If you really believe in heaven and hell and you aren’t super pushy and preachy, I guess that makes you an even bigger dick
— Ted Pillow (@TedPillow) September 30, 2013
This tweet is brilliant.
If the motivation for the modern Christian revolved around his or her sense of how society ought to be run, his or her judgmental fascination into what other people are doing might be slightly more forgiving. Trust me, it would still be irritating. But like all moral philosophers, my behavior is their business. I accept that. That the basis for their ideas comes from Jesus Christ or Moses or whomever is less important. It is all a sort of confused, weirdly enjoyable mental exercise. Some people like to argue in bars about politics. Some people like to argue who was the best baseball player of the 1890s. Some people like to argue about “the moral decay of our society”. All are not my kind of fun but. . .it doesn’t have to be. If that’s all their chatter is, it’d be okay.
But if the modern Christian embraces a literal heaven and a literal hell, their babblings become much more indefensible. Not on my standards. But by their own.
Every Facebook post outlining why God hates gay marriage and every school board meeting protesting the advent of the Holiday Tree is one meeting they ought to have told us about the actual fire and actual nashing of teeth. Who we choose to love isn’t nearly as important as the afterlife Christians are I’m convinced heading toward. And yet they’re more inclined to discuss everything but.
I get that Christians don’t want to be pushy. I feel that way about Coldplay. I like Coldplay’s music more than anything. But I don’t push my Coldplay beliefs on anyone. What I love doesn’t need to be what you love. That Christians prefer to keep their relationship with their religion like I do with Coldplay is, on some level, commendable. Even encouraged. Except the Christian, by the very nature of their identity, can’t do that. I don’t believe that people who don’t download Coldplay’s music onto their iPods will spend life listening to Call Me Maybe for the rest of their conscious existence. Whether or not you ever learn to love Coldplay is, at most, a mild blimp on what still can be a wonderful life. Not embracing Christianity leads to perpetual torment. Our approaches are the same. But the stakes are ridiculously not.
Then it becomes obvious. Christians don’t actually believe in hell. As a concept, we all sort of do. Bad people who escape earth find their just punishment after death. Or something. But an actual hell that I will consciously will endure forever? One doesn’t actually believe that.
If one did, they’d be forced to abandon every argument against every moral stance they’ve made their case for in the last three hundreds years in America. Because those arguments are categorically irrelevant. I grew up with Christians who obsessed over the tempo of their music and the letter after their elected officials names. Which, again, isn’t per se a problem. I obsess over silly things, like the tempo of Coldplay’s music. People are strange. Me too.
But Christians want to talk about Christianity like it is Coldplay. Christians pride themselves on being bold. But if they aren’t bold about the eternal fate of all of their neighbors and their friends, their classmates and their families, it probably is because hell isn’t something worth being bold about. Because they don’t think it exists.
Hell, then, is the great 5th rail of Christianity its patrons can’t talk about. The appeal of being a modern American Christian: having friends to play softball with or a chance to rock out in a praise band, don’t really work when you do. With every softball game is a chance you didn’t take to tell me about the inevitable doom you feel compelled by your Lord and Savior to tell me about. That’s kinda f!cked up.
In a way, their silence would bother me. But honestly, it’s cool. I don’t believe in hell either. I just wish though we could all say that. That we could say how all of the rhetoric is just rhetoric. I do like softball though. That you still haven’t asked me to be your centerfielder? I can’t forgive that.