For once I’m going to write about something that is beside the point… Hell. I can only imagine the gasps among the traditional Christian readers. But, please hear me out. As a forewarning, my discursion may take on as many layers as Dante’s “Circles of Hell,” as allegorically described in Inferno, the first part of his work Divine Comedy.
Ever since my experience at the American Studies Program in Washington, D.C., I’ve increasingly found Hell to be less and less important. I’m not saying, nor do I believe I’ll ever say, that Hell is of no importance, but it is overemphasized, at least in contemporary Christian culture. Perhaps it’s in the way Heaven and Hell is generally discussed that really bothers me. For example, how many times have you heard from a religious zealot: “do this and don’t do that or you’ll go here or there?” How many times have you seen an hyper-enthusiastic evangelist wielding a Bible on the street corner yelling “turn or burn” to the masses? Perplexing.
Wouldn’t it be more effective and wise to focus on doing right here and now for justice and peace sake than to worry about going here and there sometime in the future? Knowing God’s character and our responsibility to do righteousness on earth, wouldn’t He prefer us to expend our resources on making the world a little more how it ought to be? Wouldn’t He prefer us to partner with Him as redemptive agents? Wouldn’t the way we expend or don’t expend our resources on earth, coupled with God’s righteous judgment and grace, take care of what is to become of us in the future? I think so.
Speaking of what is to become of us… I recently had a bit of an epiphany, or so I think. At this risk of sounding like a plea for pity, which it’s not, I’ve experienced a fair share of loneliness lately. Everybody knows how it feels because everyone has been there – a place we call Loneliness. Interesting, we sometimes refer to loneliness as a place even though it is a feeling and/or state of mind. We also refer to Hell as a place. I wonder if Hell isn’t just a lonely feeling and/or state of mind. After all, the descriptions of Hell in the Bible may just be allegorical just like Dante’s “Circles of Hell.” Again, some gasps among the gallery, but think about the times you’ve experienced deep loneliness – it’s torture. If the loneliness I experience here on earth is an iota of what loneliness in Hell would be like – separation from God – then wow, I want no part of it.
I actually have another thought on Hell, but what the hell… I’ll save it for a later article. Until then, I’d really enjoy a good old fashioned discursion.
*Origin of Discursion: Witnessing contemporary Christian culture for years and waking up feeling lonely and thinking about what separation from God would feel like. And, yes, the title is a tribute to a childhood favorite and classic – The Princess Bride.