Speak with a sin tainted tongue. Nooses, guillotines, death by fire, all fates to questioning minds. Kill the intellect and what is left but sheep unaware they’re trotting towards the edge of a cliff?
Tonight I listened to This American Life, an episode dedicated to a modern day heretic, Carlton Pearson. Evangelical born and raised, cast out his first demon in his teens, rose up in the community of Tulsa due to his charismatic and spiritual presence. Established a continuously growing church, national prestige, and notoriety. And then he decided something, that hell doesn’t exist. Hell is a concept, a state, created and alive within this world but not the afterlife. This conclusion came when he decided that his god would not drag people into eternal suffering that had no way of hearing the word of god, to opportunity to be saved. Pearson said at that moment the spirit spoke to him and said hell, suffering, was of this earth and all were saved through the death and blood no matter what. Quite a detour from traditional theology, especially a denomination known for its passionate sermons on brim stone and fire, words intent to instill fear.
Because of this, he was officially declared a heretic. His congregation that was in the thousands dwindled to a couple of hundred, a schism occurred between him and several of his pastors, Christian media ostracized him and maliciously set out to ruin him. The concept of an open door heaven and a nonexistent hell was something most Christians couldn’t digest or accept. Pearson received one letter stating that the Bible laid out all the rules whether we liked it or not.
And that statement written by a stranger I will never know is what terrified me. Since when is the will of a person so crippled to as not change anything let alone the interpretation of a text that has been victim to misinterpretation, manipulation, and assumption for hundreds of years? A book created by a council that determined what to be orthodoxy or heretical; to sift out texts that stood alone in theme and concept. Those men sought to change the literature of Christians, their intention to unite a greatly diversified tradition still new in comparison to its Ancient East siblings.
I say this, and I mean it to be taken with great thought and introspection, God is not absolved of accountability.
Nor are we.
After studying the history of Christianity, I found its past littered with a disturbing lineage filled with murder, war, oppression, greed, and power. It seemed nothing like the serene white bearded man I heard of in Sunday school. What Jesus had started as a novel revolution eventually reverted to the same corruption he condemned and attempted to change. And so I walked away from a tradition that scared me more than enriched my spirit. No longer willing to associate myself with people that seem so easily to forget to love, act with compassion.
Why is a hell needed? Who does its existence truly serve? What use for hell does god have anyway? To make nonbelievers suffer forever, is god that much of a sadist? I think if god is like Jesus, then god would see no need to act from anger, resentment, betrayal but rather love, compassion. We suffer now so what good for it to occur in another life? Such a shift in thought, in doctrine, is proving difficult, but more than that, it shows the nature of those that turn away from these ideas. It reveals their true religious selves.
I have a feeling Jesus would preach a similar inclusive message to the world. No need to strike fear into a heart. No need to slaughter one’s hope. To condemn and guilt. Act with love, empathy, compassion, and what evolves from such pure intention and action can be nothing but good.