One of the most beautiful concepts I learned as a child growing up in the church was about this place called Heaven. I learned I could go there someday and live there for eternity. I was given very specific ideas 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 from 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 into 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 every day 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.