Growing up Christian meant to me that life on Earth was but prologue to Heaven, almost a sort of virtual reality training ground to see if you would accept the authority of God and submit to achieve immortality and forgiveness, or be stubborn and reject Christ and damn yourself to an eternity of fiery torment and final exclusion from God’s presence (which was portrayed as being the real, ultimate torture of Hell).
The end time that we were being drawn to was the Apocalypse, and we were immersed in the weird cognitive dissidence of it being simultaneously the most terrible event ever, worse than any war or Holocaust imaginable, yet at the same time a blessed event (to quash the Adversary and establish God’s Kingdom) that we might not have to take part in, if, IF we could be good and holy and forgiven enough to be caught up in the rapture.
That’s a lot for a kid. I was just a pawn on death row, waiting for when the shit would finally hit the fan.
Now, before you think I was raised in a cult on a razor-wire compound, all Jim Jones style, let me assure you that mine was a common (not even bible belt) upbringing. It wasn’t even drilled into me daily by hand-wringing religious nuts of a family, it was much more banal than that… it was just a simple fact that they told us in Sunday School and my family confirmed that yes, that’s right; there will be an Apocalypse, a Judgement Day, and yes, we’re all sinners bound for Hell but we have an escape clause provided by the blood atonement of the Son. Praise Jesus, I am washed clean in the blood of Christ! And after church we all had pie.
It was like being raised in a happy, care-free concentration camp where we could walk by the gas chambers and play in the ovens, and all my neighbors smiled and reminded me every now and then that a good boy loves the Camp Director because He’s the only one that can sign and stamp your Papers. We must be careful and any infraction had to be asked forgiveness as the Camp Director had cameras everywhere and He could see you in such detail that He could count the hairs on your head and see into your very thoughts.
This is how religion steals your childhood.
I finally escaped my own prison (so lovingly and faithfully built by my family and community) and saw the world outside the walls erected in my mind. Most never escape and remained twisted and gnarled by their upbringing and feel it their duty to erect the same walls in the minds of their children, and twist them with this burden of imminent torture and damnation. So thorough is their indoctrination in the faith that they do not realize what is like to live outside the walls.
The abused become the abusers, generation after generation, and we all call it good and righteous and great for the nation. The government stamps its approval and bestows churches with a free pass on taxes, and good Christian boys and girls grow up to be on a stage where we judge them for their fitness to be President of the United States by how much they swear allegiance to the Camp Director.
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