Taylor joins Ghandi

Speaking of things I've written about before, Democratic agent provocateur Fred Phelps is hardly at the top of my list of priorities. So when I read about the latest antics of his incestuous cult (a protest at Elizabeth Taylor's funeral), my reaction was sort of ho-hum. The Supreme Court has said they can do it, and because they are publicity-seekers who want to do as much damage to the image of Christianity as possible, they see the death of a beloved celebrity as the perfect occasion to encourage hatred of what is spun as "Christianity." A lot of people loved Elizabeth Taylor, and plenty of them can be depended upon to leave her funeral with lifelong memories of "Christians" as bigoted, funeral-disrupting scum. It wouldn't surprise me of the Phelps outfit has converted more young people to atheism (or at least angry secular agnosticism) than any of the leading atheist organizations.   And many of them will see this as bestowing a sort of secular martyr status on Elizabeth Taylor.

I wouldn't have bothered with a post had I not read a news item earlier about the insistence by certain pastors (apparently more legitimate than Phelps) that Ghandi is in Hell. At least, that's what is being widely reported:

The debate over Bell's new book "Love Wins" has quickly spread across the evangelical precincts of the Internet, in part because of an eye-catching promotional video posted on YouTube.

Bell, the pastor of the 10,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., lays out the premise of his book while the video cuts away to an artist's hand mixing oil paints and pastels and applying them to a blank canvas.

He describes going to a Christian art show where one of the pieces featured a quote by Mohandas Gandhi. Someone attached a note saying: "Reality check: He's in hell."

"Gandhi's in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?" Bell asks in the video.

In the book, Bell criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in hell.

Whether there is a Hell and whether Ghandi is in it are two different questions. What I think may be going on is that as the numbers of people who believe in a literal Hell shrink, the hard core believers are the ones who remain, and the harder core they are, the more likely they are to believe that all non-Christians (including Ghandi) are in fact in Hell.

The fewer people who believe in Hell, the worse Hell gets.

Not that this should matter to atheists or even to those who believe in a compassionate deity, but it is hard to convert people to a system which condemns billions of people for the crime of having been unfortunate enough to have been born into the "wrong" religious background. Years ago I had dinner with a guy who tried to convert me to his religion -- a sort of hard core Calvinism which believed in predestination, that some people are elected and some are not, and when I expressed skepticism that a merciful god would be sending billions of Hindus and Buddhists to hell even if they had lived good lives, his eyes narrowed momentarily, and for just an instant he looked both angry and disappointed in me. But then his demeanor changed, and he grew cold but polite, and changed the subject, never bringing religion up again. Without intending to, I had somehow demonstrated to him that I was a lost cause. Which I guess I am if it comes to a religion that insists on sending good people to Hell. I'd rather join my friends in Hell than live under sych a tyrannical and authoritarian regime. The problem is, I really don't think God works that way. Those who insist that he does will doubtless insist that those who disagree with them belong in Hell.

It is of course another hopeless argument about the nature of  the unknown.

And while these debates grow sour and more tedious, Phelps and his gang are doing their best to bring about Hell on earth.

What if God hates Phelps?

MORE: As I was reminded below, God does NOT hate this Phelps!

posted by Eric on 03.24.11 at 09:48 AM


The issue is, of course, that according to orthodox (small-o) Christianity, NO ONE is a "good person," and EVERYONE is headed to hell. Not because God is cruel or merciless, but because humanity's sin has separated it (and all of us) from God. And that's what hell is--eternal separation from God (not some weird subterranean fire-realm where devils in red union suits gleefully poke the damned with pitchforks).

The idea behind Christianity is that God is a loving, compassionate, and merciful god who will not simply stand by and watch his beloved children be separated from him forever--he will do whatever it takes to save us! And "whatever it takes" in this case means coming to earth as a real-live human being to destroy death by dying himself and restoring all humanity to life by rising again.

(Sorry if this sounds like proselytization, but in addition to being a gay man, I'm also an orthodox Lutheran, and I always want to make sure that the tenets of my religion are put forth clearly. This can be difficult, because there are those who share my religion that stil, in my estimation, gravely misunderstand the whole thing.)

John S.   ·  March 24, 2011 10:56 AM

Amen to that brother John...

I don't feel I'm in a position to judge what God does with good people who do not worship Jesus. But as usual Scripture can point us in a certain direction.

These two passages seem to insist that God/Jesus will judge the dead based on what they have done in life.

Revelations 20:12 - And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

Rev 22:12 "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.

Keith_Indy   ·  March 24, 2011 2:40 PM

Oh, and I will be the first to admit, I'm not a Biblical scholar, and you can certainly find passages which point in a different direction.

Keith_Indy   ·  March 24, 2011 3:00 PM

No relation.

Phelps   ·  March 24, 2011 5:32 PM

If He is the "jealous God" they believe they should be vary wary of usurping his authority and judgment. I have never met a person I could not grow to like if I tried. I have met many with passions and beliefs that I believe are self indulgent and destructive both for themselves and others. I hope I will always have the right to avoid social and personal contact with them if I so choose.

Will   ·  March 24, 2011 9:12 PM

"The servant who knows the master's will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."

While it's dangerous to trust in anything other than "the Lamb" for your future, it's also dangerous to presume to stand in judgement of what anyone's destiny might be...

funnymarx   ·  March 25, 2011 12:12 AM

IF there is an "omnibenevolent " god, I suspect that even he/she would have a bit of a problem with the Wrong Reverend Phelps.

Kathy Kinsley   ·  March 25, 2011 7:24 PM

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