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.

1 comment:

The Pauper said...

I am with you as far as the Judgment House goes. However, I am not sure I can follow you where you appear to be headed in regards to Hell itself. I think the scriptures themselves are fairly clear that the torments that await the unregenerate pale in comparison to anything we can rightly conceive. Couple that with the fact that this judgment is demanded (and created) by God's own righteous and just character to punish sin. Suddenly I think you have a far scarier reality than the most intense Judgment House.