I love a good pitchfork battle among Christians and I discovered a doozy over at Huffington Post. A young Evangelical Christian preacher had the nerve to suggest in his new book Love Wins that everyone has the opportunity to go to heaven, even if they have not been baptized Christian. His detractors are suggesting that he sounds like a <gasp> Universalist, and is certainly a heretic. I mean, can anyone really believe that Gandhi is anywhere but hell?
I just have to shake my head. The controversy makes Christianity look small — like a string of little country clubs using the Bible as its by-laws, using the Bible to prove why people who don’t believe in their interpretation of the by-laws can’t be a member of their club and can’t get into their afterlife golf-course-in-the-sky. They make it sound like ethics and morality were something Jesus introduced, prefigured of course in the Old Testament, except that the Jews — sorry — no heaven for you.
I do believe that good-hearted people have struggled to define the morality and ethics of their societies since the beginning of time (even before Jesus). Institutional religions (churches) give you a package deal — a beautiful one-stop-shopping solution for all your ontological/cosmological needs. Some (like Christianity) have had more emperors disposed to making it the approved belief system, with gobs of dough going toward cathedrals and temples. I’m okay with that.
But some folks (like me) don’t want the package deal. We want to figure it out by ourselves, sincerely and authentically (and rejecting terms like “cafeteria Catholics”). We don’t believe that “not being saved” means we have no incentive to be good and are wallowing in hedonistic sin.
Something about the Rob Bell controversy makes me jump to the conclusion that all organized religions are only in the marketing game. Want to go to heaven? Our church gives you the competitive advantage! No!! Our church is the ONLY advantage. If you don’t join up, if you aren’t SAVED, you will BURN in HELL, FOREEEEEEEEVER!!!!!
Do I sound annoyed?
I agree with Richard Mouw, president of the world’s largest Protestant seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif), who says, “The real hellacious fight is between generous orthodoxy and stingy orthodoxy. There are stingy people who just want to consign many others to hell and only a few to heaven and take delight in the idea. But Rob Bell allows for a lot of mystery in how Jesus reaches people.”
Come on, you anti-Bell Christians, take a deep breath and stop rolling your eyeballs and bathing in holy water long enough to have a conversation with your neighbors.