For some reason, a lot of Christians find Halloween to be the best time to scare people with the thought of going to hell. For some people, it's an all year thing. Imagine a scorching hot summer day and someone joking about God saying, "If you think it's hot here, wait until you see hell!" But Halloween is the time to pull out all the stops.
It's understandable. While the rest of the world is celebrating "fun hell" by dressing up as things that look like they might have come from hell, a lot of churches want to make sure to deemphasize "fun hell" by reminding people of "not-so-fun hell." The way they do it is to create the Christian version of a haunted house. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea. It's a fun and creative way to show people a very sobering truth, though I think it does a better job at convincing people that they don't want hell than that they want Jesus, but it could work with some people. And it does attract a lot of people.
I've had the chance to go to a few of these, and they all follow the same basic storyline. A high school student struggles with a partying lifestyle and cares nothing about God, while a Christian friend tries to convince them of their need for Jesus before their life spirals out of control. As fate would have it, the two students die in a car accident. The partying student immediately faces the judgment of a very stern, terrifying God. Of course, they try to convince God to give them a second chance, but it's too late. Some people dressed as demons drag the student away to the next room--the hell room. Hell is supposed to be terrifying, so churches feature the devil there, taunting the new arrival to the group. Truly, the thought of it is terrifying and tragic.
Then we're taken to the next room, where the Christian friend has gone to heaven to be with Jesus. I hate to say it, but I hate the heaven room. Churches don't have a lot of money to put into these haunted house events, but if you really want to spend some money somewhere, it seems like heaven should be it. But instead, you're walked into a room that has the distinct feeling of being in a funeral home. White and gold decorate the room, as if that's the only colors God decides to keep for heaven. There are other people in heaven, but I can't say they appear even remotely excited to be there. The room is quiet except for the light playing of MercyMe's unmercifully played I Can Only Imagine playing in the background.
Then the actor who plays Jesus shows up. He's a very calm, grandfatherly type. Not that that's a bad thing. But imagine that you gave your life to rescue someone so that you could be with them for all eternity. When you finally saw them face-to-face, would you calmly say, "I'm so glad you're here"? The Scriptures describe heaven like an extravagant celebration where everyone lives in bliss at all times. I think Jesus is going to sweep us off our feet and scream to the skies over the uncontrollable joy he feels. And I think we're going to feel the same. Every time I get to the heaven room, part of me wants to go back to the hell room. It was so much more lively there.
The Christian imagination often struggles with picturing heaven accurately, and Christian haunted houses (at least the ones I've seen) are the perfect example. Instead of trying to scare people with the thought of going to hell, it might be a better strategy to create a picture in the minds of people of exactly what God invites us to in eternal life. We do that by developing an imagination that creates far better than it does now. We do that by interacting with God's imagination in Scripture and picturing the blissful eternal realities he's described for us.
Hell was never meant to be the motivator for us to turn to Jesus.
What are some other examples you can think of where the Christian imagination often struggles to represent the things of God accurately?
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