Archive for September 24th, 2009

Drop-kicking Sinners into a Lake of Fire

September 24, 2009

Hell 2

Norma Bruns’ “metaphorical meditation” on eternal damnation (below, post of 9/18/09) inspired me to search out some notable sermons about hellfire. Here are snippets from two that I found–one from the 18th century and the other from our own day:

From a sermon by 18th-century theologian John Wesley:

Is it not common to say to a child, “Put your finger into that candle: Can you bear it even for one minute? How then will you bear hell-fire?” Surely it would be torment enough to have the flesh burnt off from only one finger. What then will it be, to have the whole body plunged into a lake of fire burning with brimstone!

From a sermon by Pastor Deacon Fred, of the Landover Baptist Church:

It is very upsetting to have someone laugh in your face when you are trying to explain to them that if they don’t return Christ’s love and accept Him as their personal savior that they are going to be tortured and have all of the flesh burnt off their body every day for all of eternity in a literal lake of fire. So upsetting in fact, that when witnessing to an unsaved Lutheran the other day, I responded to his laughter by saying, “I can’t wait to see you burn in Hell!” He was taken aback, and quite shocked. I used this opportunity to witness even more. … “I can’t wait to see the look of surprise on your face as Jesus drop-kicks you off the cliff of glory into the lake of fire!” I exclaimed.

Visit the Landover Baptist Church, here.

UPDATE: I have learned since posting this piece that the quotation from Pastor Deacon Fred is satire and that the Landover Baptist Church website is a spoof. What does it say about fundamentalism in modern America that the most extreme parodies of it are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing! (See my posting of 6/16/09, “Fred Phelps’s Humor Deficit.”)


Double Whammy: A Gay Atheist Sailor’s Dilemma

September 24, 2009


In the current issue of Free Inquiry (October-November 2009), a 22-year-old U.S. Navy sailor writing under the name of N. Bonaparte describes his encounter with military chaplains and psychologists after his homosexual identity was revealed to his superiors. Bonaparte was an outstanding sailor, had received a Navy Achievement Medal and other awards, and aspired to serve in public office after a successful tour of duty with the Navy. When his homosexuality was discovered, Bonaparte went into a deep depression and was referred to a chaplain—a fundamentalist Christian with no credentials in counseling who tried to force his religious beliefs about homosexuality on Bonaparte.   

Bonaparte was not only gay but atheist, and so his sessions with the chaplain were doubly inappropriate and left him even more depressed than before, even suicidal. He was eventually referred to a military psychologist, who helped him get back on track and deal confidently with the charges against him. But, writes Bonaparte, the military routinely stigmatizes soldiers who seek psychological counseling and thereby imposes an extra burden on those who, quite understandably, become depressed over their treatment under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.    

Bonaparte questions the military’s practice of referring troubled servicepersons to chaplains first, regardless of the serviceperson’s religious background. Often, chaplains are neither trained nor licensed as counselors and are ideologically ill-suited to dealing with non-believers or homosexuals. Bonaparte writes, “I don’t think someone who breaks with the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association by refusing to recognize homosexuality as nonpathological is qualified to assess, counsel, or treat someone for anything other than religious or spiritual problems.” 

Bonaparte blames the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for creating a culture of secrecy, lies, and double lives, and he blames the pervasive “Christianization” of the military for filling the chaplaincy ranks with ministers from fundamentalist or evangelical traditions. 

“The policy of turning to chaplains first,” he concludes, “…fails desperately to meet the needs of members who are gay, nonreligious, or who may have serious mental health issues.” The predictable outcome of this misguided policy is that America’s armed forces regularly lose highly-trained personnel to suicides, psychological breakdowns, and premature withdrawals from duty.