When I was 18, I began having some deep theological and philosophical problems relating to Hell. I began questioning things and not liking the answers I was given growing up. What was once so “Biblical”, no longer seemed “Biblical” to me. Around this time, I was posing these questions with my friends and some of the people who spiritual influence around me. Over a period of months circling this question, some of the people threw me under the “liberal” bandwagon, told me I was falling away from God, and, others were “praying for me” and even worse “praying for my salvation”. Some people around me, tried to re-convert me back into their belief system. The cynicism and anger surrounding these events, took me years to recover from. It hasn’t been until the past year, that I felt able to re-engage back into this system.
After all of this happened, I engaged with the damage that this did to my faith, and, my lack of desire to enter into a faith system, or, a Church. I also knew that if I was being violently pushed back into “re-converting” to Christianity, how damaging it must be for those who are outside of my faith tradition. For those who hear street preachers, those who are handed Gospel tracts at concerts and sporting events, for those who had friends who were there strictly to get them into the “Kingdom of God”. And, even though I resonate with the deep-rooted desire to welcome those who are different from I, into the life-giving presence of God, both now, and, eternally, I also resonated with how shameful these conversions can feel, how much I resented others for doing that to me and how I wanted to throw away God because of Religion.
I have friends who are Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, and a few deeply intelligent Anti-Theists (A term coined by the New Atheists). One of the few absolutes that I hold to, is the fact that God wants me to be human today. This was the very foundation of the Adam and Eve story. Man wanted to be God, and, then man felt the shame of sin. Humans are meant to be humans, and, God was meant to be God. So, this is the very thing I have in common with all people. I am a human and so are they. The very fiber of our nature and role, is deeply connected. This is the things that connects every human being with each other. By being human with others, by sharing my own deeply personal struggles with God and Religion, by sharing my love for other humans and things that humans do (Sports, Entertainment, etc….), I have developed extremely meaningful relationships in which I am able to share what’s going on in my life…. which includes my faith. And, they are able to accept that and embrace that in me, because, I can respect their humanity. I have seen people come into relationship with God through this and I have seen people find healing from the damage of Religiosity. I constantly see God at work in these relationships, not only by what I am able to give them, but, and, maybe more importantly, what they give to me. They deepen my own relationship with God.
I am not God. I cannot save others from their own fallen humanity. Hell, I can’t even do that for myself. But, I aspire and hope to be the grace between me and them, that connects them to God. I will always love them as fellow brothers and sisters of humanity, even if they don’t have a desire to share with me the connection that I have with God.