Tuesday, September 07, 2010

What 'Judgement House' did to me

The fear that permeates religion demands that to spread, a larger fear must exist. Selling or marketing religion, as opposed to offering the wonder of love, requires a maneuver not unlike that of a pots and pans salesman, who is taught to introduce people to a problem they don't know they have then to sell them a solution he happens to be selling. Or more precisely, "Spread fear, sell hope."
Fear breeds in a cocoon of scarcity and insecurity. A natural human response is to bargain our way out of it, the net result being that folks who have come to religion by fear have really made a business deal with God. We are sons and daughters of the living God. We are not business partners who have made a bargain to avoid some unpleasant consequences.
-- Leonard Sweet, Nudge

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. --John 17:3

I had originally planned on talking at length about all the reasons why 'Judgement House' is something that I think is a bad idea. Things like, borrowing the 'Haunted House' idea from the culture and use the fear it creates to drive people to a decision; how it focuses on conversion rather than discipleship, how those many of those 'conversions' are suspect, how it is a truncated Gospel that lacks the relational emphasis that is at it's heart, and how you have to pretty much already believe the Heaven/Hell/Divine Judge paradigm in order for it to have any affect on you at all. And, most importantly, how it presents a distorted image of the Father.

Instead, I have decided that I would just talk about what 'Judgement House' did to me, as one who was already a follower of Christ. In a post almost 3 years ago, I briefly mentioned that I was disturbed by the production, and that I wrestled with it's portrayal. But there was 3 months of wrestling, reading, doubting God, and depression that preceded that short post. First came the doubts -- could a good God in whom there is no darkness conceive of such torture? Is tossing someone into an eternal fire really a Just punishment? The production made God seem more like Nero, making humans into torches, rather than a God who loved. As a result of these images, I began to lose faith and in an effort to save my faith I began to read widely on alternative views on the subject. I read on the Greek, Roman, and Medieval influences on the concepts of Justice, Wrath, and Hell (among other things). And I read about and seriously considered 'Ultimate Reconciliation' -- so much so that I probably would hold that position today (there aren't as many verses you would have to stretch to believe this as you might think), had I not found C.S. Lewis's 'The Great Divorce'. It's is a shame that I had never heard of this work of his. Though it is fiction, I think it provides a much better way to discuss the subject in our time than images out of Dante's 'Inferno'.

So while some of my friends (and I do still very much consider you friends, even if I disagree with JH) are singing the praises of JH , I will be rereading 'The Great Divorce' -- anyone want to read it with me?

Oh, and just as an FYI, don't bother asking if I want to participate - I've been through that hell already and I'm sure you don't want to pay for therapy. In fact I might need to disappear for about 3 months until the belief in hell's ability to save is out of everyone's system.