John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Houses: Glass & Hell

Several years ago, I watched Glenn Beck interview a pastor named Keenan Roberts about something that’s become an October tradition in many churches: Hell Houses. Roberts sells kits for churches to help them stage Christian versions of haunted houses – complete with scripts and props to show people the horrors that await those who live immoral lives. There’s a scene depicting a marriage between two men (with Satan himself pronouncing them husband and husband); one of the two men eventually rejects God, dies of AIDS and is carried off to hell. There is another scene showing a partial-birth abortion.

I have never been to one of these Hell Houses, and don’t get me wrong, I am not a supporter of them. But I got a documentary from Netflix about the whole thing, and watched it.  And it really made me think. Hell Houses are staged for a purpose. The people who sponsor these things are sincere. They really do believe what they’re saying, and, for the most part, they practice what they preach. They’re not being hypocritical. They sincerely believe in the sinfulness of humans and the loving justice of God. They do not want people to go to hell, and they see what they are doing as a way of warning people, preventing them from unnecessarily ending up separated from God for all of eternity. There appears to be more love than judgment coming from them.

The people who sponsor hell houses rightly take matters of sin and eternity seriously, while many Christians (and Christian Churches) merely give lip-service to the idea that everyone will one day stand before a holy and just God to give an account for what they did with their lives. We say we’re committed to reaching the lost and partnering with God in his redemptive purposes, but very few of us actually do anything. It is both easy and fashionable for my Christian friends to criticize people who use scare tactics to convert others to Christianity. But I wish we were as committed to reaching those who have no relationship with God as the people I saw in the film.

There are other things I could say about whether or not Hell Houses are the best strategy or the wisest use of resources (I don’t think they are), but that’s not the point. Here’s what I know: I was convicted by the movie. I think we all should be.

I believe in the exclusivity of Christ’s power to save, but does it ever motivate me to do anything bold? I sometimes stumble over myself to avoid having conversations with people about matters of faith. I often find it much easier to talk about my faith to large groups of people than to individuals who live within a pitching wedge of my house.

Those of us who live in glass houses should be careful about throwing rocks at those who host hell houses each year. Perhaps we could all learn something from one another as we each humbly work toward the goal of advancing the agenda of God’s House in our generation.