I have received a few responses to my letter refuting the notion of hell all of which have assumed that I am unaware of the gift and demand of the gospel. All have assumed that I am unaware of the reality that the center of existence that I choose to call God has expectations on how humans are to relate to themselves, others, the earth and to God. This could not be any further from the truth for you see I grew up on the streets mostly in Southern California. These streets were filled with misdeeds, brokenness, wounds, at times radical violence and sin all acts that I was guilty of. All acts that others around me were guilty of. To assume that my belief that God does not send anyone, murders, rapists, etc. to hell is not based upon an unawareness of there being sin in this world for I have seen sin that many have only witnessed on the drama of TV.
However, my turning my life around was not due to an instant in which I saw myself as a “sinner in the hands of angry God.” Rather it was based on seeing how dangerous my life had become for myself, for those I loved, and for the creation itself, but each one of these moments of clarification were never based on fear of what God would do to me in some after life for I had enough fear of what I could do to myself.
These moments of clarification came because of God’s warm mysterious touch… a touch of love so wonderful and one that I had never experienced before. These moments came due to the beauty of life itself and the present day hope that can come when a person falls madly in love with something other than one’s self. They came because the sacredness of life based in love of God and others which in turn comes to a healthy love of self and all of this brought me the desire, the hope, the strength to change the way I saw the world…a world desperately loved by the force of life that I have come to know and understand as God.
Yes, I try to live my life now with a sense of intellectual and spiritual integrity and authenticity, but I do this not because I am unaware of my own and others sin. I know that in order to make changes in one’s own life, one has to have the integrity to look within, but again this is done not because one will be punished in some notion of eternity, but rather because it makes the world a better place for us and for our children.
One letter referred to God as a parent who ultimately sends a child to hell or heaven. I find this idea rather inane for as a parent of five children some who have had their own sins to battle and while I know that sometimes parents allow children ultimate freedom to make choices good and bad and face the present day consequences of these choices, I can never imagine sending any of my children, no matter what the sin, to an eternal place of punishment.
Finally, I believe that this disagreement is one based on fundamental differences: the interpretation of scripture and the life of Jesus. Both of these go beyond the scope of this venue, but I will leave you with one final thought. I wonder what would happen in our communities if fear of hell was eradicated and sacrificial love of one another took its place.