Heaven or Hell?

There appears to be some controversy over whether or not the Pope said atheists can still go to Heaven after they die. My guess is that he made some merciful and constructive statement about atheists that got twisted into something entirely different… but regardless, it hits upon one of my biggest unsettled doubts about my faith: Heaven and Hell.

I can grasp that those who choose not to believe a certain creed will not reap the benefits and promises of that creed. For instance, an atheist can’t expect to get into the Heaven as described in the Bible. He can’t expect to achieve nirvana/Paradise/what have you without accepting what the creed has to say. That just wouldn’t make sense. What’s the point, if everyone can get in (especially without faith?)

What I cannot grasp, however, is that those who choose not to accept a certain creed (perhaps in favor of another) will go to Hell. In fact, it’s really, really hard for me to grasp Hell at all.

There are many ways Christianity has been interpreted over the years, but the biggest message I get from it is a loving, merciful God who views us as His (imperfect) children and wants us to succeed in achieving everlasting life. As for humanity, in many ways I am very cynical about it, but I also feel that very few people are truly evil. And those very few evil people are the ones who “deserve” Hell.

As for the rest of us in between…? I just can’t accept it!

I can’t accept that the majority of my friends, family, respected colleagues – who are not atheists, but are not “born again” Christians either – are going to Hell. I am blessed to know so many wonderful, overall good people (we are all flawed), but I can’t accept that my God would send them to Hell.

I know what the Bible says on the issue. I know the countless ways it has been interpreted. I know there is no one alive on Earth who can tell us what it all really means. I know that most people in the world have faith in something, just in different forms. We are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got, and reacting to what Life teaches us. In some ways all of our stories are the same, and in others, they are drastically different.

But it’s one of those confusing, complicated, and depressing subjects that I probably will never figure out. I like to think that perhaps “accepting Jesus” is living a Christ-like life. Many world views teach a very similar message to Christ’s, and I think most “Heaven-deserving” people are trying to lead that good life, at least as much as Christians are (if not more so, in quite a few cases.)

I don’t want to be one of those Christians who misses the entire point of my faith to mesh with my own wishful thinking, but I am also far too humanistic to believe it’s quite that cut and dry…  Are so few of us really getting in? Or, are so many of us really getting in just because we “believe” in Jesus?

Is it okay to just say “I don’t know?”

Christians & DOMA

I never understand how the Religious Right feels they can just legislate what comes down to FREE WILL. Christians like to overlook the free will aspect of things, and just restrict, restrict, restrict.

But if they’re gonna legislate personal behaviors, may as well start advocating for Constitutional amendments banning fast food and the like, to restrict gluttony. And premarital sex too.

… Oh wait, they won’t… because they’ve all done it!!

For the sake of argument, let’s just say it’s true that homosexuality is an abomination. I am a Christian, but I’m also an American. There is some overlap, sure… but their mission statements, in some ways, are completely opposite and they are different roles. My religion is personal. I’m accountable for myself. My role as a patriot and a citizen is a responsibility. A responsibility to protect those not within my own umbrella of beliefs.

We are not a theocracy!

The Human Condition

      

Election years always bring out the very worst in people, I think. The finger pointing, the accusations, the lying, the marginalizing, the hypocrisy, the selling out – I could go on. I saw this verse today and it is really speaking to me. It’s not relevant only to Christians, but to humanity in general, regardless of your background. We are all so quick to judge, that we forget to love. And really, that’s our biggest, toughest job. Maybe that’s why we tend to focus on the “multitude of sins” that are so much easier to put in a box and check off a list.

That’s how I’m reading it, anyway.

What Bugs Me About Christians

I was born and raised a (relatively) fundamentalist Christian – from the Earth was created in 7 days and anyone who thinks otherwise can’t possibly believe in God, to homosexuality is an abomination against God, to Hell is a real place and most of the people in this world are probably going to end up there.

I’m still a fundamentalist Christian, but only when it comes down to what Christianity actually means: what would Jesus do? If it’s not in the 10 Commandments, or if the words aren’t in red print (Jesus’s actual words), I take the dogma of the Bible with a small grain of salt, acknowledging that it is very much a cultural document subject to the changes and fluctuations of history, science, socio-economy, and lingual interpretation. I also know that it was assembled and distributed by men (NOT God), with deliberate omissions and heavy editing. It has great things to say – it also leaves plenty of room for questions.

I don’t pretend to know the answers to the issues I listed above, or judge anyone for their varying perspectives (maybe homosexuality is the crown jewel of sin, and maybe the earth was created in seven 24-hour days – who really knows these things), but I also think it’s decidedly un-Christian to make a huge fuss about these details, alienating those lives we should be trying to touch.

At the same time, I appreciate that religious leaders take a moral stand for what they believe in, regardless of its popularity at the time, and I uphold the right to express that belief without fear. That is everyone’s right and even their responsibility, as a human and leader, to have a moral compass and be allowed to talk about it.

What really IRKS me, however, are the issues that Christians today have decided to make front and center in the national debate. Re: the Chick-fil-A debacle. I’ve never understood why homosexuality – which gets no reference in the 10 Commandments or in Jesus’s red print – has become such a hot button issue for us.

There are a small handful of verses in the Bible that actually address it (even fewer that address it directly), and they’re usually veiled within a story’s context, listed in a chapter that even the most conservative Christians acknowledge is no longer relevant, or buried among a variety of other abominations that get minimal mention in today’s socio-political arena.

For example, fornication: I’m wondering how many of the people who waited in line at Chick-fil-A this past Wednesday protesting gay rights waited til marriage to experience their first sexual encounter. Or how many failed to gossip about their neighbor, their boss, or their crazy great-aunt. I’ll admit I want something I don’t have almost every day (who doesn’t?) Gluttony is an issue in America overall, and most of us get drunk fairly regularly too. Of course, no one ever really focuses on these parts of the same Bible verse, because – well – at least we’re not gay!

I’ve had a few thoughts about the Chick-fil-A incident in particular, but I’ve been too afraid to share on Facebook or in conversation (because everyone’s so harsh.) No one really reads my Tumblr though – and if they do, they either don’t know me at all, or know me well enough to venture into my forum of honest expression without being threatened by it. I think many people can’t handle a Bad Kitty that isn’t fluffy 🙂

Anyway:

1) First, I wondered why Chick-fil-A’s stance has taken so many off guard. The CEO is a conservative Christian man (with many great qualities, I’m sure), who closes for business on Sundays (an actual Commandment that most Christians don’t even follow anymore.) Opposing gay marriage? Um…duh! This surprises you?

2) I know the issue is more complex than this, but I really don’t see how one chicken sandwich guru’s personal opinion is such a huge deal, worthy of all this outrage. I support equal rights for gays, but I also believe in free speech, and his stance is technically no different than even President Obama’s (and many presidents before him), up until recently when he came out in support of gay marriage.

3) I’m annoyed that liberals have allowed this to get so much attention. Now everyone knows this guy’s name, he has become a sensation (a hero to some, a villain to others,) and he has unintentionally encouraged more hateful behavior thanks to all this fuss. More polarization in this country is just what we need right now – geez.

4) What has truly saddened me is the response, from both sides. The liberal side for slamming/bullying this man for expressing his not uncommon beliefs (when asked!), and the conservative side for giving Chick-fil-A the best business in its existence by lining up and allowing horrific hatred and vitriol to occur in the name of Christianity (seriously, read the link – soo much misguided, misdirected, and overall uncalled for hate! And Chick-fil-A employees say both sides are guilty of it.)

This is what intolerance leads to for everyone – hate, hate, and more hate. Everyone should have let well enough alone – which is why I’ve been trying to make light of it. If everyone had kept their cool and just continued to watch the Olympics, this story would have faded out of everyone’s mind and we could move beyond making people feel guilty for eating or not eating a chicken sandwich.

A gay man quoted in a CNN article I read said it best: “Both sides just quite honestly need to grow up and stop acting like 2-year-olds just because somebody said something they didn’t like.”

That’s what I think, too. We are making progress on this issue overall! Like racism and sexism before it, belief systems never truly die, but this is why we have separation of church and state – Constitutional rights WILL prevail, and personal belief systems can be protected right along with them.

We need to quit letting everything get to us in our hypersensitive culture, and Christians need to get back to the basics, because let’s face it – none of us are getting the details right.

So – love our neighbors, love our enemies. Those are Jesus’s basic lessons for us. Focus on being a good person and living life for Jesus (or whoever/whatever you choose with your own free will.) Acknowledge that we don’t KNOW everything, and that’s okay. Don’t take the persecution laying down of course, but quietly, peacefully, lovingly fight it.

We are each taking a gamble on our own destiny based on a million different factors. I’ve personally chosen to achieve eternal life through Christ. Regardless of what he’ll say to homosexuals on Judgement Day, I 100% know the people lining up at Chick-fil-A spewing hatred and judgement won’t get it any easier. In fact, I’m 99.9% sure they will get it worse!