Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cast Out Of Heaven

There is a depiction of Hell in which the damned sit at a banquet table laden with wonderful food, but cannot eat it. Their hands are in fingerless gloves, wrapped around the handles of long spoons—too long to allow them to get their spoons to their own mouths. The damned, selfish and self-centered, suffer in torment.

Heaven, it turns out, is no different. The difference is only that the denizens of heaven are happily feeding each other.

My guess is that they’re not even two different places; the damned are so self-absorbed that they don’t even notice that others are getting fed. Or, if they do, the idea that someone would just feed them is so outlandish and unthinkable that they’re baffled at how those folks are managing to get food.

It’s an attractive notion—that hell is something that we do to ourselves and to each other.

Mohandas K.Gandhi—that Gandhi, the Mahatma guy—wouldn’t sit still for that. Nor would Martin Luther King, Jr. Then there’s that John Murray character, who’s remembered most often for this;

You may possess only a small light, but uncover it, let it shine, use it in order to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women. Give them not Hell, but hope and courage. Do not push them deeper into their theological despair, but preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.

Murray (and I’ll bet the others, too) wouldn’t just be feeding each other. They’d be stepping over the line and nudging full spoons to the lips of the tormented. “Here, taste it,” you can hear them saying. “Take a bite. You look famished.”

I have no doubt of it. Each of them knew full well that they could pour out hope and bring something to those mired in hunger and hopelessness. Each of them knew that it was an uphill struggle all the way. They would happily feed the damned and each other, as well, for as long as it took to save every last one of those lost souls. Sooner or later, they’ll open their mouths—maybe to complain or whine—and in they’ll pop a spoonful of something delectable.

They’d smile, laugh and take delight in the look of shock on the face of that poor soul, and keep at it. Sooner or later, they’ll get the idea.

Of course, folks like Murray and Gandhi and King would utterly screw up that Calvinist idea of Heaven and Hell. If the damned were suffering among the saved, they’d be busy saving them. Damned troublemakers. If the damned and the saved were separated—that classic Heaven above and Hell below idea—they’d be militating to be let out of Heaven, to be allowed to go and evangelized Hell, to preach hope to the damned and to demons. They’d be stirring up sit-ins and protests in Heaven, or stirring up the damned to rise up and help each other; persuading devils to use those pitchforks to pull people out of flames.

Of course, if you believe in the kind of afterlife where the good are rewarded and the evil are punished, you have to wonder what would get done with saints like these folk (and all the others like them—it’s easy to make a long list of people who would not bat an eye but would dig in to do the work of ending the suffering of other souls). They’re too good to put up with in Heaven, and too much trouble to let loose in Hell.

That god? He’d have to evict them. No Heaven for them, and certainly no Hell. They’d be shipped back to the only place left—Earth. That leads one to wonder if the Buddha wasn’t on to something.

Take up your spoons; you have nothing to lose but Heaven and Hell—and if you’ll just start feeding each other, dammit, you can make heaven on earth.

Good stuff here...

On the use--or misuse--of theology and religious language.

I'll admit, I was a sucker for this:

The almighty focus group only knows.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hypocrisy: Dope Slap!

Elliot Spitzer, having prosecuted a prostitution case and fulminated about how awful it was... gets busted for paying for sex in D.C. (a crime in the District), and for arranging for his obscenely expensive prostitute to come from New York (a federal crime, a violation of the Mann Act). For that, he gets a dope slap (he had to have been familiar with the Mann Act, it's not exactly new or obscure...) as well as a verbal flogging for the hypocrisy.

Of course, there's plenty to go around. The Republican Governors Association called for Spitzer to resign within hours.

The Governor of New York should immediately resign from office and allow the people of New York to pursue honest leadership. The American people are tired of corrupt and hypocritical politicians. The Governor of New York is just another in the long list of politicians that have failed their constituents." – Nick Ayers, RGA Executive Director
Curiously, they haven't gotten around to calling for Senator Vitter, or Senator Craig to resign. No doubt it's a backlog in their heavy duty moralizing schedule that's to blame. Not even that they're wrong. I think he ought to resign. It's just that they lack the, uh... moral stature... to call for it without it being a complete joke. Heck, they haven't even called for an investigation into Senator McCain's close and disturbingly intimate (even to his own staff) relationship with a lobbyist (of course, it's not clear to me if McCain's relationship--if accurately depicted--would violate the Mann Act or not).

It's just marvelous to me that each of these men has thrown stones from their little glass houses. Hubris, indeed.

Six 9/11s A Year--Every Year

Given that it's an election year, we get plenty of fearmongering. Ads, interviews and speeches that imply and suggest (if they don't say outright) that if some candidate is (or isn't) elected, we will suffer hell and damnationattacks on "the homeland" and that billions-and-billions millions many of us will die because "they" will come and get us. Here, at home. In our offices, living rooms, kitchens, gyms, bedrooms.

Scary. If you don't elect the right candidate, you'll get another 9/11. Or maybe, because you were so bad, and God really hates you now, more than one 9/11.

I'm sick of it. It's such specious nonsense (literally), and it's also fantastically hypocritical.

We suffer six 9/11s a year in the United States of America. This year, last year, the year before--and will next year and the year after. We -- our government -- do nothing.

Over 18,000 people will die unnecessarily this year. That many dies last year. That many will die next year. I might be one of them. You might be one of them. If not, your parent, child, friend or neighbor will be one of them. The odds are that we'll do nothing. They have come to get us for years and years and will come this year, and will come next year... and odds are we'll just go about our business--being afraid of other people most of whom would simply like us to go away so that they can try to rebuild their war savaged countries.

We're spending trillions of dollars to protect ("protect") ourselves from things that aren't likely to happen--and doing it badly, ineffectively, inefficiently and venally--and we're not willing to spend billions to protect ourselves from six 9/11s a year.

Just read it.
Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States.
... America ... is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage.

I'm a Universalist. I believe in attempting universal salvation in this life. Salvation from infectious disease, cancer, mental illness and other disorders. Not at some future date, not pie in the sky salvation -- maybe -- in the hereafter.

Today and every day.

Feed the hungry. Heal the sick. House the homeless.

If we accept six 9/11s a year, why not accept just one more and ignore it too? The idea is absurd. So why are you accepting six a year?