The Unfundamental Conversion

“We failed her. We didn’t tell her about Jesus.” {A Dialogue That Changed My Faith}

August 14th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Fundamental/Evangelical | Missions | SE Asia

*trigger warning for violence* Yesterday I told the story of when I left Calvinism behind. Today I will talk about hell, and tomorrow I will talk about when my entire foundation fell (while in Europe).

I told this story in my post Missions As an Unfundamentalist Christian. Here’s the longer version.


Deep within Phnom Phen, I entered what once was a lively high school turned into one of the darkest torture chambers in the world. A friend took me around the torture chambers. He described the torture techiques. But I just saw a cold, metal bed I wished would disappear. In the courtyard I was shown where the Khmer Rouge would hang members upside down by their feet and dump their heads into human wastes. And I saw photos of every inmate that had gone in, a display of every life lost. All it took was a glance at a photo or two of the same inmates naked and starving months later for me to run out the building as fast as I could.

I tried to force the tears to come, but I was numb.

The next day I went to the most well known Killing Field in Cambodia, the field where thousands died, including women and children. Skulls lay on top of the ground, more skulls that had washed up during the rainy season. Death was around me.

I saw the trees where women and children were beat up against until their skulls cracked. I saw the pit where people were buried, still alive. I saw the building where people were stuffed, awaiting their torture. I saw where Combrade Duch watched the evil.

I could not even cry. I was just numb.

The mass grave evoked shivers. I saw flashbacks, in my mind, of what must have happened. Axes came against the men’s heads, the women after months of rape and work at the labor camp lost their lives, and together they were thrown into the massive grave, and then their spirits kept falling and falling and falling and falling. Until they met the creator who said, “You aren’t in the lambs book of life.”

This. Was. My. Faith.

My God called genocide wrong, but he was dumping his wrath upon their souls because they were Buddhists.

These Buddhists came with faces. I would walk out of the slums, and desperate women and children would throw themselves into my face, “please, my baby is starving,” “can you buy a book from me, please, ma’am?” I saw a desperate need that I was powerless to fullfill, and I needed a God who would say, “I will sustain them until the very end that never ends.” I needed a God not like my theology.

As I hugged small children, I began to feel my God loved these children less than me.

To drop bitterness on my already dampened heart, I learned that Combrade Duch, responsible for all these deaths, was on trial, that very month. He had become a Christian. I read every news piece on the internet. Mindboggling. God had mercy on him, but not the victims.

My heart ached. So bad.


One day back where I lived we were eating lunch, discussing the lady who had died in our village and been cremented in the field we drove by earlier that day. My friend got tears in her eyes, and looked around to each child at the table, and then back at me.

“Lana,” she said, “the Bible says she is burning in hell. We failed her. We didn’t tell her about Jesus. We didn’t get the news out. And there is thousands of others out there, all within our reach. Why are we so slow?”

It’s a very helpless feeling, to live in a place where so few people know Jesus.

“Lana,” she continued, hoping, asking, “Do you really believe God would let her torture for all eternity? Do you really believe that?”

“Surely not,” I replied, “surely not…..there’s no way.”

I paused, and then said “I just want to vomit.”

This time, it wasn’t hell that made me sick. I just couldn’t believe I had said it. I was now a universalist of sorts, and it bothered me.

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  • This was powerful and heart-wrenching. Any theology worth its salt must address atrocities and cultivate compassion for the victimized.

    • Lana Hope

      I know, it must, it must.

  • This is a very effective story! The tortures in Cambodia under Pol Pot (and those earlier under Hitler) were atrocities; the perpetrators were among the most evil and vile creatures imaginable. On the other hand, the God who tortures people for eternity in burning fire has good reason to do so. No way!

    This is not how the loving Father’s relates to people. Belief in eternal punishment in hell is misguided. I posted a short series on hell earlier this year beginning with

    • Lana Hope

      Thank you for sharing. The concentration camps are just a vivid place where the contradiction is readily seen because there are two evils. But hell is always frightening.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      And the Killing Fields were to force Reality to conform with predefined Purity of Ideology.

  • ” I learned that Combrade Duch, responsible for all these deaths, was on trial, that very month. He had become a Christian. ” yikes. ouch. See, i always heard that hell was necessary because other wise the worst of the worst would get away scott free. People like hitler. Well this dude sounds like he’s among the worse, and my (former) theology has him in eternal glory. now i dunno. Should there be grace for this guy? should he be punished? should he be punished but ultimately saved? I won’t spend too much time thinking on that because I just don’t know and I don’t think i believe in heaven anyways, i know i don’t believe in hell anymore… but anyways, if this man can be a christian and go to eternal glory, there goes the biggest reason i ever heard for ‘needing’ a hell.

    • the whole post was thought provoking and tear jerking, btw. thanks for sharing your thoughts on hell, you have such a great perspective because you’ve seen parts of the world i will probably never see, and parts of humanity that are so terrible.

      • Lana Hope

        Thanks, Lana. *hugs*

    • Lana Hope

      I don’t have a problem with a mass murderer going to heaven per se, because I see that we are all so deeply broken, so deeply wounded. I studied his story, how he got caught up. Once the Khmer Rouge were in, they could not back out without getting killed themselves. They made tragic choices, but many have been haunted. They gospel is where they turned because no other religion had room for them….and I get that. But their souls need a lot of purifying first. Perhaps that is what judgement day really is, a dark place where we must face the wrath and brokenness.perhaps that is hell, hell inside.

      What I do find ironic is that Christians don’t want to give a pass to an agnostic but do to a mass murderer. It’s like, huh?

  • I think this does a good job of showing how much experience can help force people to pin down their beliefs from being thoughts that they occasionally bring up in less meaningful endeavors.

    Surrounded by other Christians in a predominantly Christian country insulates them from situations that test them and force them to think (with some preaching that thinking isn’t too good a thing to do anyway).

    I have much less of a problem with people who have at least put thought into their beliefs. Except for a few types who have and instead lie and manipulate people for their own financial gain in religion.

    • Lana Hope

      you know, people in America, probably especially where I’m from in a small Southern town where everyone puts on the mask of belief even if they don’t want to be a Christian, we are under the illusion that everyone is going to heaven. Therefore, we aren’t forced to realize that our beliefs are hurtful. Then when you make friends with those of other beliefs (which can happen in America when a Christian leaves their subculture, too), then it becomes more personal.

      Most people don’t challenge the status quo, you’re right.

  • That man didn’t repent. He’s a sociopath. Incapable of guilt, or remorse, and excellent liars, they often will say anything once they are caught. Sociopaths (same thing as a psychopath btw) are born not made because of abuse like some people like to believe. If you want to know about sociopaths and how they manipulate and control people through the use of lies, fear mongering, etc. go to the library and do a search on sociopath. Or just go here ….

    • Lana Hope

      A lot of people feel that he did not repent. Considering he was I’m hiding for years while attending church, I’m not convinced it was a fake. I guess I’m not sure what makes someone genuine anyway. Either way, a lot of Khmer Rouge have repented, a lot of faces not known to us.

  • You know, when I read the title, I immediately thought of all the times people in my circles, embarrassingly including myself, have talked about righteous living, homeschooling, large families, the sin of so many things accepted by our American culture, the “dangers” of yoga, meditation, etc; and Jesus and his love for us and atoning sacrifice was never mentioned. There are many ways we get distracted from the Gospel and neglect telling others about Jesus; most of them we seem to do for our own edification. Not very Christian of us, is it?

    I know this was totally not your point in this article, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

    Lord, search my heart and take out anything that isn’t serving You – there is so much.


    • Lana Hope

      It may not have been the point of the article, but I do agree with that. I too get sidetracked from sharing Jesus!

  • sgl

    first, an aside… hate to be one of *those* people, but since it’s in the title, and also appears in the title of another post…. don’t you mean “dialog”, not “dialect” that changed your faith?

    but to your larger point, what i think is bad theology, ie, god only saves people like your group, makes christians far too xenophobic, and in a very bad way. if you see two small siblings talking, and hear one say “mommy and daddy love me more than you,” how much research do you need to do to make an educated guess that that sentiment is coming from the kid saying it, trying to one-up his sibling, and not actually the sentiments of the parents? and yet most religious squabbling sounds exactly like that to me.

    eg, look at mamajoy’s comment about formerly being afraid of people who do yoga. to me, it shows most christians completely missed the point about the parable of the good Samaritan. personally, i think if Jesus came back today, it would be called the parable of the gay Muslim, and it would make the pharisees, er, i mean fundamentalists, just as angry with him today as many people were 2000 years ago.

    and once someone is in the “not like us, and not even god loves them” [or, usually turned around into “they don’t love (my version of) god”] it’s pretty easy to treat them in a dehumanized way. like enslave them for 400 years. or bomb them and torture them. or… well, read a history book for many more examples.

    but too many people want the easy way out, the cheap grace of “say the right words”, the get-out-of-jail-free-card, to ever put in the effort of learning to actually love their neighbor who is different than them, without trying to make them the same. and so they don’t think about it, and when confronted with the cognitive dissonance that produces in these mass murderer conversion cases, they mostly seem to spout the simple answer and avoid the subject any more.

    • Lana Hope

      LOL. I didn’t even notice that. Sort of like I write fault instead of fought. SO THANKS!!!! Helps me.

      I would say, yes, the appeal to Christianity is it’s a lazy way to heaven and cure-all for your problems, unlike other religions that make you work. But sooner or later, we all come to realize life is still bad. So it’s not easy like we think.

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  • Me

    Lana, it is so sad that there are people who believe the Bible says that people who could not have known are damned to burning in hell. Your post reminds me of a conversation I had with my brother about something similar and my reply. Maybe I can get around to posting about it soon. God is so much greater than those calling themselves Christians.

    • Lana Hope

      Yes! Thank you for the reminder.

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