I went to the famous preacher’s website, where you can find a section proclaiming what he believes. The words written there were all very unambiguous; no confusion, it seemed, regarding what the man believed is truth. Under the category of “hell” were these words: “After living one life on earth, the unbelievers will be judged by God and sent to hell where they will be eternally tormented with the devil and the fallen angels (see Matt. 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Heb. 9:27; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:12-15; 21:8).”
Just for the record, I also believe in the judgment of God, but the part about God condemning “unbelievers to eternal torment” (another word for “torture”) makes God out to be far more sadistic than Saddam Hussein ever succeeded in being while he was in power. “Sadistic” is not the word that comes to my mind when I ponder the God revealed inÂ Jesus Christ, who described God as being like a lovesick father who welcomes back his sin-sick prodigal son with a big party, or like a good shepherd who goes out into the wilderness looking for the one lost sheep “until he finds it”, or who said upon the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Of course, the threat of eternal torture is certainly effective with a lot of people in regards to getting their fannies in church pews. It seems to bring clarity instead of that troublesome ambiguity (perchance “mystery”?) that seems to characterize so much of daily life as we experience it.
Now the famous preacher I’m speaking of is Rev. Ted Haggard, who is in the news today having resigned his position yesterday as senior pastor of a 14,000 member evangelical church, as well as his position as president of the 30 million member National Association of Evangelicals, because of allegations that Rev. Haggard had been regularly hiring a man for amphetamine enhanced sexual trysts for the past three years. Now I know we are only talking about “allegations” at this point, but news reports indicate that there is some significant credibility to these allegations, and it is hard to see Rev. Haggard resigning if there wasn’t some degree of embarrassing truth here.
The point I want to make here is that where there isn’t any room for ambiguity and mystery in life, then hypocrisy is going to run rampant. If you check out the Bible you will see that Jesus had nothing to say about same-sex marriage (which Rev. Haggard had recently begun a crusade against). You will, however, find oodles of things that Jesus had to say about hypocrisy. The thing about hypocrisy is that, generally speaking, it isn’t something that can be unambiguously identified. I mean, who can tell what kind of discrepency there really is in another person’s stated beliefs and their private thoughts and feelings? Hypocricy remains hidden from view until things come crashing down, exposing its presence in all its unseemly stench. (God, of course, sees the hypocrisy all along, and as I mentioned above, I do believe that God is our judge.)
If the God you believe in will consign you to the eternal torture chambers for not believing the right things, well,Â its going to be mighty tough to take a good look at the parts of yourself that don’t fit into the “correct” belief system.
Last night flipping through radio stations I came across the grandfatherly voice of Dr. James Dobson and his wife Shirley passionately telling radio listeners that next week’s election is about whether our nation will reject “Biblical values”, with the clear implication that a Democratic victory would mean precisely that.
Lord, have mercy on us. Amen.