The Hell House in Tyler TX… Again

by admin on September 30, 2015

in Tyler Businesses

Given that Thursday is the first of October, (yes already), I thought I’d usher in the Halloween season with our not- quite annual discussion of the Tyler area “Hell House.” In the past, when other contributors have written on this subject here, their opinions have been controversial, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

I should start by saying; I’m not an anti- Halloween zealot. In fact it seems that thankfully, some of the ardor has gone out of that movement in recent years. Of course originally Halloween or “All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day,” was an early example of contextualization, where a pagan holiday or tradition is converted in its meaning, to a Christian one. The idea being that as a people were converted, maybe they could keep what was culturally familiar. This same process of contextualization was also applied to other new Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Those examples were merely more successful than Halloween. One of the customs surrounding the event, was to dress as demonic figures as a way of mocking the devil and paganism. Of course over the centuries each generation had their own motivations and traditions. Today Halloween is mostly an opportunity to drive candy sales through the roof and for the general population to push back their intended weight loss regiment another week.

So what is “Hell House?” Supposedly it’s an evangelism tool which takes the visitor on a walk through sin and damnation in attempt to literally scare the hell out of them… or should I say scare them out of hell. The participant witnesses various soul destroying acts and experiences a few minutes of simulated torment by actors dressed as devils. Interestingly, it seems to me that the presentation moves the whole argument about hell and eternity squarely onto evil’s terms. Where the original purpose of the holiday was to mock the spirit of hell and drive out fear, Hell House inspires fear in the hope that it will drive the impressionable away from hell, and ultimately gives evil greater power than it actually has.

Well read, readers, could perhaps chide me that Daunte did essentially the same thing in his classic poem the Inferno. Ok fair point, but remember, Inferno contained a satirical element. Also, it was followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. And let’s face it “Hell House” is not The Inferno. Despite my theological objections to Hell House, the church in question has been putting on the annual “ministry” for many, many years now and I have to respect their longevity if not their methodology.

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