"One day you will look back on your wretched life and see that you need Jesus," a commenter self-righteously proclaimed after an article I recently read. This sentiment was expressed multiple times in the comment section. The Christian way of saying you'll see how horrible you are and I sure hope it is before you die and go to hell. It's fear and intimidation wrapped up in a "caring" package.
The thing about Christianity is that this works...for the wretched. It is tailor-made for those who have done terrible things and lived hard lives. It promises freedom from substance abuse. Forgiveness for the murderer, thief, and slaver. There is instant relief for the rebellious teen or the promiscuous young adult. But what about those of us who aren't wretched?
All my life I have been a fairly obedient, tidy, caring, drama-free person. Growing up in the church, I could never relate to the wretch-like-me symbolism because I had never been or felt wretched. Ever. I couldn't relate to having my life turned around, being saved from addiction, or even reconnecting with my parents. My biggest sins were lying to my parents, yelling at my mom, and taking quarters from their drawers to buy a soda. I usually felt bad about the lying and the yelling, and knew my parents would probably have given me quarters if I had asked, but I certainly didn't think I was going to hell for doing it. Sinning, as far as the church understands it always felt like being human. We all make mistakes and mistakes are not necessarily a reason for eternal damnation. Neither is the sin of one legendary Eve whose apparent crime was wanting to know more. I don't even think of wrongdoings as sinful anymore, especially when you study history and learn that what is considered a sin today was not a hundred or three hundred years ago. Rightwing Christians today champion the cause of unborn children, when during Victorian times it was legal and morally acceptable to abandon your children on the street to die if you couldn't take care of them.
By Christian standards, I am a good Christian. I have never done drugs or been drunk. I smoked cigarettes one time and it was for a theater show I was performing in and the cigarettes had marjoram in them. As a teenager I never, not once, snuck out of the house. I was obedient to the point that my friends made fun of me. The most trouble my friends and I got into were acting like idiots in Wal-Mart and walking weird in the mall. (Yes, apparently walking weird will get you kicked out of the mall. Who knew?) I have traveled all over the globe to do health clinics and work with at-risk youth. I was a virgin bride. I don't fight with my friends and malicious gossip just isn't in my genetic makeup. This is certainly not to say that I don't make mistakes, but I don't think any of them are deserving of eternal torture. (not that I believe in a hell or that it would be eternal if there is one) I am not wretched.
This particular way of spreading the Christian message just doesn't work when the people you are preaching to aren't bad people. I don't wake up every morning thinking about what a bad person I am and how I desperately need to be saved from a horrible life. Perhaps I have a high opinion of myself, but I prefer to think it is a little something called self-esteem. This type of manipulation works when you have done lots of horrible things and see yourself as a horrible person in need of saving. Even when I was a completely brainswashed teenager, I still wondered about this type of evangelizing. My fellow Christians would say things like, they think they are good, but they aren't really. Or no one can do good things without God/Jesus. Also, my favorite, one day God will reveal himself to them and then they will realize what disgusting horrible people they are. This last one always made me uncomfortable because, although I was a Christian, I just didn't think of myself that way. Ever. I never thought, I am a horrible no good dirty sinner who deserves to be eternally tortured because someone ate some fruit thousands of years ago. Yet, here were Christians telling me that this was how I was supposed to feel. That it was a byproduct of knowing Jesus.
I am not wretched though. I never was. And telling me that I am just makes me want to roll my eyes because it means that you don't know me and your opinion of your fellow man is very low indeed.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.