There are Christians out there mad enough to think that schemes like this are a good idea. They are, according to The Times, ‘the new morality plays‘. That article, incidentally, is well worth reading, because it says what I’m saying, only better. Basically the plan is that on Halloween young teenagers (and their families) go to hell houses to see horrifically graphic and realistically gory depictions of late-term abortions and gay men dying of AIDS and teenagers committing suicide, as well as the negative effects of drinking alcohol, pre-marital sex, and so on. These are played out by real actors as darkly as possible. The idea is that the children who see them will thus be ‘saved’ by their fear of sin; and that people who still choose to drink, smoke, take drugs, go on the Pill, use tampons, or have a partner of their own gender are condemned to hell straight out, with no possibility of forgiveness.
I’m sorry, but there is nothing wrong with alcohol, tampons, homosexuality, the Pill, or cigarettes, in terms of sin. It is offensive and wrong to suggest to anyone that being gay automatically leads to dying of AIDS more than having straight sex would. It is terrible to suggest that drinking and partying absolutely and definitely WILL culminate in rape and suicide. It’s nonsensical. It seems downright silly to suggest that using tampons will mean that you are no longer a virgin, that you will get Toxic Shock Syndrome and you will then die. And when your audience is young and impressionable it’s even worse.
I am a Christian, and I believe in love and forgiveness. I believe that you have to live your own life and make your own mistakes and ask for forgiveness when you truly understand for yourself where you’ve gone wrong. I also believe that, like I said, the vast majority of the things these far-right Christian organisations would have down as sins are in fact not sinful in the least. But even for things which I would agree are wrong in some way – adultery or promiscuity – I believe the only way you can truly be a good person is to understand why this is bad and that is good, and being shown Struwwelpeter-like horror stories about gory consequences and hellfire is absolutely not the way these things should be ‘taught’. Among my Christian friends, the ones I most admire, whose moral choices I most respect, those who are the most accepting, the least judgemental and the most outward-looking – those who accepted and helped me the most – are those, in the main, who have got to that point by much the same route as I took – who started off most definitely not on the straight and narrow, made choices that ended up not making them happy, and then realised that living life differently could bring them peace and contentment and joy. I’m not out to judge anyone in that last sentence, incidentally – I know there is joy to be had in drinking far too much and piecing together last night over a bleary coffee the next morning, in pulling someone you’ll never see again or ending up the wrong side of town on the wrong side of the day after completely unpredicted adventures, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a personal choice.
And personally I do not think that traumatising and scaring young kids, shutting os cut ‘sinners’, raining judgment and hellfire upon anyone who doesn’t conform, as all of the more right-wing church movements do in one way or another – I do not think that this constitutes Christian behaviour. I think it’s wrong to terrorise impressionable young people, I think it is wrong to judge other people for the way they live, I think it is wrong to lie about the consequences of life choices you do not personally agree with, I think it is so absolutely xenophobic (in the sense of ‘fear of other’) that part of me is amazed that things like this even exist in this day and age. I think it’s disgusting under any guise, and I am absolutely appalled that this is done by people who apparently share my faith (or indeed anyone’s). I feel like I’m apologising for the black sheep of the family, the fatcat businessman in a family of loving, giving liberals. I could reel out some apt quote about the Pharisees criticising Jesus for something like not washing his hands in the temple, while they themselves are trading and doing business in the temple instead, but instead I shall go to bed. I will never understand the logic behind right-wing Christianity, I really won’t.