9/11/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsBy David ~
Recently I was thinking about my early church experiences and how they affected me. One event I remember in particular was when I was at an all night youth lock-in. It was at the First Wesleyan Church in High Point. I loved going because it was a chance to not only stay up all night, but there were games, pizza, music, and a chance to hang out with a lot of friends. I now look back and see how this was no more than a brainwashing event disguised by the allure of fun times for kids.
Image by raggio(ALL4HIM)productions via FlickrI remember that we were taken into this room with a wall of projectors. There must have been 40 or more slide projectors on the back wall. I remember thinking that all those projectors stacked up was impressive and I was getting excited about the presentation. The room was relatively small and we sat in rows facing an enormous screen. The show started. The lights dimmed. The music began and beautiful pictures were interwoven to the music. I remember seeing mountains, streams, people laughing, children playing, happy photos. What I had not noticed when entering the room was the enormous sub woofers that were on the floor near the screen. The music was at a nice and soothing volume at first. Suddenly, projected on the screen was a violent explosion with a huge boom from the sub woofers that made everyone in the room jump. I remember it being quite frightening. What I recall after that was pictures of Satan and people perishing. It was a view of the end times and hell. From what I remember there was a message at the end saying that we need to repent or we would face similar punishment. There was an opportunity to become a Christian right after this and they told us counselors were there to pray with us.
Looking back on this I can see why I became a religious fundamentalist. These were the tactics used by the church to scare us into converting. This one was the most vivid for me. I remember having night mares during my teen years, often screaming out in the middle of the night thinking I was being taken to hell. These torturous images had been put in my mind by the "kind" youth leaders in our church (the Nazarene Church). I now have two boys and can only begin to imagine the depth to which I would be enraged if I found out that they had been subjected to such heinous forms of brainwashing. I had not asked to be taught about the end times or the theology of hell that evening. I was just there to have a good time.. What could have possibly caused these leaders to think this was an appropriate way to show kids that they were loved?
There is such a push in churches to gain converts. When I was an ordained minister int he Nazarene church each year I had to fill out a card which asked me specifically how many people had been converted under my influence. In district meetings pastors are to report how many people have been converted and how big their churches have grown. There is pressure to convert the world and to grow the churches for the sake of God's call to evangelize the world. I also know from experience that there was often great pressure from church leadership for your church to grow in number. It was the measure of "success".
It is no wonder youth leaders would revert to such tactics as taking a kid who is sleepy and weak and putting them in a room where they could be brainwashed with fear. There is also another reason. The Bible is clear about what happens to unbelievers. They are tortured forever in hell. If one believes the Bible to be the "Word of God" how can they not take every measure, regardless of how drastic, to save a soul from such danger? It is true that many good people with good intentions have caused great harm because of this fear driven message. It is high time we expose this for what it is - psychological torture and brainwashing through fear.