The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Child's Story

When we go to the movies we suspend our disbelief for a while so that we can enjoy a journey.
I would ask you likewise to take a trip in your imagination as I relate the following.

Imagine a person whose mind is a blank canvas, perhaps this person is a being from a parallel universe who has come to learn about human life, or perhaps he is an innocent, ignorant child who is eager to learn and follow the teachings of his wise elders. No-matter. I’ll call him ‘Child’.
Here’s Child’s story:

Child is taken to church and learns that he has a Loving Heavenly Father (LHF).
Child sleeps peacefully.
Child is taken to church again and learns that he is terminally ill with a disease called sin because Child has been naughty.
Child is troubled.
Next Child is told that he is wicked (Jer 17:9) and for this, he deserves to be tortured forever and ever. He is told that most people definitely WILL be tortured forever.
Child cannot sleep.
Child tries to be good but then learns that Loving Heavenly Father sees this as ‘filthy stinking rags’. (Isa 64:6)
Child is nervous and very troubled indeed but perhaps this is good because Child then learns that Loving Heavenly Father actually wants Child’s spirit to be broken. (Ps 51:17)
Child is very disturbed.
Child now learns the good news that Loving Heavenly Father has arranged for his only son to be brutally murdered and that in some mysterious way this satisfies LHF.
Child is not sure what to think anymore but he hopes that LHF can Love Child. However, when he goes to church again he learns that he is unworthy. In Child’s simple mind he interprets this as ‘worthless’ to LHF.
Child then hears that if he puts his trust in LHF’s son then he will be accepted by LHF and go to heaven to be with Him. Child tries to do this, to the best of his ability, and sleeps a little better for a while.
Child is told that if he had the tiniest bit of faith then he would be able to move mountains. He is told that if he asks he will receive. This is good news. At first child asks for selfish little things – and this doesn’t work, then, someone who Child loves becomes seriously ill so Child asks that she might live, but it doesn’t happen.
Child thinks that his faith must not be strong enough, so his faith in LHF’s son must also be too weak to work.
Child cannot sleep. He doubts his salvation.
Child notices that it is taboo to talk about doubts so he keeps his doubts to himself. He becomes a hypocrite, for the best possible reasons of course.
At times visiting speakers come to Child’s church. One week the speaker was Garald Menn. He said that ‘God is Love’ and that His love is unconditional. This made Child happier but it didn’t make sense to Child in the light of everything else he had learnt. Could the speaker have been talking about a different LHF?
Child was disturbed and had no peace in his life.
Then another speaker came. He was a very clever man who must have all the answers. His name was C.R. Sproul. He said that LHF always intended most people to go to Hell and LHF created them just for that reason. He said that a small number of people were special. They had a special name: ‘the elect’ and they were golden ticket holders.
Child thought very hard. Perhaps it didn’t matter if his faith wasn’t strong and that he had doubts. If he were a golden ticket holder he would be safe, but if he were not then all the golden ticket holders would rejoice as they watch him burn forever and ever. It also meant that Loving Heavenly Father didn’t REALLY love everybody at all. It was a lie.
By this time Child needed psychotherapy.


Thank you for reading my story. I need to make some things clear:

  1. I am not that child but I believe that this could be the experience of some people and that thought concerns me greatly.
  2. I do not believe that the story ends there.
  3. I only gave scriptures where I thought it might be helpful but I think the other statements are also ‘scriptural’ depending on one’s interpretation of scripture.

My questions are:
**Does church screw you up? **

**Can it do more harm than good? **

Is church itself responsible for some of the neuroses we see in the people in the pews?

I would value any thoughts, personal testimony or texts.

Yours in Christ

very good questions.

i think church, being human, is subject to the same things humans are. in some cases, they are bullies…or they are egotistical “popular kids” or their toadies (such a great word that!).

so you have this child, straight from a vacuum, ready to learn
the bullies pound their opinions into him
“you’re a weirdo!”
the popular kids either ignore, or in misplaced pity try to teach the kid how to be popular.
all this related mostly to how they view each other, but they dress it up, as kids do, as something that Matters, that will get them what they want in life, etc.
this might work for a time, and the child may feel accepted and important if he fits in…or they may eventually ostracise him and in turn become bullies.
an objective, invormed adult observer could view this situation and realise that the popular kids are at best mistaken…looking a certain way, espousing certain opinions, behaving this way or that…none of that is important.
the observer could also spot bullying and identify it.

some of us get bullied or belittled by all kinds of circumstances, including church. but some of us are able to grow stronger because of it, and become better people. others repeat the sad cycles that they experienced.

so my suggestion is that
church CAN screw you up, as any group of people can

church CAN do more harm than good

church, as a group of flawed people, can most definitely cause some of the neurosese we see

but God, as the informed Adult here, can encourage the good and heal the bad when it comes to each one of us.
i was told all the illogical stuff that you’ve represented so well above.

i think i was blessed, in that most of the time i had this almost built in sense that first and foremost, God was love.
thankfully i wasn’t subject to the doctrine of limited atonement or reprobation. so i was bullied less than most, though of course i was subjected to what the “popular kids” thought was important.

i can only credit God with helping me outgrow this, and maybe God will use that to help others?

Thanks for the reply corpselight.
You make some good points and I, like you, was blessed with the overriding understanding that God was love.

I just wonder, if I was now charged with the duty of nurturing small children, if I would expose them to many of the ‘evangelical’ churches out there. I’ve seen some people badly messed up and I can’t help thinking that ‘church’ has been the cause rather than the cure.

God bless

i know what you mean…it seems like all i ever have a chance to do with non Christians is tell them what the church has gotten wrong!!! it’s very frustrating!!! and i know that focusing on the negative is not right, but it comes up so often.

Powerful stuff, Pilgrim. At every point, if the preacher had asked himself “Is this what a good God would do?”, think how different the sermons would have been.

Jesus warned of wolves and weeds. He also said we would handle snakes and drink poison, yet live. Somehow, in spite of all the lies, true faith continues to kindle and grow.

Fantastic and great thoughts from all here.

As one who believed in the Arminian sense from childhood, the scenario Pilgrim present us with didn’t bother me much until I reached my 30’s

As a child, i had no idea that Christ had not been preached everywhere at every time in history. When I came to know better, and knew of my Native American heritage, it seemed non-sensical for kids to sing “Jesus loves the little children” when I knew that the children of my forefathers would have never heard that truth, and the church was telling me either that they were condemned, or that it was just a mystery of God what would happen to those children of my tribe that were marched along the Trail of Tears. Even though by the time of the Trail of Tears, many of my Choctaw Indian ancestors had heard and followed the Gospel that they had heard, I knew there was something wrong with that big picture that was being presented to me in these modern times. After all, there were many of my tribe and of other tribes,(and still are today) that had died without ever hearing the Great News of our Lord’s salvation.

It’s one thing to grow up thinking that the ‘good’ people in your family tree had a chance to make a choice, but another one entirely to know that some people still within memory of the living members of the family had no chance at salvation at all, simply because they were in the wrong place to have heard it in time.

This is all making me think much deeper about Richard Beck’s position of boundary psychology, and how it can it can shape our views concerning UR and ECT. If you read the accounts of those on the Trail of Tears, and then read the Beatitudes, it’s very difficult to say that those people are not among whom our Lord said were blessed, no matter what any Arminian or Calvinist preacher might say.

Thank you again, Pilgrim; that was a very beautiful story. As far as your three questions go, I would have to agree with corpselight; all three proposals are a possibility (and perhaps a certainty) depending on what message is coming from the pulpit.

Agreed. George MacDonald had some strong things to say along that line, too, in his sermons on the Beatitudes. (Found, for those who don’t know, in The Hope of the Gospel, which from its structure might as well be Unspoken Sermons Volume Four.)

Just wanted to bump this up again to see if anyone else has any thoughts on the O.P.
Is it a fair assessment of many people’s experience of church?

I like the story very much. I don’t think I can add much to the comments already made, except to bolster the idea that at any point, a wise person could have stepped in and helped - but even that would not be a guarantee as long as Child had to live in that ecclesiastical environment.

Thanks Dave. Do you think the ‘ecclesiastical environment’ described is commonplace or have I missed a decent proportion of ‘the church’? I mean, I feel that this is what is still being taught in most churches I am aware of in my locality. Would you say this is also true in your locality too?

I don’t know what they are teaching around here, John, as I am not involved with churches much.

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I quit my church, could not stand the continual lingering idea of Hell, even though the pastor would tell me he never preached on the subject. Kind of f**ed up in my view, you either believe it or not.

Though I have to say that the guy is doing the best he can, the church was geared towards folks with addictions, and He does have a heart for that particular group, so I appreciate the idea of Hell might be part of his belief system, he has decided that it is best not to broach the subject with his flock.

And I appreciate that.

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