One of the most telling aspects of any faith is its vision of heaven. Gaze into the crystal ball of any religion for a picture of their afterlife, and there you will find a clear culmination and ultimate fruition of its true desires, values, and beliefs.
In fact, for Christianity, the concept of the “Kingdom of God” is in essence, a sample-sized, earthly manifestation of a believed future, five-course, eternal reality—a kind of foretaste now of a feast to come later. What any version of Christianity is presently dishing out upon the world’s table in thought, word, and deed is in fact a profound foreshadowing of what truly resides in the heart of their faith and what they hope will extend in greater proportion and size for all eternity. Despite any creed’s best intentions, one is always becoming tomorrow, in reality or vision, what you are doing and believing today.
What will heaven be like?
Well, if you took the current picture of conservative, Evangelical Christianity and multiplied it by forever in a heaven far, far away—for many, this is their preferred vision of eternity.
It’s a vision of American, Evangelical, conservative Christianity manifested upon the cosmos without limits and double-fried in an inch thick batter of endlessness. For them, heaven is their brand of faith and faithfulness being awarded the eternal green light from God to the exclusion of all others and super-sized beyond limits of scope and time. Heaven is everything that conservative, Evangelical Christianity is today injected with steroids, spun into eternity like a breakdancer on crack, and given full reign over all things, forever.
What does this Evangelical, conservative Christianity kind-of-heaven look like? Well, what does Evangelical, conservative Christianity look like now?
From what I see, heaven is an exclusive club of the do-gooders and the conservative-enough believers in which you are so-saved and so-loved, all up until the tragic point you blink with a question or step outside inerrant lines. It’s an eternal existence of warmth when you fit, and cold shoulders and surface pleasantries when, for some reason, you don’t.
It’s an eternal contemporary, Christian rock themed couple’s cruise where the whole boat is jacked up with people trying to prove how in love they are with each other and Jesus all while slamming Shirley Temple’s as they blissfully walk hand-in-hand with pride past the slot machines that have been unplugged for their spiritually-sensitive accommodation.
It’s a forever worship service to see whose hands are raised the highest and looks to be pressing deepest into the presence of the Lord “Jeezus,” all while the worship leader is seemingly breaking the all time record for withstanding the squeeze of his skinny jeans before passing out on stage—not to mention the pastor whose hands are sweating in hopes the gold dust machine secretly mounted into the ceiling above doesn’t short out this time.
Heaven is a place where your unrepentant, wrong-believing, non-KJV, doubt-harboring, sin-dripping wayward loved ones and fellow human beings endure eternal, flesh-melting torture in a place called “hell” while you sip Mimosas undisturbed on the shores of righteous bliss somehow totally at peace and satisfaction with a god who remains completely holy and just in the process.
It’s the place where Jesus shrugs his shoulders in his “welcome to heaven” orientation speech looking out to those polished few who “made it” declaring with a sheepish grin on his face, “Well folks, I did the best I could—glad at least you’re here.”
It’s the fruition of a long-desired escape from the pesky, inconvenient people with whom you disagree and those who dare to question, offend, and even stand against a cut and pasted, conservative theology and a pretentious, anti-Jesus way of living.
It’s a gathering of predominantly white, starch-pressed people with a few minorities thrown in who have proven their conservative value and Evangelical legitimacy.
It’s a place where an Ark believed to have carried a few of those specially selected to survive a frustrated god is made into a profiteering amusement park to honor a psychotically personified deity instead of a memorial to remember a humanity that died, and a people who projected their spiritual ignorance onto God with a false, diabolical, bible-making storyline that is so far from His heart, nature, and ways.
Heaven is a forever-long small group meeting where the highlight of the gathering culminates when one’s spiritual jollies finally climax as you exercise your ultimate, conservative Christian role as spiritual policeman and accountability partner while circling the room with the questions, “what are you working on spiritually?” and “how can we pray for you?”
Heaven is a place where your kids can finally and forever avoid those dirty, worldly sports groups that don’t have a Evangelical-flavored devotion and prayer session before every practice, play, water break, and game.
Heaven is that place where my LGBT friends and family will be burning in hell, not because Jesus said so, but because conservatism did.
This, and sadly so much more, is the heaven of conservative Christianity, the spiritual wet dream of Evangelicals, the 72 virgins of Islam shrink-wrapped and spiritualized for Christianity.
To be sure, this is not the vision of heaven intrinsic to the hearts and minds of all Evangelicals, but sadly, no amount of conservative love, exceptions, do-gooding, and redemptive moments can out-sound and out-glare the screeching overall declaration and vision of the conservative, Christian heaven that is exclusive, performance-driven, racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, elitist, brutal, graceless, inhumane, and filled wall-to-wall with conditional-ladened love.
That’s why I’m a human, a Christian, and a pastor who would rather burn in hell with the broken than float around in clouds with the spiritually fascist.
Perhaps, the scandalous scandal of the Gospel of Jesus is that in the end, to the surprise of all, the tables are turned, and Jesus is found once again, determined to live with and love the very people the religious hope to live and love without.
Perhaps hell is disguised as heaven to the religious, and heaven is disguised as hell to the broken—all to make sure the right people get to the right place.
For the same Jesus that traded heaven once already to be with the religiously outcast will be the same One to do it again—and this time, forever.
So stop trying to assimilate me into your spiritual Borg of a hell you’re pimping as heaven, I’ve made my choice—your mission that has made me a project of your self-righteous quest to desperately valid your empty faith by making it mine, is futile.
Your hell is where my Jesus will be.
I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and your heaven is not.
That’s why, forget it conservative Christianity, I’ve heard and seen enough—I’m choosing, hell.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there.” -Psalm 139
As I began reading your post, I understood what you were saying, as I think many years ago I had that vision of Heaven. However, I think my vision has changed through the years. But I loved when I got to the paragraph where you say:
“Perhaps, the scandalous scandal of the Gospel of Jesus is that in the end, to the surprise of all, the tables are turned, and Jesus is found once again, determined to live with and love the very people the religious hope to live and love without.
Perhaps hell is disguised as heaven to the religious, and heaven is disguised as hell to the broken—all to make sure the right people get to the right place.
For the same Jesus that traded heaven once already to be with the religiously outcast will be the same One to do it again—and this time, forever.”
It made me sad at first because it made me think that perhaps I DO still have some of my old beliefs inside me. But these paragraphs brought me to remember that Jesus associated with sinners (which we all are), so why wouldn’t He save us all again–this time forever?
Thank you for enlightening me again to something that makes perfect sense! Jesus DOES love us all and He DID die for ALL of us! If we believe this (which Christians do-or should), then we should also believe it for our future when we leave this earth.
Gina, thanks so much for taking the time to read this article and for sharing your thoughtful comments! On the cross, Jesus was “in it to win it,” and He did just that for all! Praise Jesus!
I realize that you’ve grown very fond of your own over-inflated metaphors, but this post is essentially self-pitying, adolescent nonsense. You should be better than this at this stage of your life. Also, I’d be very careful what you wish for.
Thanks James for reading my article, glad you enjoyed it!
Chris, I love your reply to James. It’s as good as the article and brought another chuckle. Well said. Your articles are refreshing, and they both teach and entertain. I like that. And I do so agree with Gina too.
I find it far from enjoyable to witness someone unraveling spiritually (and no, that’s not an affirmation of your “journey”, although I know you will pretend to take it that way.) I wish you the best, honestly, but “choosing hell”, however facetiously, is a dangerous game.
James, I truly appreciate your concern for my eternal future and what you perceive to be the unraveling of my faith. I’m not sure how you can come to that conclusion since you don’t even know me nor the spiritual journey I have taken. Nonetheless, the love God has for me has chased out all fear from the shadows of my life. His Grace is sufficient, and upon that I live, breathe, stand, and journey in the faith in complete security. When He said, “it is finished” I believe He truly meant it. One and done on the cross, for all and in all. Nothing can separate Him from me, and certainly not a blog post or even a journey down heretical lane should that day come. Thanks again for your spiritual concern for my life and faith.
The scandalous Good News is that God was in Christ reconciling the Cosmos (doesn’t that mean all of Creation?) to himself. Noone is excluded. We have the freedom within the love of God to stupidly reject what we already have. THAT is hell! Right on again, Chris!
Do evangelicals like the KJV? I thought they more preferred the NIV or NLT cause of it’s more modern text (proof that the Bible works for a modern world despite being written thousands of years ago). I thought more mainline Protestants (Lutheran, Methodism, etc) were held more inclined to use KJV.
And to be fair, I give kudos to anyone who uses KJV as their personal Bible…it’s hard to decipher.
Regardless…on point as always!
NIV is the worst version… it is the bastardized child of all the bibles.
I think I am an evangelical Christian (does that mean someone who speaks the gospel to others? If it does, than I am)
I also am white, straight, and I guess on the outside, I’m as “conservative” as they come.
I am not self righteous. I know my faults all too well. My goal is to love without measure, NEVER be judgmental, and eat and spend time with the “broken”….because truth is, we are all broken.
So, I don’t take offense to this article, but am hoping this is not how I appear to others….I only want to share the good news that saved me.
it’s a long process of (un)doctrenating yourself & coming to your own conclusioins…. This article has stated my end thought, either way (heaven or hell), you are a slave….
Rosie, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. In some aspects, you are correct in my opinion, being “evangelical” is simply to proclaim the Gospel. However, there is great debate as to what the true Gospel is. Paul ran into this with the Galatians as many turned to a performance-driven Gospel apart from Grace and mixing Grace with self. If you read many of my other articles you will see that I believe that the Gospel is Grace alone — Grace is the Gospel. If it’s not all Grace then it’s not all Gospel. If one turns to anything, even their own faith and faithfulness, for anything from God, then indeed, in my estimation, there is self-righteousness present. This is what Paul was referring to with the term, “the flesh.” The flesh is anytime we turn to any aspect of ourselves for our sense of righteousness, holiness, wholeness, sanctification, justification, forgiveness etc. Unfortunately, what many describe as “the good news that saved them” is no good news at all and the very same thing Paul denounced and said of those who proclaimed it, “let them be accursed.” I humbly suggest to you my article “Is Evangelical Christianity The Wizard Behind The Moral And Spiritual Decline Of America?” and others that deal with issues of Grace and modern Christianity. I can hear the tenderness of your heart and authenticity of your faith within your words and I so appreciate you taking the time to share your feelings!
I throughly enjoyed your article…but I don’t believe that acceptance of Conservative Christianity leads to Hell as much as it doesn’t guarantee the golden ticket to “Heaven”…I know to many CC’s that lead and follow a good life in accordance with the Good Book regardless of the version….I have also noted a good many “Liberal Christians” (LC’s) that fall for the very pitfalls you ascribe to those poor CC’s…it’s darned old sin everyone is is in danger of succumbing to – the “Human Condition”…the flesh is weak as is the poorly trained soul…I know because I have tripped once to many times…though I have sharpened my defenses with age and experience…I am still susceptible, ergo more wary…as I believe the vast majority of people are…people change…they learn and adapt daily…yesterday’s conservative may be tomorrow’s liberal…or heaven forbid…a liberal-conservative or vice-versa…what is essential is to hopefully recognize and learn from our errors and find acceptance..to achieve balance…to continue to learn our lessons…until the moment we pass…
thanks Robert for reading my article and for your astute comments!
Being a Christian is following Christ, which also means His Holy Word. Being true to the word, not adding to ot or taking away, some translations are very lacking! No need for a label. Jesus did spend his time with sinners, however He did NOT condone sin of any kind, including sexual sins! We are supposed to encourage each other in the Word, keeping the faith, and helping each other to be accountable as believers. There is only one way to Heaven and we must not lose our focus on Jesus Christ. Hell is no joking matter. It will not be a gathering of any celebration, but an eternity of lonely suffering and agony. Jesus is the answer no matter the question.
Have you ever had a sozo?
It’s inner healing prayer for those who have been wounded by the church.
The lens you write in is a lens of someone who feels rejected by the church.
I’ve had a lot of inner healing in this area and it set me free.
Ashley, thanks for your comment. I am familiar with Bill Johnson and Bethel’s “Sozo” ministry. I do not speak out of place of wounded-ness, but a place of deep concern for the Gospel and those hurt and harmed by conservative Christianity.
Hyperbole and exaggerations , Straw man logical fallacies and the nastiness only Bill Mahr can best. How self-righteous to mock others and claim you are not one of them. Proving once a gain that Liberal Christians like the idea of Jesus, but will never show His love to other Christians that believe differently than they do.
No worries about your eternal future, you’ve created quite a hateful one in the present.
One of the best straw man arguments I’ve ever seen. What joy you have in knocking it down. Great sport, no?