I'm not going to lie, I love my grandma. I'm a good grandson.
She is old and, like many good grannies in her age bracket at least, believes in Jesus and so forth. She doesn't believe in hell though (or has pondered most any of the dogmas making up Christianity -- hers is an exceedingly simple faith), and in general tries to see the best in people. I am tied by affection to her and know I would hate to lose her.
Anyway, I have had recurring disturbing dreams of her telling me that I am a good for nothing and destined for hell. Even though this is completely out of step with her actual character, in my dream I cannot help but be affected. I feel both chastised and resentful of her for telling me this in my dreams. It got me thinking: would my affection in real life be changed if she all of a sudden had this alteration in her views? Well, to some extent, of course. Whereas before I felt nothing but unconditional love from her, to suppose I would be slammed with "you're going to hell no matter what" is a real hard pill to swallow for anyone.
This really cuts into the quality of love for another, whether that love is selfless or not. I do believe in selfless love, and that we need to love no matter what. Even if that means being sentenced to hell by the one you love. No one is perfect in this respect, but that is an ideal which cuts to the heart of what love really means. If love is not at least bent on selflessness, moving in that direction, then it is egocentric, and conditional on a give-and-take reciprocity. This is not to say that reciprocity is bad, it's not. But if that is all love is: an exchange, or bartering, then that does little to honor the true essence of love.
In that sense, I cannot help but respect those Christians or Muslims who are willing to die and go to hell, just like Jesus supposedly endured his Passion 2,000 years ago. I wish, however, that there be a happy ending for all of us. I am no longer though as beholden to the universalism of my youth, in which every last detail of the hereafter will be "hunky-dory" or accommodating for everyone. That smacks of illusion and pure utopianism. Whatever the Beatific Vision is, it will be tempered by a sober understanding of what Reality entailed, and all the loss and real hell there truly would be if not for God's grace and mercy....
"But for the grace of God goeth I."
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