I had a very interesting discussion on Facebook yesterday during which I was cast into hell. I am pleased to report I am no worse for the wear! I reproduce it here because it may be helpful to people who are struggling to leave a toxic religious environment or who have recently left one but are being deluged with questions from their friends and family. We join my discussion in progress!
Bishop Craig Bergland: To clarify: The belief that we should pray or read scriptures every moment of every day is rooted in the fundamentally flawed belief that humanity is so intrinsically broken that our only hope is to make a herculean effort to atone for God’s supposed inability to turn out a good product. Acting on that belief is profoundly unhealthy, for it leaves us no time to actually live!
Richard Morrison Arthur: Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” But the fear spoken of here I feel is the respect that every father expects from his children. On the other side of the coin, Jesus spoke of hell continuously. So I tend to agree that “fear” needs to be defined but along with fear there has to be a lesson regarding the love that God has for each of us. There is a need for lessons about hell to be preached, that might be seen as a fear-factor but then Jesus never held back.
Bishop Craig Bergland With all due respect, a better definition of the word “fear” is indeed, “respect.” I submit that we can no more respect someone we are afraid of, or someone who might cast us into an eternal torture chamber, than the Jewish people could respect Adolph Hitler. I find there to be little biblical evidence for a hell of any kind – and a ton of Miltonian evidence. However, I don’t find John Milton to be a prophet.
Bishop Craig Bergland: Jesus, in the original languages, never used the word “hell.” We have translated it into our scriptures. He never spoke of heaven, either. He spoke alternately of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, “heaven” being a more acceptable word to use the G-d in the Jewish culture of his day. He spoke of Gehenna, the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem, which today is a fertile valley – but I thought the fire was never to go out, the worm never to finish eating away at our flesh? I think that hell is a sick creation of the behavior and control mechanism of institutional Christianity. It certainly was no part of OT Jewish thought. The early Church created it, and continued to create it as it aged because it found it kept people coming back. Eternal punishment? Really? You can worship that notion? I also find it curious how often hell-lovers use the OT or St. Paul to try to trump Jesus. Proverbs does say that, but the theological climate in which it was written didn’t hold to any sort of afterlife and believed only in earthly rewards. It wasn’t until after the Exile that Pharisaic Judaism began to contemplate an afterlife – while other schools of Judaism rejected it. We need to stop reading the OT through a Christian lens. Such a reading is a corruption of the text and profoundly disrespectful to our Jewish brothers and sisters. Isaiah 7, for example, no more speaks of Christ than a reptile at the local zoo does – it speaks of Cyrus of Persia. Christians have for the last two thousand years done untold violence to the Hebrew Scriptures because we are so supremely arrogant and Jesus-centric (as opposed to Christ Consciousness-centric, to coin a phrase) that we feel free to twist the beauty of the Hebrew Scriptures and pervert it into something that serves our purposes. There is no hell, at least no permanent torture chamber. There is a hell of fear, terror really, that the behavior control mechanism of the institution seeks to thrust its members into every day – because such terror has been a cash cow for the institution. There is no hell, there is no Satan, there is only God because God created everything that is out of Godself. We are made up of God-parts, chock full of divinity, and need to reclaim our birthright as sons and daughters of a God who is so much more than a projection of the worst of human behavior onto an Abusive Parent.
Richard Morrison Arthur I would have thought that a Bishop would have more knowledge of the bible. I have heard these same interpretations from non believers and homosexuals that try condone their way of life. I strongly suggest that you go back to reading the bible and re-look at your posting here. Rev.20:14 “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Richard Morrison Arthur The above is just one small example of hell, would you like a few more or will you take the time to actually go read the bible?
Bishop Craig Bergland Richard, I find it curious that you try to insult me when I have treated you with dignity and respect. I actually graduated Magna cum Laude in Biblical Theology (and Psychology). You are taking the Book of Revelation, an example of Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, which is highly symbolic and never appropriately literalized, and literalizing it to support your belief. I also see you are homophobic. Interesting that you find eight passages of scripture condemning heterosexual men having sex with other men to be condemning of homosexual sexual orientation. Do you believe that sexual orientation is a choice, or the way people are created? I am interested to know.
Richard Morrison Arthur: It is a choice.
Bishop Craig Bergland: Congratulations on coming out as bi-sexual, Richard. I admire your courage! You see, if sexuality is a choice then you are confessing that you could just as easily have sexual relationships with either men or women. As a radically inclusive Church, I’d like you to know that you are welcome in The Universal Anglican Church at any time. Of course, your current Anglican Church may not like you any more, but we are here for you. Tell me, is the shirt you are wearing a polyester/cotton blend, by chance?
Richard Morrison Arthur: I am not insulting you I am simply pointing out that you are spreading a falsehood regarding scripture and need to get your soul back onto the narrow path that leads to eternal life. As a bishop you will have people believing anything you say regarding scripture and therefore have a power that can lead many souls to destruction. I don’t know where you get your theory regarding my sexual habits or preferences but you are again wrong. I am happily married 35 years and have 2 children and 2 grand children. Speculation based on assumptions can lead you in a wrong direction of thought. Again, I suggest you go back to the bible and this time ask God to open your eyes concerning His word. Pieces of paper with degrees written on it mean absolutely nothing if what was studied is taken out of context
Richard Morrison Arthur: Something I failed to mention is that I am with the T.A.C. we broke away when homosexuals and women were allowed into the priesthood. (Traditional Anglican Church)
Bishop Craig Bergland: But Richard, you said that sexual orientation was a choice. That means you, by definition, are bisexual. As you didn’t answer my question about the fabric of your shirt I can only assume that it is a blend. I certainly hope not, because that would be an abomination unto the Lord according to Leviticus. You say you’re married. I certainly hope that, after your wife’s monthly cycle (or any other woman’s period) that you don’t touch her for seven days and that you take anything she sat on outside the camp and burn it. Those things are requirements of the Bible, the same Bible – in fact the same book of the Bible – you draw some of your “teachings” on homosexuality from. When your children disobeyed, did you stone them to death as required in Leviticus? I’m certain as a Bible believing Christian you did, or else you are in a world of trouble with God. Finally, Richard, since you are a “Traditional Anglican,” I find it a bit curious that you feel free to be disrespectful of a bishop in Christ’s Church. Your arrogant remarks about my Bible knowledge were just that. Are you not aware that, as a Traditional Anglican, you are to show Bishops respect? Surely someone who has ascended to the lofty position of Lay Reader knows that! While we are on beliefs, Richard, and Biblical consistency, I notice you are from South Africa. As a South African White, did your “biblical” understanding force you to work to end Apartheid, or did you support it? Are you working to further reconciliation in your Country, or are you operating from St. Paul’s understanding of slavery. If you want to up this discussion a notch, I am willing to do so. How say you?
Richard Morrison Arthur: I really don’t know what type of material my shirt is made of, and personally, I don’t really care. I show respect to people who earn respect, unfortunately you don’t. Furthermore, you don’t know me or my past regarding apartheid and are again discussing a subject that you are ignorant of. I think at this point I will refer to proverbs 12:15″ The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But he who heeds counsel is wise.” Mat.23:6 ” They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But you, do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, the Christ” I show respect where it is due and so far you have not earned my respect. I have one teacher and Him I respect and I read His word daily. Titles are something I have no respect for or have you forgotten, the 1st shall be last and the last shall be 1st? I respect God’s sacred word and those that spread His gospel as He gave it to us and not through some man-made interpretation that tries to condone sin and spread nonsense. I really pray that God opens your eyes to His word before it is too late as you will be bringing many souls to hell with you through your wrong teachings.
Bishop Craig Bergland: You don’t care about God’s commandments regarding your clothing? You are correct that I don’t know your record regarding Apartheid. That’s why I asked. It was, of course, an unfair question because of your blind dedication to the mistaken notion that you can believe in the whole Bible literally. If you had said you opposed Apartheid, I would have pointed out that St. Paul supported slavery and the status quo and so you had violated biblical principles. If you had said you supported Apartheid, all of your credibility would have flown out the window. The truth is that your use of personal attacks, what’s called the Ad Hominem fallacy in debate, is the refuge of someone who recognizes that their argument cannot be supported. You are clearly in violation of several verses in Leviticus, yet continue to try to attack me based on your antiquated and perverse literal interpretation of scripture. Here’s a new flash for you: You aren’t God. You don’t get to determine for anyone but yourself what their relationship with God should be. You sling about your proof texts – which quite often are the only biblical verses people like you know – with great discretion. You certainly wouldn’t want to quote Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon in the Mount about removing the beam from your own eye, would you? You are far too busy judging others – me, homosexuals, women – and consigning them to second class status. This despite the fact that Jesus clearly said the last shall be first and the first last. You are, in fact, the Pharisee standing on the corner praying, “I thank you Lord that I was not born a Gentile, or a woman, or a tax collector.” Recall that the publican, who beat his breast and prayed, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” was the one who God accepted. Humility, Richard, humility. The truth is that you are so threatened by me and the fact that I love and treat all people equally, that I can see and have experienced the love of God for all people, that I am unwilling to say that anyone – even you, Richard – is beyond the love of God. That truth scared the hell INTO you, because it means that you will have to confront and overcome your own deep-seated feelings of inadequacy that you are currently addressing by religiously seeking out people whom you believe are unacceptable to use in your defense before the judgment of God – a judgment you see yourself failing. You are loved, Richard, we all are. That’s the only conclusion and honest reading of the entire Bible can lead anyone to unless they choose to interpret scripture through their doctrine – a practice that implies that you are more intelligent than God. Trust me, you aren’t. There is no hell, there is no devil, and it’s all good because it’s all God!