Now I’m not going to dismiss the “Saved/Unsaved” notion. Christianity is part of our world culture and “saved/unsaved” is part of Christian tradition. I’m just much less certain about use of the idea and have deep-seated convictions that it is usually merely a means of the ego to trot out one of its favorite paradigms, “Us” vs. “Them.” You see, drawing distinctions is one of the earliest developments in the human psyche and is absolutely necessary if an ego is to emerge. The determination of “self” vs. “not-self” is an intrinsic part of the operation. If we never learn to draw a distinction between our self and that which is “not-self” we will have grave problems to say the least. In fact, many of the behavioral problems that mental health professionals deal with are boundary issues stemming from an impaired ability to draw that distinction.
And I have faint memories of learning to draw this distinction. And I know from my clinical work that the toddler’s discover of the word “No” is a key hallmark of this step in development and is an essential step in determining “self” vs. “not-self”. I remember very well the comfort in knowing that there was an “us”…meaning my particular family…and that we were separate and distinct from “them.” I also remember when this “us-them” paradigm began to grow in power in my life and when I learned that “saved-unsaved” was one of the primary ways in which the world was divided up. In fact, in that mindset, it was the most fundamental and most important division as it determined who was going to heaven and who was going to hell, who was “right” and who was “wrong.”
But what I now see is the ego reward that came with imposing that template on the world. It was exhilarating to know that I was part of “us” and that “them” did not belong there. And, yes I was horrified to know that, nevertheless, “them” would eventually burn for eternity in hell. ( I guess on some level I was really pleased that it wouldn’t be me though! I definitely took some satisfaction that “one of these days” God was “gonna kick ass” on all those rotten sinners!)
As I grew up this religious ardor diminished but for decades I know that whether or not anybody I met was “saved” or “unsaved” was an immediate issue. It was a template that I imposed on everyone, reflecting that deep-seated need to maintain a primary perceptual grasp of the world, I was “us” and they were “them.” And this also paralleled my view of the very world itself, the whole of God’s kingdom, flora and fauna. I was separate and distinct from “it” and did not see it as a matrix which ultimately was an integral part of God’s granting of my very existence.
In my participation in the blog-o-sphere the past two years or so I have met many conservative, evangelical Christians who, though more conservative than myself, demonstrate less rigidity in their faith and offer love and acceptance more readily. One in particular even had the audacity to discourse about lessons he had learned from atheists he had met. (Check out T. E. Hanna, http://ofdustandkings.com/author/TEHanna/) Hanna’s stance is that when a Christian meets an atheist, he should not immediately go into overdrive with, “Uh oh. He’s going to hell. How do I get him saved?” His attitude is to accept the person as he is, accept him lovingly and unconditionally, and not assume that it is his responsibility to cajole, intimidate, and manipulate that person into becoming a Christian. I think his attitude is like mine, that we should “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” realizing that as we do this, God will take care of any converting that needs to take place. But when we are obsessed with “winning souls for Jesus”, we are often merely obsessed with making other people believe just as we do.