Eight years ago, the Oklahoma Atheists visited a Judgement House at Wilmont Place Baptist Church in OKC. Back then, we reported on our excursion in our monthly newsletter. Today, we can safely report that little has changed in the intervening years, although the script has taken a significant turn for the worse.
Here is the story in a nutshell. Rachel is a teenage girl who was poorly raised by drug-dealing parents who do not show her much love, and as a result she now lives with her grandmother and dresses like a goth. She is persuaded by her pious grandma to hang out with the church youth group and goes off to church camp, where she is ruthlessly mocked, maltreated, and ostracized by Christian youth evidently devoid of any semblance of brotherly love (which I clearly recall being mentioned somewhere).
At camp, Rachel gets the chance to hear a sermon about Jesus, however, just after hearing the gospel message she is given the news that her grandmother has died. Somehow, this distracts her from the important business at hand. In the next scene, she swallows a few pills, scrawls suicide note expressing her wish to escape from suffering, and then has a propheticlly hellish drug trip while writhing on the bed in the throes of death. (Side note: Best acting performance of the evening by a long shot.)
In the next room, we are faced with the great white throne judgement scene from which the whole event takes its archaically spelled name. Here, a stern archangel (possibly God himself, but it was hard to recognize Him without the trademark snowy beard) adjudges Grandma as saved, and Rachel as damned, based on whether they had believed in Jesus and prayed the right prayer. Grandma forgets all about her beloved granddaughter’s plight and skips off happily into eternal bliss. Rachel, however, remembers her Grandma as the one person who has shown her love and loudly calls for her, but is told by the stern angel that “She cannot hear you now” just before damning her to hell for her unbelief. The angel then orders everyone else in the room to step forward, calling each of us out by name in the style of Peter Popoff. Just as it seems he is going to damn the lot of us to Hell, he relents and tells us that tonight is not our night for judgement yet, we still have the chance to convert to the true faith, on offer now from the Southern Baptist Convention.
Next we are taken to Hell, in which we find Rachel being pushed around and bullied and mocked once again, this time by church boys portraying demons rather than church boys portraying themselves. It would appear that Hell is not without a sense of irony, torturing Rachel in the afterlife with nasty echoes of her short but unpleasant Earthly existence. I can only assume that when I get to Hell, it will resound with the sermons of self-righteous Baptists.
We are then taken from Hell into to Heaven, which is peopled entirely by virgins in white stretch pants and billowy robes who kneel and worship a masculine bearded fellow. One might be forgiven for thinking this was a scene from one of the hadith, but the music turned into a swooning homage to Lee Greenwood, one which blurred the lines between flattery and imitation. Rachel’s Grandma comes running to meet her maker, blissful and never sparing a thought for the ongoing torture of her beloved granddaughter. At this point, I am throwing up in my mouth just a bit.
Finally, we are all taken into a smallish room and given a small-minded little sermon by a small-hearted little man. He tells us that we too can someday forget completely about our loved ones who are in Hell, and get the chance to spend eternity with the deity who thought that it would be a perfectly good idea to create a never-ending torture chamber for those of his children who did not come to the one true faith during their short time on Earth. He prays a magical incantation which (if repeated with true sincerety) will provide the petitioner with complete and irrevocable salvation, and urges us all to pray along. He does not at any point mention from which part(s) of the Bible the magic prayer has been drawn, or why this particular incantation seems to have gone unmentioned in the first 18 centuries of Christianity prior to rise of the evangelical movement in America.
What then is the moral of the story? No matter what you do, or how cruel you are to the least of these among you, so long as you utter the right magic words with sincerity of belief, Jesus will save you. Those nasty snobby little church kids that helped drive Rachel to suicide? They are going to Heaven because they prayed this prayer. Rachel, meanwhile, having never seen an example of Christian love (beyond that one might well confuse with grandmaternal instinct) will rot evermore in Hell, which all too ironically resembles her hellish experience of church camp.
Here endeth the lesson, and it is this: Life’s a bitch, and then you die (and then it gets even worse).