Yeah, I'm ashamed to say I chanted that. At Cameron Indoor Stadium, the whole wild pack of Cameron Crazies got whipped into a frenzy chanting that. Everyone at Duke, at one point or another probably chanted that. It's not one of the unofficial graduation requirements, but it's expected.
I stopped chanting "Go to hell" at some point and switched to other, less-theological cheers. Something about wishing someone to "Go to hell," even in jest, made me uncomfortable.
The sounds of hell echo through evangelism series. To quote an old theologian:
Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen.
And we love some of these "unconverted men". And this is where the shame and manipulation come barrelling into my life. If we don't share the gospel (remember, we're cool with bad theology, so long as we're in an evangelism series), our unconverted loved ones will end up in hell.
The day I became a Christian, a day full of fear-filled stories of hellfire and brimstone, I rode my bike to my best friend's house to warn him. I thought I was warning him about hell. It turned out that I was warning him that, if he wouldn't become a Christian, he and I couldn't be friends. I couldn't handle the tension.
Despite the violence of my youth, I had a soft heart. When EJ wouldn't respond to my attempts to share the gospel, I was filled with shame. Why couldn't I rescue my friend, convince him, save him? What was wrong with me? Rather than face the tension, shame and pain, I stopped spending time with EJ.
As folks preaching, we are severely tempted to use shame to get people to do things they're supposed to do. Shame is so powerful. People respond to shame. Shame is so destructive. People respond to shame.
When we attempt to shame people into sharing the gospel, a few things happen:
1) We share the Good News as bad news (we pass on our shame)
2) We distance ourselves from people who are not easily converted
3) We associate evangelism with shame and wisely avoid it
Now, I don't want any of that to happen, so why do shaming elements creep into my sermons?
One of the reasons it's so difficult to speak on evangelism without provoking shame in my hearers is because I am so wrapped up in shame myself. Sometimes, I feel like I'm a sick doctor. I cough and sneeze on my patients and they catch whatever it is I have. My disease is shame. If I am not cautious and God is not gracious, you will catch it - this shame - if you listen to me long enough and digest my teaching. Thank God, he's gracious!
We share out of an overflow of love, out of excitement, out of our joy. We share hopefully and expectantly. We share freely, grateful to be included in the sharing of the news about Jesus. Sometimes, we share fearfully, reluctantly, timidly, poorly, weakly. We never share the gospel out of shame. What gets shared when I've been shamed is never the gospel. It may sound like the gospel, feel like the gospel, quack like the gospel, but it is not the gospel.
The gospel is that, in Christ, God has taken away our shame, along with our alienation, guilt and bondage. God has adopted us and placed his claim on us, united himself to us and set us free. God does not motivate by shame. Why do I?