Living my entire life in rural communities of northern Alabama, with the exception of a few years at an out of state university, I can speak endlessly on the fundamentalist Christian upbringing. I still consider myself a Christian today, which is precisely why I am compelled to speak out when I see my community perpetuate the very things that I feel the Bible teaches against. And while I will be writing this post as a Christian, to a Christian, please do not assume there is not an overall message to be found. Christianity is all encompassing at its core. It is that fact alone that makes the judgement of another human being the antithesis of Christianity and why it must stop.
The church I was active in for 15 years very much helped shape the person I am today. It is where I was read the teachings Jesus Christ and cultivated my adoration for humanity. It is where I was instructed relentlessly to, above all, love one another as we would want to be loved, and forgive our transgressors and by grace be awarded the same in return. Sermons seemed, at least to me, to rest on your personal relationship with Jesus. My pastor wasn’t much for preaching damnation but, more the love and acceptance parts of Jesus, as I’m sure you’re aware that theme runs quite rampant in the Bible. It was made very clear that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) My church and its leaders were not exempt from those shortcomings.
Each year around Halloween, a congregation in a nearby town would put on a haunted house/play of sorts. These exist widely through the United States, but tend to be extremely popular in the Bible Belt and in red states in general. They come with different names and themes but often include much of the same scenarios. Scenarios that can include, but are not limited to, drug abuse, abortions, suicides, and sometimes even portray homosexuality in a light that could only be appreciated by the most hateful and bigoted of this nation. I can only speak knowingly of the one I attended in my adolescence and even childhood, but that is not to say that it is debated what are the goings on of these type programs. For the purposes of this post we will call the event and the overall concept “Judgement Night.”
For a month or so leading up to the excursion, the youth group of my congregation, children and adolescents ranging in ages from 8-18, were encouraged to invite as many of our “lost” peers as we could wrangle to the event. Much convincing wasn’t necessary by the time I had come of age. Thanks to the production having built a reputation for being shocking, the tickets sold themselves. I mean, come on folks, where else is a 12 yr. old kid allowed to observe scenes of drug use, rape, abortion, and suicide all while under the approving eye of their ministers and church leaders? Of course we were happy to oblige. There are a few differences between “Judgement Night” and your run of the mill horror house.
In a haunted house you may be escorted through dark hallways and catch glimpses of horrific scenes filled with blood and gore while being teased by the sounds of chainsaws or the screams of the dying. “Judgement Night”, however, was more of a scripted storyline that contained a plot and was acted out in front of you like a theatrical production, as you were escorted from room to room, scene to scene. You would be gathered in groups of 10-15 kids from all over the area. The plot would usually remain the same, at least 3 of the 4 years I attended it did, but it would be updated each year to incorporate the new detriments to the generation next.
Just as in most horror houses, you would be brought in through a dark tunnel, but instead of passing by the grotesque scenes, you would be gathered around a makeshift room, made of plywood and decorated with props. The first scene usually took place in a club or a house party type atmosphere. One of the actors/actresses, also played by teens between the ages of 14-18, would offer another actor/actress a nondescript drug (always an actress in my experience as I’m sure it made for a smoother segway for what was to unfold). The girl would then attempt to turn down the offering, but eventually would cave into peer pressure. I find it quite interesting, in looking back now, how this role was always, again in my experience, given to the most attractive, blonde haired, blue-eyed, white female available. The drug would almost instantaneously transform her into the most popular attraction at the soiree. The lights would dim and you would be shuffled along to the next setting in which that same girl is now incapacitated on a couch or bed. Two boys would begin to plot and one or both would inevitably rape her. The power of suggestion is a handy tool when teaching rape protocol tactfully to pre-pubesent teens and children.
Scurry along now to the girl sitting in her room, on the phone, with what is presumably the rapist. She is desperate in her attempt to get him to admit his actions and then take responsibility for her pregnancy. She knows the child is his because she was a virgin prior to that night you see. He of course brushes her off as a “skank” and a “whore”, all while never admitting even having sex with her. So now the girl is not only a druggie, but also a tainted woman carrying a bastard child. The desperation leads to her decision for an abortion. (end scene)
“Come along children, the abortion clinic awaits!”, complete with protestors, graphic images of unborn fetuses, and copious amounts of blood and agony. The young lady goes through with the abortion, goes home, hugs her mother, and gives a sigh of relief that the ordeal is over.
Oh Puhleeze! Where’s the fun in that? Of course that isn’t the end of the story. The girl goes home to find herself so distraught over aborting her “baby” that she cannot bear another day on earth. She slits her wrist (cue the blood), and eventually finds herself at the gates of Heaven. A count is made of the young girls life, beginning at the decision to take the drug, and every ungodly decision made thereafter was placed up as a reason to drag her kicking and screaming into the pits of Hell.
Now that I am a rational thinking adult and parent of 3, I reflect on this experience and think to myself….”WTF is wrong with people?!?” Besides the obvious, that this is an atrocious and extremely offensive way to handle such delicate topics, besides all that, what a horribly anti-feminine message to send to young girls. If you make the mistake of taking a drug one time, be prepared to pay with either a bastard child or an eternity in Hell? Really? If this is what it takes to get young people on the side of Jesus and his teachings, then I would only be left to examine his teachings. Nevermind that the rapists are never heard from again. I suppose they are given an opportunity to mature and reflect and regret their mistakes. Perhaps they are given a chance to ask forgiveness and be accepted into the pearly gates? Let’s face it, this type of fear mongering is so much less about Christianity as it is ensuring the purity of our daughters for their husbands.
Is it wrong for a girl or woman to want to protect her virginity or reclaim it at anytime? Absolutely not! The problem is in the fear tactics that are being used to keep our children in line instead of having open, honest, on-going conversations about the perils of coming of age. Whether you are discussing sex or drugs or how to treat those who have been negatively affected by them, just be honest with your children. The days are long gone in which, “because I said so” is an acceptable response to a child’s inquisitive nature.
I am sure someone could spout a statistic that so many thousands of souls have been saved by the campaign “Judgement Night”. To that, I say this: To be “saved” implies you are brought from the darkness, into the light, rescued from the horrific and given grace instead. Those people who come to Jesus under the pretense of fear are trading one dark place for another. That, to me, is not being “saved” at all.
Jesus’ message is nothing if not simple. Love, forgiveness, and sacrifice will lead to just rewards, and not the kind you can balance in a check book. According to dignityusa.org, Abundant Life, an anti-choice organization, marketed “Judgement Night” kits to churches for $150.00 in 1997. The organization stood to profit $40,000 from the venture. Can we please stop muddying the message of Christ? I will end with a quote from the most recent and unlikely spokesperson for acceptance within the Christian community, Pope Francis has said:
Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow.” Perhaps it is time we, as Christians, stop looking at those type statements as if the life that is full of thorns and weeds belongs to someone else.
Edited/Published by: SB