I was someplace recently and I picked up a tract which had the title “3:16”. The reference, obviously, is John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believed in Him would not perish, for God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that through Him the world should have eternal life…” That might not be exact – I typed it out from memory. I learned that by rote as a sprat in Sunday school. The tract went on to describe how awesome Heaven was going to be and I put it back where I found it.
Too many Christians rely too heavily on the glorious pie in the sky we will enjoy forever and ever and ever after we have shuffled this mortal coil. Back when I was a pagan, I used to get proselytized by street preachers from time to time and they always leaned real hard on the afterlife. My own thoughts on that subject were that it was none of my beeswax. I was not an affiliate of any specific creed, but I could see that all of them offered some kind of posthumous pleasantry for the faithful and it was clear to me that there was no reason to dwell on it. I knew that the vague and intangible Something that was guiding me would continue to so do when I kicked off. “When I die, I’ll be reassigned”, I said when the topic was brought up. I didn’t think about it much.
Now I’m a Christian and I still feel the same way. I am promised Heaven. I believe in that. I would like to digress here and mention something that I learnt from The Case for God by Ms. Karen Armstrong. She says that our modern understanding of “believe” is exactly that – a modern understanding. Thomas Jefferson, or some such, defined “belief” as “agreement without argument”, which is entirely intellectual. One believes in microorganisms because there is evidence. A quick look at some pond water through a decent microscope proves the existence of wee squirmies. But that isn’t what “belief” meant in 34 A.D. when Jesus was encouraging people to believe in Him. Back then, I’m still riffing on Armstrong, “belief” was more like loyalty. To believe in something was to be loyal to it. This was a big eye-opener for me because, like most post-moderns, I don’t always feel filled to the brim with faith. Sometimes the presence of God is so frickin’ obvious, I can’t see around it. Other times, I dunno. But I am always capable of acting out of loyalty to Christ’s teachings. Loyalty comes easily to me. I’m loyal AF, and I expect others to be. It is one of my character flaws, actually – if I feel betrayed by someone, they become null to me. It’s nigh impossible for me to let go of that.
Nevertheless, I am promised a place in Heaven. So I don’t have to spend one more moment thinking about death. It doesn’t exist for me. I am able to live entirely free from any concern for the end of my physical life. Which means I can think about more important things – like what am I doing here and now. Here’s another bit o’ Scripture – “He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” That’d be Mark 12:27 in the NRSV.
The emphasis on Heaven is wrong. Not wrong like bad, just incorrect. And it doesn’t work. No one who doesn’t believe is going to be won over by promises of a happy land in the sky. It’s useless – worse than useless, actually, because it reinforces the popular notion that Christians are obsessed with where they gonna go when they die and therefore don’t give a sugar about what happens here on earth. This is a very valid criticism. As Christians, we are charged with stewardship of God’s green earth and we have done a piss-poor job. God’s Kingdom is to be on earth – “you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth” – Revelation 5:10. There are many other passages that refer to God’s Kingdom being on the earth. I’ll drop one more because I really like it – “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”, Psalm 27:13.
Let us speak no more of death. It isn’t mete.
Life is where the Christian message is. Life free from the bondage of sin and most definitely free from fear. And fuck a buncha shame – that shit don’t apply. Ours is the Kingdom – now and forever. It behooves us to start building it now – right now, in the middle of a global pandemic, with riots and protests and the POtuS defending racist murderers and all the rest of the shitshow. Now, while we walk and breathe, is the time for us to do God’s work, as He commanded, to love God and to love our neighbors.
Of course, how we act on that is between each individual and God. We are called to different tasks and I don’t know what yours is. I only kinda know mine.
That was the thought for the day. Personal shite follows – I may’ve mentioned completing the requirements for my Bachelor’s degree. If I did, or if I didn’t, I was mistaken. I completed the adult degree program I was working on, but there are gen eds I neglected. I thought my Associate’s degree covered all that, but nope. I still gotta do a buncha stuff.
The homeless shelter reopens in a few weeks. I’l be working and maybe writing stuff when I’m up all night.
I been reading to my queer kid via Zoom. We finished The Silver Chair and will start The Horse and His Boy next time.