To most Americans, Halloween is a happy occasion for little costumed children to plead with neighbors for handfuls of candy. Older children revel in an evening coated with spooky atmospheres, ghost stories and haunted houses. And now there are those adults who are using Halloween for politically inane and insulting purposes.
In 1990, a group of ministers in Cedar Hill, Texas, created what they called a "Hell House," designed to scare people into realizing the dangers of sin and reminding them of the dreaded possibility of Hell. A Colorado minister named Keenan Roberts took that concept on the road, writing a script and creating a kit for other churches to replicate it. "Demon" tour guides take visitors through a set of scary scenes about abortion, homosexuality, suicide and a gory drunken-driving accident. In the abortion scene, a young woman laying on an operating table screams, "I made a mistake ? I want my baby back!" At the end of the tour, visitors are asked what role Jesus plays in their lives. Using Halloween as an opportunity to preach a jarring Christian message has taken hold. It's now estimated the concept has been produced in 3,000 locations.
Can you say wet blanket ? I'd like to say these ministers are well-meaning but misdirected, but I can't give them even that benefit of the doubt. Halloween is meant to be a celebration of childhood innocence and childhood imagination. On both counts these ministers are ruining it, forcing those innocent children to confront and address dark, serious adult issues. Just as these parents would rightfully denounce how Hollywood is robbing a generation of children of their innocence, they are now doing the same, and because the ends never justify the means, this activity is to be deplored.
Hollywood doesn't like it either, but the way it is deploring "Hell House" is even more shameful. The hottest ticket on the Los Angeles theatre scene this fall was a play called "Hollywood Hell House." Director Maggie Rowe reproduced the Rev. Roberts script word for word, mocking every minute of it, milking it for dismissive laughter. (How anyone can giggle at a woman regretting her abortion is beyond me.) She acquired the script from Rev. Roberts by calling him up and telling him she was from a youth group. To avoid any guilt for misrepresenting her intentions, she called her production company "The Youth Group."
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