Scaring the hell out of teenagers will cost you $299 this year if you intend to use the Hell House Outreach kit written by the Rev. Kennan Roberts, of New Destiny Christian Center in Denver, Colorado. I’m not making this up! Roberts estimates that 800 churches, in every state in America and 18 countries, now use his product. He has sold over 3,000 of his kits to date.
In one sketch the Roberts Hell House kit tells how you can do a tour in which a “demon” guide marries two men. The skit then fast forwards to a hospital room where one of the partners lies in a bed dying of AIDS. Roberts notes that, “We’re not saying if you have AIDS or an abortion you’re going to hell. There is forgiveness.”
In Burleson, Texas, a church uses the kit and charges $15 admission, Because of the show’s graphic nature children younger than 14 must have a parental release signed at the ticket booth. Teens are herded into pitch-black closets where the floor suddenly shakes and rumbles, creating the sensation that the enclosures are elevators and the occupants are descending into the pit of hell. After a glimpse of the nether-world they enter a softly lighted room where they face the Son of God, speaking from the cross. After filing past an empty tomb the kids are told, “You do have a choice.” When it all ends the teens enter a brightly lit room where adult church members counsel them how to make a decision for Christ.
At best this is the ultimate form of tacky evangelism. At worst it is crass manipulation. I tend to lean toward the worst case interpretation. Every time I think this kind of stuff is passé it takes a new form. And we wonder why modern secularists think Christians are either dangerous, or at least nuts.