Sometimes I forgot how complicated organized religions are. I asked a question on Twitter yesterday without remembering how many different people interpret dogma in many different religions. And also, how many different people interpret words, you know, in general.
My point? Twitter is a stupid place to start a conversation about Christianity.
My question revolved around a conversation I had with Nikki about Heaven/Hell. I was explaining how I don’t believe they’re actual PLACES you go to when you die, how I imagine things like that more as a balance on earth. If you put good energy in the world, you’ll be surrounded by that same good energy. And vice versa, which would be like living in Hell. She asked me if any Christian churches simply believe that you only have to be a “good person” to get to Heaven, and it doesn’t matter what religion you’re part of or what church you go to. So I asked Twitter and it seems that was stupid. Because those type of questions can not be discussed in 140 characters. Especially considering there is what PEOPLE believe and then there is what their CHURCH believes as an organized front. I have Mormon friends and family who desperately pray for and fight for marriage equality and the acceptance of LGBTQ in their church families. BUT, the Mormon church still officially stands against it. So, that makes Nikki’s question very hard to answer. ESPECIALLY in 140 characters.
Other things that complicate the question:
That doesn’t relate to what religion you practice, technically. I guess you would assume that if someone was predestined to go to Heaven, then they would have been designed to be part of the religion that defines that, but really, it doesn’t matter. You’re either going or your not. And you don’t know which one it is, necessarily.
ONLY GOD KNOWS
This one is tricky because – yes – some religions believe that no one knows who is/isn’t going to hell. HOWEVER, those religions also teach what you SHOULD do in order to ensure that God sees you as worthy. And on that list is a type of “Love God” or “Honor God” type of commandment. They also teach would you SHOULD NOT do, which is where we get to the next one.
WHAT IS EVIL?
Many religions say, “No! Only people who are ‘truly evil’ go to Hell!” But what is that, really? I knew priests growing up who spent time in jail protesting abortion clinics because they believe abortion was a mortal sin. So, they believed if you had an abortion (ESPECIALLY IF YOU DIDN’T REPENT) then there was probably no way you would get to Heaven. And I threw in that word “probably” because you don’t really know, but they taught me that Abortion = Murder = No Heaven.
Unless you repented, of course. Which I wouldn’t. And many wouldn’t, if they don’t believe it’s a mortal sin. My point? Many religions say “only evil” but their definition of “evil” might vary between members and dogma and the truth is, there are still some cases where the church would assume a person who was 95% good was going to Hell. Because the “trick” is always the “repent” part of the equation, if you feel bad for the bad you did, you’re good. But what if you don’t feel bad for all of the gay sex you’re having? Or for the abortion you had?
THERE IS NO HELL
I didn’t know this, but I guess there are some Christian churches who don’t believe in Hell? I’d like to learn more about these churches. But I’d like to learn about their dogma, I love talking to people about their faith, but I’d like to hear the “official word” kind of thing. If your Christian religion doesn’t believe in Hell, can you send me a link to some sort of official page with information? I’d love that.
I guess I wanted to be able to say, “The Hungarian Hornbacks believe that all good people go to Heaven and that they just get the nicer rooms because they were on the right side all along.” Or something like that. But that’s obviously WAAAAYYY over simplifying religion. Because, what would be the point of practicing the religion, of going to Church on Sundays etc, if it didn’t get you bonus points in the afterlife? If you could just be a good person without it, why bother?
So, I settled with telling her that religion is VERY complicated and very few members of any church even know 100% what the “official” teachings of their church are because every church home handles things differently. I explained about how even some LDS church families have opened their arms to gay and transgender members even though the official stance on the church is to not do that. So, it’s not that simple.
I did tell her though, that if she decides she finds a church she loves, to try to make it the church she can proudly stand behind. I never liked it when my Catholic friends would say, “Well, obviously we use birth control…” but they would whisper it like they were ashamed. I really feel like it’s up to the members of the church to be vocal about the things they disagree with so they can make the church better. Which is why my heart broke for that Mormon woman who got excommunicated for trying to encourage the church to give more opportunities to women. She loved her church so much she was fighting to make it better, and look what happened.
I told her, don’t just quietly accept it, make sure you’re vocal about the things you disagree with in the church doctrine. All churches have had to change their stances on dogma. The Catholic church used to not let women distribute the Eucharist or men with disfigured hands be priests. It’s okay to push for change in a church, I think it’s a sign of love.
But, I told her, maybe try to start out somewhere that doesn’t need a lot of changing to begin with. And do your research. Only 1/3 of the planet are Christians. If your denomination believes that only those who have been “saved” are going to Heaven, that’s a lot of people on this planet destined for Hell. So, maybe let’s not start with that big of a canvas to work with.
I would love for her to find a church some day, I just want her to be aware of that church and remember that no vocal dissent can be misinterpreted as support. Ideally, she’d find a church home that openly supports the LGBT community and believes no part of their life is a sin. But, if her church believed anyone having gay sex was sinning, and she wasn’t vocal about how she didn’t agree with that, then people are going to assume she supports it. And that’s tricky. She has people she loves in the LBGTQ community, and while they would never shun her for choosing a church someday, I pointed out that she might want to make it abundantly clear (and loudly clear) that she supports the LGBT fight for equality, even if her church doesn’t.
Mainly I wish she would just ask me normal questions for once, because these conversations stress me out. WHY CAN’T SHE JUST EMBRACE BEING A HEATHEN LIKE HER MOTHER DOES?