Monday, September 22, 2008
Last week I was out to lunch with some of my co-workers and I couldn't help but notice there was another group there moving from table to table. At one point they took the table next to us and moved it to another part of the restaurant. But that wasn't why I noticed them. One of the members of the group was wearing a t-shirt zig-zagged with the words, "Where Will You Be When Reality Strikes?" and then in large letters, "Heaven's Gates Hell's Flames".
The juxtaposition of reality with heaven and hell just set my mind reeling. To me reality is the world we experience around us, not some nebulous afterlife that no one can agree on because no one living has experienced it.
I was curious enough to look up more information about the t-shirt when I got home, which is probably part of the reason for the clash of words. It turns out that Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames is a play that is popular in evangelical churches. I found a promotional video for it on You Tube. I also came across a post at LeavingFundamentalism.org by David Rattigan which gives more information about it.
David was involved in the play before he left fundamentalism and calls it, "the perfect recipe for creating an atmosphere conducive to emotional, psychological and spiritual manipulation." Yeah, that pisses me off as much as it pisses off David. I was involved in these kinds of dramatic altar calls as a kid. The Assemblies of God church where I went to school had several special events featuring movie nights about the Apocalypse (predating the Left Behind series), documentaries on the evils of Rock and Roll music that were filled with outright lies and inaccuracies, and Christian music concerts with stories about how the band members had been bad but they made their lives good when they came to Christ. I'm ashamed to think about how easily I was pushed and prodded through the religious paces with events like this.
But reality? Really?
How many Christians believe in a literal hell? Or is it just something that's good to use as a scare tactic for the sinners? Hell with a devil that has horns and brimstone and fire? How can you take that concept and attach the word reality to it?
Not that I don't believe there are people who believe in a literal hell. Hey, I believed it once too. But I also believed in a literal seven day creation and demon possession. I was taught to mistrust my own thoughts because they were likely to be influenced by demons. And those are the people that are claiming to know reality. It's mind boggling.
And it's all for the altar call. To these people salvation is a war and it's about saving souls no matter what the cost - even emotional manipulation and self-delusion. It's largely about control. If you can make a person turn his life over to God and keep him there, then buddy, you have a soul going to heaven. And you'll be rewarded when you get to heaven.
But people can't really live like that, under complete control, suspect of their own thoughts. So dramas like this come in to reinforce how important it is to keep on the straight and narrow. But, the only reality they portray is the reality of scaring people into submission.
Oh yeah, and some really shitty acting.