I Blasphemed before Blaspheming was Cool

May 17, 2007 at 9:55 pm 22 comments

With the recent talk of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, I thought I would share this perspective from my childhood. I took the Blasphemy Challenge long before it became the hip thing to do. So step into the WayWay Back Machine with me, and let me explain.

Rex HumbardMany years ago, my mother got involved in the so-called The Jesus Movement of the late 1960s early 1970s, and I fondly remember Bible believing hippies living a peaceful communal lifestyle. They were young, good-looking, earthy, did not mind milking goats, and enjoyed singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” as a Gospel hymn. We also had a strong belief in displaying our gifts from the Holy Spirit as a witness for all to see. We sometimes packed into our bus to drive into town when a traveling minister came to visit. I was slain in the spirit by Rex Humbard. I saw Kathryn Kuhlman straighten out a man’s uneven legs, and my mother was aghast in amazement. “I saw her straighten those legs right before my eyes,” she would say.

I once saw this kid who was billed as the world’s youngest preacher. At the ripe age of 9, this young Billy Sunday would scream and yell about our perverse and crooked generation of sinful fornicators. He was younger than me, and watching him prance about the stage in a shirt and tie, screaming about hellfire while slaying my mother in the spirit was really, really scary. He and his family had stormed into town like a traveling circus for three evenings of revival, and we saw him on all three. Each evening as we left the venue, we would marvel how such a youngster could be so filled with the Holy Spirit. Looking back, I just marvel at what his parents had to do to whip that kid up into such a frantic state every evening. I wonder what that traveling preacher boy is doing these days? Maybe he is Benny Hinn.

I started reading the Bible when I was very young. Not that my mother urged me to; I just loved to read and we did not have that many books lying around. It was only a matter of time until I ran into these verses:

I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come,” – Matthew 12:31-32 (NASB).

Those are the verses that torment young minds more than any other – the unpardonable sin! Somewhere along the line, I read Kathryn Kuhlman the entire passage in context and the interpretation that came in my young mind went like this – do not attribute miracles done through the Spirit of God to the devil. And in those days, I saw lots of miraculous things. People spoke in strange tongues and uttered prophecies of God. Watching lame people standing up from wheelchairs was common. My friends became half-crazed children who prophesied and spoke in tongues as if possessed of The Holy Spirit. But the seeds of those terrifying verses were planted in my mind. Just attribute any of those miraculous deeds to the devil, and you are on your way to Hell, kiddo. We spoke a lot of the devil back then too. We were always including him in our prayers to God, telling him to release his spirit of addiction one day and binding him the next. So these ideas were constantly on my mind. That’s right, just one utterance and you will spend an eternity chewing your tongue in torment, where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies.

My mom once told me to imagine a giant granite boulder of some vast size. And every thousand years a single bird flies up to it, sharpens its beak on the granite, and flies off. That boulder will grind down from the beaks of those little sparrows before eternity is over. I used to imagine a span of time that long, and get dizzy from the hugeness of it all. My mom used that explanation in anticipation of her heavenly reward, but I just imagined how long the damned would burn. And just think – just one utterance of the devil doing those miracles, just one, and off I go to spend that unimaginable length of time in unspeakable torment.

And once that seed is planted in a young boy’s mind, and with the amount of time I spent obsessing over it, it is just a matter of time before I did it. It was just a thought. A quick thought.

That boy preacher is of the devil!

That quick thought was all it took to convince me that I was damned to Hell and without hope after only 10 years of life lived. I will never forget how hot and flushed my head and face became at the thought of what I had done. I would try to convince myself that I had not done it, but I would do it again unintentionally simply because I contemplated it too much. I prayed and prayed for days, deep in tears, my heart in my throat, desperate for God to forgive me. I did not mean it – it was just a stray thought, please don’t send me to Hell. Please forgive me. I did not tell anyone for shame, not my mom, not my friends, nobody. It hurt too much. Since I was convinced I was going to Hell, nothing else mattered.

I would very easily burst into tears while in class. One day my teacher Mrs. Cristola took me out of the class and walked with me to the nearest private space – the janitor’s broom closet. My face was wet with tears. She pleaded with me to tell her what was wrong, were my parents being abusive? was I being bullied? I desperately wanted to tell her what was wrong, and I nearly did, but I just could not summon up enough courage.

One day, I walked out to the desert near where I lived and bravely asked God to kill me. Please kill me now, because if I am going to Hell I just want to go now and get it over with. I prayed and prayed, but he never took me. I finally took that to mean I was ok after all.

As the weeks went by, I gradually came to accept that I was not on the fast track to Hell. Those few weeks of obsession were some of the most painful of my entire life. I was afraid of more then death. I was afraid of hopeless eternal damnation. But the pain, the hurt and the shame eventually disappeared and drifted into the dim, dark past as I got older.

Many, years later, our pastor was commenting on that passage in Matthew, describing the unpardonable sin. He claimed that most Christians, especially young ones in their faith who are just learning the Bible, go through a phase where they are tormented with the belief they have committed the unpardonable sin. He was probably right. And I bet most have actually committed it if the passage in Matthew is taken literally. Don’t believe me? How many Protestants attribute the good works of what I will call fringe Christianity to Devils? The next time you claim the deeds of Mormonism, Unitarianism, or heck, even Catholicism are the works of the Devil, you better make certain you know what you are talking about! If you take those passages in Matthew seriously, you may be might be dangerously close to actually committing the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

But there is no way a pastor is going to say this during a sermon and unwittingly condemn half his congregation to Hell. So what did Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit come to mean at my church? My pastor interpreted the Matt 12:31-32 to mean refusing to take Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Nice and simple. Never mind that there is no way to fit that interpretation into that passage, because hearing that from my pastor was a huge relief to tender believers such as myself. “Are you worried that you have committed the unpardonable sin?” he would ask, “then you have not committed it.” *phew*

Have you experienced an episode like one that I have described? Were you ever afraid you had unwittingly taken the Blasphemy Challenge, and that you were afraid of Hell?

- HeIsSailing

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

My thoughts on Brian Flemming’s The God Who Wasn’t There The History of Religion

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Agnostic  |  May 17, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article.

    I was taught that Blasphemy occured when one did not accept Christ as their Saviour.

    I sat here in my home with a woman, and her husband, a preacher while she sat in a fetal position on the floor between two pieces of furniture, rocking back and forth, crying for hours. Her preacher husband unable to do anything to help her. Eventually I pulled her out of it by getting down there with her, making eye contact and getting her to tell me what was wrong. Short story; she thought she had Blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Why? How? I asked.

    Well, see she was at church and everyone was rolling around on the floor speaking in tongues, including her husband and she was the only one not doing so. Therefore, from the teaching she figured she did not have the Holy Spirit, thus did not have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, therefore was not saved, therefore had rejected Christ’s salvation, therefore was a blasphemer and Christ had rejected her and now she was destined for hell with no hope. Such a sad sad state of affairs.

    One night, after giving a gospel message to some children at church several of the children came forward. After the class one of the teachers came up to me and mentioned that once again, little Joey (not his real name) had not accepted Christ, having once again refused the salvation message. To this leader/teacher, Joey was guily of blasphemy. Joey was 10 years old.

    I look back on those days and think most of what we taught was truly abusive and here we thought we were teaching the good news. :(

  • 2. HeIsSailing  |  May 17, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Wow Agnostic, that is messed up. That story of the woman anguished because she was not able to speak in tongues really hits home to me. These stories may seem over the top, but I bet there are many many people who have gone through this sort of abusive scare tactic – I don’t think I am alone in this. I think pastors have no choice but to teach that Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is something as benign as not taking Christ as Savior – it just drives too many well-meaning Christians into panic mode otherwise!

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  • 3. Karen  |  May 17, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    That’s a heartbreaking story. I’m so sorry you went through such terror.

    I’ve heard several similar stories, but none told so evocatively. I don’t know how, but I escaped worrying about that issue somehow, thankfully.

    This is the kind of terrible byproduct of rigid faith that I now so deplore.

  • 4. pastorofdisaster  |  May 18, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Your experience of blasphemy so closely resembled mine that it was eerie. My parents were not Jesus People (that was not really an option in Nebraska), but we listened to many of their traveling preachers. I was so terrified for such a great part of my childhood that I would inadvertantly do the unpardonable sin. I too had convinced myself that I would spend eternity in my fundamentalist preachers description of hell.

    Today I do not believe in the unpardonable sin(even if Jesus did teach them). Also, I am dubious about hell. My faith centers around unfathomable grace and mercy. Whether they originate from “believers” or strangers to my beliefs. Yet, I would be dishonest if I didn’t acknowledge that my childhood experiences didn’t influence my current beliefs.

    Thank you for sharing this painful experience, it really caused me to think.

    Peace

  • 5. Heather  |  May 18, 2007 at 10:55 am

    **I was so terrified for such a great part of my childhood that I would inadvertantly do the unpardonable sin. I too had convinced myself that I would spend eternity in my fundamentalist preachers description of hell.**

    It really does seem that the fundamentalists pastors are almost creating the problem — by putting so much focus on the unpardonable sin, they are in effect making it extremely likely that one will do that sin, because one is thinking about it so much.

  • 6. societyvs  |  May 18, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    I had similar experiences with the fundies in the faith also – and I only came to the church in 1993. I think I had convinced myself I had done this also but was never quite sure – which is a hell of a conundrum as a new believer to be in the grasps of (I really felt like Edwards would say ‘a sinner in the hands of an angry God’). Good thing I eventually came to the place where I knew I didn’t nor did I think I could (since I wanted the best for people).

    But I agree with one point HIS made about judging another person about being ‘of satan’ – no matter their religious belief(s) – this is stupid to do. I have also come to the same conclusion and I have a tough time calling someone a ‘satanist’ for holding a different belief than me – this is very judgemental and just plain stupid to do – and dare I say ‘wrong’?

    I think the best route to take (for me) is to teach others to not be like this – nor to think ‘judgementally’ – which I believe is right at the core of this idea. If people in the church (not all of course) were less judgemental then this might not happen whatsoever – problem is – they are and need to start changing that ASAP (since it destructive to the doer and hearer). The real problem these judgment calls are made on the very essence of a person and not an idea (vast differences). They can say ‘hate the sin and love the sinner’ all they want but what happens – eventually the lines blur and either ‘hate or love’ is the polarizing emotion they lean towards (sad but true).

    So good post HIS!

  • 7. tobeme  |  May 18, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Amazing how much damage can be done by those who mean so well.

  • 8. PressPosts / User / crazyx100 / Submitted  |  May 20, 2007 at 5:30 am

    http://pressposts.com/Religion/I-Blasphemed-before-Blaspheming-was-Cool/

    Submited post on PressPosts.com – “I Blasphemed before Blaspheming was Cool”

  • 9. dwhitsett  |  May 21, 2007 at 12:21 am

    Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to deny that a miracle occurs by the power of the Holy Spirit. But what is a miracle? It seems to me that New Testament miracles (signs and wonders) always:
    • Are convincing and undeniable to believers and unbelievers (Acts 4:14-16; 1 Corinthians 14:22-25
    • Involve circumstances that rule out trickery or natural law (Matthew 12:10ff; Acts 3:2ff; John 11:39ff)
    • Are, in the case of healing miracles, instantaneous (Acts 3:2; Matthew 12:10).
    Seen anything like this? Personally, I have not…so I’m safe!
    dwhitsett.wordpress.com

  • 10. Justin  |  May 21, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Hi Agnostic,
    like HeIsSaling, I am also suprised by the woman’s reactions to not being able to speak in tongues. If the preacher’s wife was a little more educated in the faith, she would know that Paul addresses this issue in his letter to Galatians when he discusses the fruit of the spirit (and it doesn’t include speaking in tongues).

    I am always astonished at how ready people are to defend hell and the devil. Believers can get too wrapped up in defending satan that they forget about the universal principles of the faith. These “hell and brimstone” believers are difficult to reason with, and unfortunately, are mostly the product of the previous generation.

    A simple question I ask believers: What’s more important, the teachings of Jesus or the acts of the devil?

    Let’s face it, many people tend to have infactuations with the “bad guy”. There is some kind of draw in “knowing your enemy” that it sometimes interfers with knowing your Champion.

  • 11. Agnostic  |  May 23, 2007 at 8:34 am

    HeIsSaliling,

    No, you are not alone and you are welcome.

  • 12. Jessica Cassidy  |  May 24, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    I once belonged to a church who focused on gifts and titles of the clergy…if you spoke and addressed the congregation..it was like they called u a deacon or a minister. The first time I heard someone speak in tongues, I was a little afraid because it was new. I ran from this gift that God wanted to give me because of fear of the unknown. Finally, I stopped running and accepted this gift from our gracious Father…and it is truly an awesome experience. Not everyone has the gift or receives it. It is God’s gift to give and if the Holy Spirit doesn’t direct you into that direction (not people) then it isn’t of God. When my friends heard me speak in tongues, they didn’t believe that I truly had the gift because I only uttered the same thing over and over again…they told me that I needed to pray for the completion of my tongues. What is that??? God is perfect and complete and the gift is perfect and complete as well. If I was supposed to say more than what I spoke, then I would have. My point is, churches can really get caught up in the laws of God and the spiritual gifts. It isn’t that we shouldn’t obey God’s laws, but the laws shouldn’t be our main focus. We should always be focused on our Lord and allow Him to do the changing in us and all we have to do is Love him with ALL of OUR hearts… if we truly love Him and desire to serve Him, the laws will be obeyed automatically.

  • 13. Shandalahai! « Agnostic Atheism  |  May 24, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    [...] May 24th, 2007 Reader Jessica Cassidy contributes the following story:  [...]

  • 14. I can finally die in peace « Agnostic Atheism  |  June 22, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    [...] afterlife. Even as a christian, one always has that nagging doubt about whether you have committed the unpardonable sin, or that god doesn’t really want you, or that you just are not good enough – that not even [...]

  • 15. help me  |  June 24, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Please help me, I don’t want to live any more,
    I have been suffering from depression for 4 months now because of the unpardonable sin.

    When I first found out that this sin existed I straight away panicked and became so focused on not having any bad thoughts regarding the holy spirit, that my head filled with swear words that I didn’t want to think – I asked God for forgiveness and of course I know that this wasn’t the unpardonable sin.

    However, after this, (whilst my mind was in a very messed up and in a state of turmoil), I started having doubts again that I had committed the unpardonable sin so I started obsessively researching about the sin on the Internet; I would read web page after web page for about 8 hours a day.
    While I was reading about the story of the pharisee accusing Jesus of being evil (for about the 100th time), a scary thought came into my head, the thought/doubt was: ‘what if Christianity is fake and Jesus was planted on earth by the devil to deceive everyone?’ – I immediately panicked and of course I didn’t want this thought – I was so frightened. – I feel that this thought of mine could be the unpardonable sin and that I am going to hell.

    I am very ill right now – I don’t eat and cant get this fear out of my head, I believe so strongly that Jesus died for our sins and that the only way to eternal life is through him. I am so sorry for that thought – is this unforgivable?

    Please help me – I don’t feel I can carry on much longer, it has been 4 months of agony – I have had to take anti depressants and sleeping tablets.

    Please be totally honest and truthful with me.

    Alan

  • 16. rebecca shannon  |  June 24, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Alan,

    Most of us here are ex-Christians. How can we best help you?

  • 17. Karen  |  June 24, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Alan, you need to get some help from a professional. It sounds like you are having obsessive thoughts. There is treatment that can help you very much overcome this pattern of thinking. Please seek out some mental health counseling in your area.

  • 18. rebecca shannon  |  June 24, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks Karen. I should have said that too.

  • 19. HELP  |  September 5, 2007 at 11:51 am

    ever since i found out about the unforgivable sin i kept on getting thought into my head about jesus and the holy ghost and thinking it was from satan i was so weak i gave in… and believed it then realized no thats stupid i am without all hope…. please help me

  • 20. tiffany  |  November 29, 2007 at 9:50 am

    To the one that is seeking help don’t give up. I also have struggled with the unpardonable sin. See if you could find a good pastor that you could sit down and talk with or christian counselor.

  • 21. matt  |  January 23, 2009 at 4:23 am

    to all those that have struggled with this so have i….i fight my thoughts daily to turn them into good thought cause im afraid of thinking bad thought against the Holy Spirit it just takes time and God is merciful he knows us he knows your tryign not to think the thoughts he understands and we just have to let go and when a thought comes in just understand God knows tha thats just how the human mind works

  • 22. matt  |  January 23, 2009 at 4:25 am

    and thats its not the unpartable sin which i belive is continusally rejecting Jesus all your life

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