Thursday, February 24, 2005


Dogwood Blue: Am I Going to Hell?

i remember the day i became a christian. i was 13 and i was brushing my teeth. i put down my toothbrush and thought, i accept jesus into my life as my lord and savior. then i went back to brushing my teeth.

a little bit later, while i was dressing, i had another thought. 'wait. what if that wasn't real? what if i just thought that because i know i'm supposed to? how do i know that it took?' so i did it again. and waited. i did it through dinner, before sleep and kept waiting for some kind of sign that, ok you did it, you're saved, you're not going to hell, you won't be left behind during the rapture and you won't have to wear a burning 666 in your forehead. (i was a baptist, you know?)

this went on for weeks, until i was baptized (which was such a frightening thing for me my father had to put me under twice.) then i just relaxed into it for the next few years - until college, when the questions started again. this time i started asking myself, 'dude, what if you only became a christian because you were scared of hell? does that count? isn't that coersive? does coersion negate choice?' and then that got me started in this loop of free will vs. being a puppet, blah blah blah.

then in grad school, i took a break from all that dithering. i could feel my orthodoxy chipping away, chunk by chunk. whoops, there goes not smoking. oops, beer sure is good. whoa, so that's an orgasm. (there was no way i was going to be the oldest virgin in america, no way) then came the period of serious darkness and nihilism in my life when it seemed there was no way of getting back to God.

and then i joined this church here in chicago, after 3 years of skeptically reassessing why i believe what i believe. and this question of being hellbound - i have no idea. wouldn't it be funny, though? wouldn't it be the greatest joke ever?

i asked my dad about it, who told me he's constantly approached by his congregation asking the same thing. 'am i really saved? am i really going to hell? how do i know this is true?' after all this time, we are still searching and afraid and blind. grace is in front of us and we still hesitate to take it.

i wish i could continue like this for a while, but the banana i just ate for breakfast gave me gas, i think. gotta go.


Wasp Jerky said...

That brings back so many memories. I think I "got saved" about 9,000 times when I was a kid. I often wonder how much of this is because of the way Christians are taught about salvation. I grew up Baptist, too. That meant salvation came in three easy steps: Ask, Believe, Repent. Ah, yes, the magic of the ABCs of salvation.

Funny that those ABCs are just kinda strung together from random Bible verses. Don't recall Jesus mentioning any ABCs of salvation. I sometimes feel Christians have reduced this thing to a handy magic spell. Just say the magic words and your sins are washed away.

ding said...

you are so right. it's strange how we've constructed an orthodoxy out of a mish mash of arbitrary exegetical traditions.

i remember when i 'reaffirmed' my faith back in grad school; there was an american baptist church down the street from my apartment. i had been attending every so often and feeling lost, so i was rebaptized.

symbolically, it grounded me. spiritually...who's to say? but the grounding was important, the retouching of a stone.

jesus chick said...

once again you have given me pause. i thought back to when i became a christian
(odd - in today's society you are considered a christian if you aren't jewish; should i say
when i became a "bible-thumping-christian"?) anyway. . . . as i recall, i only wondered
if i my prayer of confession "stuck" about 11,000 times. which was often predicated on
how i was feeling. do i "feel" like i'm saved? should i "feel" tingly? should i have had
a super emotional weepy experience? emotions can be so misleading.

as an adult "bible-thumping-christian" there have been moments of doubt in my life -
perhaps not about my salvation but certainly in areas of obedience or tenets
of faith or what have you. i am of the humble opinion that sometimes in the church we feel
it's poo-pooed to voice doubt. i mean come on, you've been at this how long? and you have doubts?
well, you must not be the "super christian" i thought you were. with that thinking, there are
those who are left to languish in silence, forever wondering.

enough of that twaddle. i say if you have doubts, declare them openly and find some
answers. real, biblical answers, not some hokus-pokus politically correct tolerance tripe.

as for the hellbound funny thing - i'm thinkin uh. . .not so much. and as for the grace deal
being right in front of us - heck ya it is and i'm all over it like ugly on dennis rodman.
romans 10:9 say the welcoming word to God--"Jesus is my Master"--embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation.
1 John 5:12 my purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God's son will know
beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the realty and not the illusion

Anonymous said...

"not some hokus-pokus politically correct tolerance tripe"
Yeah. Opt for the politcally incorrect "biblical" intolerant route. ;O)

ding said...

when i said 'funny' i meant it in the 'wouldn't that be a totally ironic kick in the pants' funny. i think i just have a more jaundiced funnybone.

hm. i wonder why most church folks think tolerance is suspect?

jesus chick said...

i know it's hard to read tone in emails and i now get (and appreciate) your jaundiced funnybone. as for the tolerance thing. . . i think the line gets blurred between tolerance vs approval. while i try to be the most tolerant, loving and compassionate person i can be, i can't always say that i approve of certain behaviors (to which people say, "what difference does it make what YOU think?"). and i don't only mean the hot topics of the day. like we chatted about before with other christian's behavior = we don't approve of it but we tolerate it. seems like people urge tolerance until someone has a differing opinion and then they themselves become intolerant. and then there's the labeling - right wing conservative! leftist liberal! not all "conservatives" are loons and not all "liberals" are whacked. we paint with too broad a brush. ugh.

Meg said...

Wow! You captured so well the experience I too had growing up as a good fundamentalist Baptist. It is refreshing to know I wasn't alone in all that vascilation, was it true? Did I do it right? Should I pray it again? What if God only hears every other time I pray the sinner's prayer and this is an odd one (no joke, I seriously thought this as a 6 year old kid. No doubt my prayer was an odd one but I'm beginning to think God likes those the best anyhow.) So I'm glad I stumbled upon you via badchristian. I'll be back again soon!

ding said...

come one, come all! bring your friends!

more and more i think that ex-fundies need a support group.