By Adalynn Siemens
I wanted to talk a little bit about something that came up for me the other day. I had blogged about it briefly and realized it might be of use to other people as well in a more well-known resource, rather than simply sitting in obscurity on my personal and somewhat anonymous website and blog.
I mentioned to someone else in passing during a related conversation, that I feel the fundamentalist and/or conservative (and/or mainstream?) view of Hell and damnation is akin to an abusive marriage: If you don’t come to God, and do it in this precise way, you go to Hell and that’s that. Similarly, an abusive marriage works on the same principles if you think about it: Do this, in this way, or I’ll pound you into the ground with my fist.
Threats… are a form of abuse. It makes me sit up, take notice, and ask: Why do we as a Christian society insist on tolerating them so heartily in our religion, I wonder.
God is a lot of things… God is love, God is peace, God is just … but God is not abusive. God does not threaten us, as we are often told is the case by the conservative main stream. They often attempt to liken justice with the concept of Hell and damnation, but it just doesn’t jive. It’s true that God is the ultimate judge in all things, and yes it is true that He is fair. But.. what fair play is there in an eternal penalty for a temporary life?
None, actually. There is no justice in that whatsoever. It is unfair, unjust… and unloving. And if it’s unloving, it’s un-Godly.
I think this is one reason I don’t feel much of a drive to evangelize to others. In all my years since I have become a Christian, even before I knew the term “Progressive” for my own spirituality and way of life, I had never once felt the drive to make any attempt to convert or sway someone else to my particular life path. That tends to hinge directly on my belief in the importance of people discovering God in their own unique ways — and that’s something God designed as well.
If He wanted us to think the same, He would have made us operate in the exact same manner: In thought, in emotion, in action. He would have given us identical brains. Beings with identical brains can still be given free-will. In fact, to make certain people would choose Him, God could have easily designed us all with the same thought patterns. Stacked the deck, as it were, so that we would all see information the same way, we would all process information the same way, and we would all come to God in the exact same manner. In this way, we could have free will, but have a much higher success rate at following God at the same time.
… but God didn’t do that. We were created to be unique — each person’s thought-process is unique, we see the exact same world in different manners through different eyes and different brains, and in that uniqueness each individual must find his or her own path to God. No one else’s path is going to work for them. Sure, we can take information from the way other people worship or follow, and we can adapt that to our own lives. But if we aren’t “feeling it,” if we are forcing it, or if we are trying to believe things we simply do not believe, we essentially strip our spiritual selves away and fall victim to following man instead of God.
And God also isn’t out to trip us on our walk, or fool us, or deceive us. God is not a liar. So this individuality was not created in order to make our task more difficult. So it only makes logical sense that we were given unique interpretations and outlooks on life so that we would use them. It is a shame that people use those unique outlooks to harm other people and their own interpretations, though.
Part of following man instead of God, from my perspective, is listening to the absolute insanity that gets dumped onto the Christian faith regarding damnation. The concept of Hell pressed on people by the mainstream church is a form of spiritual abuse designed to control the masses and keep them on-track. But, faith in God doesn’t need threats to keep us going. Faith in and of itself is self-propelling, if not sometimes cyclical (waxing and waning, receding and returning). When you have truth through love, you have the world… and there are no threats in love.
So it is not God who needs threats. It is man that has a need of threats, to keep people in religion; but religion is of man where as faith is of God. Religion can exist without God, sadly… but faith cannot.
A relationship with God is not an abusive marriage. There are no threats involved… instead, it is the greatest example of a relationship you will ever find. We should be mimicking this toward others in our journeys in life, rather than attempting to threaten people into submission toward any number of thoughts, feelings, topics, situations, circumstances, etc.
It just breaks my heart to see people threatening others with Hell / damnation. It is a direct attack on that individual’s spiritual freedom and his or her individuality and God-given uniqueness.