Our 10 yr old son’s closest friend was at our dinner table sharing a meal per usual. Half way through dinner he said to our son, “Do you know you’re going to hell. So is your whole family. When you die, you’re going to burn in hell forever.”
He didn’t say it to hurt, though of course it did. Our son’s response, “I’m not going to hell. And neither is my family. Besides, there is no such thing as hell.”
“Oh, yes there is,” the child insisted. “My pastor told me, and showed me in the Bible where it says that all non-believers, people who don’t follow Christ, are going to hell. You and your family don’t believe in anything. You’re going to hell.” He said it as a statement of fact, and for him it was.
My husband and I looked at each other with furrowed brows, both of us looking to the other for words of wisdom. Clearly the boy’s words were hurting our kids, as our daughter was at the dinner table too, and protested loudly at first. Then, being only 7, turned to me and asked, “Is he right, mommy. Are we really going to hell forever after we die?”
“No. Of course not.” I assured her. Then I addressed our son’s friend. “I realize you are a Christian, with certain beliefs, but everyone’s beliefs aren’t the same. Since no one really knows what happens after we die, as no one has come back from the dead to tell us–”
“Jesus has. If you’re good you go to heaven. If you’re bad you go to hell.”
“Do you think your good friend since kindergarten, or his sister, or my wife and I are bad?” my DH inquired gently.
The boy thought about this. “Well, no…” He thought some more, clearly in conflict with what he’d been preached and his experience in the real world. He was at our house constantly, afraid of his own with two older brothers that bullied him relentlessly.
I wanted to say, “Then think for yourself instead of believing your pastor,” but didn’t, of course.
Later, my husband felt a need to mention the exchange to the boy’s father.
The dad scoffed at his son while the boy put on his sneakers to leave. “Your pastor didn’t say that. You misunderstood.”
“No. He said it, Dad. And showed me in the Bible, too. It’s in Revolutions.”
“Revelations.” My DH corrected.
The boy’s father scowled. He didn’t apologize for his son’s earlier words. He simply insisted his son didn’t know what he was talking about and had misquoted his pastor, then bid us goodnight.
The exchange had little to no effect on the boys relationship, or my feelings towards our son’s friend. Children proselytize what they are taught. My sadness and frustration is directed at the Church and their followers, that preach togetherness, forgiveness, but only to those who believe as they do— dividing us, still.