Thursday, March 20, 2008

hell is (not) for heroes

i've been thinking a lot about hell lately

well, for the last 6-8 months really.

the existence of a literal hell has come under some hot and heavy fire by several in the emergent community...which troubles me. i always get nervous when someone is willing to say "that thing that every christian has believed in for 2100 years (+ however long our spiritual ancestors, the hebrews, believed in it)...well, we think that thing is totally wrong now."

now, to be fair, there are teachings of the church that need to be re-worked in light of new evidence (textual, archaeological, contextual) and some of the things we thought to be beyond-discussion have turned out to be very much in discussion all along (tithing, for example, though widely practiced in christian america has NOT had a stellar history in the global, universal, practice of christian spirituality).

anyways...all that to say it's been weighing on me that some of my fellows are willing to throw the hell-baby out with the judgment-bath water.

c.s. lewis' book "the great divorce" is a novella about someone entering heaven. it's been very influential for me and i've read (and quoted) it many times.

over the years i've reflected on how much his version of hell sounds like the private hells that so many people live in today.

he makes no claim that they are the same...but he does demonstrate their disturbing symmetry. that symmetry has been a factor in other, less judicious, folks coming to the conclusion that 'hell on earth' is really the only hell scripture ever talks about; and, conversely, that 'heaven on earth' (as in the present heaven-on-earth, not the future eschatalogical one) is all we have to hope for.

others have done a far better job than myself refuting these claims. some other time, perhaps, i may throw my hat in the ring and defend these doctrines myself.

but...i've been rambling simply to get to the point that "hell" is soooo much like "hell on earth" that it's prompted me to try my hand at a fictional account of life in hell.

i've written about a minister who wakes up in his coffin, digs himself out of the grave, and finds himself trapped in his rotting corpse (as opposed to his new, glorified, body) forever in hell.

too macabre, do you think?

here is a brief sample from the second section, entitled "going down"

There are many kinds
Of people staying in Hell;
Though, none of us got along.

Everyone just lived
Like normal, hating their jobs
But working for the weekend.

No one cared either.
It’s too much effort to hate.
Lethargy insulates us.

The government is
The worst thing in the whole world,
Like froth on a mug of brine.

They pretend to work,
But they’ve been lifeless ever
Since Brutus pricked Julius.

Politicians cry
“peace, peace” when there is no peace.
There are only the pieces.

We live with worms in
Nightmares from our childhood.
They get away with murder.

more verse, and many illustrations to come


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