Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween 2006, part l

Halloween decorations are everywhere in my neighborhood with some houses going to extraordinary length. Every time I pass one, I wonder when Halloween became the new Christmas decorating season. Right now we have a single uncarved pumpkin on our front porch.

I was thinking about Halloween when I read this new report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force titled
"Homophobia at ’Hell House’: Literally Demonizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth". The Task Force estimates "that this Halloween season, 1.6 million people, many of them children as young as 10 years old, will go to "Hell Houses," religious alternatives to traditional haunted houses that are designed to scare youth into a "sin-free life."Instead of spooking youth with ghosts and monsters, Hell House tour guides direct them through rooms where violent scenes of damnation for a variety of "sins" are performed, including scenes where a teenage lesbian is brought to hell after committing suicide and a gay man dying of AIDS is taunted by a demon who screams that the man will be separated from God forever in hell." They also include scenes where women who have abortions are damned to hell.

One has to wonder how many unsuspecting parents, thinking that they are visiting a haunted house, end up taking their children to these Hell Houses.

According to the report, "Hell Houses first appeared in the 1970s at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and they have been gaining popularity since 1996, when the Rev. Keenan Roberts, an evangelical Christian pastor in Colorado, began selling "Hell House kits" to churches worldwide. Roberts estimates that these kits, which cost $299 each, have been distributed to 800 churches across the United States and 18 countries."
That's right, churches sponsor these Hell Houses.

Have they forgotten that the New Testament teaches us to ’love your neighbor as yourself?’ Have they forgotten that Jesus taught that we must love and include everyone? Cloaking hate in Christian language does not mean that it is not hateful or harmful. Religious leaders know that sexual difference is a blessed part of our endowment.

These Hell Houses are fear-based education at their worst; I am glad that the Task Force has exposed their homophobic and anti-choice messages.

More on safety and Halloween tomorrow.


Margaret said...

Thank you for posting this. I did not know about "hell houses." They sound just plain awful.

Christine Robinson said...

Goodness, I'm surprised this is still going on. We had one church do one about five years ago...they got so much negative publicity that they quit doing it.

Lizard Eater said...

Rent the documentary "Hell House" to see the planning and execution of one of these events.

I think what was most disturbing to me was that they use teenagers as the "actors" in these haunted houses ... watching the level of glee that the teens take in being their characters -- well, that's spooky.

Mrs. M said...

That's incredibly disturbing. How awful.

Rev. Debra W. Haffner said...

A minister friend sent in this comment:

Last Year a Hell house came to Lafayette. I went through to see it first hand -- we recorded it so that people could hear it later.
The local Rabbi and I gathered signatures of protest from local clergy and sent a letter to the local paper and the offices of the mayors. I preached
on it, as well. They are frightening, indeed.

An added element is their open condemnation of non-Christian religion. At one point a woman runs her hand through the wet blood of Jesus and shoves it
in your face and tells you that his blood was shed to redeem you and that he is the only risen saviour and that Buddha didn't rise and Mohammed didn't
rise and the only one who can save you from hell is Jesus Christ. It
was grotesque and revolting.

They made a fortune, here. I was relieved that they did not come back this year. They were a traveling outfit that a local church contracted here.
I'd like to think that our protest discouraged them.

Last year, also, they were here during the High Holy Days and actually came on the grounds of the local Reform Temple and inside the building to leaflet. That sent us over the edge.

Thank you for writing on this. My fantasy is that progressives might
offer traveling alternatives -- saving views of the world that include religious
diversity, justice, comprehensive sexuality education (since they are so into abortion), and the like.

Mark Rouleau said...

I resent the comment because I thought that there might have been a problem with my entering it. After reading the statement below:

"Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author."

I wonder if censorship of the Word of God is being done so as to give a less than full exchange of views regarding what the Bible says about this subject. If you know of passages that say that we should not warn others about Hell and that we should never use fear to save them from Hell please let me know because I would really like to follow the Word of God and I am always open to hear from others who have studied it thoroughly and also wish to serve God and his Word. God exalts his word above his name.

Agape <><
Mark Rouleau