Thursday, October 31, 2002

Hell Houses.

You know what those are, right?

They're the attractions - can't think of a better word - constructed, staffed and acted out by evangelical Christian churches in which participants can see the Wages of Sin, right there before their very eyes.

They see all kinds of situations in which sinners get down and do their stuff, followed by the Consequences, followed, at the end, by their chance to choose their own path.

Manipulation, thy name is First Word of Life Temple.

There's a documentary about the phenomenon, focusing on a church in Texas. According to what I've read, the documentary is very fair. Anyone seen it?

(Other articles about hell houses here, here and here.

I've never been to one, but I had many students who did down in Florida, and their reactions ranged from "cheesy" to "freaked me out."

Would it be fair to see them as some sort of heir to the Medieval Mystery Play? Assesments, anyone? Cranky Prof, maybe?

Ave Maria University law school student Matthew Bowman wrote me a while back with a similar idea, from a Catholic standpoint.

I had this idea the other night about an alternative Halloween activity and I didn't know who else to tell. Why not create a "House of Martyrs" instead of a house of horrors, and display the various ways that martyrs have met their worldly demise to pass on to their heavenly homeland. Fun and educational. This could be especially cool for older kids to organize.

Maybe others have thought of this idea, but I haven't heard about it. There are protestant groups who do a Hell House to scare the Hell out of people, but the House of Martyrs wouldn't really be scary (St. Lawrence cracking jokes on a grill, St. Polycarp denouncing the pagans and then the smell of roses as he burns at the stake, St. Maximillian singing in the starvation bunker, St. Lucy holding her eyes, St. Philomena and her various wounds, etc.). Well, not primarily scary.

I like it! But then...I always bucked the opinions of the other religious ed matriarchs because I saw great value in sharing Great Gory Scenes in Catholic History. They're memorable and communicate the value of faith in a rather..vivid...way.

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