I read an article in Time magazine on the Stairmaster today about an evangelical pastor named Rob Bell, whose new book, Love Wins, puts forth the wild un-conservative notion that there may not actually be a Hell.
Bell wrote the book in response to a note that was left by a visitor to an exhibit at his church, a note which said that Gandhi is in hell.
A lot of questions came up for me as I read:
- Gandhi? The skinny salt guy?
- But if we don’t believe in hell, how can we make our children behave?
- Won’t that just make us a lawless species?
- Isn’t it safer to err on the side of believing?
- When did I start being the kind of person who read magazines on a Stairmaster?
It seems that Pastor Bell’s argument is presented for those Christians who struggle with the question of whether or not belief of Jesus Christ is the only ticket to redemption. What if, say, there was a hypothetical person who was not raised in a Christian household but practices love and forgiveness more often than even our beloved TV Evangelicals? Or what if a person can’t intellectually grasp the concept of the crucifixion and resurrection but implements the practice of compassion in his everyday life? Or what if this hypothetical person was Hindu but used nonviolence as a way to gain independence for an entire country?
Who is going to hell–A, B, or C? Or everybody, just to make it even?
I was thinking of this today because my Facebook wall was cluttered with joyous posts about Osama bin Laden’s death. Here’s a sample: “I feel joyous knowing that bin Laden has a painful eternity of pain while burning in hell!!!”
(This is a person who would also comment on pictures of my dog with “OMG she is sooooooo preeeeecious.” A person who emits glee regardless of circumstance, I suppose.)
And maybe I am a terrible person, maybe I have eternal fires waiting for me, but I just cannot justify an eternity of pain for anyone, no matter what pain they caused during his life. I can’t even picture this kind of torture without feeling nauseous with empathy. And if god’s love is roughly 239,573,297% greater than mine…
I don’t know, though. Does anyone? But I thought this was a nice bit from the article:
One thing heaven is not is an exclusive place removed from earth. This line of thinking has implications for the life of religious communities in our own time. If the earth is, in a way, to be our eternal home, then its care, and the care of all its creatures, takes on fresh urgency.