The Southern evangelical "Hell Houses" put on during Halloween are not an effective mechanism of scaring people into believing in Christianity, according to the "chief exorcist" for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
"This October some churches and ministries in the United States are once again hosting Christian versions of haunted houses, and nonbelievers and believers alike are lining up for some rather existential spine-tingling for the first time since the pandemic," the Catholic News Agency reported. "Popular among evangelical Protestant churches in the South, these 'judgment houses' typically stage dramatic representations depicting what happens after people die, leaving visitors to ponder whether they themselves are headed for heaven or hell, and presumably, to act accordingly."
The Catholic News Agency says televangelist Jerry Falwell, Sr. began the trend in 1972 when he started "Scaremare" at Liberty University in Virginia.
"While judgment houses can function as memento mori, efficacious reminders of the inevitability of death, some judgment houses, also known as 'Hell Houses,' have become controversial for taking the idea to an extreme," the Catholic News Agency reported. "Graphic scenes such as abortions, extramarital sex, and drug use are sometimes depicted along with the consequence of these actions as the sinners are shown condemned to spend eternity in hell."
The report says the judgment houses have not spread among Catholic churches.
Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, the DC exorcist, says the threat of hell is not an effective way to proselytize.
“People today are not convinced or influenced by threats of hell. The Church just really stopped doing that because it just doesn't work. You know, you can do all the hellfire and damnation sermons you want, but people just kind of yawn, “ Rossetti said.
“We're trying to emphasize God's love and God's mercy, which I think is much more to the point, frankly," he explained. “This is what attracts people, and this is sort of the core of our message. God loves us and God has saved us out of his love and compassion in Jesus."
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