In real life, I was pretty surprised to be smacked with my pastor's disapproval of my recent political postings on facebook. First of all, since when did my political beliefs become my pastor's concern. Heck, I go to a LUTHERAN church! But then, the church itself doesn't have a great track record historically concerning politics (cough* nazis* cough*), so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But I am.
I have always been involved in politics, ever since I came of voting age. I have stumped for politicians, attended precinct platform committee meetings, read through volumes of political literature and voted in most elections available to me. I take the responsibility to vote very seriously. Being an American citizen comes with a huge responsibility. I believe we are each responsible not only to vote, but to discuss the issues openly and advocate for what we think is right.
No one is going to shame me out of fulfilling that responsibility.
My religion is only a part of my politics in that it has helped shape my personality and values. While the right is continually appealing to people politically in the name of God, I have a long standing tradition of resisting that kind of rhetoric. That kind of rhetoric is flying fast and hard on right wing radio, and in religio-political emails, letters, and sermons. Thankfully I have never heard such a sermon in my church!
Which I guess I mistook for level-headednes and a desire on my pastor's part to major on Jesus and keep the line of separation between the kingdom of God and the realm of Caesar separate. My bad.
If that's how it is going to come down from my pastor because I support gay rights, what will happen if he finds out I am coming to believe that a universalist reading of the Bible is the most true to scripture? As Talbot pointed out in this book "The Inescapable Love of God" there are three truths (all have scriptural support, depending on the presuppositions you bring to your reading of scripture) which the Bible seems to teach BUT they cannot all three be true:
#1 God is omnipotent, and what He wills He can accomplish.
#2 God will is to reconcile all things in heaven and earth to Himself through Christ.
#3 God will punish some people in hell for all eternity; they will never be reconciled to God.
The Calvinists get around this contradiction by denying proposition #2. They find scripture to support the idea that God does not really want all to be saved, and that's how they make peace between #1 and #3.
Arminians decide that #1 is the proposition to be finangled with, as in God has created a mountain even He can't move in giving man free will. They find scripture to support their belief and ignore scripture that belies their belief, or explain it away, LIKE WE ALL DO.
The universalist position is that #1 and #2 are true, and therefore #3 must be false. They do not deny the existence of hell, but they do deny that hell is eternal and that whose who experience hell will never be reconciled to God. What I personally know of the character of God, my own sense of justice, and my logical brain tell me that the universalist position provides the best fit with the revealed heart of God in Jesus Christ, the writings of the apostles, and the fact that Judaism never taught the existence of hell. That was a Greek concept. (Sheol=grave,the ground, where you are buried when you cease to be alive. Gehanna=city dump outside of Jerusalem, where worthless garbage was burned. Hades= the Greek god of the dead, a place known as the underworld where the dead who were not invited to the Elyssian fields continued their existence. My Greek mythology is very rusty, so I may be wonky on that point.)
So, if my pastor is labelling me "enemy" because I support civil unions for American citizens who can't marry in the traditional sense, I wonder what label he would give me if he knew- AFTER YEARS OF STUDYING SCRIPTURE AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY- that I was embracing the universalist reading of the Bible as the most accurate?
Once again, heading outside the camp to where Jesus is...Hebrew 13:13
My comment of the Cognitive Discopants blog:
"Thank God for the internet! I am so glad to have found others who love Jesus and the Bible and are coming to the same conclusions I am. The evangelical/fundamentalist world apparently WANTS hell to be eternal and for people who don’t join their religion, which is very discouraging to me. I have heard them say that without the threat of eternal punishment, why would people come to Jesus? Seriously? Uh, to experience the uxurious, unilateral love of God right now? To know the joy that comes from accepting that God delights in you and accepts you just as you are? To seek wisdom from the Creator of all things about how to live your life here and now in light of His eternal mercy?
What they really fear is that if people actually begin to grasp that the gospel means, as Paul wrote, “that God has reconciled the world to Himself, not counting men’s trespasses against them”, then said people will no longer need to attend their church, pay their salary, and let’s face it, allow themselves to be manipulated from the pulpit to do whatever it is that MOG wants them to do. In this organized Christianity as it currently exists does have much to lose by “giving up” the doctrine of hell.
Fear is an amazingly effective motivator. Organized Christianity is afraid that we will no longer be afraid of hell. Fear of punishment gives religion great power over people’s lives, and apparently the ones at the lead in that power structure have no plans to give up that source of control.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the apostle John wrote, (I John 4) ” 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.”