August 23, 2011
For the Baptists (the Independent Fundamental varietal), manifest destiny was the salvation of the entire world. Everyone in the church was told that all souls are automatically going to hell after the age of accountability. The actual age was often argued over (typically ranging between 4-12) at which an individual realized the difference between right and wrong. After that point, that individual was heading for hell unless they "accepted Christ into their hearts." During my internment within the church, that phrase was part of my daily lexicon; so it was like saying "let's go to the mall."
When I read it now, it sounds like what cultists do right before they drink the kool-aid.
Anyway, because of this manifest destiny, the Baptists were surrounded by a constant shroud of guilt. It was up to them to save the world. Any second they spent not attempting to proselytize the masses was considered selfish and sinful.
Not all members of the congregation actually embraced the practical application of their guilt-ridden lives, but those that did spent their spare time knocking on doors and passing out "tracts." (Tracts were little pamphlets that tried to get people to think about how horrible it would be when they died and went to hell.)
So, how do normal people deal with the guilt of having to save the world during their lifetimes without going broke, ignoring their families, and ruining their lives? That question never received a satisfactory answer inside the church. As such, there were members of the church that showed up for every "witnessing" opportunity the church provided. (Witnessing was the church's word for "spreading doctrine"). These were the fun people that showed up at your door during dinner with the burning desire to save your soul. Didn't want to hear it? No worries...they'd leave their tracts with you because you'd read them and change your mind later (they knew this because they'd be praying for you every day after they met you).
What was these people's motivation? I mean, after "accepting Christ," your soul is safe, right? These people were told that their earthly acts determined their heavenly rewards. I remember "evangelists" rolling into my churches spewing the following filth:
"The Bible says that your earthly acts will be transformed into a house that will be submitted to a literal trial by fire. The selfish acts will turn parts of the house into consumable materials like straw and hay. The selfless acts will turn into diamonds, gold, and other precious items. After the house was dipped in lava, what is left will be your inheritance in heaven."
Are you kidding me?? Everything I do is systematically transformed into a test? It's like counting spiritual calories, only the opposite: instead of burning fat, I burn selfish acts. What's left of the house was exactly that. It's all I get...for eternity. So what, all these "selfless" people are now comparing the enormity of their diamonds and gold stashes in the afterlife? It's like a spiritual pissing contest. I'm sure Christ had that in mind...
So what's the practical application? Maybe Calvin was right...it's not up to us to save the world...maybe the Spirit does all the work.