Progressive Christian Channel
To Hell with Hell: Bye-Bye Board Game Metaphysics, Hello Fearless Christianity
I wish I had had such wisdom at her age. It would have saved me decades of being bogged in a Dantean bolgia of guilt and fear.
Instead, when I was a child, I fell asleep most nights with the dread-inspired images of a Christian tract called "This Was Your Life" playing in my mind's eye.
I literally prayed myself to frenzied sleep that when God "replays the movie of my life" on Judgment Day—because everybody knows that Jehovah enjoys a good silver screen showing of a soul's terrestrial walk—my name would be found in the Book of Life. So many evenings, I awoke in sweaty terror from dreams of the Angel of Judgment standing on a square platform, pitching my soul into the Lake of Fire.
"This Was Your Life" is one of dozens of cartoon pamphlets distributed by Evangelical publisher, Chick Publications. Nearly one billion tracts have been produced by Jack T. Chick's organization since 1970. (In retrospect, it seemed that at least half of these copies were piled high on shelves in my childhood charismatic church.)
You can view the entire damnable Chick Publications catalog here. Some other classic Chick titles include "Are Roman Catholics Christians?", "A Demon's Nightmare," and "Allah Had No Son."
It is a bit of a consolation now to see that Chick Publications has been blacklisted on the Southern Poverty Law Center "Active General Hate Group" list. Yet I truly wonder how many millions of children (and adults!) have spent decades of their lives following Christ's teachings from Chick-inspired, pants-on-fire fear rather than because goodness, in essence, is its own reward.
And in the centuries prior to Chick Publications, how many millions more Christians followed the tenets of the Faith more from a dread of the manifestation of a Hieronymus Bosch horror-scape than because the Golden Rule was sufficient in and of itself?
Sadly,"This Was Your Life" doesn't hold an infernal candle to the depths of 21st-century fundamentalist fire and brimstone-mongering.
I'm about to send you to a vision of hell (viewed by nearly 1.5 million people at the link below alone) designed to scare the ever-Belial-bejesus out of viewers. It's called "8 Minutes in Hell." As near as I can tell, it originates from a website that goes by the moniker DoomsDayTube. And it appears to have been produced by a group of Christians who think that Rob Zombie and H.R. Giger are author-illustrators of a lost fifth gospel.
Do not let a child click this link!
Almost as disturbing as "8 Minutes in Hell" are the 13,000-plus viewer comments, many of which have been posted by believers in a God who designed a universe expressly to cast the majority of his sentient creations into eternal suffering. This, in the end, was the line of thinking that drove me to a categorical rejection of the centuries-long theological accretions of Gehenna, Hades, and the whole Abaddon Gang that were intimate parts of my Evangelical upbringing.
Arik Bjorn is a writer who lives in Columbia, South Carolina. His educational background includes archaeology, ancient languages, and biblical studies. He has run the gamut of Christian experience, from Evangelical to Orthodox catechumen to live-in Episcopalian sexton to Roman Catholic. Follow Arik on Twitter @arikbjorn and on Facebook.