|Hell hath no fury like the imagination of nut jobs.|
Everything is bigger in Texas. Including the amount of grossly misguided and uneducated people.
Since the dawn of mankind, few questions have been raised as much as the one concerning our very existence. Why are we here, and who or what put us here?
People have rallied and scrambled to answer this question. Throughout history, the creator has been named, dogmas and strict codes of ethics enforced. A human element, seeing the immeasurable power and control over a populace that religion offers, has twisted the once pure question of existence. The human element has soiled the ultimate question, using religion's mystical and disprovable nature to brainwash civilization.
This is not to say faith is wrong, evil, or man made. Faith plays a central role in many, many people's lives. Major religions share certain characteristics that encourage its followers to abide by standards that are innately and undeniably good. Charity, peace, love, compassion, and forgiveness ring true through all types of religion. Faith provides comfort and serenity to people, and perhaps it quells a primal anxiety of the unknown. Things get messy, however, when humans attempt to manipulate faith to their own end.
That brings us to "Hell House," a 2000 documentary by filmmaker George Ratliff. This film focuses on a Texas church and their annual production of a simulated "Hell" experience. I chose to watch this for two reasons. Firstly, Netflix online has a plethora of sub-par content. In effort to avoid the acting skills of Lorenzo Llamas and other megastars of his caliber, I generally stick to the non-fiction documentaries. Secondly, fundamentalist Christians staging an extremely graphic and realistic "vision" of hell ensured hours of open mouth disbelief and hilarity.
Firstly, a quick demographic check of this church's congregation is necessary.
To belong to this church, you must apparently...
1. Wear clothing that depicts either alcoholic beverages or a Sprint Cup race car driver. Bonus salvation for someone who has both.
2. List your occupation as a "Maury Povich Analyst."
3. Have diabetes.
When thinking of a Hell House, think haunted Halloween house for beings not used to original thought. The church is purely fundamentalist and evangelical, with a new age approach that permeates a stench of the unintelligent. Worse still, the church has an adjoined high school where the cast and crew of the hell house are recruited from.
I will give these nutters one thing. They put an incredible amount of time and effort into "scaring" people into faith. Months of preparation, auditions for acting roles in staged "scenes," and a high tech video monitoring room that can see the progress of each of the Hell House' rooms. There are special effects, smoke, lights, ghouls, demons, disembodied voices of God and Satan, and all sorts of silly jibber jabber.
|You think you can get gay and not get hell? Think again, sick boy.|
|Just a sec, need to make sure this lil sucker is dead. And yes, you're going to hell.|
The scenarios in the rooms get more and more detached from any strict Christian doctrine. A rave scene is shown, with a pentagram in the center. I haven't been to a rave, but I am pretty sure you can't associate Satan with something just because there is an 808 bass and kick drum pattern. The evil, evil bass.
The highlight of the film, for me, was when some bright souls broke the mold of cerebral atrophy and questioned the Hell House premise.
When these dissenters were noticed in the control room, they dispatched a volunteer who happened to be a policeman to field their silly "questions." A group of four youths found fault with the Hell House. Why, they asked, was the homosexual boy immediately doomed to have hot pokers rammed in his guts for time eternal? They have gay friends, they feel it is not a choice. Why does the rape and incest victim who takes her own life face hell as punishment. One of the girls eloquently quipped, "if she was under so much duress and mental pain, why would she be judged at her weakest and perhaps most mentally unstable state?" I could not believe it. Mind you, this girl was wearing a shirt that was fashioned after a prison jumpsuit with the band name "Slipknot" on it. Perfect. Her questioning male companion, who donned a Papa Roach shirt about 7 seasons out of wear, dismissed the entire hell house as fear mongering. I was so happy and shocked I almost cried out in joy. Wisdom from the very place least expected.
In conclusion, my particular quarrel with this ludicrous concept is two fold. Firstly, this church sought converts by shocking and frightening people in fear of hell. I believe strongly that faith should be a purely personal endeavor, one not adulterated by intimidation or scare tactics. My second quarrel was rooted in logic.
In order for god to be ultimate, he must be omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent. All knowing, all powerful, and all good. Why would a god of such characteristics damn a person, who did not will themselves into existence, to an eternity of pain and horror? It just doesn't jive with my brain cells.
Give this film a shot. It will shock and disturb you. Hopefully, for the right reasons.