“Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”
The first time I heard this question I was really confused. I mean, I was devoutly Catholic, so I understood who Jesus was, obviously; and I understood the concept of spiritual salvation, but those words in that combination confused me greatly.
“Yes? I guess?”
But in my head I was thinking, Why are you asking me this? What a weird question.
You see, I went to after school care and summer school care at a Southern Baptist Church growing up. Eventually, I learned to understand what those words meant and how people at that church viewed salvation. They believed that until I was “saved” – I was bound for Hell. I felt like this was tragic because I was growing up Catholic, and I believed NO ONE knew who was getting into Heaven but GOD. But, BUT! I was DAMN SURE if these people weren’t Catholic, they didn’t even have a CHANCE. And here they were getting all self-righteous about the destiny of their souls and I knew the truth: I had a better chance of getting into heaven because I had just gone to Confession and received Communion that day! TWO sacraments in ONE DAY! No WAY I was missing out on the train to Heaven if we all go struck by lightening and died in that moment.
Now, let’s fast forward a bit. To right now. Let’s fast forward to this moment in my house in early morning where I’m kinda pissed off at any and all religion that teaches there are paths to a LIGHT-FILLED GLORIOUS and PERFECT afterlife, and paths to eternal darkness and fiery damnation. And more specifically – I’m pissed of at the people from those religions who insist on telling my kids they’re going to Hell. But generally speaking? I’m just angry about it all. Every bit of it. Tears of anger stream down my face and I’m shaking my fists at their Heaven and saying, “SCREW ALL OF YOU.”
Hear me out.
(SIDENOTE: My focus is on Christianity because it’s what I know and it shapes the politics and the culture in our country and specifically in my home-State of Alabama. If your religion is NOT Christian and you want to chime in why it does NOT cause the problems that I feel Christianity does? I’d love to hear about it.)
Christians go to church and learn about Heaven and Hell. They learn that when you die, you go to one place or the other, depending on how you lived your life. Heaven or Hell. And because you’re in this one church hearing these words teaching about how to get to Heaven, your chances are better than anyone else who is not in a Church teaching these same words.
That’s the simplest breakdown right there. No dogma. No delineation of severity of sins. No differentiation of sacraments or faiths. Just the basic lesson of most Christian Churches: There is a Hell and people not in this Church right now have a much greater chance of ending up there when they die.
Now, there are Christian Churches (from what I understand) who don’t believe you have to be Christian to get into Heaven, BUT THOSE ARE A MINORITY. So we’re removing them from the equation. They’re a minority nationally, but they’re like an Extreme MICRO-minority here in Alabama. So for the purposes of my family and our lives and my view of the division in our country? They’re really inconsequential.
Around here? Christians believe you are bound for Hell if you are not a Christian.
So they teach this in Church and in Sunday school and they talk about it during prayers at bedtime or at mealtime. This superiority is taught early and often and then…this is the kicker: Many of these same people see the anger and hate in our country or our communities and BLAME A LACK OF RELIGION. A lack of God. They feel like if we all found THEIR God and THEIR Church the world would be better.
And guys? I’m super-pissed about this. TEARS OF ANGER, Angry.
I had to have yet ANOTHER conversation with one of my kids yesterday about why classmates keep telling them they’re going to Hell when they don’t believe in God.
And here’s where I’m taking off the kid gloves I often wear to preserve the feelings of Christians who may go to these churches. I’m taking off the kid gloves because I’m sick of having this conversation with my kids.
If you go to a church or take your children to a church that teaches that anyone who believes differently from you is bound for Hell, then you are at least PART of the problem of the divide in our country.
And some days? I’m going to be honest. Some days I feel like you’re ALL of the problem.
But I know those days are because I’m hurt by the damn teachings of your damn church. So I’m trying to recognize that.
But your Church and it’s teachings are DEFINITELY a large PART of the problem. Because they are perpetuating this “Us” v/s “Them” mentality that has us pitted against each other on a daily basis. You divide the world for your children very early on where they are BETTER because they have SALVATION and therefore they must minister to and pray for all of the souls that are lost and it teaches them to look DOWN, LITERALLY DOWN FROM HEAVEN, on anyone else and they get to carry around this knowledge of self-righteousness that tells them it’s OKAY, as a matter of fact – it’s HEAVENLY, to judge other people.
“Oh, but it’s only God who has the final judgement. My kids know that. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. We don’t judge.”
Bullshit. Those words may be taught to you and your children, but that’s not the message you carry with you. You carry the idea that YOUR soul is saved and MINE is not. And yes, you may read from the script and say to me, “I will not judge your soul! That’s only God who can do that!” But that’s not the message in the lyrics to the songs you sing, and the words to the prayers you recite. You sing and pray that you are GRATEFUL for this God that lead you to righteousness and you are GRATEFUL for the salvation of Jesus. You are blessed with knowledge of the path to salvation and therefore you are inherently better off than those who are not on the same path.
You v/s Them.
You v/s Me.
You v/s My kids.
And maybe you don’t actually believe this. Maybe in your heart you believe I’m going to end up in Heaven because I’m a good person. But does your Church teach that? Does your Church allow someone like me who tries to make the world better with kindness and love, does your Church allow me who doesn’t believe in your God or your Savior, does your Church teach there’s a place for ME in YOUR Heaven?
If the answer is, “No,” then – once again – your Church is part of the problem.
Last night Wesley broke it down, “I mean, it’s just not NICE to tell people they’re going to Hell.”
My 8-year old kid is right. Your Church is wrong. And I’m really angry that I keep having to have this conversation with my kids.
“But I believe that we are all sinners in the eyes of God. I’m not better than you.”
Yes. I know. That’s another line from your, “How Not To Look Like A Self-Righteous And Judgemental Ass” script. But your Church is teaching the message: “There is a path to Hell and it takes more than just being a Good Person to avoid it.” So while the line in that script sounds great, the through line in all of the teachings of your church divides us in the afterlife.
“But that’s because we are all sinners and we need God and The Bible and the Church to teach us how to be good people.”
Then please ask your Church teachers this:
“If someone is honestly good without God, do they still go to Hell?”
If you aren’t surrounded by a lot of fundamentalist Christian Churches then let me tell you, a lot of those Churches teach a resounding YES! to that question. That’s why my kids have the problem they have. But, there are some Christian churches around here who try to be diplomatic about it.
“We don’t know God’s final judgement.”
“But you’re pretty sure they don’t get to go to Heaven, right? That’s kinda the whole point of having a Church, right? And of Baptism? And the Bible? So that believers get the good seats in the afterlife?”
“Yeah. We’re pretty sure those people who don’t believe are screwed.”
Because that’s truthfully what most Christian Churches believe. Or else they wouldn’t bother with Church on Sunday mornings. They believe it’s helping them get to Heaven. And therefore, those NOT in that Church have a worse chance.
US v/s THEM.
YOU v/s US.
Here’s the fact: The dominant religion in our country – the religion claimed by all of our leading government officials – teaches from birth that there is superiority in righteousness. That religion teaches at Sunday school that THEY are chosen to some degree, THEY are on the path to enlightenment, THEY must pray for the souls of those not as BLESSED as they are. They teach early in these churches that there is a group of cool kids on a God-Driven train bound for Heaven. And while their spiritual goal is to get EVERYONE on a train to Heaven, they don’t actively allow for the possibility that there’s another train going that way that doesn’t have God in the lead car.
Do you know how hard it is to be an atheist and to try to care about politics in a country where all of the leading government officials go to Churches that teach these messages?
I guess these Christians are lucky, because their goal is their heavenly afterlife. So as long as they follow the playbook given to them, they’ll reach that goal. They hope that while striving for this goal that they make the world they live in now better, but that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate and final goal is Heaven. So if they make the present world shittier for a lot of us in the process, NBD.
But here is what I teach my kids about our “goal” with this life: We get ONE chance at this life and this ONE life will be better for us and the loved ones we leave behind if we make the world around us better with this ONE life. We spread love and joy and kindness at every chance we get because we all know how easy grumpy spreads. I always use the example about how if I’ve had a bad day I’m quicker to lose my patience with them. GRUMPY SPREADS, so we try to counter that with LOVE and JOY and KINDNESS. We treat people how we want to be treated and how we think we should treat people in order to MAKE THE WORLD BETTER.
MAKE THE WORLD BETTER.
Because this is it. This life. It’s all we get. When we’re dead? That’s it. Dead. Over. Done. So every day we get one more chance to spread joy. To spread kindness. To spread love. What do we do with that chance? What do we do with our day? How do we make the world better than it was when we found it?
I don’t know how many days left I have in this life. I would love to spend my days trying to bring people together with love and empathy and kindness, but how can I do that when my community is filled with people on an entirely different mission than me?
Their goal is eternal salvation and the teachings of their Church tell them to pity people like me as my soul will be damned eternally. Their Church teaches that no matter how many times I try to spread Love and Joy and Kindness, I’m on a train to Hell if I haven’t boarded the one driven by their God.
I know many people belong to Churches that believe that train driven by that God is the only path to Heaven – but those people DON’T believe that. They just claim that Church as theirs and believe something different in their hearts.
But as long as your Church is still delivering that message and as long as you’re not LOUDLY shouting, “I DISAGREE!” then your membership to that church silently condones that message. And my kids are going to see your membership and assume that you believe no matter how good they are, they’re still bound for Hell.
You may not believe it’s “Us v/s Them” on the spiritual path to enlightenment, but if your church does? Then you need to consider your role in perpetuating the divide in this country.
And can you please talk to your kids? It’s not nice to tell people they’re going to Hell.