And then we sang Third Day, flirted, and played red rover.
I spent virtually my entire childhood and most of my teen years being terrified of God and damnation and horrified by the fact that my closest friends (one Jewish, two non-religious) would end up burning in eternal agony upon death. You will be unsurprised to learn that I went to a Southern Baptist megachurch.
There are many reasons I've moved away from the church, Christianity, and general religion as an adult (and I never experienced anything quite as extreme as the guns blazin' kidnappin' scenario above), but the weird dissonance between "God loves us more than we will ever know" and "He will banish us to never-ending horror, pain, and suffering if we don't believe this one specific thing" is definitely high on the list.
Such a weird fascination with martyrdom within evangelical circles. In Jr High and HS our Bible Study was infatuated with Braveheart and The Patriot and dying for the cause. But those were characters actually fighting oppression. And not the boogeyman of Christian persecution. Our BS leader would always posit that if he had a gun to his head and asked to deny god he’d say, “Pull the trigger MFer.” Anyways, he’s serving two life sentences now…
I grew up in a United Methodist church and I definitely heard the same sort of martyrdom stories (I don't remember if they specifically mentioned Columbine Cassie or if was just a generic, anonymous telling of basically that same story) and everybody had to raise their hands and vow to show the same love and devotion to Christ (the implication obviously being that if you did not you would go to hell, eternal damnation upon your soul, etc). I certainly would say I never experienced anything remotely like what you and others in Southern Baptist churches have. But even in my experience I remember looking around as they were telling the story of this "brave brave heroic girl" and thinking "hey wait a second, this is really fucked up" and it seemed like I was the only one who was thinking like that. I had never fully embraced religion in general anyway so I already felt fairly out of place but the contrast between myself and the rest of my peers was something that always stuck with me. It's weirdly comforting to know that even though I sure felt alone that night in thinking that maybe fetishizing a declaration of faith wasn't really the best lesson to learn about a gunman going into a school, I'm not actually the weird one.
this whole scenario is so incredibly warped. i literally cannot wrap my mind around why anyone would think this is ok.
Spiritual trauma is too real man. I had insomnia for years that I'm pretty sure stemmed from my parents getting in to "spiritual warfare" around when I was 8. I can still vividly remember hearing a cassette tape playing the book Pigs in the Parlor in my dad's office. There were Chick tracks too, and all other manner of sermons and conversations to convince me that at any time there might be demons swirling around me (invisibly) trying to devour my soul and undo my salvation. A couple times, I even saw them, or I thought I did, now I'm not so sure. The insomnia and generalized anxiety I've struggled with as an adult for years makes more sense now, anyways. Thanks for sharing Jason. The whole VBS expanded universe has been very healing for me as well, as another cis het white guy who can only imagine how much more damaging all of it could have been to someone even a little bit more "different."
I know I’m very late to the party in that this post is over a year old, but it really struck a chord with me in a slightly different way.
I grew up going to a progressive Episcopal church in rural Alabama. Yes, those still existed in 2005. I went to school with, almost explicitly, evangelical classmates who often made it their grand crusade to explain to me that my religion, baptism, and faith didn’t count. My couple forays into their youth groups weren’t ever as extreme as this story, or as high production value, but I never came away feeling great as the one kid who didn’t join the lock-in alter call.
Thanks for writing this Jason. It’s nice to know that some of the folks who casually would tell me that I was destined for Hell because I wasn’t dunked at my baptism ultimately came around on a more open-minded flavor of Christianity.
A brief aside, I now live in Germany where evangelism seems to be cold and dead. Folks shutting up and minding their own damn business speaks deeply to my Episcopal roots.
Between the ages of 8 - 14, I was convinced that when the rapture came, I'd be left behind. Fear of Abandonment is real. Now I know that the rapture isn't Biblical, or for that matter, even makes much sense. Like, those early Christians tortured by Nero had to suffer, but somehow we make the cut and get the lifeline out? Seems a bit off to me. It breaks my heart to speak to people who still fret over it.
The weird thing about the CoC is like, I grew up Evangelical for sure, but then I read stories like this or talk to my other evangelical friends and am blown away
Dang. I managed to escape childhood only having simulated death by exposure/starvation (Mormon Pioneer Trek!), and arriving in Hell (ngl, it wasn't that bad).