Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

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Save the Children: A Parable of Child Sacrifice

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Christianity as Tribalism: Cultivating a Tribal Identity on October 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

This week, I created a sobering musical 3-D animation (7.6 minutes) that illustrates a modern-day tale of Genesis 22 — Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac — as a parable of the soul murdering message of the “good news” so frequently inflicted on children.   I used Google Sketchup to generate the 3-D animation, and then video editing software to add soundtracks, fades, and textual overlays.

This is not a satire.  I do not scoff.  With this animation, I visually and musically dramatize the very real horror I felt as a child, when being relentlessly reminded about my utterly sinful and inadequate nature and God’s authoritarian nature.

Please take note: the audio script of the animation is taken verbatim from the Bible and from Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) teaching materials.  Because I did not want my own voice to convey satire or exaggeration, I took excerpts from CEF’s favorite “gospel” script and several lessons from CEF’s “Life of David” flannel graph series, and — using ISpeech — computer-generated audio versions of those excerpts.  I repeat: the audio script is not made up.  In fact, the brevity of it cannot do justice to the relentless and overwhelming repetition of these spine-chilling exhortations in almost every CEF lesson.  In their lessons, CEF relentlessly emphasizes (above any and all humanitarian values) the supremely important value of obedience — absolute obedience — to God and our “God-given” authorities.

My dramatization is in the animation visuals, the background music, and (to a small extent) textual overlays.

CEF repeatedly reminds children of their horribly flawed, intrinsically worthless sinful human natures; how God’s holiness cannot tolerate the presence of sin; how sin — even the smallest sins — has to be punished by death and hell; and how the only way of salvation is to believe and obey what they say about God.  On top of this, they instill an anxious fear in children by reminding children to check their hearts — to make sure that they are not just pretending.

The cumulative effect of all of this is to wreck a child’s self-image.  It encourages depression and provokes vulnerable chidren to suicide.  With their lessons, CEF re-enacts, in a very disturbing way, the near-sacrifice of Isaac. Read the rest of this entry »

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Crucifying the Self

In Christianity as Tribalism: Cultivating a Tribal Identity on April 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Through conversion, however, one achieves an absolutely new beginning. One’s life is divided in half. Split between B.C. and A.D. Everything one once was is washed away. Everything one now is is its antithesis….  One could say that conversion transforms the self, but it would be more appropriate to say that it annihilates it. That is in fact its function….  Here, then, is the real truth of conversion. Fear and hatred of the psyche and a desperate desire to be rid of it….

Walter A. Davis, “The Psychology of Christian Fundamentalism”

      In my mid-teens, I fervently meditated on the renunciate passages of the Bible.  One of the most profound verses of the whole Bible to my adolescent mind was John 3:30, where John the Baptist said this of Jesus and himself:

 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (KJV)

This crisply spoken verse summed up the self-renunciation theology at the heart of Christian discipleship.

Jesus said that “[w]hoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  (Luke 17:33).  The concepts of “decreasing” and “losing” one’s life for Christ, however, didn’t completely express how thorough this renunciation had to be.

To really “lose” my life in order to follow Christ, I needed to hate my life:

“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  (John 12:25)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

And so I learned to hate myself.  And why shouldn’t I?  From an early age, countless Good News Club bible stories and Sunday School curriculum lessons had relentlessly pressed the dogma that God hated sin so much that it had to be punished with death.   I already knew I was by nature bad, so I had already internalized some self-hatred.  As a teenager, I contemplated passages like this: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  (Galatians 6:3).  “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”  (Romans 7:18).  My natural self was so abhorrent that I had “become worthless” (Romans 2:12).  I was, “by nature [an] object[] of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

Next, I began to crucify myself.  This, I learned, was an essential part of the process of “sanctification.”  Although I didn’t practice physical self-mutilation, I practiced a mental self-mutilation that was just as damaging.

Read the rest of this entry »