At the center of conservative Evangelical theology is the centerpiece of heaven and hell.

For them, nothing is more important. In their minds, hell is God’s eternal punishment for those who don’t respond in faith and faithfulness to the death and resurrection required of Jesus to save humanity from God’s wrath. With unending, unimaginable, and unbearable torture, fire, and pain, for Evangelicals, hell is the holy solution God creates for those who don’t respond properly to His unfailing love.

With this nearly singular focus on matters of eternity, conservative Evangelicals have been quick to first ensure their place in heaven, and then meticulously define those who will be sent to hell. Additionally, as they run their fingers through the Bible, they have been sure to carve out what they believe are the God-sanctioned requirements that must be met for one to truly have “saving” faith. From Calvinism to Arminianism, there are many different stances among conservative Evangelicals in regards to what “true” salvation involves. Yet, congruent in all of it is their focus on who’s in and who’s out. 

Inconvenienced and frustrated by what they see as a filthy, sinful, God-hating world, most conservative Evangelicals can’t wait to get into their heaven. For them, it’s a place absent of all their enemies, disagreers, problems, and cares filled only with people who believe, act, and look like themselves. Therefore, in the meanwhile of their earthly sufferings, the planet is theirs for their unlimited taking, prosperity and priority are entitled to the faithful, and people are projects to be converted into their believing that they might further create an earthly existence unto themselves of the like-minded and like-believing.

This is their heaven, devoid of diversity, disagreers, doubters, and the people who believe, act, and sin differently than they. It’s a walled-off place accessible only to the spiritually elite who have ascended to a certain set of beliefs and behaviors. Rewards and privileges are granted to the most faithful, and worship is joyfully extended to the god who sends, even from among their own, the unbelievers and rebellious to burn in hell. 

Yet, I wonder what their reactions might be if they aren’t rewarded with the heaven of their dreams. What would become of the expressions on their faces if eternity with God turns out to be an experience far removed from their expectations? What if, in heaven, the tables are turned on all the things they had hoped for and, instead, much the opposite is manifested and celebrated? What if the divine One isn’t as forever angry, cruel, and opposed to all the things they are?

Oh, the unconditional love of God in heaven that will forever feel, to them, like raging wrath as they are confronted with an eternity that is carpeted with an all-inclusive diversity of every size, shape, color, creed, sex, identity, spectrum, and orientation.

Oh, the torture that will forever plague their hearts as their eyes can’t escape a heaven where Jesus is robed in reams of rainbowed cloth, the sky snows glitter, and unicorns rule the fields.

Oh, the white hot coals that will forever heap fire upon their heads as they traverse a heaven that is ruled by pure Grace and overflowing with the presence of all their enemies happily reclined in the lap of Jesus.

Oh, the blood boiling rage that will forever consume their souls in a heaven where gay marriage, Transgender people, religious pluralism, women pastors, and racial equality dance in the streets while Jesus and George Michael spin the tracks.

Oh, the frustration that will send their bodies into uncontrollable tremors in a heaven where God is revealed to be genderless, colorless, flag-less, and gunless. 

Oh, the shame that will break their knees and press them into the fetal position in a heaven where the least of these are the greatest, the first are the last, the sinners are the saints, and the condemning, bigoted Christians are exposed of their folly. 

Oh, the fits of rage that will forever melt their skin from the inside out as the halls of heaven reveal the countless, earthly evils to which they subscribed and committed in the name of Jesus.

Oh, the embarrassment that will forever haunt their conscience in a heaven where God is Love, Grace is the Gospel, all are saved, the Bible is under, and Jesus is shown to have been over all and in all, all along—every person, every creed, and every place.

Oh, the dismembering dismay that will forever disarm their every faculty in a heaven where the clouds give constant witness that those outside the church were the most genuine in faith, the doubters were the strongest believers, the religiously oppressed were the favored, the nonbelievers were the included, and the questioning and resisting were the faithful.  

Oh, the psychotic mind-attacks that will forever terrorize their thoughts in a heaven where trumpets blast with crystal clarity as God parades the socialistic liberal, the desperate immigrant, the late-night McDonald’s worker, the foreign-born convenience store owner, the elderly Walmart greeter, the brave single mother, the caring stay-at-home father, the mentally ill, the disabled, the homeless, the uninspired, the undecided, the wandering, and the wayward as equal to all others, pure reflections of the Divine, and special recipients of the gleam in God’s eyes.     

Oh, what a terrible eternity that will be.

In fact, when Evangelicals get to heaven, for them, I’m thinking it’s going to be hell.

 

“Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.”   -Robert Capon

“The flames of heaven will be hotter for some than the flames of hell could ever be”  -Dallas Willard

 

Grace is brave. Be brave.

 

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