If someone has condemned you to hell, at least I'll be in the same boat with you!
Here is a sampling of the reasons I have been told definitively or warned by conservative Christians that I was going to hell:
- Not being baptized at 5 or 6. How is this different from infant baptism? My parents encouraged me to wait until I had thought through it and I was baptized at 11, which was significantly older than most in my church.
- Criticizing the Catholic Church for exclusion of women in an academic paper, with cited sources.*
- Having gay and lesbian friends. This, in my view, was the worst. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love. Whatever you personally believe about sexuality, you should never exclude others or criticize people for loving their friends.
- Telling a professor I was wrestling with Jesus' divinity. Isn't talking through this with Christians the way you are supposed to work these issues out?. *
- Being a female minister.
When people tell me they aren't Christians or don't go to church because they have serious issues with hypocrisy, even to the point where they question the existance of God, I get it. I have had similar experiences to most of these folks. Some of us who had these experiences decided to stay and work with more moderate churches and others decided that they needed to leave (or had no other option as they were surrounded by intolerant congregations). I see this as very similar to the Protestant Reformation--some Catholics were involved in an internal reformation and some got out and started/joined other denominations.
As part of a healing process, whether you stayed with the church or left, I would encourage you to forgive those who condemned you. I am an unabashed lover of Jesus, and whether you think he was Christ, a prophet, a nice man, or a crazy person, I'm sure we can all agree that he had some fantastic teachings. The miracle of forgiveness is that it releases you from the negative energy of hatred. When you don't forgive, you are chained to the person who wronged you indefinitely. The hatred grows and you become defined by it. In a sense, they win. But if you forgive them, you are released and love can take its place. Forgiveness transforms who you are and perhaps will change the person who wronged you in the long run. Maybe they will see that you live by the one rule that counts--love. Because, as John reminds us in 1 John 4:8, "God is love."
* Note: My college experience at was fantastic. Only two out of the dozens of professors I had were fundamentalists when it came to religion. The freedom of my college years allowed me to explore my thoughts and feelings in a way no church I had attended, until late in my junior year, allowed. Ultimately, this freedom brought me back to the church in a healthy way.