Gays and Hell: How Can God Break The Great Commandment?

A sane Christian must admit that no one actually, in an objective sense, knows if there’s a hell, or knows how God feels about homosexuality. We can pretend that we know about either or both of those. We can certainly guess about them. But we cannot know about them. The Bible is open to an infinite number of perfectly legitimate interpretations. That’s one of the its great miracles: in so many ways, and about so many things, the Bible insists that ultimately we must arrive at our own understandings and conclusions.

If the Bible were perfectly clear on where God stands on the issues of hell and LGBT people, the question of homosexuality wouldn’t today be dividing Christendom in two, and no Christians would take seriously the idea that nothing in the New Testament is meant to indicate that hell is a real and literal place. But it is. And they do.

And here we are.

The bottom line is that each Christian has to decide for him or herself whether there’s a hell, and whether God is or isn’t okay with people being and living gay.

When God comes to earth, and walks and talks as a man, you can be sure that, right off the bat, you’re into a whole bunch of stuff you will never, ever fathom. But as confoundingly complex as the Bible is, the one thing within it that comes across with extreme clarity is that Jesus’ primary, fundamental mission and purpose was one of love. The one thing in the Bible that’s crystal clear is that Jesus came to help us grasp the fullness and magnitude of God’s love for us.

This is my take on Jesus, anyway: first and foremost he meant to communicate the infinite degree to which each of us, individually, is loved by God.

Once I accept that as true, I know exactly what to make of the “controversial” questions of gay people and hell. If you begin with the conviction that (as John tells us), God is love, and you take seriously Jesus declaring that the most important of all laws is that we love our neighbors, then the debate over whether God does or doesn’t send all non-Christians to hell, or whether God is okay with LGBT people, dissolves. Because thinking and talking about hell and/or God’s condemnation of gays moves you beyond what you know to be true about Jesus Christ, and into a world forever grounded in speculation.

I’m a slow-witted person. I don’t like to think too much. I prefer to go with what I know, and, where possible, to shed the rest.

The idea of a God who would condemn all non-Christians and gay people to hell forever is logically, diametrically opposed to the idea of a God who loves mankind. It would mean that God is not obeying the very law about which he himself, as Jesus, declared none greater.

That just doesn’t make sense. So I reject it.

I start with the love of Jesus; I let everything else fall away.

Good-bye hell.

Good-bye the idea that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron.

Hello, Jesus.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Scott

    Kinda puts “Farewell, Rob Bell” into perspective, doesn’t it?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I love this, Scott. Thank you.

    • Linda Bale

      Plese expalin above post I am missing soemthing.

  • Jen

    But there is a problem with your logic. I argued the same thing on a crosswalk article recently and all people say is that the bible is clear! I either must not be a real christian if I believe in gay rights or im not reading the bible right. Its kinda hard to argue with people like this so i just deleted all my posts and said bye.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You haven’t pointed to any problem at all with my logic. You’ve pointed to a problem some have with my logic. That’s not the same thing at all.

      • Jen

        well yeah your right thats what i mean lol sorry.

  • Jen

    And then if I try to tell these people that the bible being divenly inspired by god is different from saying its written by god they get even more mad, so thats just blasphamy in their eyes. They dont want to hear reason so I tend to just give up and agree to disagree. I only posted something on crosswalk because one of the posters said gays were immoral and bad and anyone for gay rights was munipulative. I got upset and posted. But it was futile.

  • Andrew

    Hi John,

    Found your blog a few of weeks ago, and I love it, man. I don’t always agree with every word, but hey, that would be really boring if I did, right?

    I’ve never thought of hell as a “fire-and-brimstone” prison, nor as God as the Great Being of Condemnation. I’ve read of the wrath of God, but even despite what the Old Testament seems to imply, I can’t possibly imagine that God’s wrath would ever be directly pointed at any individual.

    In my mind, heaven is absolutely nothing like the puffy cloud world of peace where we occasionally run into old friends and get to talk to Jesus as much as we want. Heaven is a world where we’ll be experiencing God’s love and glory at its fullest for the rest of eternity. Jesus’s demonstration was a mere fraction of that, the largest amount that our insignificant minds are capable of understanding and enacting. The focus of eternal life is the abundance of God, the abundance of Love, the abundance of what we are called to be.

    Also in my mind, hell is not a place of eternal suffering because of dark caves or the screams of the burning unlucky saps who didn’t find just the right mentality before time ran out. Hell is the opposite of Heaven in that it is a place void of God, and therefore, void of love. Hell is hell because the beings there were damned to an eternal existence without Love. The punishment of hell is the absence of communion with the source of all Love, not the presence of any type of torture. Strangely, there’s plenty of people who have already damned themselves to that on this Earth. Stranger even that they say God finds favor in it.

    I still believe in the existence of hell, though I sincerely doubt that a God that operates entirely on love would willingly cast anyone away from him. God can have no part of hatred or sin because they are attributes that simply are not Him. The void of hell is merely a place separated from Him, filled with the elements that have no part in God’s Kingdom. At least, that’s what I think hell is. And, like you said, it’s all speculative.

    I completely agree with your concluding words: “I start with the love of Jesus; I let everything else rest fall away. Good-bye hell. Good-bye the idea that ‘gay Christian’ is an oxymoron. Hello, Jesus.” If we act in love, we have no fear of hell, and it becomes practically a nonissue that we don’t have time to mess with anyway.

    • Brian W

      Andrew,

      Very good post and well written.

    • Mindy

      The key phrase here, Andrew, is “in my mind, heaven is….” Exactly. In YOUR mind. And in my mind, the afterlife becomes something entirely different – in each of us, we find what makes sense, that in which we can have faith. I have very strong beliefs about it, but they are private. I rarely describe it to others, because I can’t adequately explain how I arrived at my place of faith. It came from all of my experiences and those of others, from reading about many religions and religious experiences over the years, etc. It is a firm belief in an unknowable truth – and part of that firm belief is that it might, in the future, be proven wrong. And I have no problem with that, because if it is, then all that I think I understand will become knowable – which, to me, could never be a bad thing.

      You know the expression “the devil is in the details?” That seems to be what happens here. The big, single truth that Jesus seemed to want Christians to believe and understand was/is that God is Love. Love with a capital L. The details don’t matter. But so many Christians try to make them matter, make them far more important than they are – and it is those details that pit Christians against each other and pit Christians against everyone else. The details are what wars are fought over. Mohammad was primarily a teacher of love and peace – but when the focus remains on the details, mistrust takes over and wars erupt.

      • Andrew

        You’re right, Mindy. I use phrase “In my mind” specifically because that’s the result of the sum and differences of all of the experiences I’ve collected. Any of my interpretations of these experiences may be incorrect, in which case any point of my “calculations” could lead to an inevitably incorrect result. I would also look forward to being proven incorrect so that the true answer is actually available (to a degree, of course, no one hopes they are completely wrong).

        My description of the makeup of the “afterlife” merely forms the principles on which I try to justify the existence of a deity who rules over this world I don’t particularly care for, not the means that I expect someone else to behave or believe. Sometimes it helps to create a “possibility,” a motivator in order to shape my actions so that this world is more bearable for me and the people I interact with. The key is to not let the motivation overpass the actions that sometimes need motivation, lest we have a bunch of individuals who come up with their own shortcuts that have nothing to do with the original goal.

        I also agree that humans spend way too much time focusing on the details. Details can (and often do, or at least should) fade in a matter of minutes; they are so trivial in the grand scheme of everything that we can’t hope to comprehend. This is one reason why I doubt what many dub “Christianity” is the ONLY way to God. LOVE is the way to God, and God is Love. Humans (myself most certainly included) are often about the destination and so rarely about the journey. Jumping straight to “salvation” without love is definitely going to cause nothing but problems.

    • Linda Bale

      Andrew and all here,

      Lots of great thoughts, thanks :-)

      I like Rich Mullins take on heaven and hell. In some song he wrote he said “with our hells and our heavens so few inches apart we’re not as strong as we think we are.” I think we make our own paradeces or lack there of right here in our own livs. Rich died a number of years ago but that one phrase has stuck with me ever since I first heard it.

  • carl

    This is a topic that the church should be having with it’s members. Because it’s not doing that. It’s happening in sites like this one and others. I refuse to believe in a hell that’s underground and is all fire and brimstone. Hell is separation from God here on earth

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      Last week, from the pulpit, our United Church of Christ senior minister unequivocally said, “There is no place you go after you die called hell.” And John Shelby Spong’s books on the matter have been discussed in our congregation and are sold at our church bookstore.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      Two other places you can find this type of engagement is at The Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY where the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell is the Director of the Department of Religion and with The Charter for Compassion founded by Karen Armstrong. I’m certain there are many others.

    • Don Rappe

      In this blog and in other places, the Church is having this conversation with its members.

    • carl

      I totally agree. I find it sad that this is something that is not being discussed in our chuches and it should be.

    • carl

      Yes, the Church SHOULD be having these conversations but the’re NOT! They SHOULD be having a lot of conversations but remain silent! They are afraid!

  • Cary Bass

    @Jen

    Even if one were to take the bible literally, every verse that deals with same-sex issues can and should be explored; and even may be interpreted in several ways. Some simply involve reading the next section and not taking things out of context (Romans), and others involve a better understanding of Greek (Corinthians & Timothy).

    http://www.otkenyer.hu/truluck/six_bible_passages.html explains it well.

    As I don’t necessarily agree with his assessment of the definitions in Leviticus, and in that respect, the only certain condemnations against male/male sex in Leviticus. However, following Mosaic law to the letter are not something any Christian is willing to do.

    • Jen

      I made the context argument before I made the argument that the bible is inspired not written by god. They didnt want to hear any of that either. To them(usually right wing christians) just questioning the bible in general is bad. If they question the bible to them its like questioning god, however, im sure these people have questioned the bible before they just dont admit it at all.

      • Diana A.

        Yeah, I think you’re right.

        • Jen

          well i shouldnt say all right wing christians. But I have a good friend that is a christian and a conservative. She has no problem saying christians shouldnt judge, and then finds it ok to say gay people are bad. Im like are you even listening to yourself. She was part of that crowd that said obama was the anti christ and she is very fixated on the end times.

  • http://geezerthoughts.blogspot.com/ Ed Hawkins

    Mr. Shore:

    This entire discussion, while I know it’s well meant, can only lead to the status quo. It adds absolutely nothing to peace between us gay people and Bible-believers (of which I once was one). Christians, if they want to support gay people, have to be willing to move away from this insistence on the Bible’s being the literal “Word of God,” and state categorically that it is a collection of writings that ancient peoples used as history, law, philosophy, cosmology, theology, etc., etc. The statements in either testament about sex between same sex people have nothing to do with God or with the needs of 2011. These statements, none of which is clear in any case, report what the writers were thinking in those long-ago benighted times. Unless Xians can rid themselves of the need to try to accommodate these often superstitious writings in their world view, there is little that those same Xians can contribute to the life of gay men and women. The best these Xians can hope for is to make gay people feel marginal rather than condemned. This article and the comments on it are NOT gay friendly. Just the opposite. My view of Jesus is that he would not accept any of this thinking.

    • Jen

      I honestly cant see how it can be taken literally. If just by saying something is god breathed just because thats what the authors said, then why are we not all mormons, or muslims. Jut picking what religion you are has to do with what fits with you and your culture. Other faiths books say many of the same things as the bible so why should the bible be taken literal when we ourselves dont take other religious books literal?

      • Bryan

        When you conclude your original post with “Hello, Jesus” I assume that you believe that Jesus is the most important model of the Bible. I agree, Jesus’ prime message was God’s love and that message is intended for everyone, including homosexuals. But you cannot separate Jesus’ message about loving you neighbor from his other messages, such as “I am the way, the truth, and the light, no one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6. (Considering other religions) If a person does not go to heaven after this life, what happens?I would be interested also to hear your views of Jesus’ teaching of judgement.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore
          • Jen

            thank you for this john. I would consider myself a progressive christian but at heart I am a unitarian universalist believing all religions have their good and bad points but all can get you to heaven. And I tend to support any religious movement willing to question or be open to questioning their ancient texts and traditions especially if its harmful or hateful.

          • Jen

            or should i say their interpretation of their religious texts.

          • Jen

            because to me thats like some people saying statistics dont lie, well no math cant lie, but statistics can be interpreted differently depending on who is looking at it.

          • Jen

            but if you really want to get technical its called confirmation bias.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

          • Don Rappe

            Figures don’t lie, but, liars figure.

          • Diana A.

            Hi Jen:

            I don’t believe any religion can get one to heaven–only God can do that–but religion is one of the tools God uses to bring people closer to him/her. I just thought I’d share.

        • Liz Mc.

          Bryan,

          Mr. Shore has very graciously provided us with his thoughts on John 14:6 in this post:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2011/05/27/okay-imagine-jesus-as-the-door-guy-at-a-club/

          Enjoy!

    • DR

      As long as Christians get to the place where being gay and being chrstian is a truism, it doesn’t matter how they get there or what they believe about the Bible.

      • Matthew Tweedell

        But why? How could one’s beliefs about gays being Christian be more important that what it means to be Christian? The first is only meaningful because of the second. And, letting Christians have the final word on what it is to be Christian, they’re saying it has something to do with believing the Bible to be worthy of reverence. So how are we to understand this, DR? Why should you maintain that conceding that gays could be Christians is more important than conceding that Christians could be fundamentally misguided (in which case, it might be best that queers—and straights too—not get associated with it, because it’s not just gays that such errors are seriously hurting, DR)?

        • Don Whitt

          Not speaking for DR, but, whatever your beliefs, perhaps what’s most important is how your beliefs lead you to act in life.

          • Diana A.

            “Wherefore, by their fruits, ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:20.

        • DR

          Because Matthew, those who believe that being gay and being Christian are mutually exclusive do not understand there nature of being Christian.

    • Mindy

      Ed, I am confused – how is the article not gay-friendly? I agree with your description of what the bible is, and what Christians must do in terms of taking it literally. Your point is spot on. I’m not a Christian any longer, either, but I have learned a lot from Mr. Shore (and continue to do so), and I’d like to better understand why you don’t find this helpful.

    • Don Whitt

      @Ed,

      I think all of this points to magical reasoning, which may or may not be the status quo in Christianity. Personally, I think it is. Whenever we put forth we KNOW something that can’t be proven, we’re skating on thin ice – or on make-believe ice. Logic serves no purpose. It’s like arguing about whether or not Spiderman can beat-up Batman. The fact that certain fundamentalists think they’ve figured out the calculus of God should illicit chuckles. That’s all.

      So you have to use your heart and do what you feel is right. I believe that’s what John continues to ask of Christians – to look inside and think about how they REALLY feel – or at least how Christ would want them to feel – to be empathetic to groups such as homosexuals who are EXACTLY the type of group/people towards whom Jesus directed his love and acceptance. The outsiders.

      Unconditional love, let me introduce you to the unlovable. It seems like hand-in-glove to me. In that sense, I think this is an extremely Gay-friendly piece. You go, John.

      And, yes, Spiderman can whip Batman’s butt.

      • Don Whitt

        Should have written “unloved” not “unlovable”.

      • Jen

        i beg to differ good sir :P

        • Jen

          batman would beat spiderman hands down.

          • Don Whitt

            Apostate!

          • Jeannie

            No, no, you are both wrong! Wolverine rules!

      • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        I once saw a short comic that was Spiderman vs. Vash the Stampede – it was a mini-issue about American comics/animation vs. Japanese manga and anime and Vash was an interesting choice since he and his series are very Western-inspired (litereally, “Trigun” is a space-western, think “Firefly” if you are familar with live-action TV but not anime).

        The “fight,” as it were, ended in a stalemate and Spidey scratching his head. Vash is a technical pacifist who’d rather not use his gun or hurt an opponent if he can out-talk them or out-trick them!

        I have no idea where on the Internet that thing is anymore, but it was fun to read when I was really into “Trigun.”

      • Don Rappe

        The important thing is that both heroes swing from silken cords. I’m pretty sure Batman is older than Spidey’s good Uncle Ben, so they won’t be fighting each other. I think Batman may have struggled with the deeper forms of evil we children were familiar with towards the end of WW2. Spidey struggles with some more modern technical menaces and is, of course, his own boy wonder.

    • Diana A.

      Hi Ed,

      I think there are Christians who would agree with your line of thought. In fact, in the “Claiming the Promise” class I took at my church, the very first topic of discussion was 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Among other things, I learned that in the original Greek, this verse lacks the verb “is.” So translators must supply the verb “is” and decide where to put it. So the verse could read “All Scripture God-Breathed is useful….” rather than “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful….”

      So this kind of questions the viewpoint that every single verse in the Bible is intended to be read as coming straight from God’s mouth to our ears, which makes it easier to question those verses that seem to contradict the notion that God is Love.

  • http://wilkinsonweb.com Dan Wilkinson

    You said “…the most important of all laws is that we love our neighbors” and “the very law that God told us he considers first among all laws.”

    The first and greatest and commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mat 22:37-38). “Love your neighbor as yourself” is second. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s less important, since loving one’s neighbor is clearly part and parcel of loving God. That said, I think both commandments subsume issues regarding hell and homosexuality (and myriad other divisive topics).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Dan: in the interest of brevity I didn’t want to get into making that split; I was comfortable phrasing it as I did because I know how readily most people associate “Love thy neighbor” with The Great Commandment. But you raise a good point about the way I phrased what I did; I’ll adjust. Coolio.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    The math is simple, the logic is pure. There is absolutely nothing I can add in this commentary to what you have stated so beautifully.

  • Suz

    Could. not. possibly. be. better.

    There’s not much in this world more liberating than “shedding the rest,” is there? At their very core, most Biblical issues really are this simple. If it contradicts the Great Commandment, IT DID NOT COME FROM A LOVING GOD! Period. Now, how hard is that to grasp?

    • Mindy

      Bingo, Suz. Perfect.

  • bob

    John’s arguments are plausible – I happen to accept them , personally – but they are easily refuted from a more conservative Biblical view. You won’t turn conservative Christians into liberal Christians with a wave of the hand. They’ll accuse John of sophistry. Younger evangelcals don’t necessarily believe homosexuality is o.k.,, but rather see it as a matter that need not be of paramount concern in the “kingdom of God.” & that civil marriage equality is not the Earth-tilting change they were taught it was.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I’m under no illusions about what the written word cannot do; I’m also under none about what it can. It’s never even occurred to me that conservative Christians might change their minds about anything based on anything I write. I don’t write for conservative Christians. I write for Christians who are open to, or seeking, information or thoughts about matters of concern to them. I’ve no goal or interest beyond that.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

        Well John you certainly got my attention several months ago, and helped set me back on a path where I am seeking answers, rediscovering my faith, and realizing that all those questions I’ve had in my head all this time were valid ones.

        As for the love/hell quandary. I’ve long had issues with the hell issue anyway. It to me has also seemed contradictory to the concept of God’s loving all of us, and the part of John 3:17 (which never is remembered) that tells us that God did not intend to condemn the world at all. I’ve never completely bought into the whole, well if you don’t become a “believer” …meaning if you don’t line up your beliefs to this particular set of ideals,then God has no choice but to condemn you to eternal torture. Something about it just doesn’t add up.

        So John, don’t stop. Us questioners need someone encouraging us to continue to keep looking outside the dogma box.

  • Brett

    I agree nearly whole heartedly.

    Nearly because I do believe there is a Hell, or at least a place that people who don’t go to the Kingdom of Heaven will go to when the earth is no more. As far as who goes there and who doesn’t, I doubt that I have the knowledge and I know I don’t have the authority to say.

  • Linda Bale

    John, I agree with your primis, being a former christian and newly found my sexual orientation is Lesbian. But you see the way the Bible has been traditionaly interpreted is that God is love, but because man is sinfull, he is separated for God by that sin. Jesus showed God’s love by dieing on the cross to restore us to right relationship to God. Er-go being homosexual is a sin so Jesus had to restore those of us who sin, (by nature, choice, what ever) So if we do not accept his gift of sacrafice and change our ways we will not be in right relationship with God and will wind up in Hell where we have chosen to abide for eternity due to our own free will. I don’t know what I believe really, it is a paradigm I am working out, I just want to know soembody is there to welcome me home at the end of the journey. As well as wanting and needing some one to make the journey with. Thanks for the excellent thought provoking work you do.

    • Diana A.

      Hi Linda:

      In addition to Christy’s comment which ended up further up in the thread from yours, I’d like to recommend two books: The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott and The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford. Talbott’s book especially addresses the conflict between our free will and God’s desire to save all of humanity, while Hufford’s book shows how some of our automatic assumptions concerning God’s character interfere with our ability to see the truth of God’s love for us.

      • Linda Bale

        Thanks Diana, I will check them out. I never did understand how a man dying on a cross and spilling his blood for my “sin” which I don’t beive in either ever could square anything I did or did not do with my creator. I figured it was between me and him. Just have no clue what to do with Jesus.

        • Don Rappe

          Like yourself, I have a hard time knowing what to do with the blood imagery surrounding the divine figure of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am pretty sure that Rabbi Jesus Josephson of Nazareth was one of the thousands of Jews the Romans crucified in Palestine, frequently because of their strongly held religious beliefs. When afterwards, it became apparent that neither death nor Roman power had deterred his mission, his followers seem to have made a connection between him and the Passover lamb. (Read about it in the book of Exodus in the Torah.) When the Passover feast is celebrated the youngest family member at the table may ask the oldest: “What makes this day different from all other days?” In the same way we Christians may ask: “What makes this man different from other men?” So he became known as “The Lamb of God”. Why does God make the Angel of Death pass by the houses with the blood of the passover lamb spread on the door lintel? I think it has to do with more than just the blood. It is a strong symbol of the Covenant that he will be our God and we shall be his people. This, I believe is the “Power in the Blood” .

          • Diana A.

            I love your explanation, Don. Thank you for sharing it.

  • peet

    J, I have made every effort to resign from the debate club. So much ink and blood spilled over the years over interpretations. I am tired of the arguments….just tired. That said, I try to pat people on the back who are headed the same direction as me. And you just keep hitting it out of the park. Either God is Love, or you have to brush up on your Josh McDowell and try to describe ‘Love” as something that allows for eternal torture simply for not agreeing to a given set of unprovable assertions. Faith becomes bullying, the gospel becomes a thinly veiled threat. So, thanks.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You’re welcome. Thanks, Peet; that was very well said. And I’m with you on the exhaustion bit. I’ll soon quit this debate altogether. It’s just that before I do, I want to make sure I’ve at least once said everything I think needs saying.

      • DJT

        Hi, John, I hope you don’t “quit the debate” just yet. Some of us are new to this more “progressive” line of Christian thinking and are still developing our belief systems.

        Thanks,

        Debbie

        (not new to Christianity, just raised a “fundie.”

  • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy
  • Terry

    It’s really logical and does not need further explaining. How can God preach about LOVE and FORGIVENESS when in turn He wouldn’t do the same. He is the Ultimate Being after all, so how could he preach something then act like He’s a traitor in the end.

  • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

    John, this is only partially related, but I wonder if you have read Cynthia Bourgeault, in particular her “Wisdom Jesus” book.

    • Christy

      I’ve heard good things about that book. Also one by Richard Rohr on the same subject.

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Something I was thinking about today: When it comes to people who believe in an eternal Hell, I think there are two types – (as has been my experience). Type 1 are the people who *want* to believe in Hell and Type 2 are people who *don’t want* to but think that they *have* to.

    Type 1 are easy to spot – they’re the ones who may talk of “God’s love” but will switch immediately to “Neener-neener” mode when talking about unbelievers. These people look forward to seeing the wicked smited and all the people who made fun of them suffer/find out they’re wrong. (I seem to remember years ago watching John Hagee and watching him talk about the Rapture with a delight at “getting away from all the atheists, pagans, abortionists, whoremongers etc.” and looking forward to watching them suffer the Great Tribulation from Heaven).

    Type 2 are people who were like I was: They don’t want there to be a Hell (at least not an eternal one) but honestly think that the Bible teaches it in a way that cannot be gotten around and perhaps believe it as a “brutal truth.” I mean, it’s like when a kid learns that hamburgers come from cows or that sometimes, the cops don’t catch the bad guy – just brutal truth that you feel proud for not sugarcoating. These people may be obnoxious in their evangelizing (because they care, they want to save souls), or they may…. have given up and feel sad all the time for the people around them who are “going to Hell.” Maybe they’ll come up with a personal cosmology like I did wherein people “hear God more clearly” when they’re dying or get a chance just after their death, or at least have several moments in their lives where they “know,” irrefutably, what the Truth is.

    So my caution in all of this is… if you don’t believe in an eternal Hell, great – but don’t hold your nose up high about it. Some people are “into Hell” because they’re vindictive, angry and petty, but certainly not all, or even most, I think, are like that. Some people really do hold to it only because they really think they have to. It’s what they’ve always been taught or is right there in whatever English translation of the Bible they’re reading.

    The same with gay-relations…. I mean, I was a homophobe for a while because I thought I *had* to be to please God. Seriously. Yay, Southern Baptists.

    • Jeannie

      I think you nailed the two groups who believe in Hell. I was in the second group throughout my childhood and young adult years. I told myself that everybody I loved and cared about, everybody I lived around and saw on the street, everybody I worked with, was not going to Hell. I personally believed that everybody had a revelation from God as they were dying (kind of like the old Touched by an Angel” show.)

      But after awhile I couldn’t swallow that either. Then I decided that I couldn’t believe in God and Hell at the same time. Then I started a serious study on the subject, and came to the conclusion that Hell was an after market add-on to Christianity. It made people so much easier to control, don’t you know?

      • carl

        Exactly! All religious systems are about control. The Scriptures were given to the Hebrew people while they were in captivity. The needed to be controlled so they didn’t assimilate in to the foreign culture. It’s been going on ever since. Hell is another concept begun to control the people. People are free to interpret that concept however they feel they need to. If they want to believe in a Hell beneath the ground with burning flames, let them. It matters not to me. Just don’t tell me I have to believe the same thing! BTW, I’ve seen very deep hole in the ground and I didn’t see any flames!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise

      I think you’ve nailed it here. I’ve been in group two all of my life (or at least, all of my adult life) and have only recently realized that maybe there’s another option.

      I let go of the gay thing a while ago, but hell feels harder to erase. Reconditioning my brain to recognize that loving Jesus is still important without hell is difficult, but the more I think about how much my life HERE is better with him, the easier it is to accept.

      Thankful to others for paving the way for those of us in the second group to move into a place where we recognize just how deep God’s love really is.

  • Bill

    “God created man in His image and ever since man has been trying to return the favor.”

    John, my honest, heartfelt prayer, is that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes so that you may see how lost you really are.

    • Diana A.

      Hey Bill? What if you’re the one who’s lost?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      i appreciate your concern for my well-being, Bill. I can only pray that one day I’ll be as wise as you.

      • Don Rappe

        John, John, Bad Ass John!

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      “You know you’ve created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do.” ~ Anne Lamott

      • Mindy

        This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite writers, Christy.

        Sadly, Bill won’t see himself in it, though, because he doesn’t hate anyone. He just knows they are doomed to hell but he CARES for them, really he does. If only they would hate themselves as much as he hates them, they’d realize they aren’t really gay at all.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Mindy, ladies and gentlemen …

        • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

          Anne is certainly one of the greats. And your reponse, Mindy, is likely to be sadly true. Perhaps Ms. Lamott won’t mind if we adapt her wise quote for our purposes here: You know you have made God in your own image when God sends to hell all the people who believe differently than you.

          • Mindy

            I think she would be OK with that, Christy – because it is equally as true.

            And John, thanks. Just hanging out in full snarkiness this weekend. :)

            Happy Independence Day, everyone – may it one be true for us ALL.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Your snarky, Mindy, is other people’s poetry.

    • Suz

      Oh, the irony!

      I read the first sentence and thought, “Hmm. Pretty good description of conservative Christianity.”

      So, Bill, are you the kettle or the pot?

    • Mindy

      I really love that Bill is so devoted to John’s eternal well-being. I’m especially glad that he doesn’t waste his precious time caring about hurting people right here on this earth, like those awful gays, so that he can focus on other people’s eternity. What a guy.

  • Oren Mason

    Newbie, here, enjoying John Shore and loving the discourse. Even though I agree with much of the sentiment here, I’m going to open with a disagreement.

    John, you said that the Bible “insists that we arrive at our own conclusions.” Really? By its often frustrating lack of clarity, could God be insisting that we specifically NOT arrive at some conclusions?

    I personally won’t be deciding for myself “whether there’s a hell.” The Bible doesn’t appear to suggest we do that either. What’s wrong with assuming that we can’t really imagine the afterlife? Can brain tissue imagine what life without cellular organisms is like?

    And it’s certainly not mine to decide whether “gay is okay”. We don’t even know that heterosexual is okay. As a happily-married heterosexual for 30 years, I’ve done a lot of definitely not-okay things with my sexual life–prideful, envious, selfish things that belong in a hell worse than Dante’s. But by every rule of the Pharisees, I’ve done sex the right way. Is that okay? If okay means “not having to beg a just God for mercy on Judgement Day”, then my sexuality is clearly not okay.

    I feel very akin to gay people who are struggling to figure out how to love in all the finest permutations of what that means and very far from people who think that acting heterosexual washes away all their other interactional sins.

    “Not okay” in Jesus hands is the safest place I’ve found yet.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Deciding that a conclusion isn’t possible or warranted is, in itself, a conclusion.

    • Linda Bale

      Wasn’t Jesus at odds withthe Pharases’?

      • Diana A.

        Totally.

      • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

        “At odds with” might be putting it mildly. I have a feeling “Den of vipers” was likely some salty language in the first century.

  • Debbie

    I am sure…no I know! I just heard God say, “See that!!! See that John Shore!!! Well that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!!!!! That John Shore and those blessed by his heart well HELL!, they are children after their Daddies heart!!! Did you read what he wrote Son? Jesus!!! Get over here to John’s blog and read this!!! He rocks!!!”

    Ha! Well done son!

  • Jean

    Well, if you read the Marcionite Bible and the Apocripha (earliest known version of the Bible) instead of the versions that came after, there is no hell mentioned nor is anything condemning the gay issue. Kinda blows the dust away, at least for me.

    • Wes

      It’s interesting you should mention the Marcionite bible in this context. One of Marcion’s big issues was that he could not reconcile the punishing god of the Hebrew scriptures with the God that Jesus taught – a god of Love. So he had two gods in his theology (not unusual in Roman society), tossed out the Hebrew scriptures and their god, as being supplanted by the new teachings, and produced a Bible that had only Luke, Acts, and the letters of Paul (all somewhat edited, of course). So this debate goes back to the 2nd Century. Marcion and his theology of love of God was so successful that for several hundred years the majority of Christian churches all over Asia Minor were Marcionite. If Constantine had not adopted the Roman brand of theology, we could all be Marcionite today, and we’d be celebrating God’s love for all instead of arguing about it.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Outstanding. Thank you, Wes.

      • Jen

        i love a good history lesson like this. I knew the scriptures were debated a long time ago but didnt really know any details. Is there anyway you can find me a link to this information on the web?

  • Dana

    We put God in a box when we only see him as LOVE. We can’t forget about his other attributes; mercy, grace,just,wrath, etc…. Do we not think he is a big enough God to display all his attributes at one time even though our minds cannot fathom how that can be done? We only want to think about him as a loving God because that makes us feel better about ourselves & how depraved we truly are. When we allow our minds to try & comprehend him as a God of wrath we become mindful of our sin & that is uncomfortable. He is our Creator, he has the right to do with us as he wishes and that is what he does.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I don’t have a problem with things pissing off God. I have a problem with the idea that one of those things is automatically, say, anyone who dies not a Christian.

    • Diana A.

      Try reading The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott. It actually talks about this subject. You may not agree with the author’s conclusions, but it’s an interesting argument.

  • http://www.BridgingTheGapsMinistries.org Charlene E Hios

    Interesting thoughts John! I am commenting now so I can be reminded to come back here and share my thoughts on your thoughts!

  • Bryan

    I am presently 33 years of age and have had the privilege of growing up gay. I consider this a privilege because it truly has been for my pruning. While I feel no need to identify as Chrisitan I was raised one. When I was younger my heart was so devoted to “the path” of Christ. I all but renounced society as a teen, desiring only to come closer to the lord. Long before I could really grasp what Jesus had done for me I have a clear memory of being 4 years old and knowing I wanted to marry the lion tamer at the circus! This had absolutely nothing to do with his shirtless muscled body ;P. In all seriousness, as a teen even as my devotion towards God grew so did my fear, depression and sense of isolation. No matter how much service I tried to offer or how much I tried to emulate Jesus I could not escape my deepest desire. To have a husband. To be held. To share the gift of our love with a child of my own. To not live a lie. After hundreds of sleepless nights and endless tears shed crying out to the lord. WHY!? Why would you make me this way? Why, when I love you so much lord, would you create me just to perish and burn in Hell for an eternity!? Then miraculously, for perhaps the first time ever, I truly heard the lord. I know this because in almost an instant I felt absolved from all my transgressions. It became clear to me that God is LOVE. And that when the day came where I would fall in love with another man, then God was there moving through us into one another. Blessing us, creating us, uniting us. In that moment I felt my heart explode in 10,000 different directions. And I knew there was no Hell other than the one we create for ourselves and try to create for others.

    Since then I have studied every religion I come across and they have all only deepened my Love for Christ. Whether he was God manifest in flesh or not I need no definitive proof. Whether his death was literal or figurative makes no difference to me. But I do believe we must continually die small deaths everyday and perennial as the grass we are BORN AGAIN. Namaste :) Can I get an Amen!?

    • carl

      AMEN!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Amen. That was fantastic.

    • timothy

      good for you, friend. god love and bless you.

    • Diana A.

      Amen!

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      And all the people said…..

    • denver

      Amen, that was beautiful. <3

  • Phil DeHart

    John…..

    You wrote above……”That’s one of the its great miracles: in so many way, and about so many things, the Bible insists that we arrive at our own conclusions.”

    Do you find it necessary or not support your point of view or conclusion with scripture? When you say “that’s one of it’s great miracles”………..does the Bible say or “insist that?, OR do you say that? I am curious about that, because I have never heard this point of view (on it’s own merit) or supported by scripture.

    The Bereans searched and mined the Scriptures to discover the truth, and they were counted as faithful.

    humbly,

    Phil

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Saying that in many ways and about many things the Bible insists that we arrive at our own conclusions is not the same thing as saying we shouldn’t deeply endeavor to mine the Bible for those conclusions. But, like any miners, when we go digging we bring our own tools, and, more often than not, are looking for particular kinds of metals and gems — and so tend not to see, or to see and dismiss, those metals and gems for which are not looking.

      The Bible is so complex and dense that to some degree it must serve as much as a mirror as it does anything else.

      Whoops; I’ve gotta run just this moment. Thanks for asking great question. Here’s a thing I once wrote called “The Bible’s Two Big Problems”:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2009/01/13/the-two-biggest-problems-with-the-bible/

  • http://www.easywebcal.com/desmondcal Stephen

    OK. All this progressive thought is making my head hurt. Obviously my brain is not progressive enough. I understand your concept of a God of love contradicting Himself by sending non-believers (and gays) to hell. Let me then ask a question and please be gentle with your answers because this is my first time. I recently viewed a number of videos on You Tube about people experiencing/visiting hell (against their will, of course) and surviving the experience enough to tell about it. Their descriptions of hell were eerily similar (putrid, rancid smell of sulfur, intense heat and flames, screams of tormented people, difficulty in breathing, extreme lack of strength)…although there were some differences in scenarios (outside the gate, within the gates, caged, trapped in a dark room with others, threatened by large pits of fire containing people writhing in pain, overwhelming fear in isolation, huge, reptilian-like creatures/demons violently harassing victims, giant, muscular Goliath-type gate keeper, etc.). Are you saying that all of these people “created” their own hell because they “believed” in it? And those that do not “believe” in hell won’t experience it? In the Holy Scriptures many characters experienced visions or were confined in Hades (Lazarus and the rich man come to mind)…were they in fact “creating” hell as well? I feel that those who believe that there is no hell are assuming WAY too much (or too little) about the mind, wrath, justice, judgement and will of God. Ohhh my temples are throbbing…I need to lie down.

    • http://www.easywebcal.com/desmondcal Stephen

      PS: With this progressive thinking do we “create” our own Heaven as well?? Owwwwww…*

  • http://www.hometownprophetbook.com/ Jeff Fulmer

    Hey John,

    Like the blog and the post – and don’t really disagree. However, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and minds…which is not necessarily the same thing as God loving us. I think HE does love us, but that is a holy love that we don’t completely understand this side of Heaven – or possibly Hell…? Personally, I believe if there is a hell, it may not be populated by the usual suspects for the typical crimes. And I hope there’s always room for redemption.

  • Adam

    Never trust a man who writes his own bible. i.e. The author of this blog.

    • Suz

      Dude. Untrue, irrelevant, and rather pathetic. Go back under your bridge; you’re out of your league.

      (Sorry, John, for my rudeness.)

    • David Milton Greer

      physician, heal thyself by removing that mote from your eye before trying to remove the splinter from John’s (and those of us who happen to define ourselves as CHRISTIAN first and all else, like our sexual orientation, after that).

    • http://www.nathantaylor.net.au/ rabid_womble

      Adam,

      Everyone who reads the bible ‘interprets’ its meaning. To think that you understand perfectly the meaning of scripture is to presume you know perfectly the mind of Christ. A somewhat arrogant proposition.

      To be ‘Christ like’ is to engage in a journey of understanding. It is not to arrive at a destination. Good luck with that.

  • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

    To say there is “no hell” is a gross error. Now, to say that hell IS such and such or hell is NOT such and such is something altogether different..

    The word “hell” is found in the English Bible over 50 times. In the Old Testament it is translated from the Hebrew word “Sheol” which means “grave”or “ place for the dead (physically)”. In the New Testament, it comes from the Greek word “Hades” which has its roots in Greek mythology – generally “the placed of the dead (a grave)” or “the underworld place of the dead” referring to a spiritual abode of souls separated from their physical body. Another N/T word is “Gehenna” meaning “a place of burning” which was a literal location outside the south gates of Jerusalem. This is where dead animal carcasses were burned, along with garbage and even the dead bodies of the enemy, criminals, etc. The fire was burning 24/7, worms (fly larva) were abundant as were wild animals “gnashing” with their teeth. A truly dreadful place. In even more ancient times children were offered to the false god Mollech at the same location.

    Most Christians belief of what hell is falls into one of these categories:

    1.) The “literalist” that believes the soul is immortal and all the unbelievers will suffer in a literal place of flames and torment for all eternity

    2.) The “metaphorist” believes that terms like “fire” and “brimstone” that N/T writers use to describe hell are metaphors or symbolic of a spiritual state where unbelievers go and are allowed to exist as they want – free of God’s love and mercy – so such a state is so terrible that nothing can literally describe in an earthly sense how bad such a condition is, so metaphors and symbolism is used by the writers to convey what an awful state is like. They also believe the soul is immortal and unbelievers will live in this “godless” state for all eternity.

    3.)The “purgatorial” view. Basically the view held by the Catholic church, a sort of holding area where souls not quite good enough for heavenl go so other Catholics can pray them out, sort of a second chance opportunity. If they don’t make it out of purgatory, see the literalist view above.

    4.) The “annihilationist” believes that the soul is not immortal and will eventually be annihilated at the second death as recorded in the Book of Revelation. There is “punishment” but it is not eternal in its on-going, never ceasing punishing of unbelievers, it is eternal in its result – eventual annihilation of its inhabitants for all eternity.

    5.) The “universalist” believes all (except the devil, demons and those that blasphemed the Holy Ghost) will all go to heaven. The terms “fire” , “brimstone”,” lake of fire” etc., are metaphors to mean “cleansing” or “purification”. Everyone’s works will be judged and many will receive no heavenly rewards but they themselves will be saved “as though by fire”. Others will received great rewards for all their good works for God done here on earth and have special places and/or privileges in heaven

    Essentially all people who call themselves Christians hold to one of these beliefs.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Not all.

      • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

        Agreed, that’s why I used the word “essentially”, that leaves open a belief that doesn’t quite fit one of the 6 I listed. What then would be another? What would be other alternatives?

        • DR

          Do you believe you can be a Christian and also believe there is no hell?

          • Brian W

            Sure, since being a Christian is not contingent on a persons definition of what the word “hell” means. Christianity at it’s core is not what you believe but how you live

          • DR

            A direct answer! I don’t even know how to reply to that, coming from you,. ;)

          • Brian W

            I know, can you believe that?

    • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

      Hey Brian,

      1) Would you like to define “go to heaven.” Which, as you have used it here, sounds very literal to me.

      2) “Essentially all people who call themselves Christians hold to one of these beliefs.” Not so. I am one. And I know I am not alone. And there were countless people who called themselves Christians during the era of The big C and early Church who called themselves Christians and who were wiped out for believing things other than which are on this list.

      I have a particularly difficult time with the Apocalyptic escape hatch theory of the gold watch retirement plan of bejeweled crowns in heaven for a lifetime of good service. Had I been a violent person, I might have reached through the radio to gouge out the eyeballs of a radio preacher I heard once who spent 20 minutes on the emphatic importance of using the pronoun “his” to describe the Holy Spirit and in his lengthy summation reminded his listeners of those 5 golden crowns awaiting the faithful in heaven. Dude, If you’re doin’ it for the crowns, you’ve missed the WHOLE point. You strain a gnat to swallow a camel.

      If hell is separation from God. Heaven is union with God, and one need not be dead to experience either.

      I knew the next logical question to arise from John’s post is: “So, John, what about heaven?”

      • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

        Oh, punctuation, how you hate me.

      • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

        Christy,

        Regarding point…..

        #1.) The original post was one regarding hell not heaven

        #2.) Since your belief of hell doesn’t fit with one of the 6 and you identify yourself as a Christian, can you share your belief of what the biblical word “hell” means? Yes, millions were murdered by the papcy over the centuries by not believing or bowing to church dogma, very true. Doctrines on hell, however, was usually not one of them.

        One doesn’t do good works for a heavenly reward, one does it from the heart willingly, in spite of rewards, not because of rewards or in other words a willing heart lead obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

        Can you expound on this further please?

        “If hell is separation from God. Heaven is union with God, and one need not be dead to experience either.”

        • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

          1) You brought up heaven <> and I kindly asked you to qualify what you meant by “go to heaven” because I was curious.

          2) Hell: Separation from the Divine. We live it out everyday when we live ego-centric lives.

          Heaven: Being in harmony with or union with or one with the Divine. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of heaven is within you.” Most of us just haven’t figured that out yet.

          I will defer now to Marcus Borg from his pinnacle work, “The Heart of Christianity” to say it better than I and more clearly.

          “The Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms us into more compassionate beings…..

          God as lawgiver and judge is the God of “works” that Paul and Luther and the Protestant Reformation in general rejected. Instead they affirmed radical grace: God’s acceptance of us is unconditional, not dependent upon something we believe or do. But radical grace has most often been too radical for most Christians. We most often put conditionas on God’s grace: God accepts you *if*…..And whenever and “if” clause is added, grace becomes conditional and ceases to be grace.

          An important Clarification: unconditional grace is not about how we get to heaven or who goes to heaven. The notion that salvation is primarily about “going to heaven” is a distortion; and when it is seen as primary, the notion of unconditional grace leads to the notion that everybody gets to heaven, regardless of their life and faith. However, unconditional grace is not about the afterlife, but the basis for our relationship with God in this life. Is the basis for our life with God law or grace, requirements and rewards or relationship and transformation? Grace affirms the latter.

          Taking the God of justice and the God of grace seriously has immediate implications for the Christian message. It becomes: God loves us already and has from our very beginning. The Christian life is not about believing or doing what we need to believe or do so that we can be saved. Rather, it is about seeing what is already true – that God loves us already – and then beginning to live in this relationship. It is about becoming conscious of and intentional about a deepening relationship with God.

          These two ways of imagining the character of God lead to two very different versions of the Christian message….. The ‘bad news’ version is that there will be a last judgement…. and you better be ready or you’ll be in deep trouble. This is Christianity as a religion of threat, anxiety, judgement, and self-preservation.

          The “good news” version is the invitation into a new life here and now, one that transforms us personally and seeks to transform life in this world. The “bad news” version is the saving of some from the devouring fire that will consume the rest. The “good news” version is a vision of transformed people and a transformed earth filled with the glory of God.

          What’s at stake in the question of God’s character is our image of the Christian life. Is Christianity about requirements? Here’s what you must do to be saved. Or is Christianity about relationship and transformation? Here’s the path: follow it. Both involve imperatives, but one is a threat, the other an invitation.” Borg, Marcus. The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. 2003. Harper San Francisco.

          • Brian W

            Christy,

            Let me ask you what is your belief of what happens to your spirit or sole after your body dies? Do you believe in some sort of afterlife?

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            I will let others answer indirectly first.

            Rumi ”Whispers of the Beloved “: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2010/03/09/rumi-whispers-of-the-beloved/

            Rumi “One Whisper of the Beloved” :

            http://allspirit.co.uk/rumi5.html

            “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” St. Irenaeus

            ‎”The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” ~ Henry Miller

            “Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and must be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.” – Teresa of Avila

            Brian, I don’t know what happens to us when we die and I am comfortable with not knowing. I used to be certain that I knew the answer to this question, but I changed my mind; or, rather, the Divine changed my mind, having realized that my certainty had blinded me to possibility. Certainty, particularly the spiritual kind, is bright and shiny and blinding. It is the largest stumbling block I ever tripped over. For me, there seems to be far more grace and wisdom in embracing the mystery of the ineffable than there is in attempting to nail down absolute truth in the form of finite answers. Embracing the mystery and living in that space – in the thin places, the places the Celts called CAOL ÁIT – with gratitude and recognition of the Divine within and without and within others…..has brought far more peace and connection than my old paradigm ever did. In this space, as Teresa alludes, there is little concern for what comes next. To let go of what does not matter, to embrace only that which does, to have a grounded sense of gnowing when you are on your right path relieves all anxieties and worries about where that path is leading, such that there need not be anything at all at its end.

            M. Scott Peck said it this way: “Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true.”

          • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

            Christy,

            I must say you do write some elegant and insightful responses, but may I make some observations? This is not meant to be critical so please don’t take it that way. I did ask what your beliefs were about “soul existence after death” not what you “know” about it, just what do you believe about the “afterlife”. Also I do notice that you like to quote from a wide range of people, but rarely from the Bible. Your world-view seems to be more one of a “spiritual” kind, than one that acknowledges Jehovah as the one true “Divine” and Jesus as His only begotten and equally Divine Son. This is simply an observation and not one of criticism. I just want to discover what you believe because your good heart shines through in your posts. Finally I know how you live is more important than what you believe, but your beliefs guide how you live, well, in most cases anyway.

          • DR

            Brian, she’s actually telling you what she believes. She’s saying it very plainly, it’s very easily understood (to me at least). That you have a very narrow understanding of what she’s offering and that you’re suspect of it as a result of her not quoting the Bible (and all that you imply with that) is your issue. It’s not hers. It seems like you’re only able to have a conversation about Christianity when it fits within what you believe Christianity to be. Jesus is far more than red letters.

          • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

            DR,

            In all due respect, I was asking her, not you. Please don’t claim what I do and do not understand, I’ll admit I’m not as smart as you and I read and re-read her answers and I didn’t see what she actually believes about the “afterlife” only what she “didn’t know” about it, not what she actually believed about it. I don’t know with actual imperical evidence about the “after life” either but I have personal beliefs about it. I know Jesus is far more than the “letters written in red” and I regularly have conversations with other people / Christians that have different beliefs than I do about Christianity.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            Brian, you have observed well, and you are right. I will have to come back to this later on to answer you more fully.

          • DR

            Brian, I’m not smarter than you. And this is an internet forum, we all jump in and comment though I’m happy to not if you’d prefer, I think we’ve wrung this particular towel dry. For me I’m weary of asking you for the specifics of what people believe without being willing to clarify some of your own when asked to do so. It’s like you have one set of dialogue rules for yourself and then one for others. But I don’t want our conversation to dominate anything else going on so I’m letting it go.

          • DR

            That should have read: “For me I’m weary of *watching you ask” for the specifics of what people believe…

            (doesn’t matter).

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            DR, thanks for sticking up for me. I do appreciate it. This is part of my trouble with Sola scriptura in practice: those churches that feel that if it doesn’t come from the Bible it has no value, who miss that other traditions also have a great deal of wisdom to share which can enlighten our own spiritual journey, as do thoughtful people outside of religion. Truth and wisdom exist within as well as outside of scripture.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            What do I believe about the afterlife? hmmmm. I believe if you are living in the presence of the Divine now, the afterlife is irrelevant and perhaps moot. (I chose my words carefully there).

            True, I do like to quote from a wide range of people, but rarely from the Bible. Though, in fairness, I have quoted from the Bible, in fact just right here in this thread: Jesus said, “The Kingdom of heaven is within you.”( Luke 17:20-21)

            I can understand how you would see that my world-view seems to be more one of a “spiritual” kind, than one that acknowledges Jehovah as the one true “Divine” and Jesus as His only begotten and equally Divine Son. Regardless of the name we call the One in whom we live and move and breathe and have our being, the God of all there is and all there ever will be (Acts 17: 24-28) is one. And, for me, Jesus need not be literally Divine for the significance of his message and its relevance for our lives to be true.

            I’m reminded of the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant, which is nearly as old as humans themselves and likely was made available to English speakers through the poem of the same name by John Godfrey Saxe in the 1800′s but dates back as far as the 9th to 6th century BCE with Jainism. It has been repeated in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism and may have been what Jesus referenced in Matthew 15:14 in his famous “the blind leading the blind” quote and his intent in his seven woes to the Pharisees in “Woe to you, blind guides” in Matthew 23.

            Here’s the story: http://www.jainworld.com/education/stories25.asp

            One mountain, many paths. Or more accurately, perhaps, similar paths by different names.

            I believe that God, the Divine, the One in whom we live and move and breathe and have our being is ineffable and cannot be confined by words. I believe that we can experience the Divine presence here and now. I believe that beyond all imagination we are loved and that God will never stop drawing all of creation back to God’s self. And that Jesus embodied the Divine nature. If we want to know what God is like: see Jesus. What is consistent throughout all religions is the Greatest Commandment, the Golden Rule. It is the Way of Jesus (and others). Live (and put your trust in) this and little else will matter. This is how we bring about the kingdom, here and now.

            “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ Jesus said in John 10:10, and, yet, too many of us live like we are already dead.

            If this makes me a bad Christian but a good Sikh, or Jew, or Buddhist, or Hindu, or Sufi, or mystic, or Jungian – then, so be it.

          • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

            Thanks for clarifying, much to ponder indeed.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            I misspoke about the age of the story. Right centuries….. but human civilization much older.

  • Jinx McHue

    Please stop calling yourself a Christian, Mr. Shore.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Okay. But first you have to stop calling yourself “Jinx.”

      • Barbar

        Like +1

      • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com/ moonchild11

        like +2!

        Hey, I’m proud to have people like John Shore representing Christians!

        • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

          Jesus isn’t.

          • DR

            OK in all seriousness, you’re not helping. Storming in here on your white horse with your righteous “zeal of the Lord” isn’t going to work when you’re also in the presence of reasonable, well-educated Christians who have now declared your 15 minutes of Fundamentalist christian fame over with. We’re taking our church back, we’re done with you polluting the Holy name of Jesus Christ with your righteous spasms of indignation that are truly, nothing more than you projecting what was more than likely a terrible childhood with dysfunctional parents onto our Church. Got it? Keep talking so we know where to spot you but your manipulative “I represent the *real* Jesus and with my “gift of discernment I’m not going to intuit who doesn’t actually have the real Holy Spirit while I’m on the internet.” Enough. Stop embarrassing us. Stop diminishing the suffering of Jesus on the Cross and the gifts that gave to everyone in the world. Pick up a book or two and get some manners.

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            In all seriousness, I don’t care what you think of me or how much you graciously insult and belittle me. I don’t care that you’re a world-class hypocrite who accuses me of “storming in here on a white horse with righteous zeal of the Lord” while you yourself are storming in with righteous zeal of the Lord to “take back the church.” You are akin to the Pharisees with your holier-than-thou indignation and your oh-so-righteous condemnations.

            By the way, my childhood was very happy and my parents were both true models of Christ. How very Christ-like (not) of you to assume otherwise, though.

          • DR

            Well wait a minute Jinx – who gets to be a hypocrite? If you’re righteously indignant and so am I then guess what, dear – you’re the heads to my tails, we’re just two sides of the same quarter. The only difference is that I know I’m flawed and I don’t care about being “right”. I care about people meeting Jesus. Period. You are terrified b anyone who rattles your theology cage as evidenced by your boorish entrance into this forum. There are a number of people who believe as you do who’ve added substantially to this forum. So you only have yourself and your lack of anger management and poor impulse control to blame. And if this is how your “loving Christian parents” taught you to act? Then shame on them.

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            “The only difference is that I know I’m flawed”

            I’m very flawed and will be the first to admit it.

            “and I don’t care about being “right”.”

            Big. Fat. Lie. All of your screeds directed at me prove it to be so.

            “I care about people meeting Jesus.”

            No, you don’t. You care about people meeting a false caricature of Jesus that makes you and them feel comfortable about themselves. The Jesus I know and who I want people to meet — the Jesus of the Bible — does not make me or anyone else feel comfortable about ourselves. That Jesus taught his disciples to deny themselves in order for them to follow him. He doesn’t want people to be comfortable with themselves because that is a false path — a wide path — that leads to destruction.

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            Incidentally, your spitefulness, hateful rhetoric and lies about me and my parents prove beyond any doubt that you are the one in need of anger management.

          • DR

            How quickly bullies like Jinx turn into victims, do you notice that? He comes onto this blog calling the owner a fake christian and then *immediately* becomes victimized when someone counters him with his same aggression. All the while, he’s claiming to have “the real Jesus” so one would think he’d model a different kind of behavior if that were the case. It’s fascinating to watch.

            OK Jinx. You’re just silly but I’m glad you posted what you did. It’s important that people know you exist so they know I’m not making you up. Good night!

      • A’isha

        Love your response!

        Doesn’t it seem like the ones that say this crap, that someone can’t be a Christian because of X, Y, or Z, are the exactly like the Pharisees?

        • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

          So… Jesus was exactly like the Pharisees? Because he said things ALL THE TIME about people not being allowed to follow him and be his disciples because of X, Y or Z.

          • vj

            Jesus never told anyone they were not *allowed* to follow Him! He pointed out the stumbling blocks in their own lives that might make it hard for them to do so.

            Anyway, JESUS is allowed to tell people what they need to give up in order to follow HIM.

            The rest of us need to mind our own business.

      • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

        As soon as I hear that someone is no longer allowed in the club, I go and subscribe to his/her blog.

      • DR

        I laughed.

      • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

        So if I give up my internet handle, you’ll stop calling yourself a Christian? Really? Promise?

        • DR

          Ahh. There we go. Just another Christian who claim who have “the real Jesus” acting with such love, respect and dignity. For those of you who always claim these types of people like “Jinx” (embarrassing) don’t exist? Exhibit A.

          He’s the one who is driving gay kids to kill themselves, he’s the one who’s kicking his gay son or daughter out of his home. He’s driving people from an experience of Jesus Christ and we let him while remaining silent. It’s time to pick a lane, my friends. I’m so glad he’s here (thank you Jinx!).

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            You love to lie like your true spiritual father, DR. You make Satan proud.

          • DR

            LOL!

  • melissa

    John Shore, you are such a …a…..CHRISTIAN!!!! So there.

  • alwayswonderingwhy

    I think your article is great and I do think the focus should be put toward love as this is undoubtedly the greatest gift and task we’ve been given. I do, as always, have a question though. What are we to think of Jesus’ comments regarding hell? Just as a reference point, Matthew 5:29-30 could be used. Sorry in advance if you covered this in one of your other articles.

    • alwayswonderingwhy

      apparently it is of greater interest to partake in ranting and raving than answering a serious question. Oh well.

      • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

        Dear alwaywondering, I can’t speak for John. So I won’t. But he’s a busy guy juggling lots of things.

        I’d be happy to take a stab at your Matthew question, Note: I am no Bible scholar, but in what I’ve studied Jesus isn’t telling people to literally pluck out their eyes and cut off their hands. He is saying: Don’t let the little things go. Don’t let yourself get away with even considering doing the wrong thing. When wrongheaded thinking creeps in, nip that sucker in the bud the second you become aware of it because it’s so much better to stop yourself from heading down the wrong path early on than it is to go down that road and end up in a huge mess. Stop yourself from considering doing the wrong thing; this is far easier and better to do than trying to deal with the consequences once you’ve done the wrong thing.

        • alwayswonderingwhy

          Right, but why would he refer to hell if there isn’t one?

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            Why would he refer to sheep and goats when he meant people? Why would he refer to bowls when he meant lives? Why would he refer to being born again when he meant a transformational change in one’s life? Not living in the Way of Jesus, not living out grace and the Golden Rule with our neighbor as well as our enemies, not loving the Divine and others as Jesus taught us to renders our lives a living hell. When we choose the wrong path we end up in the dung heap of life (Gehenna). I never said, nor has John, that there is no hell, just not in the way we have grown accustomed to thinking of it.

          • alwayswonderingwhy

            Interesting. Thanks for your response.

      • DR

        He gets hundreds of comments on this site a day. I suspect he just missed it, perhaps you might want to assume the best? Jeez.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    “Good-bye the idea that “gay Christian” is an oxymoron.”

    Yes!

    Good-bye the idea that “blaspheming Christian” is an oxymoron!

    Good-bye the idea that “lying Christian” is an oxymoron!

    Good-bye the idea that “thieving Christian” is an oxymoron!

    Good-bye the idea that “adulterous Christian” is an oxymoron!

    Good-bye the idea that “murdering Christian” is an oxymoron!

    Good-bye the idea that “non-Christian Christian” is an oxymoron!

    Good-bye the idea that “atheist Christian” is an oxymoron!

    Good-bye the idea that “heretic Christian” is an oxymoron!

    • DR

      Jinx, it’s time to stop with the fantasy/science fiction/Star Trek obsession as evidenced on your blog and start getting into the real world where you learn some proper ways of defending your faith which include having real conversations with people. These are real people, real issues here who actually take this all very seriously. People want to have actual dialogue with others who know how to do that. You’re embarrassing and I hope to God none of your children turn out to be gay because if so they are in danger, emotionally, spiritually and physically with a father like you. I’ve seen it a thousand times.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    “How Can God Break The Great Commandment?”

    Commandments are for people, not God.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    “If the Bible were perfectly clear on where God stands on gays and hell, the question of homosexuality wouldn’t be dividing Christendom in two, and no Christians would take seriously Love Wins. But it is. And they/we are.”

    *facepalm* Yeah, and God wasn’t perfectly clear on where He stood on Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, either. I mean, why else did Adam and Eve do it?

    God also wasn’t clear on Moses speaking to the rock to make water come out of it. That’s why Moses struck the rock instead.

    “The bottom line is that each of us has to decide for ourselves whether there’s a hell, and whether gay is okay.”

    So can we decide for ourselves regarding everything else in the Bible? Can Christians who want to lie, steal, and murder decide for themselves if God really condemned those actions?

    • DR

      Dear Jinx,

      You are responsible for the suicide of hundreds of gay teenagers who kill themselves because of your message that they are an “abomination”. You’ll deny that or get angry about that, but that’s just because you don’t have the capacity or character to face it.

      Despite how dangerous you are, I’m starting to worry less and less about you. You and others like you are just hanging on to a very slim thread of power that you’ve enjoyed for a number of years but now you’re outnumbered and irrelevant. Your sick, neurotically-fueled interpretation of the Bible is now clearly toxic and dangerous and people are waking up to that reality. And we’re no longer allowing you to have the voice you once did. Your numbers have dwindled. Your voice isn’t as loud anymore as ours gets louder. I used to feel like i had to fight you. Now? You don’t really matter anymore.

      • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

        “You are responsible for the suicide of hundreds of gay teenagers who kill themselves”

        Wow. That was… rational. In Bizarro World.

        “you don’t have the capacity or character to face it. ”

        I have the intelligence and wisdom to reject it as a completely stupid and impotent argument. That God clearly condemns homosexuality as an “abomination” does not mean that I treat homosexuals hatefully. I treat them with love and kindness so I can bring the message of the Gospel to them to help them break free of their spiritual bondage to their sin.

        It’s really too bad that you don’t treat someone like me with love and kindness. All you are capable of with your blackened little Christ-less heart is hate, ridicule, and lies.

        Tell me, DR, with your righteous condemnations of those who share my beliefs, would YOU be responsible for everyone who commits suicide because of your message? Oh, no. Of course not.

        Sorry, DR, but the facts don’t fit your claims. Attendance at churches with share your beliefs is dwindling. It may have been up at one point, but the spiritual bankruptcy that fills those churches to the brim is driving people away. It is YOU and those like you who are responsible for it. YOU are driving people away from the church with your empty and false promises of “tolerance” and “inclusion.” People are spiritually starving and you feed them meaningless fluff. The damage YOU are doing to the church far, far outweighs the ridiculous fantasies you have regarding my responsibility for gays’ suicides.

        • DR

          Oh, the irony of someone obsessed with Lord of the Rings and fantasy books telling me I live in Bizarro world. So much to say there. But let’s stick to the issue.

          The rabid defensiveness of someone who actually believes that he can state – on a forum of thousands of gay readers – that he believes God believes they are an “abomination” and still claim he doesn’t treat homosexuals “hatefully” never ceases to amaze me. I know you *want* to believe that and it’s probably quite easy for you to keep telling yourself that. Maybe if you keep saying it over and over again, you’ll believe it. But here are some “facts” – gay children are the #1 at risk group of teens to kill themselves and ga children are the #1 group of runaways, many of which are kicked out of their “loving christian homes”. Even Focus on the Family has recently admitted it is a problem, so you’re kind of screwed because your own people have already said it’s an issue.

          You keep telling yourself that I am doing all of the damage but God have mercy on the damage you do in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ. Seriously. I wouldn’t wish the justice that is headed your way on my worst enemy.

          Alright. I think we’re done here. You’re dismissed. But go ahead and have the last word it’s clear you need it more than I do. Bon Appetit.

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            How pathetic that your idea of acting like Christ is to visit my blog and pick out what entertainment I happen to enjoy in order to hatefully attack me. You are a “loud-mouthed” (as much as one can be in a text environment) but impotent bully and a coward. Defensiveness? Defensiveness is you doing what I just pointed out. Defensiveness is you blaming me for gays’ suicides instead of, oh, I don’t know, blaming it on their spiritual barrenness. You know what would happen if you got your way — if you purged the Bible of all its condemnations of homosexuality and purged the world of those who view homosexuality as a sin that people need to repent of? Gays would still commit suicide! That’s because they and everyone else who commits suicide does so not because people reject them but because they reject God.

          • DR

            Is this more of that “constructive criticism” you wrote about. Right?

            http://www.christianout.com/

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            Oh, yes. More of that Christ-like behavior of finding things on my blog to try attack me with. Hey, I’ve got a link to “Project 2996.” Do you think I authored that, too? You must since the link is there. Same for the Minnesota Organization of Blogs.

            Seriously, stop while you’re not as behind as you could easily be. You’re only embarrassing and discrediting yourself and shaming Christ.

          • DR

            I’m confused. You put the links out there for everyone to read. I read them and now I’m asking you about them. You seem awfully touchy for someone who actually posted his writings on the internet. And, you know, linked everyone there.

          • DR
          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            You obviously have decided for yourself that I did, so I must have, right?

          • DR

            Huh? Your name links everyone to your blogs. Didn’t you want people to click and read what you’ve written? That wasn’t my choice it was yours to share it.

            So is telling John that he’s not a real Christian an example of “constructive criticism” that you’ve written about here or do you have another set of rules for yourself when you get countered? Please clarify. Thank you.

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            I’m through with you. You have nothing of substance to offer and have resorted to pathetic, impotent attacks in the face of being unable to intelligently, rationally, reasonably, sanely and coherently respond to my points.

          • DR

            Of course you are. And hey, I really appreciate the “constructive criticism” you’ve offered us all here tonight. You’re a real example of what that is. Thanks, Jinx. It’s been fun!

          • DR

            And there it is. Another “loving Christian”who claims to have the “real” Jesus saying that a child who commits suicide as a result of his parents telling him he is an “abomination” is doing so because he is “spiritually barren”. Lovely. You’re a delight.

            You don’t make me defensive, Jinx. You scare me, the damage you’ve done is so extensive but what scares me the most is how little you care about it and how carelessly you wander onto these forums with such hostility and then when faced with the same hostility you put out there/ you crumble and become victimized. But bullies make the best victims, this is a truism

            I’m relieved to know things are changing and in a few years, you just won’t matter anymore, you’ll be just like some old guy on the corner muttering about how this country went to hell with the blacks were able to go to school with the whites. But in the mean time you’re my mess to clean up. And you won’t change, you probably don’t have the capacity (maybe! I hope so!) but I’m glad you’re here so others know that there are a lot of us who aren’t letting you run your mouth anymore and speak for who Jesus “really” is without being countered. So I love that you’re here. Thank you for the opportunity!

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            “you’ll be just like some old guy on the corner muttering about how this country went to hell with the blacks were able to go to school with the whites”

            Wow. So now I’m racist, too. Next thing you’ll say is that I beat my wife and kids into submission when they sass back.

            You truly are a child of the Devil, DR. You prove it with every lie you utter.

          • DR

            I have no idea if you’re a racist! Have you any capacity to actually *read*? It’s a serious question. You’re so reactionary Jinx, why don’t you calm down. You came to this blog looking for a fight and you got one so take some responsibility for how you acted and what *you* initiated. In other words, man up. acknowledge that, apologize for your initial posture and then we’ll all be fine. Your beliefs about me, who my spiritual father is, have absolutely no impact on my faith, they just don’t. You might be powerful in your own little world but you aren’t in mine, Jesus has the last word on who I am before the Father. Not you. So just stop, it’s embarrassing to watch another Christian diagnosing “true faith” on the internet. Grow up a little. Goodness.

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            Honestly, homosexuality has never been more accepted in the U.S. than it is now, yet gays still commit suicide. Shouldn’t increased tolerance = fewer suicides? But it doesn’t. In fact, we see the exact opposite happening. Don’t you think that would be a clue to you? It certainly isn’t because of any hateful messages because you won’t find them beyond Fred Phelps and his band of inbred fools.

          • DR

            Keep talking, you almost sound like you’re convinced.

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            Weak.

          • DR

            Live long and prosper!

        • DR

          And I LOVE that you think you know what church I go to! The arrogance of people like you is so astounding!

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            Look in the mirror, hypocrite. You are the arrogant one claiming that I’m personally responsible for all the gay suicides. You are the arrogant one claiming that I’m personally responsible for damaging the church. You are the arrogant one making accusations about my parents and upbringing. You spit forth arrogant claim after arrogant claim, but then get all indignant when someone calls you on it.

          • DR

            I’m enjoying our conversation, it’s always so fascinating to see how reactionary guys like you get when you’re faced with your own behavior. I think the lesson for you this evening Jinx? Consider not bringing a knife to a gun fight. :)

          • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

            I brought the Sword of the Spirit, DR. You brought feeble lies and impotent attacks.

          • DR

            Sure you did. I thought you were leaving? Let’s keep going, this is fun!

        • http://bleachbrulee.tumblr.com Elizabeth

          You are willfully conflating homogenitality with homosexuality. One is an act, the other is a sexual preference that is not a constant state of lust, as many people would posit is the case.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    I’m just getting to my blog this morning.

    Is it correct that “Jinx” has yet to share this attack of me on his blog, from a year ago?

    http://www.shockandblog.com/2010/06/ten-ways-john-shore-failed-at.html


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