It has been a little over seven years that I hit the reset button on my religion, and still to this day I find theological beliefs in my psyche that have no biblical basis. The deconstruction never ends. There seems to be more to unlearn the deeper I go. Just yesterday I remembered being taught that we would receive a crown in heaven as a reward for following Christ, and we could earn jewels by doing good works, in this life. To be sure I didn’t make this up, I asked my sister if she was taught this, and also asked my support group.
The response was overwhelming across many different evangelical/fundamental denominations. We were taught this doctrine. One fellow member in my support group reminded me of the gold crown badge we wore on our Awana uniform. This crown had spaces in it to fill with jewels we could earn by completing workbooks and other tasks. Therefore, this doctrine was reinforced with our religion’s version of Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts.
I remember having anxiety over this doctrine. I was plagued with questions and fears such as:
What if I don’t earn very many jewels?
What if I don’t win enough souls?
What if everyone else in heaven has more jewels?
Will I spend eternity feeling embarrassed or ashamed that I don’t have as many as everyone else?
What if I have more than others?
Will I spend eternity feeling embarrassed because I have more than others?
These questions and anxieties absolutely did not contribute to me being a “better Christian”, which I assume is the point. Every little girl is primed to want to be a princess with a crown. Every young boy is primed with wanting to be a hero and “king of the world”. It isn’t hard to see how this doctrine was manipulated and taught to the masses to control society.
However, I believed this for many years. I even told it to others.
Every time I find something that does not exist biblically that I was taught, I go through cognitive dissonance, again. The mental gymnastics take place, again. The feeling of abandoning your religion presents itself, again.
However, I can’t ignore the fact that there is no such place in scripture where it tells the disciples of Christ that they can earn jewels for their gold crown. There is scriptural basis for believers receiving five crowns(Crown of Righteousness, Crown of Life, Crown of Glory, Crown of Exultation, and the Incorruptible Crown) after the last judgment, however, these seem to be metaphorical crowns, not gold ones with jewels.
It is bizarre that our heavenly reward is based on earthly, material, possessions. It isn’t just the crown doctrine that gives us these earthly rewards. Streets of gold and mansions are also rewards that are taught in Christian theology. The better you are, the bigger your mansion in heaven is.
However, we are serving a man who wore a crown of thorns. We are serving a man who exemplifies supreme humility. Would Jesus have worn a gold crown when he walked the earth? Would he have lived in a gold palace? Would he have purchased a golden toilet? This is the same Jesus that told his disciples to give up all of their possessions and give to the poor. This is the same Jesus that chose homelessness and poverty.
This prosperity in heaven doctrine is nothing more than the powerfully corrupt selling a false hope. “Someday you’ll be rich. Someday you’ll have the pie in the sky. Now you suffer so the rich can get richer, but your reward is coming.” This dream keeps the masses from focusing on the NOW, and from realizing that this life is our responsibility, and reducing the suffering of the poor, needy, sick, and vulnerable is our calling. Taking care of this earth, right now, is our responsibility. Instead, we are allowing poverty and disease to thrive, and we are destroying the planet to benefit the wealthy. We’ve chosen to be drunk on apathy and delusions of another place we might go, someday.
This false prosperity in heaven doctrine also makes me wonder if this is how Trump managed to win 81% of the white evangelical support. Even though Jesus said in Matthew 19;24 “And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,“ Trump represents this false prosperity blessing. Certainly, God wouldn’t bless an evil man with such wealth and good fortune, right?
Maybe we can have what Trump has if we follow him.
Trump’s white evangelical base will tell you they support Trump because of abortion, morality, and their disdain for LGBTQ. However, even though Trump has proven to be the most immoral president we’ve ever had, they’re doubling down in support. Therefore, supporting Trump has nothing to do with morality. It is a tragedy watching the religion that believes, “no one can serve two masters”, actually serve the boastful, greedy, indulgently wealthy master versus the Spirit that is calling all of us to lift up the poor, raise the oppressed, speak up for the vulnerable, and work together for healing and thriving.
None of us are doing all we can do, however, we all have opportunities to care more for our fellow neighbor. I do not see the point of religion if it is not to help the human in the here and now. Religion gives humans a reward of a future gold crown with jewels, and spirituality gives humans a reward of giving their crown to someone less fortunate, right now. Perhaps our jewels exist within us, as our gifts to share.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”