*WARNING: This contains material which may be triggering to some*
Rapture drills. Hell House. End-time revivals. The Y2K scare. Have you experienced them? Children have been left traumatized by these, scared to death they may be left behind while their parents and others are taken away to be with God. Even later as adults, some suffer from PTSD due to how these teachings were instilled in them.
For those unfamiliar with rapture drills, these would happen with the young people at a church or camp meeting. Sometimes there would first be a fear based message on the rapture and then the drill would be held. One explanation I heard was that they would hold a Bible or songbook and on the count of three everyone would drop theirs. This was to show how sudden and unexpected the rapture would be. Then it was emphasized the need to do certain things in order to be ready.
Several years back, I found on DVD the old series of movies from Mark IV pictures on the end-times. Remember A Thief in the Night, Distant Thunder, The Image of the Beast and The Prodigal Planet? They were shown at my former United Pentecostal Church. When I watched them once again, years after leaving, they left me feeling much different and with a bad taste in my mouth. I no longer cared for them.
I firmly believe adults and children should not be scared into following God. While there is a time and place to teach about eternity and unbelief, the message to those who do not know Jesus should be the Gospel – the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is about how God so loved the world and what this means to them. The message is about a new life in Christ. It is Good News; anything other than this is NOT good.
It is no wonder many have a distorted view of God when they hear more about hell, torment, and being lost than they do about God’s love and mercy and grace. Scaring people into believing isn’t the way, whether that be through end-time movies, rapture drills, threats concerning standards, tongues, or anything else.
I am going to share some excerpts of a blog that shows how this affected a young girl who was raised in the United Pentecostal Church.
The second coming of Christ was presented as a real and present danger of everyday life. Jesus could return at any moment, with one loud trumpet blast by way of announcement. If you were not saved you would be left on earth, which would become hell, complete with Satan, fire and demons, where you would burn forever and ever. Everyone who had followed directions would be whisked away to heaven and it was all going to happen in the blink of an eye. Let’s just say I had some anxiety as a child.
Anyway, I repented about a million times for my kindergarten sins and got baptized when I was six.
…Up until then, the fear of hell was real. I couldn’t go to sleep at night, especially after church. Preacher after preacher …would tell tall tales of untimely deaths and tragic accidents. …My dad said he didn’t believe we were going to get out without a scratch; meaning some of us would be tortured and killed for our beliefs before the rapture. So he was no help getting to sleep.
There was a traveling evangelist named Brother Richard Heard. He would visit the church, preaching nightly, sometimes for weeks at a time. The Rapture was his thing. He could scare the shit out of you before halftime. I distinctly remember him saying, “I don’t think we are going to see 1977.” It was 1976, I was 10 years old and had to sing myself to sleep with happy little tunes to shut out the voices.
Another former Christian has a very good article about his evangelical experiences.
One stormy night in the summer of 1992, I walked down the basement steps of my parents’ house to await the apocalypse. The Iowa air was thick with humidity, the ominous green sky prophesying a tornado. My 10-year-old hands trembled as I laid out my inventory: animal crackers, juice boxes, a Bible, and every sharp knife in the kitchen.
My parents were home late and my first thought was that they’d been raptured up to heaven. I was a sinner who had been left behind to face the Earth’s destruction.
Unfortunately, countless children have lived in fear that was caused by grown-ups. I think many do not stop and think before speaking to a child about something that even scares adults. How do you expect a young child to process teachings on the rapture, hell or the book of Revelation?
Please allow your children to be children and have a childhood. They already have more than enough to handle with how some things are in this world. Teach about the love of God, his mercy and goodness, and don’t tell stories that scare them half to death, causing them to live in fear. Some children are more sensitive, internalizing and taking these things very seriously and it can have devastating long-term effects.
If you were harmed by these, my heart goes out to you. It should have never happened.