Hell is for Christians

You’ve heard of Christian love and Christian charities. You’ve probably even heard of Christian tee shirts and DVDs. But I want to tell you about Christian scandals – or at least one in particular.

Imagine something with me: two men are on trial. Both are guilty of murder.

One was reared in a home where he was beaten daily by his parents. He was born with brain damage due to his mother’s use of alcohol and drugs while she was pregnant. When he tried to gain an education he was denied books and the chance to attend school. When he got old enough to seek a job he could only get the lowest paying, most menial work imaginable. In his entire life he has never had a reason for hope.

The second man was born into wealth. From his earliest years he has had the finest of care, the best teachers, and every advantage that can be had. He has never been abused, hungry or in want of any kind. He attended the finest schools, where he was taught by philosophers and theologians of great wisdom. He was admonished by them to always be humble, to look for the best in others, to seek the good of the community before his own.

Again, both these men are guilty of murder. The poor man stabbed a passerby for his wallet so he could buy drugs. The wealthy one poisoned his business partner so he could gain control of the firm. Each crime was abhorrent. Each was committed in a callous fashion. Each is inexcusable. Neither man has shown remorse.

Of the two, who is more deserving of the maximum punishment allowed by law?

Most persons would agree that the second of the pair should receive the greater penalty, simply because he was shown so much of the noble and fine side of life. And they would be right. Those who have more beauty, intelligence, privilege, power, money, wisdom, opportunity, etc. simply have less of an excuse for screwing up than those who came into this world with the odds stacked against them. Jesus saw things this way, hence his statement “to whom much is given much will be required.” (Luke 12:48)

Christians have been given much in the way of moral wisdom. The man they call their Lord and Savior was a model of compassion. He urged his followers to love others, to return evil with good, to meet brutality with forgiveness, to be harder on themselves than on others. Most of them have read and learned these words all of their lives.

And that is why they are without excuse, when they stir up hatred against Muslims and members of other faith communities. They are without excuse when they lie about President Obama’s place of birth or religious affiliation. They are without excuse when they demonize homosexuals, a people group that Christ never mentioned once.

They are without excuse when they form alliances with politicians who favor the wealthy over the poor, in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus. They are without excuse when they spend vast sums to build giant churches, when Jesus would have used those funds to help the poor.

They are without excuse when they cry “Socialism!” every time the 1% are called upon to pay more, yet never mention the evils or excesses of unrestrained Capitalism.  They are without excuse when they offer excuses for greedy CEOs that chisel away at pay and benefits so they can pocket more cash.

They are without excuse when they have a comfortable home, a full belly and a reliable car, yet claim that they’re not rich.

They are without excuse when they condemn godless atheists like Karl Marx and praise godless atheists like Ayn Rand.  They are without excuse when they look down on self-serving hate merchants on the Left, while cheering on Ann Coulter and
Rush Limbaugh.

They are without excuse when they fear militant homosexuals and not militant homophobes.

They are without excuse when they point the finger at everyone but themselves for the problems of the world. They are without excuse when they blame the media or liberals or Lady Gaga for the decline in church attendance, when in reality it is their own hateful and vindictive spirits that have driven seekers away from Christianity.

They are without excuse when they sing hymns of love during the morning service, and an hour later leave a paltry tip for the waitress who is trying to feed her kids on a tiny income.

They are without excuse when they send pennies to a starving child in Brazil, yet refuse to buy the fair trade coffee that would enable the child’s father to provide for his kids himself.

They are without excuse when they run their businesses for the sake of profit, and not for the good of their customers and employees.  They are without excuse when they don’t offer health insurance to their workers, and when they oppose efforts to make sure that everyone has access to quality medical care.

They are without excuse when they cheer at the news of a man, any man, being killed, and try to justify such sentiments with words from the Bible. They are without excuse when they say that God cares more about a person’s theological views than the condition of their heart.

They are without excuse when they call others false teachers, heretics, or servants of the Devil, when in fact their own twisted, hate-filled hearts make them twice the servants of evil than those they so quickly condemn.

And they are completely, totally without excuse, any whatsoever, when they say that others are destined for eternity in torment, while they are safe because of a prayer they prayed when they were a child. They are without excuse when they think that their intellectual assent to a list of truth claims is anything like the faith that opens the doors of heaven.

And yet even a cursory look at American Evangelical Christianity shows that it is rife with these sorts of evil, hypocritical monsters, who see everyone’s faults but their own, who condemn the world while filling their store houses with its treasures, and who would turn that same world into a nightmare of ignorance and intolerance if given the chance.

They are the ones Jesus spoke of in Luke 12:47-48, when he said that those who know the right thing to do and fail to do it are the ones who will receive the greatest punishment.

And that is why Hell is for Christians.

The Day We Scattered Marne’s Ashes Near Toccoa Falls

Marne was the kind of girl it was impossible not to fall in love with one way or another. Those who didn’t want to date her still loved her like a sister. She was just that sort of person, gentle, soft-spoken and always kind. A pretty redhead from the Midwest who loved hiking and the outdoors, she exemplified the term “girl next door,” the kind every decent man wants to marry and every parent wants to have for a daughter.  Even someone totally devoted to Atheism would have been impressed with her simple, sincere form of Spirituality.

Marne had a secret, though. She suffered from a deeply buried mental disorder that grew more apparent during her college years. She barely succeeded in graduating, and then fell apart totally, wandering the country, losing touch with her family and friends for weeks at a time, and nearly starving herself to death because of her illusion that she was overweight.

Then her “visions” began. She thought that God told her to change her name to Mary because she had been appointed to be “the mother of mercy to all people.” Marne was losing her mind.

Her new friends didn’t see it that way, though. She found company with a group of ultra-charismatics who told her the voices she heard were from God and she should obey them, even when they told her not to take her medications and to go on extended fasts that wrecked her health.

Her delusions got worse as her mind deteriorated. One time her family found her out in the yard at night digging a hole in the ground. When they confronted her, she said that she was digging her way to the Holy Land, where her husband and children were. Marne had gone insane.

She stuck with her new friends, however, who encouraged her to listen to the voices. Then one day she scrawled a note on a piece of paper saying she just wanted to be with her “beloved,” doused herself with lamp oil, set herself on fire, and jumped out of a fifth floor window. She died on impact.

Her devastated parents brought her ashes back to Toccoa Falls, Georgia, where she had gone to college. A group of her friends gathered on top of a mountain, where we held a memorial service for her. Then we each took a handful of her ashes and scattered them to the wind.

Marne didn’t have to die. If she had received intervention in the form of group therapy, counseling, and medication she might be alive today. She perished from a fall, but the dying process began well before that, when fanatics encouraged her descent into madness in order to maintain their own delusional outlook on the world.

Did religion kill Marne? No. Her faith had sustained and guided her throughout the short years of her life. Fanaticism and ignorance parading behind a mask of spirituality destroyed her. To paraphrase Einstein: just as reason without faith is crippled, so faith without reason is blind.

The real travesty is that the blindness of Marne’s killers was purely voluntary. They cling to their fairy tales because they don’t have the courage to face the world as it is. They reject any call to critical thought or to appreciating science as an insight into the mind of God.  You can find out more about these kind of people by visiting this site: http://www.tfc.edu/.
If they want their delusions then let them keep them.  That’s all well and good for them. But they didn’t have to murder my friend.

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