The headline of the Norwegian Verdens Gang (VG) tabloid newspaper article screamed the title, "THREATENED with Hell" and shows a large half page picture of four young 11-12 year old children in the protective watchcare of two adults following the evangelical activities of a Christian group called "Jesus Revolution" (VG, 30 November 1998, p.21). Have the newspapers over-reacted again or are we dealing with a dangerous cult who are threatening the psychological welfare of young children?
Though most evangelical Christians would probably reflexly come to the defence of "fellow brethren" and brand the newspaper as being simply anti-religious I have to candidly say that there is an element of truth in the story the VG reporter, Lars Chr. Wegner (who reported our own story of the economic catastrophe) has written. In reading anything the secular press writes about (with the exception of the Christians newspapers Vårt Land and Dagen) we must, of course, expect an anti-religious secular bias. They are, for the most part, out to shock both to sell newspapers and to maintain the status quo of society's liberal paradigm
To begin with, the "Jesus Revolution" is, as Wegner correctly reports, a part of the Charismatic Faith Movement about which we have much that we could fault. However, having said this, I am bound to support them in their general message of salvation and for not watering down the existence of hell. It is one thing to acknowledge the existence of hell (which we fully believe is real) but it is quite another to use it as a weapon with which to frighten people into the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who come into the Gospel as a negative reaction to hell are not infrequently built on a dangerous foundation. When someone is brought to Christ because of fear they are rarely going to have an appreciation of His love; those brought in on this basis can frequently become unstable fanatics who give true Christians a bad name and are themselves in need of ministry.
Sadly, the "hell and brimstone" gospel is still alive and brings Christ and true Christians a bad reputation. Whilst, as I said, we would support the efforts of the "Jesus Revolution" to win souls to Christ we would question their methods.
This does not mean that we would minimise the reality of hell, as the liberals do (even to outrightly denying it), but rather present it in the way that Jesus did. Interestingly, the few instances where Jesus actually talks about hell it is to condemn RELIGIOUS HYPOCRITES and the grossly immoral. He never condemned small children with it as a means of 'persuading' them to believe.
According to the article children in the age range 11-15 were threatened with hell in sermons, by mail and by telephone calls if they did not accept Jesus. We must categorically say that such an approach is from hell itself -- this is NOT the way the present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, the article in VG will be read as a blanket attack on all Biblical Christianity and whilst the "Jesus Revolution" must take part of the blame for this, the newspapers must also bear some too for not balancing out their report with a few words -- even if only one sentence -- to make it clear that there are other Christians who oppose such activities.
Yes, hell exists and it is a terrible place and I wouldn't wish anyone to go there, but I am not going to use it as a weapon to win people to Christ. The doctrine of hell is terribly misunderstood and abused by a large segment of Christendom, with some who teach that even a baby who dies will go there if they are not baptised first (the Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic Churches teach this heretical doctrine). Though we cannot avoid the hell issue there is a compassionate way to teach it that is loving and non-threatening.
Let me illustrate. Crossing roads can be dangerous for small children and parents are naturally anxious that no harm should come to their little ones. The loving parent will calmly and honestly explain to a small child that certain traffic rules must be obeyed for their safety otherwise they could have a terrible, possibly fatal, accident. Depending on the age of the child it will only be possible to go into a certain amount of detail. Most importantly the child must clearly see that the rule is intelligent, wise and loving, and must clearly be able to see the love and concern in the one teaching it.
Take another person who comes up to a small child yelling and screaming saying that if the child doesn't obey the rule that the child will be horribly mutilated, have its arms and legs cut off, have its guts spilled all over the road, its eyes squashed into a sickly glue, etc...you get the picture, I'm sure. The child is quaking with terror and may even be psychologically harmed by such a graphic description that is devoid of love. Imagine if a news reporter gets hold of this story and writes an article condemning the treatment of this child and either intimating, or even saying directly, that road laws and those who try to enforce them are dangerous or lunatic cultists!
I'm not surprised the "Jesus Revolution" got bad press and some people were hurt or scared, but didn't the journalist find anything good to write about them either?? How would a journalist feel, for example, if he was a loving, kind and decent father who ONCE in his life struck his child violently whilst psychologically unstable and had a full-page article written on him focusing on that one lapse of behaviour. How would you, the wife, who knows the man is basically a good guy, see how one incident was zoomed in on making a decent man look like a psychopathic criminal?
I ask this question because I know a man who is one of the kindest men whom I would trust with my life to. When he was young, in an act of mercy (because other aid was not at hand), killed an animal that was writhing in agony from a fatal wound by crushing its head with a rock. The animal had no chance of survival and he wished to put it out of his agony. It was a terrible decision he had to make and one that was particularly painful for him. Yet I know of one or two people who, seeing nothing else of this man's life, have shone a spotlight on an event best forgotten by all as though he were doing this thing for amusement every day. Listening to them you would think he was a barbarian.
I mention this example as well to illustrate the importance of balanced and fair reporting. I am not saying that Mr. Wegland went out to demonise the "Jesus Revolution", at least not in an obvious way -- journalists have to be careful how they write so as to avoid being sued. Instead of writing a diatribe their technique is to simply quote what people say and string the quotes together. The individual sentences may then be said to be truth even if the article as a whole may give a hopelessly distorted picture of the "whole truth".
I am reminded often of George Orwell's satire on communism in his book, "1984" that depicts the ultimate horror of a police state. The autocratic state, always in search of a scapegoat, invented a ficticious character called Goldman who wrote an equally ficticious reactionary book. Both Goldman and his book are portrayed as "demonic" and counter-revolultionary. Using the negative hatred and energy poured out by the people on Goldman and the book the state is able to distract attention from the demon in their own souls. It is an old ploy of all dictators. Hitler used the Jews, Lenin used the bourgoisie, the aristocrats and the Church, and our own modern liberal "democracy" (read "dictatorship") uses any religion that is not tolerant and accepting of ALL other religions, inspite of the contradiction of such a position. That is not unlike Nazis "accepting" Social Democrats as though they were "equal". They aren't. The secret of maintaining a true and free democracy is AGREEING TO DISAGREE without having to COMPLY with a particular religious system. The modern liberal democracy is being built on New Age premeses which is that ALL religion is true whereas Christianity teaches that only IT is true. The latter is therefore branded as "intolerant" and "reactionary" and it will be on this basis that it is being, and will increasingly in the future be, persecuted by "liberal" states.
The fact of the matter is that a total cultural shift is taking place in our society with the Christian premises being replaced by pagan ones. Both cannot be right but it IS possible for the two to cohabit under the protection of the law. But the New Age paradim cannot accept an exclusivist religion that will not assimilate and mutate into its own mind-frame and must eventually attempt to destroy it. That it is its weakness, and is veritably the weakness of all false autocratic religions.
As I've said before the media are caught up in this New Age current and whilst there may be honourable journalists here and there they are not easy to find and have their writings controlled and mutilated by editors. Inspite of these realities we live in the hope that courage and integrity will, from time to time, prevail in this increasingly wicked world. Hell remains an unpopular subject whose reality is increasingly denied. We need to remind people that it is real but to do so in a compassionate and sensitive way.
In the final run there's another place I want to talk about anyway and that's
where I hope we'll all one day meet. But the door to this place doesn't automatically open to anyone -- the Creator has decreed but one way to Heaven and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. That is my message to the world (first and foremost) and I would like to share it with anyone willing to listen. Drop me a line if you would.