Thursday, January 17, 2013


I've been meaning to share the following, written by my friend Karen, for quite some time, and today I'm feeling the need.
Karen and I have both lost children -- she, a daughter, to cancer, and me, a son, to suicide.  And we've both bumped up against what she terms "a dark theology" in the church.  Actually, it's a pretty standard theology, which a lot of people find reassuring with a confidence that remains a complete mystery to me.  I suppose that there's something to be said for believing that God's justice includes eternal damnation and will prevail -- if you presume that you and your loved ones will escape its rather more negative consequences -- although why anyone would presume that he or she would be among those who gain eternal life as opposed to others, I have no idea at all.  Or why anyone would want to believe that.  Do people really think it's ok that their neighbors and colleagues might be "left behind"?   More to the point, do they really think that it would be ok with God?  Really?
Anyway, Karen had an experience in a Bible study with viewpoints which I frequently encounter. A dark understanding of an eternity in which people are always sheep and goats, and never "shoats," and in which the outcome for the goats is wearily predictable and grim.   These encounters generally leave me in a depressed state of mind, and I suppose I'm having an attack of that this week.  I'll let her speak, as she's far more eloquent than I:
"I’ve been wondering about the concept of hell lately, probably because of the time I spent in this church, listening to their views.
Those of us who feel we’ve already seen hell, or lived there, seem to have no need to create or believe in another, later-destination version of it. Those who have experienced hell seem to want to bring heaven to earth as much as possible, with love, kindness, ministry, compassion, forgiveness, healing and tenderness. Those who speak and express the most concern about hell (as a place one might go after death) make me wonder if they really live in daily fear of it – and wonder if they’ve ever truly suffered here in this life, or are simply braced against it.
In my opinion, if you’ve already been there, hell is no longer an intellectual construct, a doctrine or a place to be sent after death, but a reality of this broken world that cries out for redeeming, here and now. It is illness, decay, depression, death, the suffering of mankind…what could be more hellish than those?
I wonder if we aren’t actually called – each one of us – to “go to hell” here in this life, and to come out of it with a heart transformed. That seems to be one way of looking at the Paschal pattern. To be frank, it’s one of the only ways that I can make sense of the past six years of my life.
I love God deeply, but experience has made me a bit wary of what He allows, as the price is so very high – it’s everything! (Yes, I am mid-life, flawed, and still not totally surrendered to Him.) Yet what other option and relationship do we have? “Lord, to whom shall we go?” He is the One – the Way, the Truth, the Life, the great source of Love – our Creator.
I truly desire to serve Him and participate in His work of love in this world; it’s the only life worth living anymore. I prefer to see it as bringing a bit of His kingdom – heaven – into the present time and place, rather than fearing a possible hell in the future."

Image: Detail from  Michaelangelo's Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel.


  1. Amen Karen and amen Robin. Absolutely.


  2. Btw, wanted to mention how much I like the header photo of your blog.

  3. Robin, thank you for sharing Karen's very wise and heartfelt words.