Escaping Fear. Embracing Love.

Escaping Fear. Embracing Love. June 8, 2021

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In our current round of Square 1 we’ve been connecting with one another and bonding over our shared experiences in toxic Christianity. One of our new members, Karen Heilshorn Shock, shared something so vulnerable and transparent in our private Facebook group today that I wanted to talk about it here [with her permission].

As you read her stream-of-consciousness post below, ask yourself if you’ve ever heard these things in Church before, or if any of what she shares rings true for you. I’m guessing a lot of it, if not all of it, will sound a lot like your own experiences in our fear-based Christianity.

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Perfect Love Casts Out Fear ~
So why has most of my Christian faith been based on fear?
I’m not even kidding.
As I look back, it started when I was nine years old.
One movie.
The whole trajectory of who God was/is was set to go in a different direction from then on.
Ready. set. Go.
The rapture is gonna happen any day. Make sure we are all ready or we will wish we had been.
Watch out for the mark of the Beast.
It really could be anything…
Social security number.
Credit cards.
The little black lines on the cereal boxes.
The Beast is a big computer over in Europe.
Say a prayer.
Pray it again, in case God didn’t hear you.
Hold your parent’s hands real tight all night long so they don’t get raptured without you.
That was all when I was nine.
Then came teen years.
Don’t get caught with your pants down when he returns.
Don’t be unequally yoked.
Throw out all your secular albums.
If you play said albums backward you will hear satanic stuff.
Don’t invite satan in by watching paranormal stuff.
Be ready for someone to come in and shoot up your bible study.
You’re not gonna want to deny Jesus when you have a gun to your head.
Does your life have enough evidence to be put in jail if they come after you for being a Christian?
And they will come after you for being a Christian.
Are you telling your friends so they don’t burn in hell?
Except don’t hang out with those friends who haven’t said the prayer.
Satan, satan, satan.
Rapture, rapture, rapture.
Don’t go up the biological hand grenade ladder or you won’t come down.
Better stick to just holding hands.
With someone you are equally yoked with.
Don’t lose your virginity.
You can’t get that back.
And definitely don’t get pregnant before you are married.
Don’t drink or you won’t be filled with the spirit.
Don’t smoke or cuss or gossip or chew…
And don’t hang with those who do.
Don’t watch movies about sex.
Don’t listen to music about sex.
Don’t think about sex.
Watch what you wear.
Don’t cause your brother to stumble.
Don’t listen to the radio.
Jesus will come back when you least expect it.
He will come like a thief in the night.
Best be expecting it.
The world is dangerous.
Halloween is even more dangerous.
That’s when the satanists come out steal little blonde-haired girls and sacrifice them.
The World is getting worse.
Bill Clinton is the anti-christ.
Jesus will return before Bill is out of office.
Oh wait, nope.
Barak must be the anti-christ.
He hates America.
He isn’t a Christian.
Our Christian nation is being run over by Muslims.
Our Christian nation is being taken over by gays.
The kids in school are learning about evolution.
The kids in school are learning about homosexuality.
The kids in school aren’t saying the pledge of allegiance.
There is no god in the schools.
Better homeschool.
Better give our money to the homeschool defense organization so they will protect us when the government comes to our door.
The government IS coming to our door.
Don’t let your kids watch Disney.
Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Or Power Rangers.
Teach your kids all about hell so they say a prayer so they don’t go there.
Except God chooses who goes there and who doesn’t, so there’s that.
Don’t be afraid because that is a command, but be afraid because that’s how you we will keep you in line.
Tell your kids about hell, but tell them also not to fear.
Don’t be in debt.
Give 10% to the church.
Nope, give more than 10% to the church.
Serve the church.
With a happy heart.
Don’t go against your pastor.
Don’t go against your elders.
Don’t go against your husband.
Don’t go against your parents.
Unless they are asking you to sin, so figure out if they are or not.
Go to the nations and tell them about Jesus.
Be ready to get your head chopped off when ya do.
And make sure your kiddos are ready to get their heads chopped off for Jesus too.
Tell your kids to kiss dating goodbye.
Tell all single people to kiss dating goodbye.
Make sure they stay pure.
Don’t even kiss until they are married.
Don’t even think about sex.
And dress modestly.
And don’t date until they are 18.
And make sure they are ready for Jesus to return.
Don’t spare the rod or you will spoil the child.
Don’t let them talk back to you.
Make sure they honor you.
Except you don’t have any control over any of it.
Don’t make your kids an idol.
Don’t make your husband an idol.
Put them on the altar.
Make sure God knows you love him more than your kids or he will take them away.
Make sure you don’t love your life.
If you love your life, you will lose it.
Just love God.
Except love your enemies.
But God doesn’t have to love his enemies.
Just us.
Be ready.
Have your full armor on.
Oh, you’re afraid?
Let’s cast that demon out of you.
Let’s pray for you and tell satan to get behind you.
Cast that demon of fear right out of you.
The whole country is going to hell.
Except for the ones that prayed the prayer.
But be wise about that.
Who knows who really is a Christian.
Watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Make sure you don’t listen to pastors who might be emergent.
Make sure you only follow the ones who believe in penal substitutionary atonement.
And don’t believe in critical race theory.
And definitely don’t believe that God loves everyone.
Or that he just might save all.
Don’t believe all means all in the Bible.
That will send you to hell.
Or, maybe just make you really dangerous because you will be sending others there with your heresy.
Don’t be a heretic.
Don’t watch CNN.
Love your neighbor but not really.
Pray for those who persecute you, but mostly just be afraid of them.
Just be afraid of everything.
But definitely don’t walk in fear.
Don’t ask questions.
Questions about God are weak.
If you question anything we’ve taught you then you just maybe were never saved.
What exactly are you afraid of, Karen?
Where is your faith, Karen?
Just follow Jesus.
But not that Jesus.
Not the one who said not to be afraid.
There is just way too much evil in this world to not fear.
Ok. So be afraid of everyone and everything, but honestly, don’t be afraid.
hmmm….
That was just me typing for 10 minutes.
And I am shaking as I type.
Not out of fear.
More out of sadness.
How is this Jesus?
As I read through Karen’s story, I am saddened by the way our Churches have thrived on spreading this undercurrent of fear rather than focusing on the God who is Love and the love that casts our fear.
How have we forgotten that every single time a messenger of God or an angel, or even Jesus himself appears to someone the very first words spoken are “Fear not!”?
How have we overlooked the verses that tell us that we “…have not been given a spirit of fear but of love..”? [2 Tim. 1:7]
How have we forgotten that “…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”? [Gal. 5:6]
Why do we ignore verses like “God is love and all who live in love live in God and God lives in them”? [1 John 4:16]
The fact that we have so twisted this “Good News” of Christ’s love and boundless mercy for everyone into a religion that emphasizes fear and punishment and rejection from God is sickening.
Thankfully, people like Karen and hundreds [thousands?] more are discovering a God outside of this cult of Evangelicalism where this perfect fear is being obliterated by the invincible love of God that cannot be quenched and breaks through the darkness like a flood of light that chases every shadow of condemnation away forever.
Because “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [Romans 8:1] and “Christ is all and is in all” [Col. 3:11].
So, if you’ve been paralyzed by fear, overwhelmed by rejection, and shamed into doubting the never-ending love of God, I’ve got some very “Good News” for you: That message of fear is a lie. It’s not what Jesus told us. It’s not what the New Testament says. It’s a man-made construct designed to keep you in line, under control and enslaved to a system of religion that only exists to perpetuate itself.
You are free. You are no longer a slave to fear. You are the beloved child of God…made in the image of God…and nothing will ever separate you from this amazing love of God – not angels, or demons, not the future nor the past, not even death – and this God of love has promised never to leave you or forsake you – no matter what.
So, rest in this simple and glorious truth: You are loved. You are accepted. You are one with God and God is one with you.
**
Ground Zero: Academy 2.0 features inspiring conversations with insightful authors, teachers and spiritual nomads like Peter Enns, Matthew Distefano, Cindy Wang Brandt, Thomas J. Oord, Maria Francesca French, Gabriel Gordon, and special guest, Leanne Hooper.
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Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX.  Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of the best-selling “Jesus Un” series of books, including “Jesus Unforsaken: Substituting Divine Wrath With Unrelenting Love” which is available now on Amazon.
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