What about guilt? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Ray several times talks about being raised with a fundamentalist background and it shows. Chapter 4 is all about guilt. Right off, Ray is not aware of the fact that Christianity rose in a context where guilt like this would not be understood. Shame was what was understood and not in the psychological sense either. It is doubtful that Ray has any understanding of an honor-shame paradigm.
However, Ray says something that I have warned of for some time. Do not use guilt as a means for evangelism. Consider the danger of telling a young Christian couple “If you have pre-marital sex, you will feel guilty.” Some will. Some won’t. For those that won’t, they could think, “What else is the church lying to me about?
For Ray, it was masturbation. Now let’s put aside the question of if masturbation is a sin or not. I think we should all agree that going to teenagers and telling them that masturbation will send them to hell is overkill. Ray writes of how he felt great guilt over this and especially doing it over the “sexy preacher’s daughter.”
Ray says he later read Master’s and Johnson’s Human Sexaul Response and Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex and found out that in his mind, he was wrong about masturbation. No. His religion was wrong. If it was wrong about that, what else could it be wrong about?
And this, friends, is the danger indeed. All that is needed is a tiny bit of distrust and everything can go out the window. If you think masturbation is a sin, instead of just saying it and leaving it there, find a way to talk to the young person about the issue and what they’re struggling with.
So let’s go through a list now of some of the messages he says young people are exposed to. These about God in Christianity (Not Allah or any other religion) are worth quoting in full.
“God loves you, but he will send you to hell if you don’t do exactly as he says.”
“God loves you and gave you an intelligent brain to see and understand his creation, but you will be condemned for asking prohibited questions.”
“God loves you and gave you incredibly pleasurable sex, but you dare not use it except within strict limitations.”
“God loves you and your children. If you do anything to lead them astray, he will punish you. (Mark 9:42)”
“God loves you and wants you to prosper. If you are poor or hungry, you must be doing something wrong in his eyes.”
“God loves you. He causes you pain, grief, disasters, floods, hurricanes, and much more so you will see his will, repent, and do as he commanded.”
“God loves you. He created Satan to tempt and test you.”
“God loves you. That is why he makes it so hard to resist temptation and stay on the straight and narrow.”
“God loves you. He loves all Christians. He hates Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and all those who deny him.”
“God loves you, so you should reject your parents, children, neighbors, relatives, or anyone who is a hopeless non-believer.” (Yes. He actually references Luke 14:26 and is still reading it in a super literalistic fundamentalist mindset)
“God loves you, but if you get divorced you are unclean. (Matt. 5:31-32)”
“God loves you. That is why he sent his son to die. Millions of other people have died in his name and you should be willing to as well.”
“God loves you, but you were born unclean and can never be clean without God.”
Some of these properly understood, most of us who are Christians have no problem with, such as sex being reserved for marriage. A lot of these will just make many of us cringe. It’s as if Ray never bothered to check to see if what he was being taught was what historic Christianity has said for centuries. It is not Christianity that is the problem so much as our rampant individualism where we cut ourselves off from the past.
Some of these are things we need to do better at. Divorce is a tragedy, but it is not the unpardonable sin. We are also way too quick to read God’s will into disasters whenever they take place. This is hardly an effective evangelism strategy.
Ray writes about how guilt is used to draw people to a minister or someone who will point to God to alleviate the guilt. This becomes a cycle. This is a problem I agree with an individualistic centered Christianity. Christianity is determined by your experiences. God’s character is determined by what you feel and what you experience. It is all about you.
Doubtless, some guilt we feel is valid. It should be taken care of. If you really do something wrong, you should feel guilty barring any other condition. Still, not everyone responds to guilt the same way or acts the same way.
And yes, I have a problem with using purely emotional appeals to make a case for Christianity. Doubtless, a good speaker will often speak with emotion, which goes all the way back to Aristotle. However, the case should be based on reason and evidence and not just trying to get people to feel something.
So in closing, let’s watch the messages we are giving, especially to young people. A lot of these are indeed messages about sex. That is the emphasis of Ray’s next chapter and we will discuss those then.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)