I SPENT YESTERDAY IN HELL.
That’s what I had to write about.
It’s kinda like writing a travel piece about Bora-Bora, another place I’ve never been.
At one point in the day I was absolutely surrounded by stacks of books.
On my desk. On the coffee tray. Covering the magazine rack. Scattered all over the floor.
Since I had never been to hell, I thought that the least I should do is read what others who have never been to hell had to say about it.
As a general rule, they used a lot of words to say not much.
And a fair amount of what they said sounded whacked.
By “they” I mean Bible scholars.
Let me give you an example.
One theological doctor dude tried to answer this criticism: Hell makes no sense because it has no redeeming value.
In the Bible, God punished people to steer them or others out of harm’s way. So the punishment had a redeeming purpose. But what’s the redeeming value of putting KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce on someone and cooking them for the rest of forever?
[Product placement note to KC Masterpiece: email me and I’ll tell you where to send the check if you promise not to tell me where to go.]
The doctor dude’s response went something like this: Hell satisfies the justice of God and shows how great and fearful his standard of holiness is.
Clearly, the doctor dude was shooting blanks. Or he shot me in one ear and it came out the other without contacting anything of substance.
At one point in the research I stopped, looked out the window into the sky, and said, “You know, you really ought to tell us what’s going on.”
Christians have so many views about hell that the research leaves my head spinning.
Whatever hell is, I know I don’t want to be there.
Beyond that, do I need to know anything else about it?
I wonder if that’s why God doesn’t bother to tell us what’s going on.
I remember being in a particular church ( I will not post the name or denomination here) where I was told, repeatedly, that there is only one way to Heaven, and that is through accepting salvation through Jesus Christ. They even went so far as to make sure that those who claimed they were “saved” had said the “right” prayer- word for word. That, of course, meant that anyone who was NOT saved, or who claimed they were saved, but had not asked for salvation in the right way, were going to hell. I recall my former discipleship teacher telling me, after pointing out several verses in Scripture that ostensibly supported these ideas, that that meant that “even the sweet little old lady down the street, if she has not accepted Christ as her savior, is going to hell for all eternity”. I was told that Ghandi was in hell, because he had not accepted Christ as his savior. I was told that children, when they reach an age of understanding, will be destined to burn in hell if they do not accept Christ. I was told that members of the most remote tribes in the jungles of South America, even those we may have not discovered yet, would be going to hell if they did not accept Christ in the right way…and that God has His ways of showing them the truth and giving them the opportunity to accept it. It was not until years later, after having left this church, that I was aware of not only how much fear was used to teach, govern, lead, and keep people in line, but also how much fear must have been in the hearts of those in church leadership who actually believed what they were saying. And I have come to believe that my God, as I understand Him, does not use fear to teach, guide, lead, comfort or impart wisdom. However, for the most vulnerable and impressionable of us, this notion of hell is quite frightening. I think that church was a my own kind of hell…I never grew closer to God until I abandoned everything I had been told.
@Erin, your final few sentences struck a resonant chord in me. Thank you for saying those words. This is what I believe as well, about God and about my former church affiliation. The use of fear is too prevalent, period.
@Stephen, once again, I am so grateful for having stumbled upon your blog and your site a few weeks ago. Your posts just ring so true for me. Thank you for what you do.