Saturday, October 18, 2008

Christian Twist on Halloween

I was appalled by this article in today's Flint Journal. These people clearly take Halloween far too seriously: City of Hope Church in Flint scares up message of redemption. The purpose is to scare people into converting to their brand of Christianity.

I've pasted the story here in case the link disappears.
City of Hope Church in Flint scares up message of redemption
by Rose Mary Reiz | The Flint Journal
Saturday October 18, 2008, 1:00 AM

Scott Statson | The Flint Journal
Satan, played here by Charlie Williams of Flint, scares those attending "Hell House."

FLINT, Michigan — "Warning: Some scenes may contain Christian content."

As they enter Hell House, visitors will be duly warned that what they're about to see will be very scary -- but with a twist.

"We're calling it a reality house, not a haunted house," said Tennison Barry, one of Hell House's designers and a member of City of Hope Church in Flint.

"We're going to scare you, but we're going to scare you more with reality than fantasy."

Tennison and his wife, Ginelle, both outreach coordinators at City of Hope, have spent weeks working with about 100 other church volunteers to create a frightening Halloween experience that also includes a message of redemption.

Joshua Kaminski, 20 of Flint, prays with actors before they begin at the City of Hope's "Hell House" haunted house.

"We really feel that Halloween has become Satan's holiday," Ginelle said. "The church doesn't know what to do with it. They either try to ignore it, or condemn it and everyone who participates in it."

An alternative, she said, is to create a frightening experience "that rivals the scary scenes of other haunted houses, but portrays the real consequences that people face as the result of their bad choices, including the ultimate choice of true life or death."

The Flint couple has organized similar Halloween events at other churches, but this year's project is different. It takes place, not in a church, but in an empty building located in the midst of other haunted houses and trails.

Hell House is in the former Lemon Wedge Antique Store, at 4476 S. Dort Highway, north of Maple Road, in Burton.

"Finding this building was key," Tennison said. "We're in the middle of other haunted houses. The other night, we had 10 carloads of people who stopped and wanted to come in, and we're not even open yet."

Beginning at 7 p.m. today and continuing for the next two weekends, visitors to Hell House will be met at the entrance by the Grim Reaper, who will escort them in groups of 10 through a labyrinth of dark corridors and grisly settings.

Scenes include a mock drunk driving crash, a party-turned shooting scene and a domestic violence situation that drives a teenage girl to slice her arms with a box cutter.

Crystal Pardo, 19, of Burton plays an accident victim in the drunk driving scene in "Hell House."

The actors are adults, high school and college students who "started with our initial ideas and then took off with them," Tennison said. "They're having a blast, and they're very good."

As visitors progress through the corridors, scenes get increasingly intense, culminating finally in depictions of hell and heaven, Tennison said.

"It gets scarier and more emotional until you arrive in hell, which has a fountain of blood and Satan, who tells you, 'You didn't think I was real, but I'm as real as you are.'"

In the final depiction of heaven, volunteers will tell real-life stories of how faith in God changed their lives.

"They've gone through some of the stuff that we're showing in the scenes, but that's no longer the life they're living now," Tennison said. "God restored them."

Hell House is intended for those 13 and older. Visitors who "don't want to be too scared" will be given the option to take a short cut to the final scenes, Tennison said.

All visitors will be given repeated warnings about Christian content "because we want to be as honest as we can be about what our purpose is," Ginelle said.

The ultimate message is one of redemption. But visitors who are brave enough to stay for the entire half-hour experience won't be disappointed, Tennison promised.

"They will feel they've gotten their money's worth," he said. "There's a lot of death depicted. No matter how many times I've seen these scenes, I still get shivers watching them.

"It'll send chills through you."

Sadly, Hell Houses are not new (just new to me). I believe there is a time and a place for sharing one's religious beliefs, but Halloween isn't it. These people are apparently so insecure about a wholesome secular family holiday that they will do anything they can to destroy it. I prescribe strong doses of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Disney's Ichabod Crane, and Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree -- and lots of candy, popcorn, and apple cider.

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