*CORRECTION* In the print version of this column, the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was incorrectly attributed to Cotton Mather. The Collegian regrets its error.
I’m sure you all remember last week’s visit from one of our friendly neighborhood preachers.
As is par for the course, he preached hellfire and damnation and singled out members of the student body as Hell-bound. It’s the same old territory covered by so many ministers from the beginning of the Church, and it’s a topic that inspired Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
As well-worn and clichéd as the preaching gets sometimes, it never fails to enrage me and I left the Plaza shaking with fury last week.
I am a Christian. I was baptized into the Lutheran Church on Palm Sunday 1993, I talk to God on a regular basis and I believe that Jesus died for us and rose again. That’s why the preaching of hate and anger in Jesus’ name horrifies, disgusts and infuriates me. Jesus willingly sacrificed himself because he loves us, and to use him to justify your hate is a blasphemy far worse than taking his name in vain when you stub your toe or forget your homework.
God is love. He always looks out for us, even those of us who don’t believe in him, and he doesn’t condemn everyone to Hell automatically.
There are people who are going there, I don’t deny that, but he offers us a choice: we can accept Jesus’ sacrifice if we are truly repentant, and if we are, no matter what we have done or left undone, we are forgiven. Many of us will need to repeat the process for the rest of our lives, but God always leaves that door open. For the preachers to suggest that the door is automatically closed if you commit certain sins but not others is ridiculous and, if not blasphemous, heretical at the very least.
The Plaza preachers are no better than the Pharisees. The groups may be separated by two-thousand years and about seven-thousand miles, but they make the same errors: they take the rules of the Bible too far, more interested in following the letter of the law and not the spirit of it, and they are self-righteous, seeing sin everywhere except within themselves.
I can think of no better condemnation than to quote Christ himself on the subject.
From the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, in Luke 18:10-14.“Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home more justified than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Does that remind you of anyone recently? How about this?
From the same version, in Matthew 23:23-24:“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe dill, mint and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!”
We were not put on this earth to hate, but to love and to help our fellow man, and for people who claim to be Christian, who say they worship the Lord, to denounce female students as whores, Muslims as Satanists and to spew the most foul, vile things in the same breath as his name is the ultimate hypocrisy. It sickens me to see them pollute Christ’s holy name this way. It is slander at the highest level, and casts a shadow on Christianity.
Those who are saved are no better or worse than the damned, but they accept responsibility for their sins, realize their wrongs and ask God for forgiveness. It is a process that I have gone through many times, and I trust that God forgives me each time. No matter what happens to us in the end, God loves us all, and he will always offer a second chance throughout our lives, leaving the door open for those who want to enter.
I can only pray that the preachers realize their sins and repent. It’s what Jesus would do.
Allison Chase is a junior Creative Writing major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.