Christian Spirituality/spiritual rape

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QUESTION: I'm not flippant with the words rape (having been the victim of an attempted one), but isn't Christianity a form of spiritual rape? Your God basically says "I love you" then poitns a metaphorical cosmic gun at your head in the form of eternal torment and says "love me back or I'll kill you." What inspired this question was my stepmother. I don't like her, but I feel bad for her. The woman is TERRIFIED of Hell. Even though she and my dad argue a lot she says she'd never get a divorce because she wouldn't want to go to Hell (is that really a sin in Christianity, btw?) She goes to church every Sunday AND Wednesday, but I feel like its all done out of fear.

ANSWER: Hi Rose,

Man, it sure seems that way sometimes, doesn't it? Especially when we watch somebody close to us suffer the way your mom does, and we feel helpless to assist.

There have been and are more than one expression of Christianity that has missed the mark in this aspect. The real message of Christianity though, is an invitation to Life, not a warning of Hell. The primary premise is that God made people in His image, and therefore Life is found in living as we have been designed to live. Life is darkened when we or those around us choose not to live that Life.

The focus then, is not on Hell, which in reality is choosing to reject God, but on learning to develop the character of God which includes patience, charity, kindness, and eventually an inherent caring for others' good.

Christian spirituality focuses on love for others, and urges people to choose that way of Life.It isn't God holding a gun to your head as much as it is offering you a choice--a choice people make everyday. Let me use a rather imprecise example. If a rich person asked you to marry them, and you chose not to, then you will be left to your own devices to build a life for yourself with someone else. We wouldn't say though that the availability of wealth would be the equivalent of relationship rape, even if you did feel compelled to marry them.

As far as your mother is concerned, it appears that either her teachers or her own thought processes have been deficient in grasping the real teachings of Christianity. Unfortunately, she isn't alone and it probably isn't her fault. I would think that a good Christian based spiritual director could help her, if when would be willing to go.

Thank you form writing , Rose. If I have confused your question, or muddied this response too much, please let me know.

Blessings for you and your mom-and your dad, all of whom seem to be trying to get through life as nest you can.

Hoyt

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: What an interesting take on Christianity. May I ask what denomination you belong to?

Answer
Hi Rose,

I pastor an Independent Christian Church. That denomination shares a history with Churches of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ. Both the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ are pretty conservative as a group, and we have been guilty of the Hell and Damnation version of the Gospel ourselves. You will find a broad spectrum of teaching among our folks.

I am, quite frankly, an odd duck, but I just don't believe "you're going to Hell" is really all that "good news" (the meaning of gospel).

So there you go.

Hoyt

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Hoyt Roberson

Expertise

I can address any question dealing with Christian spirituality, spiritual formation or direction, and living in the presence of God.

Experience

MS in Ministry. Have provided spiritual direction, teaching, and counseling for more than ten years. Served as a congregational elder for ten years, providing pastoral counseling, instruction, and preaching. I am a member of our local spiritual directors group and have read and practiced extensively in the area of Christian spirituality. My library contains about 200 books on the topic from various perspectives.

Organizations
Local spiritual directors group Local Emmaus community Local congregation

Education/Credentials
MS in Ministry Master of Counseling in Marriage and Family Therapy

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