting a Hell House is sort of a pass to learn a little about Harry Potter or EDM or premarital sex or whatever the forbidden/sinful things are these days.

I wonder how many kids from sheltered religious backgrounds experience the annual Hell House as a bit of a gateway drug to leaving the fold?
posted by Sara C. at 5:34 PM on November 1, 2013


I don't know, I kind of get what Miko's saying.

I mean, when you parse the familiar/pop-culture concept of Heaven literally, shit gets weird, really quick. Trying to square that weirdness with the particular weirdness of the anti-choice cult of fetuses is sort of interesting, in a thought experiment way, but it's really no more exceptional than any of the other strange things we collectively tend to imagine about the (Abrahamic?) afterlife.
posted by Sara C. at 5:44 PM on November 1, 2013


Slacktivist (Fred Clark) is actually a Christian himself

I know; I read a ton of things on that blog, and I read a lot of similar blogs myself (I'm also Christian, also progressive). I realize I'm bordering on making a bigger deal of this than it is, but I'm just saying there are more sophisticated discussions of this concept of 'afterlife' out there. The other aspect is just personal - I don't enjoy playing "gotcha" with conservative evangelicals all that much any more. They know where to find the rest of us if they decide to start questioning.

I wonder how many kids from sheltered religious backgrounds experience the annual Hell House as a bit of a gateway drug to leaving the fold?

They're probably gonna be pretty surprised when they go looking for rave culture...
posted by Miko at 5:49 PM on November 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're probably gonna be pretty surprised when they go looking for rave culture...

"And that's how young Christians invented the time machine!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:38 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The other aspect is just personal - I don't enjoy playing "gotcha" with conservative evangelicals all that much any more. They know where to find the rest of us if they decide to start questioning.

The hardcore are probably beyond help, but they're called evangelical because they actively recruit people to their point of view. Countering that in the public sphere helps warn people away from it.
posted by JHarris at 1:24 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess maybe, though I don't know how many of their potential target market are already reading progressive Christian blogs.
posted by Miko at 6:18 PM on November 2, 2013


Slacktivist is read by far more than Christians and recovering Christians.
posted by JHarris at 7:11 PM on November 2, 2013


Could be, I guess. My main point is that it's not really something read by evangelicals or even many potential evangelicals. Like I said, no reason to have a pissing contest about it. There's just a lot of this stuff out there, and I prefer a more sophisticated version of it to the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel version.
posted by Miko at 7:58 PM on November 2, 2013


It might seem that way to you, but evangelicals still find ways to spread their message, and people still keep accepting it. I think there's room for all kinds of approaches. And even the diehards crack sometimes -- even Westboro Baptist loses people, even members of the Phelps clan itself who are raised neck-deep in it, which usually means excommunication from their clique. Just because the arguments seem repetitious, obvious and/or pointless to you doesn't mean they seem that way to others, and that's really the audience he's writing for.
posted by JHarris at 10:03 PM on November 2, 2013


The hardcore are probably beyond help, but they're called evangelical because they actively recruit people to their point of view.

A common misunderstanding. "Evangelical" is not the same as "evangelistic." Evangelicalism is a theological orientation, occupying a middle ground between fundamentalism and liberalism, although much closer to the former. It is characterized, chiefly, by a strong emphasis on the truth and authority of the Bible.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:01 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really disagree with you about who he's writing for on that blog, JHarris, but I can see that you are dug in to this point of view, so there's nothing further to say about it.
posted by Miko at 4:23 PM on November 3, 2013


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