“Dear Frank, There are times when I wish Jesus had never come to earth and Christianity had never been born. I’m not sure exactly what Christ accomplished anyway given the sad state of Christianity! Yes, you can reprint my letter. Just use my name as ‘Ben W. Atlanta, GA.’”
To: Frank Schaeffer
Sent: Wed, Nov 13, 2013 9:10 pm
Subject: Liberation Day
Hi Frank, I see non-religious families enjoying each other at restaurants – grandfather, father and sons sitting together, laughing and breaking bread at the same table. And I think to myself how religion poisoned my family! What pray tell Jesus have you wrought?
I’ve been reading your articles at Huffington Post this past year. I just read your incredibly powerful new book And God Said, “Billy!” Like you, I came from an evangelical background. Pardon this email but I needed to unburden myself to someone I felt could understand. My secular friends would think I carried this burden unnecessarily; my Christian friends would either pity or criticize me.
A few weeks ago my father died and today I received a note from a lawyer that my father had disinherited me in his last will and testament. His death and disinheritance is my Liberation Day! I finally feel free of everything this man represented in my life while he was living amongst us: judgmental moralism, hell-fire condemnation, tribal exclusivism and divine wrath.
I grew up in the Baptist church - one which constantly reminded its members how evil the human self was and how righteous God was to condemn it for all eternity. At a certain age I began to have my doubts about hell and broke with the church. As soon as I started questioning the doctrine of hell, like a set of dominoes, all the other traditional concepts such as the Trinity, Jesus’ sacrifice as a penal substitution, Jesus as the sole Son of God, the distinction between the saved and the damned began tumbling down.
As an elder in the church my father could not stomach my exit from the church and thus began a thirty year war between us. All my evangelical friends left me because I could no longer communicate with them in the coded language of fundamentalism. But my father persisted in harassing me and my wife (though he never accepted her as a Christian because being Roman Catholic she was not properly “born again”).
The day my father died (two months ago) I felt such a relief. Then the lawyer’s notice came and I felt thoroughly liberated. All trace of my father’s influence and significance in my life has vanished. His body lies in the grave, his assets and resources dispersed, his memory now being erased from my brain. Liberation…I can now lead my life in peace and freedom.
I needed to record this somehow for this universe to know. Hence this letter to you as an open ear. I respect you because you have NOT done the one thing I thoroughly disrespect – the chain of father and son ministries (Jerry to Jonathan Falwell, Charles to Andy Stanley, Billy to Franklin Graham, John to Joel Osteen, etc). You have set out on your own apart from your father whereas these sons have learned how easy and how profitable the preaching scam is from their fathers.
I wish I could consign my father to hell but I don’t believe in hell. I wish I could consign all those ministers that led him to hell except that I don’t believe in hell. My father was not an educated man; he learned his judgmentalism and condemnation from theologically educated scumbags one of whom , Billy Graham, has his 95th birthday and final salute “graced” by Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. Praise God for such an exit orchestrated through FOX News and their owner.
BTW in case someone is thinking I’m angry because of the disinheritance, there wasn’t enough money in Dad’s account to last a year. Being a software developer, I out-earned my father 3 to 1. It was the indignity of this little man explicitly doing this that irritated me when all he had top do is pass quietly into the night and let the past die off. His judgementalism trailed him into the grave and I guess this letter was an attempt not to let him have the last word.
In any case, thus endeth my rant but this is a joyous occasion – my liberation. Today I feel as if my life has just begun in this body on this earth.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy!“ exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.