Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part 2)

Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part 2) July 30, 2011

This is the second part of a two part article/review of Rob Bell’s newest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, and if you haven’t read yesterday’s entry, you need to, otherwise this will seem disjointed and probably make no sense.

Definition of GoodnessCase in point:
In the realm of public opinion, there are so very few people who fall so strongly in the good camp that I can only (easily) think of one: Mother Teresa. Most people would think of her as having been so astonishingly good that it’s entirely possible that she is provided as an illustration next to the entry for goodness in a dictionary. However, at one point Mother Teresa mentioned that she was sure that there were good Muslims and Hindus in Heaven. At which juncture some people promptly decided that she was obviously in league with Satan.

As Rob Bell might put it, “Huh?
Mother Teresa.
In league with Satan.
And you know this.

It strikes me that it seems as though many Christians (especially those that call themselves Evangelical—an adjective that strikes me in much the same way that church signs like “Church of the One True God” do—what other kind is there?) like the idea of the title of this book, but they don’t like the practice of it. I think they really believe that love does win, but deep down, they seem like they don’t like it. Most of the people who vehemently disagree with this book seem to be deeply disappointed that being a Christian isn’t like belonging to a very exclusive country club, and that somehow, a sort of Wal-Mart Heaven isn’t what they had in mind. It sort of seems like, well, once everyone can afford to carry a Coach handbag, they’re not going to be cool anymore. If well, just anyone can go to Heaven, we’re going to need to find a different place.

Sorry, but that place sounds like Hell.

Rob Bell’s idea of the generosity of God’s love and the inclusivity of Heaven is one I like. Of course, I’m one of those people who found the gleeful dancing and “he’s-roasting-in-hell-now-just-like-he-deserves” attitude exhibited by some people who call themselves Christians after the death of Osama bin Ladin to be distressing and/or sad. I’m not saying that Osama bin Ladin was a good man. What I am saying is that I can’t believe that anyone who says they believe in Jesus and want to be like Him believes that the same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem is actually excited about the eternal damnation of anyone, even if that person is (was?) named Osama bin Ladin.

Please note that I am not saying that Osama bin Ladin is in Heaven. What I am saying is that I believe no one is beyond salvation. In Matthew 24:35,36, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away….But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Now if Jesus Himself doesn’t know the date of the end of the world, how can it be that the average man on the street knows the eternal destination of a specific person? So as to Osama’s status, I just don’t know.

What I believe, and what I see Bell saying is that if Osama bin Ladin is in Hell, God didn’t send him there. God doesn’t send people to Hell. People choose that for themselves. I’ve chosen it for myself from time to time, and I’ll bet you have, too. No one wants to go to hell, even for five minutes. But we do.

But if Christianity is about anything, it’s about hope. So when someone says that some specific bad person is definitively in Hell, I think they must have a finger on the pulse of a god that I don’t recognize, and not Jesus, who is definitely the God of Hope. How can anyone know what happens in the eternal moment (where a thousand years are like a day, and a day is like a thousand years) that happens between when a person is still alive and he (or she) has died? Has hope also died? Apparently so, for some people. But my vision of God is bigger than that. And so, I read, is Bell’s.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this. After all, I am a Catholic.

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