Heaven: Would the Religious Right Even Want to Go There?

Heaven: Would the Religious Right Even Want to Go There?

One of the most beautiful concepts I learned as a child growing up in church was about this place called Heaven. I learned I could go there someday and live there for eternity. I was given very specific ideals and images of this paradise, and it resonated with me, deep in my heart. This place we learn of is a place that lives at the depths of our soul. I believe it is what we all long for if we dig through our humanity far enough to reach the core.

I was taught that in heaven, there would be no more pain or suffering. It is a place where the blind could now see, the deaf can now hear, the handicapped are now able bodied. There is no disease there, no hunger, no tears. Everyone lives in beautiful palaces on streets made of gold. Walls do not exist in this world. Flags do not fly. I was given visions of the Garden of Eden restored where the ecosystem works perfectly, nature is thriving, and pollution does not exist. Racism, hatred, and bigotry of any kind has no home here, neither does violence, war, guns, or bombs. Only love for all and peace for all. All creatures now in perfect harmony with the love of Christ. This is the kingdom of God.

To the realist, heaven sounds like far fetched utopian sci-fi. For the idealist, like me and maybe you, we can envision it. Perhaps we know how to better access this place here, now, because the dream lives within. Jesus tells us in Luke 17:21 KJV that “The Kindom of Heaven is within you.” He also tells us the Good News , “that the Kingdom of  Heaven is at hand”. It IS near. It IS alive, and it IS thriving. We are given very small pieces of it right now to keep us progressing forward, however, if you look hard enough, it is within our grasp. The entire point of Christ was to believe in the kingdom and bring this place about, on earth.

Currently, the religious right is creating a world that is the complete opposite of the heaven they yearn for. They don’t want to bring healing to the sick and dying. They don’t want policies that help the poor. They fight against policies that protect the earth from destruction. They don’t want to reduce gun violence. It seems they love war and love legislation that strengthens our military weaponry, even though the United States is already by far the nuclear superpower in the world. It seems they want LGBTQ persons to suffer with depression, loneliness, and thoughts of suicide.

I don’t see the love of Christ coming from the religious right at all. It brings me great pain to speak this, and I take no joy from pointing it out. I simply see the opposite. The things they value are bringing hell to others.

I wonder if they would even like the heaven they believe in? There will be LGBTQ persons in their heaven. There will be Muslim children in their heaven, as they haven’t reached that elusive “age of accountability.” There will be women who have had abortions there. Liberals too. There will be people of all races, all languages, all religions (counting only the children, of course), all sexual orientations, all nationalities, and all creeds. I don’t think they would fit in to that heaven, as they don’t even know how to co-exist now.

Something is amiss. What is happening in their hearts to want to create a world completely opposite from the paradise they sing about? I have family members waiting for the rapture everyday to escape the world and go to this heaven. I used to be one of them, completely obsessed with the end times and rapture because I wanted to escape and live in love and peace.

Shouldn’t we be doing all we can on earth right now to reduce suffering and pain? Shouldn’t the Christian support single payer healthcare? Shouldn’t the Christian support treating others with uplifting respect instead of damning and humiliation? Shouldn’t the Christian stand up to racism, bigotry, and sexism? Shouldn’t the Christian be a champion for women, the poor, the imprisoned, and the addicted? Shouldn’t the Christian work to protect the earth from pollution and destruction?

If I had only one thing to say to the world, especially the Christian world, it would be:

Create Heaven here.

It may not be perfect. It may always have problems, as utopia may well just be a fantasy, however, bring the kingdom a little closer. With every loving action, dystopia fades in the light.

Be the light of heaven in this dark, cold world. Don’t add to the pain. We have every ability to be the change we want to see. First though, you have to dig deep, through all the societal


and religious constructs that are keeping you from accessing the kingdom of heaven within you, because it is there. Those who seek, will find, and once you find it, you’ll understand that we are the ones that can save us.

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Given To Fly: Leaving the Cage of Fundamental Christianity

Given To Fly: Leaving the Cage of Fundamental Christianity

When birds are raised in captivity and accidentally get out of their cage, they usually don’t fare well. Their wings are not strong, their flight is weak and turbulent. They lack ability to obtain food and don’t quite understand the call of the wild. Likely, if they don’t find their way back into the comforts of their cage where they feel safe, loved, and are fed, they will die. Hopefully, they find another bird whom they can join and learn how to survive.

For the caged bird, freedom could be a death sentence.

For the caged bird, captivity means life, familiarity, and structure.

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They don’t know what they are missing, and do not question it. The reality of their cage is all they know. However, sometimes their owner makes a mistake and leaves the door open. Sometimes a little child decides to take the bird out to play with it and the bird escapes. Through no fault of it’s own, the bird is now in a strange dominion and forced to encounter a whole new world. A little taste of wind beneath it’s wings keeps it from returning to the place it never belonged anyway.

Losing my religion felt just like a bird escaping captivity. The keys that opened the door weren’t of my choosing. The keys came in the form of being born with eyes that saw reality a little differently, or with ears that heard a different message. I was born singing a different song.  I had questions instead of answers. My cage made no sense to me.

Also, the keys that freed me was life itself. Strangers I encountered, friendships I made, personal situations of crisis that forced me to shed all and begin again with the shackles removed. I was placed into a situation where I didn’t have anything to lose. My life I no longer clung to, and so I followed the piper to unknown territory.

I flew away.

I was born to fly away.

At first, I didn’t fit into this new world. I didn’t fare well. My wings were weak and my flight was uneasy. Living outside was incredibly lonely and terrifying. I tried to go back many times to the familiarity of my life before. However, I couldn’t find my way. My home didn’t exist anymore. I was lost. Caught between the known and the unknown. It was in this limbo, that I encountered the gentle care and guidance of the universe, the spirit, or as I used to define it, “God.” Slowly I began to trust this new world. I began meeting others that have made the journey out before me. The more I saw, the more I understood. The further away I flew, my cage became smaller and smaller to the point that I couldn’t get back in that door even if I wanted to with all my might. I no longer can fit. Freedom was not a death sentence, but my savior.

Fundamental Christianity used to be my cage.

It used to be my home.

But I lost my home and I cannot return now.

I can no longer live in a system that teaches that women are not equal. I cannot raise my children to sit in pews where they only hear sermons from men, hear prayers led only from men, and watch church leadership available to only men. This sexist display tells my children that women are beneath men. It tells them women aren’t capable, and shows them a hierarchy that is damaging to the empowerment and self-esteem of women.

I can no longer live in a world where my cage is the only cage of truth, where I am taught that mine is heaven bound, and all others hell bound. Other people were born into different cages, through no fault or choice of their own. They were born into different families and have different owners. The only reason mine felt like the right one for as long as it did, was because it was the only home I knew and the only reality I had.

I can no longer live in a system where people of different color, race, creed, nationality, or sexual orientation are not afforded the same quality of life that I have. The same spirit that has guided me out into the wild is the same spirit that guides them. We are all children of this great, caring Hand that I have gotten to know. We are all one.

I can no longer live in a fear laden jail cell that teaches that the only way to escape my enslavement is when my savior comes back and snatches me and all the other people living with me out, yet leaving all other creatures behind to suffer excruciating pain and torture.

I can no longer exist behind rusty bars where I am told that evolution or science isn’t credible. Outside in the wild, I’ve observed evolution at work. I’ve studied the fossil record, and held the skulls in my hands. I can’t unsee that or unlearn that. I cannot forget what I know about the scientific method or the lengths it takes to publish scientific research in a peer-reviewed journal.

I can no longer live in confinement ruled by guilt and shame. The expectations inside are impossible for anyone to live up to, so much so, that it forces an inauthentic life. So many secrets within. So much hypocrisy.

And so I fly above and around my old cage now, hoping the ones inside will hear my song, or feel the wind from my wings. I no longer even want to get back inside, but open the door so that others can get out too. Some of them want to leave . I notice the subtle restlessness of their ruffling feathers. I could fly far, far away and never look back, but the people inside mean too much to me. The people outside mean too much to me. I will not and cannot leave anyone behind.

In a sense, the prodigal daughter HAS returned, and I will stay within reach. I don’t want to lose sight of them, and I know that they don’t want to lose sight of me. I will keep patiently singing my song, hoping one day they can hear it. One by one, set free into a kingdom of unconditional love and grace. My early struggles into freedom and learning a new life is their reward. I already know the way to survive, and together we can bring forth and celebrate the age to come, where unity and love for all prevails.

I may have been the first to go, however, I am not the only, for very long.

“He floated back down ’cause he wanted to share
His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere
But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed
By faceless men, well, fuckers
He still stands

And he still gives his love, he just gives it away
The love he receives is the love that is saved
And sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky
A human being that was given to fly”

Pearl Jam, ‘Given to Fly’