Monday, November 29, 2010

The Last Straw

Again, I sat in the chapel with the rest of the youth group at the age of 13 or 14-years-old. This night would prove to be the end of the road for me.

My young, handsome, energetic pastor whom everyone loved stood at the front. My peers and I waited in the front few rows of the pews, listening as he explained that night's particular activity. It went like this:

Two of our peers had been pre-chosen to be the angels of death. How they were chosen still fascinates and confuses me--if I allow my thoughts to dwell here, it angers me. Much about this night does.

Two rooms awaited us in the back of the chapel where the pastors' offices were located. One, representative of Heaven. Another, representative of Hell.

The two angels of death would come and take us randomly (like death often does, natch) and escort us to our proper destination.

I wasn't taken right away, but eventually those spared the pains of this ridiculous exercise silently stood before me with outstretched hands. I stood and followed them.

Led into the back hallway, the "angels" opened a door and invited me inside. I entered and found it to be akin to a janitor's closet--for all I know that's exactly what it was. It was hot and stuffy, small, and pitch black.

I was in Hell.

The realization struck me hard. Was it random? I hardly believed that.

Did the angels not like me?

What the fuck did I do?

As a girl who had felt the cruel impact of not belonging with a group of people who, by all accounts, should've been nicer, this was the harsh rub of salt to the wound.

I still don't know why I was placed here, or if it was intentional. I seem to remember another boy in the closet with me as I unsuccessfully fought like hell to hold back my tears and the embarrassment of muffled sobs that accompanied them. This wasn't about being put in hell so much, but of a complete and direct rejection of me as a person. That they thought so little of me as to find no problem damning me.

(It strikes me as something my 16-year-old sister probably feels often now, especially when her pastor unnecessarily took her aside to inform her she had kept her under the baptismal water just a little bit longer as to wash away her "extra sin" and continually berate her for things most teenagers do--effectively pushing her further away)

I don't remember anyone else joining us in Hell except for the one other person, and unfortunately even he remains nameless and faceless in my memory. Few, if any, words were exchanged between us.

Eventually the closet door opened and the two of us were invited to leave Hell. The object lesson was over. "Come to Heaven," they said.

The light in Heaven blinded our eyes as they had since adjusted to the darkness that was Hell. The room per my memory was as large as it was bright, probably a conference room. And rather empty. And a hell (ha!) of a lot more temperate.

"Have some cookies," they said. I wordlessly took one, hoping nobody would say anything to me. Hoping that the redness and puffiness that surely had to betray my resolve to be steeled and resolute was absent. Anger filled me here as much as did the stabbing pain of rejection. I also found the odd logic of the entire event somewhat amusing--did this mean we'd have a chance to enter heaven after a sufficient time in Hell? Of course it didn't. Not per their official doctrine.

Thankfully everyone left me alone. I didn't belong here. They knew it, I knew it. My years of attending had proven that much. And after this shit I was finished subjecting myself to the abuse.

But perhaps I was too hasty. I was eventually invited into Heaven, and there were cookies.

Wasn't that enough?


  1. Orgainzed religion is a 'justifiable' way for people to prove they are better than other people. So it stings that much more when they lord that over one of their own.

    I'm sorry you had to go through that. I'm glad you got out (of the religion and the broom closet). Cookies don't seem like any more of a reward than eternally singing the praises of someone who...


  2. Lisa, this sort of exercise sounds really familiar--like, it lit up something in the back of my memories. I am not sure where I would have experienced something similar. I was in LDS churches from age 5 on, but I did go a few times to my friend's AoG chapel and we also had Baptist friends with whom I attended vacation Bible school. So I guess it really could have been any of them.

    Just remember--the Dark Side has cookies too. :B

  3. If there wasn't booze, it wasn't heaven. What a crappy exercise.

    But on a serious note, I think something like that would have destroyed me. I was completely unpopular all through elementary and high school. I would have been devastated to have my social rejection made public like that. I probably would have been bawling.

  4. It saddens me hearing they would do that to a young teenager knowing how insecure I felt at that age and seeing my own daughter begin to feel the crap that is jr. high school. I often wonder, what if there was a church that just taught the good things that Jesus did and focused on what should really matters to Christianity, service of our fellow men. Leave out all that fire and brimstone.

  5. Unbelievable.

    The Mormon version of this exercise is an activity where all the youth are on an airplane that crashes. Afterward they are led through the three degrees of glory -- and the requisites for attaining each.

    Creepy, to be sure, but still not as bad as being locked in a closet.

  6. O.M.G.

    I was at a youth activity once where we had to participate in different activities of our choosing. Apparently, doing churchy stuff added to your points and "buying" things took away your points.

    Surprise! I ended up in Heaven #2 (it's been awhile... Terrestial, was it?) based on the amount of points I had when the angels of death came for me. PS. We were not told the purpose of this activity beforehand. Obviously. I thought the points were like Chuck E Cheese tickets, not heaven tickets!

    So, I had to go to a room that was dimly lit where we had some saltine crackers. Not too terrible.

    Turns out the Celestial room (aka first heaven :)) had comfy chairs and cookies and punch. The lowest heaven (Telestial?) was in a dark room with no chairs and ketchup. However, they were rockin' their own party in there. I actually was jealous that I didn't get to be in the rockin' Telestial room.

    Hm. Backfire, much?

  7. God. Just one more disturbing example of how religion is emotionally abusive.

    I'm so sorry you went through that, Lisa. What they did was wrong and inexcusable.

  8. Lori: Yeah. Agreed.

    Diana: You might have. This seems to be some kind of bullshit common theme throughout all the churches. I don't understand why they think it's a good idea.

    Also, I think the dark side has better cookies.

    Carla: Pretty much. I didn't tell anybody about this for years--even my dad was disappointed (i dunno about angry, but disappointed) that I'd been put through that. Still, y'know, gotta scare those kids into submission.

    winnie: I think those churches are out there, but they're the weird hole-in-the-wall ones. There's every possibility I've been to one. Can't say for sure as I'd only been there once, but it had a good vibe and didn't send me into a panic.

    Donna: They're all bad. Just...yeah, unbelievable.

    Michelle: A few years ago when I began to really toy with leaving, one of the big things I realized is that I really wanted nothing to do with the Celestial Kingdom.

    I'm far too lazy for that shizz, and after living and dealing with all this crap I want to rest. Not have billions of babies and run my own little planet and be a god and that other narcissistic bullshit.

    The only thing about the CK I wanted was Eric and my family.

    So I'm with you, Michelle. Totally.

    CD: Yeah, I'm pretty much anti-religion these days.