I was listening to a NPR podcast the other day wherein they declared that 2011 had been the year of hell – from Harold Camping predicting the onset of judgment day not once, but twice, and being wrong each time to Rob Bell’s controversial but (if you ask me) rather wimpy book Love Wins, it seems the evangelical world was all about hell last year.
First, to Harold Camping. This years’ two predictions of the end of the world were actually his second and third incorrect predictions of that event. I wonder, just how many times do you have to be wrong about something like that before your credibility takes a hit? More importantly, in the minds of those interventionist, pissed off God sorts of people, wouldn’t old Harold’s stroke after his first wrong prediction of 2011 and subsequent refusal to return people’s life savings to them that he had told them they wouldn’t be needing be seen as an indicator of God’s judgment on old Harold? Apparently not, because Harold sat drooling in the corner and predicted the end would come last October.
As I listened to the report about Rob Bell, who in the great tradition of mega church pastors is now off trying to cash in on his book’s success in Hollywood – don’t get me started, some nut job “influential” evangelical pastor asked, “What if he’s wrong? He’s going to mislead a lot of people into an eternity in hell.” It’s always curious to me that those people who seek to raise doubts about positions put forward by others never seem to stop and ask what if they, themselves, are wrong? Apparently, the Pope isn’t the only infallible guy in town! But if God really is such a terrible asshole that God would cast people into hell for eternity because they believed something they read in a book that turned out not to be true, who in their right mind would want to go to heaven to spend eternity with that kind of fickle tyrant? Wouldn’t that make heaven a lot more like hell and God a lot more like Satan?
Most of us have a friend who is more than a little hard to deal with. They are either extremely negative, or critical, or aggressive, or an energy drain, or a complete lunatic, or have an anger management problem, or some combination of the above. Whenever I ponder the picture of God put forth by the “what if he’s wrong” crowd, I think about how whenever I find my self with the difficult person described above I can’t wait to get away. Imagine spending eternity with that jerk! Despite that, some people not only believe God acts that way, they can’t wait to spend eternity with God because being in hell and near Satan would be terribly unpleasant!
More unpleasant that a child watching their father beat their mother? More unpleasant than being a child who is abused? Worse than being mugged or otherwise assaulted? I ask because similar behaviors to those have been attributed to God toward those who fail to earn God’s favor. Could it be that we have confused God with Satan (by the way, I don’t believe in Satan, but just for giggles let’s play along)? Could it be that we have so bought into the fiction of our brokenness and depravity that we have become masochists of the highest order and just can’t wait to be tortured?
We have a lot of work to do – on ourselves.