Here’s my latest over at The Catholic Weekly:
So recently retired Episcopalian cleric John Shelby Spong was in the news offering the absolutely predictable opinion that Hell was “invented by the Church to control people with fear“. This is, after all, the guy who says that Paul was a repressed homosexual, that Mary was a victim of rape, and that the Resurrection is a myth. Why the man ever bothered being a bishop I will never know, though I suppose the fact that books titled A Parking Lot Attendant Rethinks the Birth of Jesus are unlikely to sell well has something to do with it.
At any rate, I happened on a Facebook group of folks on the Left nodding together about the obvious truth of this claim with more precision than synchronized swimmers. They are, in the main, nice people mostly brought together by their shared horror of Donald Trump—a worthy sentiment. But being on the Left, they were largely unacquainted with folks outside their social circle who actually take the whole Catholic thing seriously. So as the weirdo outsider, I thought it might be good to try to set things a bit straighter. Therefore, after sundry “Duhs!” and “Obviouslys!” I commented:
Cancer was created by doctors to keep people from enjoying smoking.
It’s all about controlling people.
Gravity was invented by killjoy scientists to keep people who believe in human flight from leaping off buildings to their freedom.
More social control lies.
Addiction is a lie invented by public health professionals to keep people from the pleasures of heroin.
More manipulation and control.
Or then again, it could be that Jesus was warning people about the nature of the universe and the potential for misused human freedom to lead to radical and permanent slavery to sin and destruction of the human soul.
Just a thought.
A whole FB social group that has spent months and months marveling at the human capacity for perverse, self-destructive evil among Trump supporters should really consider tuning out the silly legends of John Shelby Spong and consider looking outside the epistemic closure bubble of the Left and back to the witness of the New Testament. Said witness is not that the Church created hell to “control people” (for the very good reason that it was too weak to control anybody), but that Jesus himself warned of hell because hell—the willful rejection of the good by the misuse of our capacity for choice—is really possible and really can lead to eternal misery.
Why do you guys waste your time warning of the consequences of Trump support if you don’t think our choices can have real (and catastrophic) consequences? You believe the same thing Jesus was warning of.
This was a perspective they had not anticipated and one guy was intrigued. He replied:
I don’t think I follow you here. It’s completely possible to warn against Trump and not be Christian. Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you good, and being an atheist doesn’t make you evil. Maybe I’m missing your point or something.