A Statement from the Managing Editor:
“…and you thought we were all godless heathens! Well, mostly we are. But the Gonzo reach goes far and, believe it or not, we even got church Gonzos. The anonymous writer of this article, now a Unitarian Universalist, hits on some interesting tenets of Xtianity for everyone not too traumatized by mainstream religion to read this article.”
I’m writing to you because I have an issue with the Apostle’s Creed that we recite each Sunday morning in church. As a Christian, I agree with most all of it, but I really don’t like how it casually infers that Jesus descended into “Hell” before rising again.
I don’t believe in Hell, but I sure know a lot of people who do, and I believe it causes them to think in such a way where they trick themselves into thinking that Heaven is some sort of exclusive club reserved for Christians only. The concept of Hell, in my humble opinion, is not much more than a scare tactic to get people to act nicer than they might otherwise, and I absolutely don’t agree with scaring people into behaving a certain way.
Acting out of Fear, in my opinion, is rarely healthy. If you want to grow the congregation at a church, it needs to be done with Love and not Fear. Unfortunately, the whole concept of Hell undermines efforts to grow the church and causes some people to treat others in this world like pieces of garbage.
No Hell? How can that be? God surely judges us, right? Isn’t God planning to come back again, to judge the living and the dead?
Indeed, God is. And yes, God judges us. God judges you. God judges me. God judges all of us, but, in the end, we all get to go to Heaven. If you are confused, I don’t blame you. If you have questions, please let me try to explain . . . .
At the beginning of your life, imagine that God filled your body with the Holy Spirit—all the way to the top. Imagine that all children are created by God and filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit, regardless of the religion of their parents, regardless of their race, regardless of their eye color, etc. All children, with no exceptions. Through the Holy Spirit, God lives in each and every one of us.
To illustrate this further, I want you to think of your body as a glass or a cup. Your cup is unique. Your cup is slightly different in shape and color than any other cup. However, as unique as your cup might be, the truth is that the size, shape, and color of your cup is mostly irrelevant.
I want you to think of the Holy Spirit as water. Imagine your life and everyone else’s life as billions of cups – all filled with water. And as we spend our time on this planet, our individual glasses of water go through periods of cooling and warming, freezing and thawing as we sin and are forgiven, until we reach the end of our lives and it comes time to die.
I believe that when we are good in our lives, when we are close to God, when we are kind and helpful and gracious and humble, then I believe that the Holy Spirit—in our metaphorical cups finds the warmth to remain in its natural unfrozen state. In contrast, when we do wrong, when we hate others, when we hurt others, when we move away from the goodness of God, then the Holy Spirit grows cold and freezes, and we, as people, grow rigid, scared, and spiteful.
Please imagine these people as they reach the end of their lives:
And on the other side of the strainer is a river, a river that represents Heaven, a river of everlasting Life.
To clarify a bit further, I believe that when we die, our cups (our bodies) are discarded, as we are spilled in the direction of the great “strainer.” The good-natured souls, like Mother Theresa, move through the strainer with great ease and are reunited with the metaphorical River of Life.
In comparison, Most People, when they die, will need to wait for God to melt away their sins before allowing them to pass completely through. Some people might refer to this as Purgatory, but I like to refer to it as God’s Grace. The term Purgatory excites Fear in people and that’s not what I’m trying to do.
The Nameless, or the worst among us, will need to wait the longest before they too, through God’s boundless Grace, are eventually allowed to pass through the strainer and become one again with the River. The term “baptism by fire” comes to mind.
The important message in all of this is that we are ALL saved. We are all returned to the River of Life. God created each of us. God loved each of us. God will save each of us. This may be hard for some people to wrap their head around, but even the worst of humankind shall be saved after is it is all said and done. It is all part of God’s plan.
It is my contention that God does not condemn anyone to eternal suffering in Hell. That makes absolutely no sense if our God is a God of Love. I refuse to believe that God would allow a place like Hell to exist in the first place.
Unfortunately, a lot of other people don’t see it that way. A lot of other people believe that Christians, through their belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ, go to Heaven and that most everyone else probably goes to Hell. Many Christians actually believe that most Muslims go to Hell. It’s scary that it’s a simple black-and-white issue for a lot of people.
For many people, in my church as well as others, Islam is whispered to be a religion of Evil. Even though it is a fact that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews, some people have embraced the xenophobic opinion of banning Muslims from entering our country. They say it is necessary. They say it will only be temporary. These people have convinced themselves that this type of discrimination is acceptable. They are scared and they are suffering. They are living each day in the tight grip of Fear. I know these people. I have met them, and I am assuming you have as well.
I want the people of our church, and everywhere else for that matter, to consider this idea, just for a moment, that none of us—whether we be Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, or Atheists—will be going to Hell, because there is no Hell. Some of us will be allowed entry into Heaven a little quicker than others, and most of us won’t get into Heaven right away, but, in the end, we will all be saved, regardless of religion.
I desperately want people, as hard as it might be, to be open to the idea that Jesus saved everyone, and not just the folks who exchange presents with one another on some day in late December. I want people to be open to the possibility that there is no Hell, so we can start loving our neighbors instead of fearing them. It’s hard to love or care for someone, if you think that person is probably going to Hell. It is also a lot easier—for some people—to justify dropping bombs that will kill “innocent civilians”, especially if there is any reason to believe that those same “innocent civilians” are already destined to end up in Hell.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t know any of this with any certainty. It’s just a theory. I don’t have all of the answers, but my seven-year-old seems to agree with me that this explanation makes a lot more sense than some dejected archangel holding a pitchfork and doling out vicious lashings in the flaming pits of Hades.
In the end, I’m hoping that this message will help people to stop hating and fearing complete strangers. I am so sick of so many people being so scared all of the time. I want people to love their fellow man regardless of race or religion, and I’m worried that if someone doesn’t say something or do something soon, it will soon be too late.
All of that being said, I feel better for having said something, and I trust that you will too. I know it might seem hard, and some people might accuse you of “sympathizing with terrorists” when you share this message with them, but those are probably the people who need to hear this message of unconditional love the most.
I hope and pray that you will choose to help me spread this message of Hope.