Thursday, April 24, 2008

How many good people go to Hell?

Folks, I have something to get off of my chest. Perhaps I’ll get a lot of hate mail for this proposition, but I want to challenge anyone to consider what might be described as a spiritual Gedanken experiment: Is modern Christianity really the best way to becoming a better person?

I just got done hearing a sermon being preached in the backyard of our neighbors who have a soup kitchen for the homeless everyday at five. A black man was shouting very loudly, and no doubt passionately, about who is going to hell and who isn’t. “You must repent and turn from your wicked ways… God sees what you did… You’ve been listening to the devil, the father of lies, the breeder of evil… You’re running out of time… Don’t wait until you die to repent, because when you die, you’ll know how much time you had…” On and on and on. Oh, and I think he said “God loves you.” I’m pretty sure he said that. Maybe.

After spending time to consider this, I thought, “is it really the sign of an honest faith that you must frighten people and make them feel ashamed, in order to thrust upon them a doctrine of love and peace?” Because when you get down to it, is this not a lesson we can learn without such bells and whistles? Do we not possess the capability of becoming better human beings without a barrage of verbal lashings from those we suppose are trying to help us?

This is pretty common knowledge, granted. If a person doesn’t claim to be a Christian it is usually because they don’t see how it will help them to become one, or because from their perspective, it hasn’t appeared to make a lick of difference for the hypocritical Christian ramming it down their throat. At times like those, I would rather take advice from the side of a Drano bottle.

But I’m less concerned about the more public notion of the boisterous and vain Christian, and more interested in looking at that core belief which every Christian must hold to: the only way to find salvation is by submitting to and accepting Jesus Christ. Now some may desire to nitpick at how I characterize what they believe, but again, I’m trying to figure out if it makes you a better person. Regardless of which Baskin Robbins’ flavor of Christianity you like, they all have in common the idea that your willingness to submit to God is crucial.

It’s not hard to see why this kind of “now I have the answer, now I just have to tell everyone about it” mentality spawns self-rightousness, vanity and pride. Most Christians compartmentalize this, as if it’s akin to a child screaming his head off in a candy store: “That’s bad behavior, and we don’t condone it.” Is that true? Isn’t every Christian doing that by virtue of your very own creed? Isn’t your God telling you that there is only one way, and if your friends and family don’t follow, they are going to cook in the oven of eternal torment? Aren’t you being self-rightous right as soon as you declare me to be unworthy of eternal life, or of God’s love?

Please stop me if I’m missing something. It just seems like if any such benevolent version of Christianity existed, either as Rosacrucianism, Gnosticism or otherwise, today’s edition needs a lot of work. If there are any people out there who honestly believe their purpose is self-fulfillment and personal enlightenment and who claim that Christianity is the path they've chosen to do so with, then kudos to you. But regardless of your faith, Christian or not, do everyone a favor and look in a mirror. Find out within yourself if you really have the right to call another human being a “lost soul.”

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