I have seen several reports from leading psychologists who are decrying the use of Hell Houses, by many Evangelical congregations. The common age for churches to first introduce the Hell House to its members is age 12. They say that this is the best age to get the message of Jesus across. The psychologists, on the other hand, are claiming that the early exposure to such a distressing event leaves lifetime scars. Patients are unable to concentrate or mentally focus, they constantly worry about everything, and must fight depression and unworthiness, all of which are symptoms for post-traumatic distress disorder.
Who is right?
Well we can look to the historical past for answers to this question. In many early societies the right of passage into adulthood occurred at the age of 12. Girls were married off as soon as they reached menses and boys were initiated into manhood at about the same time. The method for bridging boys and girls was VERY different.
Traditionally, girls were individually initiated immediately after their first period. For the most part they are put in a small dark space for up to a week to contemplate what this biological change means to their new life as an adult.
The answer is that they have the power to create.
So, they must accept responsibility for all they do. Anything and everything that they do today has consequences for tomorrow. Like a “wave” that goes around a stadium, that which is started will ripple throughout time and through the whole society. A woman’s first and main duty was to bring the next generation into the world. Mother is the first teacher throughout the formative years of life. We know today that psychologically an infant is a blank slate. Everything a parent does or does not do is imprinted upon the psyche of the child. The ancients understood this concept better than then general population today.
The anima-based or Grace-based personality naturally sees from the universal prospective, so a fear-based right of passage is not only unnecessary but also very damaging to the psyche. The Greeks describe the violent upsurge of Kundalini within a Grace-based personality as rape. The result of such an incident is a horrible creature. The Greeks call her Medusa. The Hindu’s call her Kali. The Polynesians call her Pele. The ancient Egyptians call her Sekhmet. All are the portrayals of the Goddess of Rage. It could also be described as “The slaughter of the Innocence.” Jesus states in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matt 13: 24-30 not to dig out the weeds until the full harvest has ripened. What Jesus is articulating is the proper methodology for allowing an anima-based personality to mature naturally.
However, boys were gathered into groups and put through an ordeal in order to achieve manhood. The Spartans are the most notorious for the brutality of their initiation rights. Yet, the walkabout imposed by the Australian Aborigines could be just as arduous. Every Hero’s Journey involved strenuous striving on the part of the main character.
The reason why boys were “Scared Straight” is because the animus-based or Passion-based personality must reach a point of repentance or acknowledgement that they don’t know everything in order for wisdom to begin to form.
The Kundalini is initiated in order for it to burn off the ego. Through the ordeal the initiate learns that there is always someone bigger than you who will exact punishment for non-conformity to social norms, whether it is the supreme commander, the environmental elements, or in the case of the Old Testament – God Himself. (We have to remember that only males were given education and access to the teachings of the Torah. Even they knew that such teachings were not appropriate for women.)
Joseph of Arimathea exemplifies the highest attainment in the trinity of manhood. Joseph repents his participation in Jesus’ crucifixion by offering his own tomb and handling the dead body of the Lord. This meant that Joseph was considered unclean and unable to participate in the high holy day of Passover, something that is extremely shameful and unheard of for an elder in the church. Yet in the process, the legendary tales tell us that Joseph attains both the Holy Spear and the Holy Grail.
Going back to the original question.
Are the Hell Houses used by the Evangelical churches to intentionally scare the youth into committing their life to Jesus detrimental to the development of the human psyche?
The ancients made the different distinctions by body style – male or female. Modern science has proven that just because you possess a male body doesn’t mean you are Passion-based, left-brained, or an animus-based personality. (Jacob – of Jacob’s ladder fame – is an anima-based personality.)
Not everyone needs a guided tour through Dante’s Inferno. This should be used as an intervention of last resort and not instituted as an activity for everyone. The scare tactics of a Hell House might benefit those with animus-based personalities who have shown tendencies to ignore the rights of others and who show no compassion for fellow citizens. Such an intervention could help to keep their Passions in check so that they use their energies in productive ways and not be destructive to themselves or anyone else.
A right-brained or an anima-based personality should never, never, ever be subjected to such an ordeal. All the ancient cultures said so and Jesus concurred.