Note: If you are an Evangelical Christian, skip this post. It’s only going to make you mad. Either you’ll be mad at me for writing it, or you’ll be mad at the churches I attended for putting me in this position. Either way, you’re going to find it upsetting.
I have been thinking a lot about the church lately. I’m not sure why, it’s just been on my mind a lot.
I spent the first 28 years of my life very deep in the church. Really deep. I have family members that are graduates of the Southern Baptist Seminaries and everything. It runs really deep in my family and has been since I was born.
Now that I’m a few years on the other side of it and have had a chance to start sorting out my own feelings from the ones I was taught as a child (and then over and over again as an adult), there is one thing I keep coming back to: the concept of Hell.
Southern Baptist churches are independent churches that elect to join the Southern Baptist Convention. Each church is otherwise independent, but they share a common doctrine, the Baptist Faith and Message.
Section X (“Last Things”) of the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message states: “The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment.”
The more I think about this statement, the more messed up it seems.
If you think about what this is really saying, it’s saying “Do what we tell you, or else God will punish you so bad not even death itself will save you.” What a messed up idea that is… the idea that if you don’t do what the church tells you, you’re going to be burning in a lake of fire for all entirety.
This idea helped shaped my entire life up until the point I left the church. I was so scared of being true to myself because I didn’t want to get tossed into the everlasting bonfire. I’d heard this since I was a kid, to the point that I just believed it to be true without giving it much thought. (Today I believe that religion has no place around children. Let them make up their own mind when they are older.)
The picture the church paints is “Hell is a horrible place! We love you, let us save you from it!” Which… just makes me mad, now, thinking about it. There’s this horrible place that we made up and we’re going to save you from it! 😦
There’s a traveling show that goes around Baptist Churches every now and then called “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.” Take a few minutes and watch the trailer for it on their website.
This show came to my church when I was in high school. I’m still trying to recover from it. It’s just amazing that churches use fear of being punished even after death as a motivator for their message.
I feel like I let fear of a fictional construct called Hell rule my life for so long. Being able to be punished so hard that not even death will save you is…. horrifying.
I let something designed to help churches win over people from being true to myself for over three decades.