Monday, November 24, 2008

Old Time Religion

Did you know that early Church fathers like Origen and Clement of Alexandria believed in universal salvation, the idea that God’s love was infinite and all good people got saved? Of course this idea was declared heresy by the Church in 553 CE, but still…

Did you know that Benjamin Rush, one of the founding fathers of the United States, was an old timey religion guy who said, “A belief in God’s universal love to all his creatures, and that he will finally restore all of them that are miserable to happiness, is a polar truth.” Sure much of American Christianity has gone in the opposite direction, but still…

Did you know that 1500 years after Origen that old time religion of universal love still rankles people? Well it does. The idea that God loves everyone is just too much for many who worship the God of Love.

People like their religion to be exclusive. They like knowing that no matter what you do— no matter how good, kind, just, and loving you are— if you don’t believe the way they believe you are screwed for all eternity. Praise God!

This means that a serial killer who accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior will go to heaven while His Holiness the Dalai Lama will burn in hell. This means that Nazis who continued to go to church and take communion are in Heaven while their Jewish victims are in God’s own Auschwitz.

And the Church claims that universal love is a heresy!

As outrageous as this is, my real problem isn’t with what others believe, but my own lack of belief. I want to believe that God is an exclusivist who burns people in hell forever if they do not believe as I believe. I want to believe that God torments and tortures those I despise or with whom I just disagree theologically. Then at least I would have the satisfaction of knowing that when these souls die they will come before God, and God will tell them they are going to hell because they disagreed with me. That will wipe that self-righteous grin off their smug faces.

Such a belief would be so personally comforting. If I believed this way I couldn’t wait to get to heaven and turn on the hell-cam to watch all these fools burnings and writhing and being prodded and poked in every orifice by all kinds of demons. That is reality TV I want to believe in.

The problem is I don’t believe any of this. And this really irks me.

I have no way to take revenge against false prophets who promote a brutal and violent god. I want God to do to them what they want God to do to me. I want to believe just what they believe except in reverse. I want to be just like them except the opposite of them in that they burn and not me. But no one cares what I want, least of all God. And these people continue to preach hate in the name of hope, and greed in the name of grace, and madness in the name of monotheism. And I just go on ranting onomatopoetically until it’s time for lunch.

3 comments:

Master Gardeners Association Cape Cod said...

I wouldn't say that you were ranting, but I would say that there is something powerful about your onomatopoetic statement...

Karen said...

I've never wished for people of any ilk to writhe and agonize in hell, but I must admit that I've been extremely agitated of late because holidays are upon us and I'll be surrounded by people on a regular basis who believe just the opposite as I do and I wish I could say just one profound thing that would make them understand how RIGHT I AM and convert to my non-religion!!!

roy said...

and won't they be surprised when they are face to face with a God whose welcoming arms are wider than they (or we) can imagine... whose grace overcomes all divisions... whose love transforms the very fabric of creation...