Posted by: minnow | June 4, 2009

What’s with All the End Timers?

Maybe I am crossing paths with an unusually high volume of people who are influenced by the Kansas City IHOP theology but seriously the “Hell is coming” message/mentality is really starting to “creep me out” (to borrow a phrase from my teenagers).  And if you are one of those who preach the fire and brimstone stuff I already get that, that seems to be your point.  I just do not appreciate it quite the way you do.  If you want to know my full views on hell you can check out the archives (here, here, here, here, and here), I will try not to repeat myself in this post but I do have a few thoughts that include the idea of hell. 

As I browse various Christian sites I have run into a high volume of those who point to the end times.  Either they predict it is near and warn the world to “turn or burn”.  Or, they are so focused on the here after that they ignore the fact they must live in the here and now.  These are disturbing attitudes to me for a few reasons.  First the turn or burn rhetoric is often void of compassion.  In addition, these attitudes can cause us to become unhealthily introspective.  And finally, concentrating on the future puts blinders on us with regard to the ever present  need around us. 

Perhaps the anonymity of the internet has a little something to do with it BUT those who continually point to hell as a reason to think the way they think do not seem to care how rude or insulting they become toward the rest of the world.  I actually had someone say to me once that it did not matter how “ugly” or harsh his retoric got since hell was so much worse, he was actually being loving by being so hateful.  Does anyone else see the problem with that thinking?  In the first place most of those he was talking to/about did not themselves believe in hell.  Therefore from their point of view they were being threatened with a non-entity.  It held no power and in fact caused them to turn farther away than ever.  The “Protect Marriage” site is a prime example.  Gays and Lesbians are routinely told they are going to hell even despite their own confessions of Christ.  Those who object to such judgmental attitudes (Christian or not) are thrown into the same pot.  They are told they are deceived, obviously do not know what the Bible teaches, and are an “abomination” to God.  Like the person I mentioned earlier, they defend their ugly rhetoric by claiming it is the most loving thing they can do, considering the damnation awaiting those who do not repent.  But, when asked for specific references they, of course, cannot provide them.  But they know, “It’s in the Bible!”  I have heard countless non-Christians describe Christians in general as rude, hateful, ignorant, and crass because of the kind of condemnation they encounter on such sites from “Christ’s representatives”.  Grrr…Sadly, these are not the attributes the Bible urges believers to adopt.

“Fill us up, Lord.”  “More, Lord.”  “Come quickly.”  “Pour out your Spirit on Your people.”  “Let us see Your face.”  “Rain on me.”  “Send Your glory.”  “Manifest Your presence.”  “Oh God, oh God, oh God.”  Taken individually, not one of these prayers is a bad thing.  But, a steady diet of this stuff combined with a strong sense of His eminent return can result in a pretty heightened opinion of oneself.  People start talking about soaking in His presence, being shown favor, and walking under the “anointing”.  Those who do not share these experiences begin to wonder what is wrong with them.  And those with anointing or favor begin to expound on how it is done.  On the one hand, the inexperienced doubt their connection to God and start to focus on “getting filled” (in a hurry).  Throw in a little “speak things that are not as if they are” and you have a sure recipe for posing.  On the other hand, the “filled” begin to build their little groupie wanna-be’s so they can bring more glory to God, (before it’s too late).  Meanwhile, the overall obsession with “feeling  God’s presence” creates for the entire group a superficiality from which escape is difficult.  Do not get me wrong–I am not condeming or even belittling relationship with God.  My problem is with seeking a feeling  to the exclusion of walking out ones faith in the day to day.

The last problem I have with focusing our whole attention toward the here after is the neglect that attitude promotes toward the hurting, here and now.  If  we only care about a person’s soul, the person’s body can already be in hell  and we could not care less.  One of my favorite sections in Shane Claiborne’s book, Irresistible Revolution, was when he talked about being in Calcutta with Mother Theresa.  The short term missionaries often asked, “Why doesn’t God heal these folks?  Wouldn’t this be the perfect time–they are so helpless; He surly would get the glory?  Didn’t Jesus say we  would do even greater things than He did?”  Then Claiborne watched as some of the attendants sang over the bodies of the dying.  He understood that, that–giving comfort to a dying man, granting him the dignity of a bed rather than the street to die in–was the greater thing.  Mother Theresa knew that we can do something about the hell millions of people live in every day.  Now, we must learn a lesson from her and those like her.

We do not have to wait for the end times to experience hell.  If we have eyes to see and hears to hear all we need is to open them to the world around us.  Our efforts to save people from hell ought to begin with a renewed manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, the greatest of which is love.

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