The Panic of a Protestant Scout
When I was in seventh grade, I remember there were many nights when I went to bed terrified I would wake up in a scorching lake of fire. I would lie in bed, scared to shut my eyes because, according to some of my fellow associates, God would soon judge me and he would most certainly cast me into the vile pits of hell. This fear came about from a doubt of my own faith and the insecurity I felt when I was introduced to new ideas about religion.
In order to understand why my preteen years were filled with uncertainty of faith I must first say I am a Protestant Christian; and at this time in my life, I would have considered myself Methodist. This was my parents’ religion and, as a small child, I blindly followed in their footsteps of faith. I lived in this blind world of ignorance until I joined the St. Vincent Boy Scouts Troop 2, a Catholic chapter of the BSA. I joined to become an Eagle Scout; but toward the middle of the six years I was with the troop, I became paranoid with whether or not hell was my final destination.
The first situation came when I was on an orienteering course with a fellow Scout, just him and me lost on a winding trail through the forest. I don’t recall exactly how the topic came up, but we began talking of our religious views. He started in with a long tale of all the sacraments and rituals he, as a Catholic, had to do in order to obtain eternal life in heaven. I felt a tad inferior when I told him all I believed was necessary was to truly want forgiveness for sins, which God would grant if I prayed to him. He disagreed vigorously with me, making my lack of Confession seem like a primitive practice. In my own insecurity, I believed him; especially when he went on to proclaim my own mother would surely be sent to the Lake of Fire because of her converting from Catholicism to Protestantism.
My second experience with the troop happened at the Catholic Camporee. I was told by our troop leaders that anyone was allowed to join in, and it was really non-denominational. When I arrived, though, I found it to be station after station of people telling me all the rituals I needed to do in order to have eternal life; and that, if I did not conform to them, I would have a tortuous afterlife. This event, along with the experience in seclusion with my orienteering buddy, only added to my paranoia and insecurity, leading to my questioning of my own beliefs. I felt I needed to become Catholic in order to enjoy the fruits of heaven.
At the time, this paranoia, I felt, would eventually drive me insane. This fear, however, actually ended up being somewhat of a blessing. This paranoia forced me to take a step back from what I believed to be true of my faith as a blind follower and explore other alternatives and choices for faith. By exploring what I actually believed and not what I had pretended to for many years in my young life, I formed a faith that I truly think correct. I believe there is one God and that he sent his son, Jesus, to this earth for the purpose of saving sinners and that when he was crucified, buried, and resurrected, Jesus’ purpose was fulfilled. I believe that everyone sins and because of the crucifixion and resurrection, everyone is also saved. Everything else is just “bells and whistles”, meaning that the practices of different Christian denominations, other than believing in Jesus’ cause, are not needed to have eternal life but are instead needed to do in order to live a better life in God’s eyes.
I am glad I became a member of the St. Vincent Scouts because, if I had not, I would still be following blindly without truly believing in what I was pursuing. I am also glad I had these experiences because now I can say I really don’t believe my mother will be burning eternally in a hellish inferno.
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