Fiancee' and I were driving back home from running a few errands this morning, and we passed by a church we normally do. It's a fairly large compound but nothing close to the crazy size of the huge mega churches that litter the entire city, even more so, the south. To digress, it's a large church by many peoples standards.
Generally the presence of churches don't bother me. In fact I find them rather endearing. I grew up around churches, and I find the buildings with their tall spires to be a comfortable presence. I especially admire the architecture and art that goes into these houses of worship - even if I don't necessarily worship that religion. It's an appreciation for the building and a respect for the fundamentals of the religion it houses.
But there's something about Halloween that just. . .brings out the worst in many of the Christians in my home town, family, and sadly places around here.
As we passed the church, Alan and I found they'd erected a large black sign with orange lettering advertising their Hallelujah House which would be open October 2nd or 3rd. Pizza, live DJ - It's a PARTY! The sign sports a cheerful pumpkin below it all - just to make sure everyone knows it's Halloween themed (as if the black and orange didn't get this idea across in the first place).
In my experiences a "Hallelujah House" is the same thing the mainstream evangelical crowd calls a "Hell House". I have experienced one of these "Hallelujah House"s first hand as an 8th Grader and it made me physically sick.
Well what is this thing? You may ask. Get to the damn point, Fattie.
Fine. These perversions of Haunted Houses, are houses of fear mongering, hate spewing, underhanded tactics, used to scare people into converting to the Christian religion.
Here's the run down on the one I went to:
You stand in line, and there you listen to people spouting fire and brimstone preaching, telling you you're going to see first hand what the wrath of God looks like. Screams fill the air, and the random sounds of what comes from most haunted houses are heard. You think you're just going into a normal haunted house. Generally I stick away from Haunted Houses because I hate having shit jump out at me, besides I'd rather be the actor than the audience in these cases. However I was cocky when it came to this one, because a church had put it on. I figured the worse we'd see is a lame hell recreation. How wrong I was.
This wasn't a haunted house at all. We saw the evils of drinking because you'll die in a drunken driving accident. We witnessed the evils of homosexuality (which really bothered me), because you'd die of Aids as Gods just punishment. We learned that premarital sex was a horrible thing wich caused horrible diseases, and pregnancy. The whole pregnancy thing naturally led us into the 'abortion room', where we witnessed a mock abortion happen, and were led past hundreds of pictures of aborted babies. Then came the inevitable Hell room, where all participants were tortured and forced to suffer extreme agony for their sins, that the loving Lord of Lords just couldn't find in his loving heart to forgive.
Then came the real surprise. We were finally led into a room where we were sat down with individual people and told to accept Jesus or suffer the same fate as all the characters within our tour.
The entire purpose for the attraction was to scare people (most of us tweens and teens) into being baptized. The following weekend my friend reported that her church had baptized a huge number of kids around our age, including herself. The scare tactic had worked.
I admit that I had accepted 'Jesus into my heart' that night too. It wasn't because I felt moved by the holy spirit though. I did it mainly because of the pressure to do so by literally every grown adult in that room. I was expected to and if I didn't, I wasn't sure what would have happened, but in my little 13 year old mind I thought the most plausible outcome would be I'd get in trouble. I'd be yelled at and I'd be told that God would send me to hell, and I certainly didn't want to do that after seeing those people get tortured.
I didn't go through the acceptance of Christianity because I felt the need to - I did it because I was scared into it. I accepted because I wanted the adults approval, and I accepted because I felt like I didn't have a choice. However, I never followed through with the baptism because it wasn't my church.
My relationship with the christian church has been embittered over the years, and it wasn't until I really sat down and thought about it, that I came to the conclusion I started getting jaded pretty damn early. I was told in Sunday school that pets and animals were not allowed in heaven because they didn't have souls. I told the teacher she was stupid because anyone could look at a dog or cat and tell that they have a soul, so of course they go to heaven even if it's not our own. It was the first of several Sundays where I actually started questioning what my teacher was asking. By the end of it I was deemed a trouble maker by her, and stupid by my peers. So no one at the church cared to hang out with the fat, ugly, brunette, non believer who thought animals had souls and was going to hell. I started pretending I was sick so I could miss church. I think mom eventually got the hint.
So, I think it's safe to say I'm rather annoyed with the evangelical community as a whole, but I respect that people have their beliefs and as long as I grin and bare it, any people who shove it down my throat will eventually go away.
People talk about the spirit of God and how it will move you when you accept him, but when people are subjected to the horrors of these "Hallelujah/Hell Houses" the spirit of God is ripped from the equation. There is NOTHING spiritual about scaring people into a religion. It's fear based brainwashing.
I also find it really really disgusting that Christianity has taken a religious holiday of a spiritual minority and turned mass opinion around to make it into a day of "Devil Worship" or "Satan's Day".
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm talking about Samhain. Samhain is a pagan holiday from the Celtic calendar. it was eventually turned into All Hallows Eve and then, into Halloween. Samhain was, and still is, a holiday celebrating the last harvest, or blood harvest. It was when farmers would cut the herds, choosing which animals would die to sustain the people over the heavy winter. The goddess would revert into her last state, that of the crone or old woman (three stages of the mother goddess: Maiden, Mother, Crone), and the God would symbolically sacrifice himself only to be reborn later at Candlemas (sound familiar? It should). To many pagans, the holiday is also a day of remembrance of those passed on - as the veil between the living and the dead is at it's thinnest. The spirits of those passed in the year are remembered by preparations of their favorite dishes and practicing of a 'dumb supper'.
Christians borrowed heavily from the pagan religions, especially when it came to their holidays. They placed their own holidays over the pagan holidays to win over new converts - then they proceeded to vilify and stamp out those who continued to practice their own beliefs. What remains of the pagan traditions are what have been passed down orally through generations and only as recent as the late 1970's have these traditions been written down and published.
I remember learning about how Christians were persecuted for their beliefs, but it seems as though they've learned nothing from that - and still today religious intolerance, and intolerance in general, is a normal and encouraged practice among Christian followers.
The Irony is all of this is that Halloween night, is sometimes celebrated at churches under a different name. "The Harvest Festival", kids dress up, get candy, have fun, play games all within the safe environment of their own church. They've reverted right back to the most base meaning of the pagan holiday they continue to vilify.
I also am most annoyed at the thought that the church is safer than your own neighborhood. It supports the notion that getting to know your neighbors isn't as important as the church, encourages mistrust of those that you live around, and support the opinion that the only community you can trust is those of like minded people at a church you attend (because after all there aren't any child predators at church, right? Right?). Stories of children being poisoned by candy, or apples with razors, and heroin laced Halloween treats have made the news, and scared parents from allowing their children to trick or treat in their neighborhoods, but upon further investigation these stories have proven to be false, or told in a way that was incredibly misleading (for example: Kid goes trick or treating. Kid eats candy. Kid gets sick. Kid dies of poison laced candy. Kids Dad took out $20,000 life insurance policy on kid before he died = Dad poisoned candy).
So what am I getting at? Honestly I guess I'm just outraged. Christians, if October 31st is so fucking terrible for you to deal with please stay the hell home and read a book or something.
GTFO of my Halloween.