I want to tell you about a woman named Katrina. She’s cute, kind, intelligent, and has a successful career as the manager of a restaurant. Although she’s enjoyed the single life, she just turned thirty and is thinking about settling down. The problem is, she hasn’t found the right guy.
One day she was helping out the new bartender when a man named John sat down in front of her. He was gorgeous. She didn’t normally flirt with patrons, but it was hard to resist. He was funny, charming, and had a lot in common with her. At one point he hinted that he’d like to get her number, so before he left she grabbed his hand and wrote it down.
Thus began the best relationship she’d ever had. It was like they were made for each other. All those cliches about love, all those cheesy songs–they finally made sense. John was the most thoughtful and compassionate man she’d ever known. After only a few weeks, she felt certain he was the man she would marry.
One evening they had dinner at his house. When she finished eating, Katrina asked him where the bathroom was. “At the end of the hall,” he said. She headed down the hallway and found two doors directly across from each other. She tried the door on the right.
It opened with a creak. A small lamp by the door cast a dim, orange glow across the room. The first thing she noticed was the large, wooden table. It had thick leather straps attached to each corner. Next to it was a smaller table with an assortment of knives–some sharp, some jagged–and a hack saw. The hack saw had blood on it.
She took a few steps into the room. This couldn’t be what it looked like. It had to be some sort of workshop. And then she saw the Polaroids all over the wall. There were hundreds of them, pictures of women, women crying…
Katrina felt her breath getting fast and shallow. She started backing up, but then she bumped into something. It was John. She pushed him away and screamed.
“Whoa, whoa, what’s the matter?” he said, getting his footing. He spoke with a gentle tone and didn’t seem at all concerned that she had found this room.
Katrina blinked. “What do you mean ‘what’s the matter’?” she yelled. “What is this?”
“Oh, this is just my torture chamber. It’s nothing for you to worry about.”
She didn’t know how to respond, didn’t even know what to think. She rushed past him, terrified he would grab her if she didn’t leave right away.
“What’s wrong?” he said as she ran down the hall.
Once there was some distance between them, she stopped and looked back. “You’re a monster!”
“No, you don’t understand. I had to build this room. It’s only for women who reject me.”
Katrina stared at him. She couldn’t believe he was being so flippant about all this. “I’m leaving.” She headed toward the front door.
“Katrina, wait. Don’t go!” She pulled open the door, but stopped when he said, “I love you!”
Tears filled her eyes. They hadn’t said this to each other yet. She turned around and stood in the doorway. “You what?”
He stood there, looking as though he were on the verge of tears himself. “I love you and I would never hurt you. Katrina, I want to marry you. I want us to share our lives together. If you’ll just give me a chance, I’ll make you the happiest woman in the world. And you’ll never have to go in that room again.”
“And if I leave?”
His face turned dark and his voice grew cold. “I love you, but I’m a very jealous man. If you leave, I’ll have no choice but to capture you and torture you… Forever.”
And I’m talking 100% certainty. What if it were a fact of nature that as long as she stays with John, she’ll have the kind of life she’s always hoped for and will never see the torture chamber again?
Still no? I don’t blame you. See, it doesn’t matter that she’ll be safe and happy as long as she stays with him. The fact that he would torture her for leaving is a deal breaker. Why? Because a relationship predicated on the threat of violence is not a healthy relationship.
Although Christianity fits the dictionary definition of religion perfectly, Christians still like to say, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” Okay, but what kind of relationship?
I’ve known Christian women who refer to themselves as the bride of Christ (it’s usually the single ones who do this). But what kind of husband sets his wife on fire for leaving him? Not a good one.
Most Christians think of God as a father figure. But what kind of father tortures his children for running away? Again, not a good one. A truly loving father would rather let his children go than torture them.
If you’re a Christian, you might say these analogies don’t work because they’re about human relationships, and God isn’t human; he’s a god. But I don’t see how that makes it any better. What kind of god throws his people into a lake of fire for not loving him back? I’ll tell you: an evil god.
Some Christians will say I’m looking at it wrong, that salvation is a gift. Why would anyone reject the gift of eternal happiness? But what kind of gift gets you a death sentence if you return it? If your only choice is to accept the gift or go to Hell, then it’s not a gift; it’s a threat. And it’s impossible to have a healthy relationship built on threats.
Another common apologetic is that God has no choice but to send unbelievers to Hell. He can’t be in the presence of souls tarnished with sin, so he’s forced to burn them up in his holy fire. But wait a minute… I thought God was supposed to be omnipotent. If he created the rules that govern the universe, why can’t he change them? If he created everyone’s souls, why can’t he uncreate them rather than send them to Hell? That would at least be somewhat reasonable.
Finally, the most common defense I hear is that God doesn’t send you to Hell; you send yourself to Hell. I’m amazed at how often Christians say this because it’s so easy to dismantle. No one in their right mind would willingly walk into Hell. Rather, they’d have to be dragged into Hell kicking and screaming. And according to Christianity, who is going to drag them there? God.
Saying “you send yourself to Hell” is akin to an abusive husband saying to his battered wife, “Look what you made me do!” A husband who truly loved his wife wouldn’t beat her, and he certainly wouldn’t blame her for it. But this is exactly the kind of relationship Christianity offers: “Love me and obey me… or else.”
Katrina was right to run away. Even if John acted like the perfect husband for the rest of her life, she could never have a healthy relationship with him knowing he would torture her if she tried to leave. The fact that he threatened her makes him a terrible husband, regardless of his behavior.
As I said before, a relationship built on threats is not a good relationship. If God really loved his people, he would persuade them–not threaten them.