I am not a Christian, despite my name. I like the message Jesus gave, but then it is a very similar message Buddha, Mohammad, Krishna, and other peaceable sorts have been giving for, well, forever. I am also not anti- Christian, as many people in my family are quite devout and although most just try to live their lives the best they can, and take comfort in their church and community.
One of the reasons I am not a Christian is the concept of hell as preached and written by most churches. I found it horrifyingly un-just, and the result of a fevered imagination from an evil entity. That a loving God would condemn people to an eternity of punishment and torture for finding the argument provided by preachers unconvincing, or being born in the wrong place, just a monstrous proposition. I remember asking one of the mega-church leaders in my community about this, I asked, if I convert to Christianity, become a Christian, and I go to heaven, but my friends, family and loved ones don’t, and they go to hell, how is heaven, heaven if I know my friends and loved ones are suffering? The answer: God will make you forget them. I was appalled. I turned my back on the church at that time, and so far I haven’t found a new one that has made me feel comfortable.
According to the theology I am most familiar with, Gandhi is in hell, because he wasn’t a Christian, but the spewers of hate and vile misogyny and homophobia are in heaven. I would choose to spend eternity with Gandhi.
I read Fred Clark at Slacktivist and I find his theology quite compelling. That is where I heard about Rob Bell’s “Love Wins.” It is a very easy read. The words are simple, the paragraphs small, and even though I am not a speed reader, I found it quite a quick read. That isn’t to say that I found the thesis simple or uncompelling
Rob Bell believes God loves everyone. The saints and the sinners alike. He makes a case similar to C.S. Lewis, that hell is the absence of God. That the earth can be heaven or hell depending on how we treat each other and how close we follow the words of Jesus. His Christianity is very inclusive, and he makes a case that since God is love, we humans will always have a way to heaven. An all roads lead to Rome view of spirituality that I agree with.
Rob Bell’s God is not Jonathan Edward’s Angry God, quick to condemn, and quick to pass judgement. I read somewhere that the final battle between good and evil will be won, not by force of arms but by the forgiveness of Satan and his being embraced by God. I don’t remember where I read it or I would attribute it, but I like it a lot better than the usual sermons on the end of times.
Although Bell makes sure to be clear that rebellion and rejection of God’s love has consequences, the end result is that God wants us to be with him, but he does give us freedom and infinite chances to embrace his redemption. He would have Gandhi in Heaven, and the vile spewers of hate no matter how they identify themselves, given another opportunity to find love.
Although I don’t necessarily believe everything Bell has written, I find his theology of redemption, love and forgiveness quite comforting.