On hell and the damaging impact violent beliefs have upon our souls
I realized something recently while lying awake in bed, fighting a tired-but-wide-awake-jetlagged-mind: It’s been a long time since I’ve had a nightmare about hell.
Not so long ago, my unconscious landscape was one of terror, rising flames, scorched earth. Every night I’d slip deep into a violent netherworld where death and endless torment haunted me. I’d encounter my hellbound soul and see there was no saving it. In my nightmares, I became what I feared in my wakened state: unredeemable.
For years and years, I felt strangely alone in my anxiety. Back then, no one spoke about death as terrifying. We didn’t talk about it because we were supposed to be unafraid. Not only unafraid, but joyfully anticipatory for the celestial afterlife and these “strange times” that meant we were closer than ever to Jesus’s return. Imagine my surprise when I began encountering other “end-times kids” (asdubs the generation—or generation-adjacent—who were formed within a one-foot-in-one-foot-out mentality, convinced we were far closer to the end of time than the beginning of it).1 An entire subculture exists of people who lived with constant anxiety and anxiety about the anxiety we harbored.
We carry our anxiety like battle scars, finally calling it what it is decades later when age, therapy, further education, etc., helped us recognize the goosebumps, aversion to certain topics, and constant feelings of terror were not normal childish fears but actual religious-induced trauma. We learned to keep the anxiety to ourselves, bury our nightmares with the sunrise. Especially as the mention of eternal insecurity was often met with trite acknowledgments like “pray about it,” “let us pray for you,” “just trust Jesus,” or “your concern probably means you’ve got nothing to worry about.”2
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