Archives For god

Vector of the Spirit

kareninthedesert —  March 30, 2014 — 1 Comment
flickr: reynermedia

flickr: reynermedia

 

Vector: (mathematics) a quantity possessing both magnitude and direction.  Source: Dictionary.com 

Faith communities can be very unpredictable places.  Here’s a sample of what’s going at churches I’m familiar with this week and in the near past:

  • a poetry study for Lent
  • students from UC Berkeley are studying immigration as part of an Alternative Spring Break program
  • parents and babies are doing yoga
  • women and men are gathering for shared meals and fellowship
  • doors are opening for neighborhood groups and Alcoholics Anonymous
  • teams are studying justice AND getting into the work of justice
  • LGBT youth are gathering to discuss consent
  • older members are donating Easter candy
  • compassionate people are struggling with the intersection of and contrasts between charity and empowerment
  • gardening
  • friends are providing a comforting presence for someone grieving

At this church I call home, we are often proud of the fast pace of happenings on our campus and their diversity.  Sometimes we even go so far as to say, “You just never know what’s going on around here!” or “We don’t have ‘regular Sundays’ here!”  And in a sense, this expression is correct:  it’s sometimes an unpredictable place to be.

But in another, deeper way, what goes on here and at other faith communities is entirely expected.  The Spirit of Life is at work.  And while the Spirit is unpredictable, her vector is always the same.  The Spirit moves in the direction of wholeness, peace, justice, grace, and love.  WHERE the wind of Spirit rises and blows is always a surprise to us.  The example during my own lifetime is clear:  I never would have predicted 20 years ago that marriage equality would begin to sweep the country.  The Where and the How Fast have surprised me.

“The wind blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up.  Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God.”  John 3: 8 from The Voice New Testament

We can imagine a map of the United States (pardon me for being ameri-centric, it’s the geography I know best).  Imagine a wind that always blows from east to west.  Sometimes a gentle breeze stirs on the Carolina coast from Wilmington to Charlotte around the issue of erosion and marine conservation.  Sometimes a gale stirs the great plains from Des Moines to Lincoln around worker rights.  Another day, a warm wind rises in El Paso and heads toward Phoenix, with energy and passion for humane immigration.  It’s a different wind, but always in the same direction:  wholeness, peace, justice, grace and love.

ImageOn the move!

So what do we do?  How can we participate?

We prepare.  We ready ourselves for the work that awaits us, with practices of silence and contemplation.  We gather around ourselves others who are also preparing to join in.  We get some supplies ready.  Depending on the kind of wind we observe, we might need a kite or maybe a sail; prayer flags or perhaps flower seeds.

We watch.  We study the horizon, looking for signs that God is at work.  We become like spiritual Minutemen, ready to act at a moment’s notice.

We harness.  We join the Spirit at work, as our gifts indicate.  The work gives us joy and purpose.

Unpredictable?  Sometimes.  But the holy vector is constant.

About these ads

iamwrong

Hey everyone. This is Brett, head blogger and founder of WOJ. I have decided to take my work to the next level and actively pursue a career in freelance writing. I will continue to develop weoccupyjesus.org, however my personal reflections and more self-promotional posts require a separate site. I am now officially launching…

iamprobablywrong.com.

If you have enjoyed by previous work, please follow the new blog. I have written an introductory post that I’d be honored to share with you. Please read, like, share, and comment! I would love your feedback. The site is optimized for all mobile devices, so have at it.

Thanks for all the support. #heregoesnothing

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 4.03.34 PM

I remember a time when “Heaven” was the lens through which I saw all of life. I was taught, as were many of my peers, that life here on Earth was a test. Nothing mattered except getting into Heaven. Nothing. Suffering was fine, as long as we ended up in our mansions in paradise after we died. Having no friends because we had to weed out all the cool ones who said dirty words? No problem. We’d have Jesus to push us on the celestial swing set. Dismissing all that inconvenient “scientific data” because our book of spells told us God made us “zap zap” style? Piece of cake. We knew the truth. Everyone else was just a sucker sippin’ the worldly “cool-aid”. In the meantime, we were to sit still and vote Republican (because the Democrats would usher in the reign of the Anti-Christ, just like the… Bible said would happen… which is what we… wanted… since it was God’s will… but, never mind that).

Over the years I would finally succumb to the irresistible seduction of education, people with different opinions, and the ministry of common sense. Whether you believe in God, or whether you only believe in Oprah, I think we can all agree that Heaven… at least as traditionally promoted… is for suckers. If you feel a sudden urge to defend your very own pie in the sky, that’s cool. Save it for the bloodbath, I mean “comments section.”

You may think you want to live forever, but you don’t. You really, really, really don’t. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s play this out logically. If you live forever, there’s only three possibilities: Conscious eternal existence, unconscious eternal existence, or reincarnation where you only remember one lifetime as a time. Which do you prefer?

Conscious Eternity

To infinity, and beyoooond!

To infinity, and beyoooond!


This is by far the most widely-held belief when it comes to Heaven. Somehow our consciousness will survive the death of our mortal bodies and be transported/sucked up into God/the Cosmos to some other dimension-ish place that somehow defies the known laws of physics, or at least operates on some plane of existence that is more or less magic by our standards. We all agree this place is supposed to be at least pleasant if not borderline orgasmic. And hey, while that sounds all good and reasonable at first, let us consider just what “eternity” would mean.

Imagine the longest day you’ve ever had. Maybe some of us have been awake for a couple days, maybe even more than that. Most of us start feeling really weird when we have stayed up all night. I personally feel like I’m in a time-warp. Other people have started their new day when I’m basically still working on finishing up yesterday. It’s just not right. We all need closure on our days. We are supposed to have a beginning and an end. In an eternal Heaven scenario, we would have no need for sleep. It would be just one, super long, endless day. If we did sleep, it’d be an insult to conscious Heaven since we’d be choosing unconsciousness. What would we be dreaming about? Heaven? Nope, we’d be awake. Forever.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It would be Heaven, so we’d have some kind of super Heaven-brain that didn’t get all weirded out by how long our day would be. I’m sure we’d also have God-bodies that never got tired. We’d also never be bored. Ever. Why? Because Heaven is about being content. This means that either Heaven would give us an unending supply of entertainment options, or we’d be forced to like everything we would be doing. Therein lies an interesting point to ponder. What if Heaven couldn’t please everyone?

Now that we can imagine what it would be like to simply “exist” in a conscious way in this Heavenly realm, let’s revisit just what it would mean to be there forever. Humans, accustomed to living lives of roughly 70-90+ years, would never die. One thousand years would pass by. One million years would pass by. One billion, one trillion, one hundred trillion, ninety-nine trillion-trillion, and on and on and on.

Try to perceive that quantity of time (impossible, I know. Just try).

What if I said something like “And after all that time, you’re no closer to _________ (fill in the blank) than when you started.”

Did you think of the word “dying”? Did you think “being done”? Did you think “Not existing anymore?” Did you think to yourself, “Wow, eternity does kinda sound like overkill, or at least a little unnecessary.” Honestly, I think a number much, much lower would sound reasonable. Can you even imagine living for a few thousand years? Really, think about that. Isn’t that long enough? Maybe today you think you need more time to make things right. But who needs eternity? That’s like saying I need Unlimited Data from my cell phone carrier, when realistically I only need like 20 Gigs a month.

(I actually need much less, of course. But give me this one thing!)

So, why would you want to live consciously forever? If it’s anything like consciousness as we know it, it would be Hell. If it’s something completely different than consciousness as we know it, then we have no basis to judge its benefits. “I can’t wait to experience the joys of something that is completely unlike joy as I know it! Hooray!”

Unconscious Eternity

I so sweeeepy... I sweep for-wever...

I so sweeeepy… I sweep for-wever…


This one is interesting because… we’ve already done this one. All those trillions of years that the universe existed before the earth was made? Yeah, that’s what unconscious eternity feels like. I mean, it’s not like you were sitting around bored out of your mind waiting to be born. You were totally okay with it. Now, imagine that you die but some part of you lives on, maybe “with God” or in some type of “soul sleep” setup, but you’re not conscious of anything. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re unconscious for a minute or for twenty-eight universe lifetimes; unconscious existence is all the same to you. Your atoms and/or soul-stuff are free to float about deep space or the tenth-dimensional soccer field as long as necessary. Maybe you’ll get a new skin suit, maybe you won’t.

So, while there’s not a huge downside to unconscious eternity, there’s not really any difference between this idea and simply dying. If you’re not conscious, you’re pretty much dead. If you’re not dead, it’s still (like conscious eternity) a way of living that’s so unlike human life that it’s not anything to “look forward to”.

 

Reincarnation

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 4.13.10 PM

I think this is the most intriguing perspective on living forever, because in a way you get three-in-one. If you perpetually reincarnate, you may indeed be more or less “stuck” in a loop of death and rebirth “forever.” The difference would be that instead of existing on a linear timeline, you’d be existing in a circular one. For example, you could possibly be stuck in a loop that is primarily happening during the 18th Century over and over and over, but it could go on and on seemingly forever if you reincarnate into a new 18th Century human (or insect, or blade of grass, or American Flag) each time. That hundred years might resemble thirteen billion before you’re done with it.

What is very interesting about reincarnation is that you don’t remember your previous lives. In that way, it is no different than living once and dying once. (Wait, maybe atheists are just pissed off Buddhists?) And if there is even one second between your multiple lives, that one second was most-likely an unconscious second. So, you might as well have never existed at all before your new (and hopefully improved) upcoming life since you’d have no recollection of that second you didn’t exist.

And when you do reincarnate, are you really you anymore? If you are Jim in this life and Pam in the next (ponder THAT one, fans of NBC’s The Office), then is it really you at all? Maybe we’re all the same person, or the same universal consciousness making the rounds to everyone (kinda like Quantum Leap, perhaps?)

So why would you want to live a reboot-style life forever? Do you really want be the main character in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, without the benefit of the information learned from yesterday? I mean, isn’t the whole purpose of reincarnation to break the cycle of suffering and death, i.e. TO FINALLY DIE AND JUST STAY DEAD?

Conclusions:

I don’t know if there is an afterlife, or what it would look like. I don’t. But I do believe in Heaven.

I honestly think humans gets so hung up on living forever because we feel like we don’t have enough time. We think that one lifetime just isn’t enough. We cling to the idea of eternity because it feels secure. I’ve had that same feeling multiple times during this finite life though. Have you ever felt the embrace of a loved-one who kindly whispered to you “You’re safe now” or “You don’t have to be afraid ever again”? In that moment you didn’t need reassurance that trillions of years would pass without a moment of discomfort. We can experience the miracle of that moment in the temporal way it was meant to be felt, eternity or not. I think many of us equate Heaven with such a feeling, like a hug that’s waiting for us on the other side to say that everything will be okay, the pain is over, you’re safe now. Who wouldn’t want that?

I don’t ridicule the idea of Heaven in gerneral, or think those who seek it are merely small people looking for a way to cope with the fear of death. I do, however, believe that Heaven isn’t cheap. It goes much further than the superficial themes of pleasure and reward. Heaven is when you carry your kid on your shoulders after a sports game on the way back to your car. Heaven is when you walk across the stage to take your diploma from the president of the university. Heaven is emerging from poverty, or lowering ladders for others to climb out. It is a baby’s laughter, a negative cancer screening, or marriage vows renewed.

No, I do not believe what we seek is life eternal. We simply want to leave here on our terms, when we are good and ready. Are you ready to die? It’s okay if you’re not. Just stop waiting for Heaven.

It’s been waiting forever for you.

——–

brettBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

Don’t Should On Me!

Brett Gallaher —  January 20, 2014 — 5 Comments

Port-O-Potty-e1381947235468

So I went to see an R-rated movie the other day. Well, first I sat through the forty-five minutes of commercials about buying the giant discount popcorn bucket, and then I watched an R-rated movie. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself again. After the popcorn propaganda came the previews (including the preview for that upcoming Coca Cola bears movie, aka the upcoming 90 minute commercial about Coca Cola). Since I had paid to see an R-rated film, the previews were for many R-rated films as well. One time I read the description of the rating itself, being told that minors must be accompanied by an adult. For some reason, it made me laugh. I mean, the content of the film doesn’t change simply because your parent is sitting next to you. Obviously the message is “We don’t care if your kid should see decapitations and raunchy sex scenes at age nine. We just want to make sure you don’t mind if your kid sees it. And don’t sue us by the way.”

Can't beat the real thing!

Can’t beat the real thing!

~

I had to catch myself, because my inner monologue had begun should’ing all over the place. You see, I think one of the un-evolved elements of humanity is our propensity to tell other human beings what they should and should not do, think, believe, or feel. We do it all day long. It saturates every conversation from religion to politics to education to… who should see an R-rated movie. I mean, I was sitting there in the theater thoroughly enjoying the adult humor and language used in the film. Honestly, a few years ago I would not have felt comfortable with such content, but I have changed. Depending on your own beliefs you may think I made a change for the worse, letting my morals slowly decay and allowing my mind to be infected with unholy influences. Maybe not. Maybe you think R-rated movies are more in-line with the real world, unfiltered and consistent with our modern society.

What really struck me was the fact I couldn’t simply enjoy the show without first dealing with these kind of thoughts; I was somehow compelled to entertain fabricated debates in my head regarding the nature of morality. That’s annoying. I mean, I paid $10 (plus the nearly $15 for the giant discount popcorn bucket) so I could yell internally at my third grade Sunday School teacher (who was a lovely woman by the way). Why was I letting people “should” on me from the past? From decades ago?

"Brett! Stop reading Song of Solomon out loud!"

“Brett! Stop reading Song of Solomon out loud!”

~

I observed the actions of the characters on screen. The uncensored tone of the dialogue was refreshing, but it reminded me of how any truth or lesson lying behind the film would be totally lost on certain individuals. The unmarried couple laying in bed after sex, having a real human conversation filled with laughter and joy and hope… none of that would come across to those only preoccupied with condemning the “sin” of premarital sex. The woman abused by her husband of fifteen years shares a dance and a kiss with a younger man in a bar… but she’s an adulteress whore and a drunkard to some. You see, characters in films may not be real, but they represent very real ideas, people, situations, etc. Movies are truly art imitating life.

So, who is to say how we should live? What should we do? What shouldn’t we do? It’s easier for us to get those answers from other people. For some that is as easy as picking a religion. Right and wrong are able to be defined, creating a framework for living. In such a scenario, one must simple do all they can to avoid what is wrong and pursue what is right. This creates a tendency to dismiss “gray areas” as confused or twisted logic, created by dark forces conspiring to trip you up at every turn. Reality is only black and white to many people, therefore anything gray is to be met with suspicion at the very least.

That reminds me of another R-rated movie coming out soon...

That reminds me of another R-rated movie coming out soon…

~

While I won’t fall into the verbal trap of attempting the phrase “You shouldn’t tell people what they shouldn’t do” …I’ll propose what I see as an obvious downside of should’ing on people. To define life (and particularly your life) as existing within any pre-defined framework is to reject the experience of life. If you tell someone else how they should feel, who they should love, what they should do, etc., you are telling them that their own experience, their own journey, their own path is pointless. Their unique existence? Meaningless. And worse, you are tell them that your unique existence isn’t unique either. You’re kindly (or often unkindly) breaking it to them that life isn’t about doing the work of discovering your own place in the universe; you’re saying life is already decided to be [fill in the blank]. Get use to it.

And much worse, you can rob people of some of the most beautiful moments. You have the power to take something miraculous, or freeing, or life-giving, and write it off as selfish, sinful, or even demonic. Any particular brand of happiness not grounded in your particular worldview can be met with ridicule, dismissal, or scorn. And again, the real tragedy is that you reject the truth behind the packaging. You miss out on life, trading it for a concept you’ve elevated to the place of God.

Obviously we can have our convictions. We can believe strongly in principles that guide our lives. We can fight for what matters to us. But it must be the fruit of our own labor, to work out who we should be as individuals. It will involve trial and error. You will mess up. You will get discouraged. But if you pull through, if you discover what is good and pure, what is dark and empty, what gives you meaning and what poisons your soul… if you experience pain and rebirth, if you conquer yourself and find who you really are…

…No one should ever be able to define life for you ever again.

——–

brettBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

Many Ways

kareninthedesert —  January 9, 2014 — Leave a comment

I really should have subtitled this post:  “What I should have said to Michael Dowd 3 years ago.”

Guess that requires an explanation.  Rev. Dr. Michael Dowd is ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC – a progressive mainline denomination).  He writes and speaks about seeing the Divine in science.  Check out his book, Thank God for Evolution.  It’s a great addition to your 2014 reading list.  Rev. Dowd’s denomination is also my own.  The UCC has a marketing slogan, ‘God Is Still Speaking.’  It has evolved from a quote attributed to comedian Gracie Allen,

“Never put a period where God has placed a comma.”

Image

Rev. Dowd spoke in Phoenix, here at Shadow Rock UCC, in 2011.  I spoke with him briefly after his lecture, because I’m a nerd and wanted my book signed.  He had a beef, he explained, with the God Is Still Speaking campaign.  In his mind, it didn’t go far enough.  “Yes, God is still speaking,” he emphasized.  “And the language God uses now is facts.  God speaks through science.”

Now, I’m 1) an introvert and not always quick to say what I am thinking and 2) not likely to argue with a visiting author.  So I didn’t respond to him in the way I should have.  Three years later and better late than never…

Yes, Rev. Dowd, God is still speaking.  For you, I surmise, Divine communication comes in the form of evidence for evolution, the changing nature of the Earth community, the growing body of knowledge about the cosmos, and the miracle of human conscience.  The Story of the universe is for you the story of God.  And I agree with you:  it’s a beautiful story.  Indeed, to anyone paying attention, the universe is full of spirit messages in many, many forms.

For me, a teacher and writer, God speaks through the words of others.  This happens when I’m reading and just have to pause to think YES!  When I am writing, God speaks when I can’t type quickly enough to capture an idea that seems to have come from somewhere Not Me.

For a lover of nature, God speaks in sunsets and mountains and trees.  To find God on a camping trip is a wonderful thing.

For an artist, God speaks through paint and clay and pencils… color and shade and shape.  For anyone, an opportunity to encounter art is a conversation with the Divine.

For a doer, a ‘worker bee,’ God speaks in the midst of acts of compassion and service.  At other times, the Spirit prompts us to add additional activities of charity and justice.

For a parent or a teacher, God might speak through the innocent words of a child or through patience and gentleness prayed for often.  God arrives just in time for teachable moments or difficult questions.

When I was a child, growing up in the United Methodist church, I learned the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  This is the idea that God speaks primarily through scripture, reason, experience, and tradition.  It’s a good tool for thinking about faith, and it’s helpful to know what side of the quadrilateral is most comfortable for you.

Image

But it’s not enough.  As many people as there are, there are ways for God to speak.

Instead of a quadrilateral (which just seems to me like an square with a fancier name), can we talk about experiencing God with this image?  It’s still not enough – even this D20 die doesn’t have enough facets to account for the myriad ways we encounter the holy.  But it’s a good start.

Image

How is the Spirit of Life speaking to you today?  Figure out how to prompt yourself to pay attention.  Lots of other folks can tell you how to start a meditation practice or some other discipline.  Be gentle with yourself.  If you start by taking a deep breath as you curl your eyelashes in the mornings (don’t knock it!), it’s all good.

Peace and listening calm to you today.

My Best Friend

adeleh72 —  December 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Kathryn Jones Swearingen is my best friend

Kathryn Jones Swearingen is my best friend.

We met in the summer of 1988 in a driver’s ed classroom. The odds of this occurring were slim but with a providential God, it was not.

Kathryn went to private school and I went to public school. My parents paid for me to take drivers ed classes in a private class rather than through the public school system. Back then the school program had a poor record of adequately training teenagers to drive and pass the NC State drivers exam. Our parents’ choices allowed Kathryn and me to meet. That was the beginning of our friendship.

During the past 25 years we have shared many experiences, both good and bad, and through it all our friendship has grown stronger and deeper. When I think of our bond I remember things that Kathryn has said and done. During the early years of our friendship she told me that anyone who did not take the time to get to know me, was missing out on a great friend. I knew then that our friendship meant as much to her as it did to me.

In 2002 she was my guest at the Campbell Divinity School Graduate dinner. Making the decision to go to graduate school was always a scary thing for me even up until the final semester. Her presence was an encouragement and a huge affirmation that I was on the right track.

She did something at that dinner that I will never forget. She thanked the school for being there for me and being a place that I enjoyed attending. Her words that night helped me see God in a bigger way. In 2011 she and her then-fiancé, Blake Swearingen, came to my ordination service. When we met in 1988 I could have never imagined being ordained, but having her there on that special day was another affirmation of my life choices and the of importance of our friendship to each other.

In November of 2011 she said something that took me right back to the day she said I was a very special person. She told me over dinner that she and Blake wanted me to officiate their wedding. Why does all this mean so much to me? These things mean so much because we do not share a common faith, but none the less my friendship with her has brought me to two realizations:

  1. God’s love extends to all, regardless of where they are in their journey on earth
  2. Kathryn is the closest thing to God I have here on earth.

Kathryn accepts me for who I am, loves me without condition and has always been a faithful friend. These are all the things God is to me.

God loves and accepts me just the way I am and works through my uniqueness to proclaim the Gospel. The same is true for you. God loves me (and you) without condition. I know this because God, my creator, chose to come down to earth, walk in human flesh and die on the cross for me and you. He did this for ALL of us. God has never left my side and never abandoned me. In this life I have had people and institutions fail me, but we all have God. The God of creation is faithful always, to all of us.

Who I am as a person and as a minister is greatly influenced by Kathryn being in my life. I do not believe it is any accident that we met. When I think about our friendship I wonder if God teaches me to love and see creation as he does, or if Kathryn and who she is points me to God–to see God in a fuller way. I think it is a bit of both.

Within my belief system I see God, the creator of everything, as a relational God. God chooses to work in concert and cooperation with us. Through relationships we engage in the work of God whether we know it or not. We do so because we are living by example.

Jesus’ ministry was ALL about relationships. When we develop relationships we are living by example–God’s example. Through working with others we see God in a bigger and fuller way, and those we have relationships with point us back to God. All in all we become better people, caring people, and compassionate people.

Just as Kathryn is my best friend, God is my best friend.

Adele2Adele Henderson lives in Roanoke, VA  and serves as Chaplain at HopeTree Family Services in Salem, VA. When she isn’t writing, she’s searching for the perfect chocolate truffle. She also enjoys the occasional skydive. You can read her blog at www.revadele.blogspot.com

blue-heaven

~

Heaven. That place beyond this world. Not the overly humid one I’ve written about before. The other one. You know, that place where God, Jesus, their friend Casper (i.e. The Holy Spirit), and all those people who abstained from sex get to party for all eternity. That place. For many I would expect it means everything. It is the only reason they get out of bed, endure a job they hate, volunteer in the church Easter production, or whatever else it is that they’d rather not be doing. It is all going to pay off one day. It has to. Otherwise, wouldn’t life be one big waste?

Let’s forget about the implications of that last sentence for a moment. Let’s just assume there is a Heaven. Let’s assume that you and I are going there, whether it be due to old age… or a very unfortunate and catastrophic roller-coaster failure. Let’s first consider some basic questions. As is customary, questions have a way of challenging your neat and tidy reality built out of rainbows and smores. It sucks, but we have to do it. Why? Because I don’t want you getting to Heaven and then be tragically disappointed by all the Mormons running around.

Anything is possible, folks.

Anything is possible, folks.

~

And I mean, haven’t you ever wondered where exactly Heaven would be? If it was a planet? Maybe you have never considered Heaven to be a real place in our physical universe, and that’s a damn shame. Just think of the implications! We’d be living on an alien world, essentially making us aliens. We’d be immortal, ruling the universe alongside our extremely powerful, loving, sometimes-jealous Lord and Master Overlord of the Galaxy, Hey-Zeus… err… I mean, Jesus Christ. Somehow on this magical planet everything would be perfect and sustainable. Somehow this planet would never even be destroyed, not even in the wake of a localized Supernova event. Jesus would beat back the shockwave with his telepathy, then create a new type of perpetual fusion to warm the planet, powered by his love for you and me. In the evening he’d fight off that trickster Devil who always tries to ruin the fun.

Of course I'm talking about Loki.

Of course I’m talking about Loki.

~

As awesome as this sounds, I think it is safe to say that Heaven is not a planet. Perhaps the majority of Heaven-believing readers are thinking, “Of course it’s not a planet. Heaven is beyond time and space.” I’ve even heard folks say “Heaven is outside of existence.” While most people would interpret such a statement as saying “Something outside of existence… doesn’t… exist” …many people think it is very reasonable to imagine Heaven as being completely reserved for a reality separate from our own. And there’s almost universal agreement that Heaven is somewhere “out there” …somewhere we go. Somewhere that’s not… here.

Well, that’s fine and dandy, but there’s a problem.

The Kingdom of Heaven Is Not A Kingdom!

yao_ming_true_story_plz_by_mingtruestoryplz-d5qtvjo

When Jesus talks of the Kingdom of Heaven in the book of Matthew, he is really speaking of the Kingdom of God. The author of Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience, so he swapped the word “God” (which they believed should never be spoken out loud) and replaced it with “Heaven”. While the difference may not seem all that significant at first, my trusty Seminary education begs to differ. Let’s look at the other word in the phrase. What about the word “Kingdom”?

The Greek word for Kingdom being used in the Gospel of Matthew is Basileia.

Definition:
royal power, kingship, dominion, rule
not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom
of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah
of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah’s kingdom
a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king
used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah. [per The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon]

So you can see how things get all wacky when you don’t have the above definition. If you’re imagining a Kingdom named Heaven, or a Kingdom in which God rules, you’re expecting a literal country, realm, or perfect place. But that’s not what the text is suggesting. The Kingdom of God/Heaven is the place where God is present, where he is ruling.

Now, we could spend all sorts of time delving through scripture after scripture to build a case for what Jesus was talking about, to refute the popular view of Heaven, but seriously…
Who wants to do that? Let’s go back to that first question.

If there’s no Heaven, is life meaningless?

Perhaps, in a very Jesus way of answering a question, another question would help.

Why would we need the promise of an eternal reward to find meaning?

This is what drives atheists crazy (along with those Seventh Heaven marathons). So many Christians think that nothing has any meaning without God, or Heaven. It’s not inherently good to rescue an old woman from a burning building; it’s good because it’s the Christ-like thing to do. It’s not good to have personal integrity and be a person of your word; it’s good because the Bible says lying is wrong. And worst of all, God isn’t good because he is actually a noble being who cares for us; he’s Good because he’s God, therefore anything God does is good by default.

That’s like saying Zeus would be a good god because he’s a god. If he killed your son and took your wife back up to Olympus, that’s good, because Zeus is good.

So, why is it that Heaven means so much to us? What if we got there (or it came to us) and it was really filled with egocentric pricks who didn’t give a damn about us. Would it be Heaven then? What if your soulmate didn’t get in because she wasn’t a Christian? Would you really want to spend eternity without her? How could that be Heaven? And what if Heaven was a place filled with all the superficial things God specifically told you not to do on Earth? Isn’t that what you’ve been hoping for all long, that Heaven would be somewhere you get to over-sleep, over-eat, play on your smartphone, and watch football 24/7? Is that really Heaven? An extended edition of your day-to-day gluttony?

Heaven isn’t out there. It is closer than you think. It is within you. It is for believer, atheist, agnostic, muslim, Jew, buddhist, gay, straight, black, white, man, woman, and child. Heaven is harmony, balance, and peace. The Kingdom is a rebuttal to this world that says “Get the hell out of my way.” The Kingdom says “There is a better way.” Heaven is a son reconciled to an estranged father, it is a slave forgiving his master, it is a girl who finally stops cutting. Heaven is a mother who holds a laughing child, it is that first moment of Summer, it is the negative result on a cancer screening. Heaven is…

…a blogger from southeast Tennessee who made a post about Heaven that he gets to share with his friends, and it helping even one reader feel better about something in their life.

If you ask me, Heaven is gray. Let me show you what I mean.

#weoccupyjesus

—–

bretttttt1Brett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

Forgiveness.

According to dictionary.com, it is the thought of or action of being forgiven. Merriam-Webster.com says that the definition of “forgive” means to stop feeling anger, to stop blaming, to stop requiring payment.

Forgiving someone is not easy. In church, we are told to forgive so that we may be forgiven and also that forgiveness is for us, not them. What we are never told is that it is a daily act, a daily giving over of something that has hurt us, angered us, and has possibly affected our lives.

We are never told that forgiveness is not easy. It is presented as so easy, and it’s not! The idea of forgiveness is so lovely and beautiful, as are the ideas of love, faith, miracles, and hope. But too many feel that forgiveness is unattainable or impossible.

flickr: Isabel Bloedwater

flickr: Isabel Bloedwater; cc by-sa 2.0

Here’s the thing. Forgiveness is something you have to do. Every single day.

It is something that you have to practice every single day, something you have to make a conscious decision to do every single day. Forgiveness is a prayer of sorts–whether it be to God, Jesus Christ, or to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It is a verb, an action, not just something that is discussed. It is something you actively do, something that you tell yourself, at the very least. Even if the person you’re forgiving doesn’t ask for forgiveness or say they are sorry, even if they get angry when you say you forgive them because they feel they did nothing wrong, you still have to do it for you.

You’re probably wondering why you should forgive.

Why should you forgive someone? Isn’t that up to God to do? Or maybe you think that you don’t believe in the holy or spiritual, or you just see no need for forgiveness for the hurt that has been done to you. I’m not going to tell you that you should forgive so that you can be forgiven,  or so that you can move on. You forgive because forgiveness will open up your life and your spirit, can ease your hurt a bit, and can help you learn and accept the lesson that came out of the hurt, so that the experience is not wasted.

flickr: timlewisnm; cc by-sa 2.0

flickr: timlewisnm; cc by-sa 2.0

Also, don’t EVER let someone tell you that it is not okay to be angry or frustrated when someone has hurt you.

It is perfectly natural and it is okay. But what is unhealthy–what can hurt you in the end–is hanging on to that anger and letting it poison you and your life. Time and forgiveness can ease the anger and the bitterness, regardless of your belief system. That is what it is for. Some days you will be angry, and other days you will not be.

I first posted about this on Facebook, and, when I did, a friend of mine, Britt Brown, had this to say:

“Forgiveness is a simple choice I think. You simply choose to forgive. Just because you still have lingering emotional turmoil, doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven. It just means that you are still struggling with the damage of the act you have forgiven. The practice comes in letting go, in accepting and embracing that pain and releasing it into the world, harnessed as energy toward something good. That takes sooooo much practice!”

He captured what I was trying to say about anger exactly and he is right. The emotional turmoil is okay! But you still have to make a conscious decision to forgive and it is still a daily giving over within yourself.

The nature of forgiveness is the nature of our spiritual side, of our soul. Forgiveness is not easy and the nature of it is a practice you do every day. And it is okay to be angry, and it is okay to hurt. The nature of forgiveness also recognizes that and accepts it.

waiting-by-phone

DISCLAIMER: There are clearly very obvious reasons why Jesus would not call Mark Driscoll after a date (e.g. Jesus isn’t really the “dating” type, Mark Driscoll is married to what can only be described as a “happy” wife, and as far as we know… they are both heterosexuals). However, I have compiled a list of reasons a hypothetical date between these two would not yield the slightest possibility of a second encounter.

Mark Driscoll loves Jesus. There’s no doubt about that. Mark loves Jesus so much that if the Nazarene knocked on Mark’s door with a pair of tickets to see Gravity in 3D, Mark would jump at the opportunity. A dismayed Mrs. Driscoll would nervously wave goodbye from the doorway, clinging to her new book Mark bought her entitled Why My Husband Will Never Love Me. She’d pray she’d have the quiz in the back pages completed before his return.

But most of us know Mark would be back soon with an entirely different opinion of that Jesus fellow. New incompatibilities would come to light. Some might even call them irreconcilable differences. Mark may have friended Jesus on Facebook, Followed him on Twitter, and even created a new contact in his smartphone, but deep down he knows what we all know.

Jesus isn’t calling him back. Why?

1. MARK KEEPS DISSING JESUS’ HOMEGIRLS

slut

…and pointing in their faces in the girls’ bathroom.

~

You see, Jesus would have eventually brought up his friends, especially his homegirls. Jesus has lots of them. Most of them are called Mary. A few are called Jaquita. One is called Esther. Esther from… the book of Esther, Esther (not Madonna Esther). Jesus and Esther go way back. Well, Jesus was more or less spying on Esther because his Act wasn’t until the Romans showed up, but he was there. But the moment he would have brought up Esther, Mark would have interjected with some less-than-kosher remarks. It’s just what Mark does whenever that broad gets brought up. Exhibit A: Mark’s own words.

“She grows up in a very lukewarm religious home as an orphan raised by her cousin. Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions. Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite.”

[He goes on to say...]

“Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation. Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behavior to make her into a Daniel-like figure, which is inaccurate. Some have even tried to tie her story in with modern-day, sex-slave trafficking as she was brought before the powerful king as part of his harem.” -from his article at pastormark.tv.

Jesus would possibly give Mark the benefit of the doubt. Biblical hermeneutics is really hard! He’d politely ignore this one issue and change the subject. Perhaps he’d ask Mark about his own wife, Grace. “Tell me about her, Mark. Tell me about a moment that really sums up your relationship.” If Jesus had read Mark’s book, Real Marriage, so many questions would have been answered. Perhaps he would have taken up Rob Bell’s pottery class offer instead.

Driscoll writes in Real Marriage about his wife
(who deals with depression after sexual abuse):

“My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required the lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimate, checked out during sex, and experienced a lot of physical discomfort because she was tense…One night, as we approached the birth of our first child, Ashley, and the launch of our church, I had a dream in which I saw some things that shook me to my core. I saw in painful detail Grace sinning sexually during a senior trip she took after high school when we had just started dating. It was so clear it was like watching a film — something I cannot really explain but the kind of revelation I sometimes receive. I awoke, threw up, and spent the rest of the night sitting on our couch, praying, hoping it was untrue, and waiting for her to wake up so I could ask her. I asked her if it was true, fearing the answer. Yes, she confessed, it was. Grace started weeping and trying to apologize for lying to me, but I honestly don’t remember the details of the conversation, as I was shell-shocked. Had I known about this sin, I would not have married her.” [pages 6, 11-12]

So yeah, then there’s the issue of…
2.
MARK’S CREEPY FLOATING TELEPATHIC PORN-O-VISIONx-ray vision

“Hey there, Grandma.”

~

Jesus may forgive Mark for revealing this case of spiritual abuse and all-around “bad husbandry”. He is Jesus, after all. Mark may have a real felt-need to discern the presence of sexual sins in the lives of those around him. Such matters are serious and should never be treated like opportunities to convey spiritual superiority over those in such vulnerable emotional states. That would be a misuse of authority and borderline manipulation. Jesus says a quick prayer for Mark. Afterwards he checks YouTube out of sheer curiosity.

Jesus does a facepalm.

Jesus would send out an emergency text to his homegirls to come rescue him. He’d stall in the meantime. Come to think of it, why was Mark taking him to some abandoned construction site? Scared he’d anger Mark by asking, Jesus would quickly come up with another topic. “Mark, I’m really flattered that you’ve devoted your entire ministry to me. That means a lot. Tell me more about what attracted you to Christianity.” Mark would lean over and whisper two words in Jesus’ ear.

“Real. Men.”

3. JESUS DOESN’T WANT TO FIGHT SWEATY MEN IN CAGES

Wait a minute... This wrestling looks fake!

Wait a minute… This wrestling looks fake!

~

Mark’s vision for Christianity [from Life on Mars (Hill), Bitch Magazine]

“Church today, it’s just a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. Sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.”

Mark previously encountered difficulty worshiping “a gay hippie in a dress.” But something about those disciples changed his mind. They were anything but hippies. They were real men. Real hardcore, violent men looking for trouble. Trouble for Jesus.

“I’ve gotta think these guys were dudes. Heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.”

Christianity was about men. Real, sweaty men. The sweatier, the Godlier. Sweatiness is next to Godliness, they say. Wait, that’s not what they say at all. Jesus didn’t want Christianity to be “Manly”. That would imply that there’s something inherently wrong with being feminine. Womanly would mean “weak”. Such an idea is fundamentally insulting to women. It’s essentially saying that women’s main flaw is that they’re not men. Mark would look over at Jesus, sensing the date going downhill. “What’s wrong, Jesus?!”

“Nothing!” Jesus would say. “I’m just… err… um… checking out your YouTube videos! So relevant!”

Mark might try his luck by shifting the discussion.
Obviously we know the futility of even trying, especially since we all know…

4. JESUS IS TOO “PRO CHOICE” FOR MARK

choices-760701

Approaching “Can of Worms” Ohio.

~

Mark would ask Jesus a very significant question. “Are you pro choice?” Jesus may look over at Mark with a smile. Finally Mark would show interest in what he thought. Jesus is an expert on this topic as well. He is a huge advocate of free will. He practically invented it. Maybe this would be a game-changer for the evening. But we know better. Jesus would open his mouth to say, “Of course! Choice is essential to freedom!”

Mark would lash out at Jesus, rudely interrupting him mid-sentence. This misunderstanding would be preventable, if only Mark could suppress his obsession with the topic of abortion. But he can’t.

“Mark, no. That’s not what I-”

“You do not submit to the authority of Scripture! You don’t value human life!” -Mark would exclaim.

After about an hour, Jesus would become fed up with Mark monopolizing the conversation. “You know what, Mark? I’ve had it with your ego, your insensitivity, and your misogynistic rants. You don’t even listen to me anymore! Don’t you understand? Our relationship is all about communication!”

“I can change!” Mark might say.

But it’d be too late. Jesus would have found a ride, possibly like a stranger on a bus, just trying to make his way home, back up to Heaven all alone, nobody calling on the phone (except for Mark). #straighttovoicemail.

In closing: I’m not bashing Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll is bashing Jesus. I’m not even talking about any version of the “true” Jesus, or the most “Biblical” interpretation. Some things are mysteries. We can’t know exactly what the historical Jesus would think today. But Jesus represents something life-giving, something powerful and moving and capable of literally saving lives. You may be reading this and have no belief in Jesus whatsoever, or you may be a life-long Christian. That’s not the point. We all have our own views. But at the end of the day, does the Jesus that Mark calls upon resemble a symbol of love, or of resentment? Does Mark call upon a Jesus who saves lives or who shames lives? Does Mark sound more like a spiritual leader or more like a pseudo sex therapist? You have to decide, but one thing is for sure.

Mark Driscoll wants to wrestle with sweaty men in a cage for Jesus.

——–
brettttttBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

signheavenhell

~

This may come as a shock, but despite what your ex says about you, you’re probably not going to Hell. Relieved? Good! But I hate to break it to you that your ex isn’t going to Hell either. What was that? Will you both spend eternity in Heaven? Of course not! Then you’d both be in Hell! Are you paying attention at all?

Now I know what some of you may be thinking (and that’s precisely why I won’t be replying to every comment). How can I, blogger-person, know with certainty who is and isn’t going to Hell? How can a mere mortal know such mysteries of divine judgment? Easy. I used the word probably in the title. If I’m wrong, I’m off the hook (and your ex is going to Hell. It’s a win-win). So let’s not get too hung up on “me playing God” and let’s just enjoy the show. You might learn something. Or not.

So, of course when I say the word “Hell”, a lot of images come to mind. Let’s just focus on the basic Hell for now, the one with the fire and the brimstone and the screaming and the pitchforks and the Mormons. You may edit out the fire, or imagine it’s invisible so Hell can be “dark as Hell” too. Maybe it’s just really really humid, or really really smelly. Imagine that place that is just so terrible that the only thing worse is staying in that doomed-from-the-start relationship with your ex, whose very memory is preventing you from enjoying a simple blog post.

MY GOD! LEAVE US ALONE!

Where were we? Oh yeah! The blog post!

So, yeah. I’m just not buying the whole Hell thing. It just doesn’t add up. Not that everything adds up in life, but this one really takes the “not adding up” cake. I can give you four good reasons why you can just rest a little easier tonight. You’re probably not going to Hell because…

 1. INTERSTELLAR SPACE TRAVEL

article-2343801-1449E5B5000005DC-850_634x329

~

If we’re going with the model that involves fire, or at least really really hot stuff like plasma, then stars create an awkward dilemma for eternal Hellfire. I personally grew up hearing that Hell was in the center of the earth. This is by no means a universally accepted location, but it emphasizes the notion that Hell is really really hot, much like the center of our planet. But we all know that there are much hotter places than Earth’s core. While our pale blue dot’s center tops out at about 5430 Degrees Celsius (or 9806 Degrees Fahrenheit for all you folks from ‘Merica) which actually matches the surface temperature of our Sun, it’s snow globes compared to the solar core sporting a whopping 15,000,000 degrees Celsius. (If you’re waiting for the Fahrenheit amount, you’re missing the point).

So, there’s no way God would choose Earth as the host for this party. He’d go big. He’d really show off how bad he wanted us to burn by putting us inside of a star. But if you think the Sun is the logical locale, think again.

Meet VY Canis Majoris…

If you look closely, you can actually see the Sun crapping its pants.

If you look closely, you can actually see the Sun crapping its pants.

~

Stars get larger and larger. Therefore, if Hell exists anywhere in this universe, it must be in the largest star. Well, we don’t know which star that would be, or where it is exactly, but we know that any of these stars are going to be hella-far away. When your ex dies, they’d have to travel there. There’s only two viable methods of interstellar space travel. Light speed wouldn’t work, because the next closest stars (Alpha Centauri A, B, and Proxima) are still over 4 light years away. Ain’t nobody got time for that! God would have to use wormholes to transport us to his abode of infinite justice. He’d be bending space, just for us. Isn’t that sweet?

That sounds like an awful lot of trouble for God. Why didn’t he just put us closer to Hell? He’s basically deferring to his magic teleportation powers to bypass the scientific limitations (the very limitations that he… set up… himself). In Scripture, God rarely allows such wormhole teleportation. Obviously we remember when Jesus floated up in the air and waved goodbye to the audience, saying really profound stuff before he disappeared. You think he’s letting you cruise the cosmos like his own kid? Fuggetaboutit. And just think, even if God somehow did transport us to his flame of choice, he’d have to teleport us every time that star burned out. That’s a lot of effort to punish us for keeping Playboy magazines under the mattress.

Okay, so we’re only on #1 and we’ve already concluded we’re probably not headed to any Hell located in this universe. You’d think that’d pretty much cover our bases right? But I bet there’s at least a few of you out there who believe there’s a spiritual world, all misty/spooky and shit. Well, I didn’t forget about you folks. Don’t worry, because you’re probably not going to that Hell either, because of…

2. CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEMS

Ouch500

“Thank you for physical pain, Jesus!”

~

Have you ever undergone a surgical procedure where anesthesia was required? In other words, were you ever unconscious while someone cut you open and tinkered around inside of you? Luckily for you, you didn’t feel a thing. Well, if you did feel anything then you’re probably the proud recipient of a large medical malpractice settlement and you’re too busy drinking champagne from golden chalices to remember the unpleasantness. When you die, you don’t feel anything anymore. Nothing. There’s no central nervous system to send those “ouch” signals to the brain. Heck, there’s no brain activity when you die either. There’s not a whole lot of anything going on in the “you” department after it’s all over.

Now obviously many of you may be worried about “spiritual fire”. Your body may be gone but your soul remains, right? God is pissed and wants your soul to suffer for all that crap you did with that filthy body of yours. Well, think about what “spiritual fire” would mean. If you are a soul and you can still feel pain, still have thoughts, still experience suffering and all the stuff that comes along with a spiritual Hell, then…

C’mon, people… you know this one…

If your soul provides all the comforts and discomforts of a body… then you never needed a body in the first place. God made the Earth for a bunch of meat-sack soul-containers to bump into each other and start wars and buy over-priced health insurance, for no reason. If God wanted you to suffer after you die, then why make a physical you at all? Why make a physical universe at all? If the universe matters at all, it matters more than our own physical presence within it. That’s right. If there’s a spiritual Hell, if there’s a Hell somewhere on “the other side”, then that’s like God giving this side a big middle finger.

Now I know this is only #2 and we’ve put together a decent case against Hell existing in either this universe or some spiritual realm, but if I know Christians (and boy do I ever), I suspect that a few are reaching for their trusty dusty Bibles right now. I’ll get mine out too. But guess what? You’re still probably not going to Hell because…

3. FOREVER AND EVER ISN’T ALWAYS “FORVER AND EVER”

FOR-E-VER

FOR-E-VER

~

“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” – Revelation 14:9b-11 NIV.

Pretty heavy stuff, right? The smoke goes up forever. Eternal torment, right there in black and white. At the end of time, God kicks some serious human ass. But that verse… it sounds familiar. It reminds me of another verse, an earlier verse.

Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night or day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again. – Isaiah 34:9-10 NIV.

Edom is still burning? Really? I mean, it is the Bible. And the Bible is the source of authority on all the Hell-talk anyway, right? But we don’t have to simply trust Scripture this time. I’m sure we can just confirm this ourselves by finding a recent image of Edom. Get your popcorn, grab a couple loved-ones, lower the lights, and let’s enjoy the never-ending carnage together!

Maybe it's "spiritual smoke".

Maybe it’s “spiritual smoke”

~

Hmm. This is awkward. Maybe the Bible just likes to talk a big game. Maybe the Bible uses terms like “forever and ever” to emphasize the extent of the destruction, not the duration of the destruction. Maybe Hitler doesn’t need to boil in lava for eternity; maybe God just wants to look down ominously from the ledge inside Mount Doom as Hitler grasps the Ring of Power in a moment of evil defiance before he melts. There’s actually a whole neat theology about this called Annihilationism. If you’re interested, check out this article.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just more smitten with this God fellow than ever!

Still worried you might find yourself in a leaky rowboat in a lake of fire? Don’t be! Because…

4. MOSES WOULD NEVER LET GOD LIVE IT DOWN

moses460

~

I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll never cease mentioning it. Moses totally schooled God in Exodus 32. Here’s the Biblical proof, if proof is the right word.

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” Exodus 32:9-10 NRSV.

Okay, so God was like “Leave me alone. I’m pissed. I don’t even want you to talk sense into me, Moses.” But then Moses does the righteous thing by disobeying God and giving God three reasons why he’s wrong to be so bitchy.

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. Exodus 11-14

Oh, Burn! (pun intended).

If this verse tells us one thing, it’s that God, even Old Testament pre-Jesus God, had mercy. He never stays mad. He goes for a drive, gets a drink, watches the game, and then comes home ready for love. Plus, he knows that if he really goes over the edge one day, he loses. If there is a God, he’s not interested in losing. Have you ever wondered what it would look like if he really tortured conscious souls for eternity? He’d literally become more cruel than any notion of Satan we’ve ever heard of. If you happen to believe in Satan, and if you even attribute every crappy thing that ever happened to his doing, none of it could ever compare to God creating a Hell. If Satan had a good 5 million years of chaotic fun with humanity, that would never come close to God’s eternal reign of terror, confining countless souls to a fate much worse than death, with no chance of learning their lesson, with no chance of redemption, for crimes they may or may not have been aware of.

Honestly, if Hell is real then God should give every newborn baby a birthmark across their forehead that spells out “Hell is real. That’s why I’m giving you this very clear birthmark because I’d be a big jerk if I didn’t tell you directly. Sincerely, God, Your loving cosmic overlord.”

IN CLOSING: Obviously these four reasons I have given are really four cans of worms I have opened up for you all to enjoy. I do not pretend to know what actually happens when we die, but my studies and sarcasm lead me to write on such topics for educational and entertainment purposes. If you’re an Atheist, God bless you for reading this far. I find myself between agnosticism and pantheism, terms you should know if you want to know anything about me. Having grown up in a fundamentalist home (in the South), this discussion never stops. Hell is a topic that influences everything from who we vote for to how we talk to our parents at Thanksgiving. Hopefully this article has helped you smile a little more and fear the flaming abyss just a little less.

——–

brettttttBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.