Hell no! Torture is not loving.

Good morning lovelies. Today, we have a rare treat. A guest post by my awesome husband Kent Krabill! Enjoy.


 

hellI’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people believe in a “loving” God who they simultaneously believe will torment the majority of people who have ever lived for ever and ever in a fiery place called hell.  If there is such a “loving” God (I don’t believe there is, of course), then nobody should willingly worship him (if, at some point, there is actually an all-powerful God who torments people for ever and ever in a fiery place called hell, and my “choice” is worship or be tormented, I guess I might change my mind and give in.  I mean really, eternal torment in a fiery place?  That sounds really bad).

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  So, lots of my friends and family are seemingly okay with this disgusting, monstrous caricature of a god.  They go to churches and sing love songs to him (honestly, a lot of these songs sound like they are singing to their lover, but that is for another post).  But have you ever really thought this thing through?  Have you ever sat back and considered what it would be like if this “loving” God actually tormented and tortured millions of conscious souls forever?  Some of you get upset that the government water boards a few people for a few minutes to get key intelligence.  But this “loving” God you are worshipping is apparently going to do much, much worse, and it will be for ever and ever.  And you are ok with that?

If there is a “loving” God like this and he is actually going to torture people for ever and ever, this “loving” God is much worse that any notion of “Satan” or the “Devil” that we find in the Scriptures (or anywhere else, for that matter).  I mean, that creature called “Satan” or the “Devil” wreaks havoc for a while, but at least his cruelty has a stopping point.  Right?  I mean, he ends up getting tortured forever, right?  So at most, he gets to wreak havoc for what, say a few thousand or million years (shout out to all the young Earth folks reading this!).  But this “loving” God you are singing sappy love songs to is going to be torturing people forever and ever.  Let that sink in.

Maybe, just maybe, if there is a “loving” God, this being actually loves.  Maybe, just maybe, this being is a merciful God and a compassionate God.  Maybe, just maybe, this being isn’t against humanity, but for humanity.  Maybe, just maybe, this being isn’t out to torture you, but to suffer and die and take all the shit humanity has to dish out in order to show you how much he/she/it loves you.  Hmmm.

The writers of Scripture used powerful language to convey important concepts.  We do this all the time today, both in writing and verbally.  I mean, read a couple of sentences back.  Humanity didn’t really serve up Jesus a dish of shit, right?  So maybe, just maybe, this God you are so fond of isn’t really planning on tormenting and torturing the bad guys (or, actually, all those folks who never heard of or believed in Jesus) for ever and ever.  Yes, there are verses in the gospels and Revelation that contain strong language about eternal torment.  But maybe, just maybe, that strong language is used to emphasize the extent and power of the warning.  In fact, if we look back at much of the strong language used in the Hebrew Scriptures, we see examples of this all the time:

Isaiah 34:9-10

And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,

and her soil into sulfur;

her land shall become burning pitch.

Night and day it shall not be quenched;

its smoke shall go up forever.

From generation to generation it shall lie waste;

none shall pass through it forever and ever.

Of course, we all know that this isn’t true.  Many of you have visited this very area, passed through it, and know there is no smoke going up today.  But the message of the passage is clear, right?  We don’t have to pretend it is real.  In fact, doing so totally takes away from the power of the language.

So, to recap, God is not a total asshole like you have been taught.  This loving being isn’t going to eternally torture or torment anyone.  In fact, this loving being isn’t going to torture or torment anyone.  Ever.  At anytime.  Why?  Because this loving being is about good news, not bad.  This loving being is for humanity, not against it.  You are loved.  Just as you are.  So embrace that love.  And pass it on.

Oh, and stop worrying about spending an eternity in hell.  There is enough hell right here on Earth to worry about.  So let’s take action to end that hell.  And bring peace on Earth and good will to men.  Sound good?

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A Melancholy Lament –OR– Things I Lost While Listening to Contemporary Christian Music

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Today on the way to my son’s basketball practice a song from 1997 came on that I didn’t know I loved until at least 2003.I hadn’t really heard it until then. It was How’s It Gonna Be by Third Eye Blind.  And so it began. The rest of the drive was spent mourning the loss of the music, the people, and the parts of myself that I couldn’t reconcile with my conditioning.

I lamented the beauty and the pain, the melancholy and the truth that I had been conditioned to discount in “secular” music during the season of my life where my personal soundtrack was made up of CCM (for the uninitiated that stands for contemporary Christian music). Little did I know I had been bamboozled (mostly by other well-meaning bamboozlees) into exchanging a sanitized and tamed version of life for what I was told was a life apart from God and truth. In reality, what I was exchanging was a small and bland life for the technicolor version. (Not unlike exchanging the Chris Tomlin version of Where the Streets have no name for the U2 original).

It is funny, but we were talking at Novitas this week about asking the hard questions. The questions we were taught not to ask. The questions we were told were a slippery slope. And guess what? They were.

FLASHBACK: When I was in high school there was little I allowed to stop me from loving my friends. It did not matter if we shared the same faith tradition or the same family structure. I loved them and they loved me. Interestingly enough, the more I immersed myself in evangelicalism and the gospel of less of me more of you. (a “gospel” I could never quite stomach in the secret places of my soul)  the less inclusive, less loving and more judgmental I became. Funny, that I have now come full circle and have reconciled the cognitive dissonance I used to experience when I believed the Bible contained ALL the answers to EVERY situation and was without error. I still believe the Scriptures contain the answer: LOVE.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. -Romans 13:8-10
We have been doing a series of discussions/debates/meanderings at Novitas called the lies we’ve been told and the truth that sets us free. In this case the lie I was told was that there was a difference; a difference between sacred and secular, a difference between the redeemed and the damned, a difference between Jesus and the least of these. The truth that sets me free? There is only sacred. There is only redeemed. We are all reflected in the face of Jesus.

So yes, today I lament my losses. I lament the rejection of the poetry of Kurt Cobain that moves me to tears. I lament the loss of the connections I had with the friends of my youth. Friends I began to see as other when they were the marrow of life in my bones all along. I lament the loss of books and poetry and music and the people I floated by in my evangelical bubble thinking that what they needed was a bubble when what I desperately needed was a pin to burst mine.

Enter the slippery slope.

How I love the slippery slope.

I am going to let you in on a little secret, “they” are right about the slippery slope! It is slippery as all get out and it is the best ride going.

When you start asking questions and refuse to be silenced by easy answers, platitudes, accusations and apologetics, one thing happens…you have MORE QUESTIONS. Can this be unsettling at first? Of course. Is it the best thing that could have happened to me at this point in life? Without a doubt.

Because of the slippery slope, I am a better follower of the one who commanded us to love one another than I ever was when I thought I had all the answers. Funny how that works. Sometimes when we let go of the thing we have clung to the hardest we find the freedom we thought we already had.

In my uncertainty I am certain of one thing. Love wins. (Nod to Rob Bell) It is THE thing. The one big idea that if embraced could change literally everything.

So yes, I lament what I have lost. And yes, I rejoice in what I have gained. Perhaps it is like the prophet Joel said, God has restored to me what the locusts (of my evangelical years) have eaten. My bubble has burst. I can hear the music. And guess what? It sounds like teen spirit.