Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism 101: Two views on Heaven, two views on Hell (part 2)

I have two different views a piece for heaven and for hell, and again these aren’t views I hold with a close hand but rather an open one. I very well could be wrong in both cases, but still I want to put them here for this series that I am doing on Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism…

Perspective of Hell 1
My first perspective of Hell is one where for a time undetermined, the flames of hell purify us from our sinful dross. Sin cannot be in the presence of God, and so from the first perspective of hell I have (which I’ve been told is akin to Trinitarian Universalism) it takes time to get to being in the presence of God in Heaven because of the things that separate ourselves from ourselves, God, and others.

Perspective of Hell 2
My second perspective of Hell is one where there is no eternal afterlife hell. I am one to believe that we do create hells for others and for ourselves, but to say that a worse place exists than those I don’t buy into it. For starters it strikes me as control to suggest such a place exists, that if you do the right things (Orthodoxy) and say the right things (Orthopraxis) this will get you on the right side with God, that you will become part of “us” (hence the paradigm us versus them).
And the thing is, the majority of people who claim hell exists and that those who don’t do and say the right things are (supposedly) on “God’s side” (as if she draws up sides and leans towards one exclusively).

Also I tend to think that God loves everyone period, and to say “God is love but people go to hell for not believing in him” or something similar takes away from stating that God is love. I have been a dad before and God willing I will be one again, and in my time of being a dad I loved my sons and there were times I grew frustrated with my sons. Yet in my times of correcting them there was never a time where I stopped loving them, there was never a time where I told them I never wanted to be with them ever again. If God is both father and mother, if God is love, wouldn’t God want that re-connection with us more than I did when I was a dad?
I’d like do think so, I’d like to think that God’s love goes the distance in all our lives, not just those who are supposedly on God’s side. Which is why I dislike limitations put on God about how far or for how long we have an opportunity to “get right with God” because it seems very human, very limiting, to put a time frame in which we’re all supposed to get “this” (whatever this might be).

But then again, I could be wrong.


Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism 101: Two views on Heaven, two views on Hell (part 1)

I have two different views a piece for heaven and for hell, and again these aren’t views I hold with a close hand but rather an open one. I very well could be wrong in both cases, but still I want to put them here for this series that I am doing on Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism…

Perspective of Heaven 1
The first perspective I have when it comes to Heaven is one where everyone in all of humanity, everyone past and present, will be there in the presence of God. I like to think of the kingdom of God in active verbs and not static, and I’d like to think that we will be serving one another to the best of our abilities in what we excelled at here on earth.
So with this given perspective of Heaven, you’ll find me cooking food up for everyone! :-D There is a part of me that truly believes that our gifts and strengths from this side of eternity will be used for some greater good on the other side.

Perspective of Heaven 2
The second perspective I have for Heaven is one where Heaven is for those who need it. Take for example my own life:
– I am a white male
– I have a job
– I make enough to pay the bills and save as well
– I have a college degree
– I have a roof over my head
– I have access to food
– I have access to clean water
– I have a car
– I have family
– I have friends
So when it comes to Heaven, what do I truly need it for? I do what I can to commune and interact with God very very regularly, but some place or something else after I pass away, no thanks I could do without (from this perspective of Heaven, that is).
And yet in foreign countries there are little kids who work side-by-side their parents and perhaps other siblings making Nike products, Adidas products, Old Navy products, etc. in sweat shops! Their work conditions are horrible, their living conditions barely a resemblance of living, and their situation is absolutely dire. These individuals need a relief from their Hell on earth in some shape or form that transcends their unfortunate lives, they need a Heaven more than I do! So my second perspective is for people who really need something better than what they have in this life, a better place that is dynamic and the ultimate form of good they never really knew while they were living. Now for the rest of us who’ve had a good run, why do we need anything else?

But, I could be wrong…(continued)


Transgender Lives Matter

Earlier today I watched a documentary called Southern Comfort, which Wikipedia describes as “a 2001 documentary film about the final year in the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual. Eads, diagnosed with ovarian cancer, was turned down for treatment by a dozen doctors out of fear that treating such a patient would hurt their reputations. By the time Eads received treatment, the cancer was too advanced to save his life.”

Transgender, in case you’re unfamiliar with a working definition is knowing you were born into the wrong gender, that mentally you know you were meant to be born a male where your anatomy makes you biologically a female, and you know you were meant to be a born a female where your anatomy makes you biologically a male. Transgender is the T in the acronym LGBTQ, and I (as many people can attest to) believe the transgender face a lot of discrimination from within the LGBTQ community as well as from the rest of society.
How so you might ask? Discrimination within the work place, an ill-informed population as to what being transgender entails, violence, if incarcerated they might be put in the wrong prison (matching them with their biological gender, but not the one that reflects their being transgender), a lack of acceptance by friends and family which may lead them to choosing to complete suicide (rest in peace Leelah Alcorn), amongst other things.

I am an ally to the LGBTQ community, and my awareness to what affects the Transgender community was heightened as I watched Southern Comfort, especially when one of the partners of one of the guys made this comment as to why she was fearful to be recorded for the documentary; “I’m just afraid of someone coming in here and destroying everything we have and harming us because they think it’s the right thing to do in the name of God, in the name of God for Heaven’s sake.” ‪ – Southern Comfort (Documentary: 2001)
As a follower of Christ, I was (and still am) utterly mortified by the fear of the woman for things that might be done against because people’s perception that “it’s the right thing to do in the name of God.” Pardon my language, but what the fuck? Someone is fearful for what might happen in the name of GOD?!? That certainly doesn’t ring of anything Godlike or even, Christlike, my heart goes out to this fear that is ever present in the hearts of men and women.

As if the oppression against those who are Transgender individuals wasn’t enough there are those who get perverse kicks from doing things against them because (and we’ve all heard it before in some shape or form) “God told me / us to do it” which frankly is one of the biggest cop-outs and excuses out there. Grow the heck up and stop using God as a scapegoat for why you harm yourself or your fellow human being, an individual who is made in the image of God.

Life is short and sacred enough to see the value in all, to respect and the humanity and Imago Dei-ness found in everyone. All lives matter, Transgender lives matter as well, and we as individuals and as communities and as nations should do what we can to preserve life and not take it away, refurbish and rehabilitate it, and not discard it. To my LGBTQ brothers and sisters I am your ally and will keep fighting for your rights! Life would not be the same without you, hold on my brothers and sisters, hold on.


Church Incognito; Social Awareness and Social Justice, my experience at a Church of the Brethren

A couple of months ago I went to church at a Church of the Brethren, a denomination I knew that was known for conscientious objectors and being very verbal when it came to issues of social awareness and social justice. The Sunday I went to was no different as the church shooting in Charleston was brought up and discussed at length (which I for one think is a good thing). It was very encouraging to hearing this issue brought up as well as police shootings of recent brought up in church, as I think that these are issues that people face all too often and I think that the church should foster discussion about this more often. The church does already, but I think more is required, and not just by pastors but by the congregation as well.

The congregation was multi-generational; it was encouraging to see kids with their parents and grandparents coming together to worship God together. When it came to worship music it was very hymn based, and I enjoyed that because I don’t worship in a setting where we don’t sing hymns. I tend to fall in the middle when it comes to contemporary worship music and hymns, I like a good deal of them and appreciate the sentiment expressed.

After church I struck up a conversation with one of the parishioners. He shared with me what being a follower of Christ meant to him as well as what being aligned with the Church of the Brethren church. He had been a member of the church for a long time, and for him faith kept him following Christ but also the memories tied up in attending that church for so long. All the while he had a nostalgic look upon his face and I gathered that with the stories he shared with me.

I was also encouraged by their posture in reading the Bible, that for the most part they read the Bible seriously but not altogether literally. Marcus J. Borg’s Reading The Bible Again for The First Time comes to mind when followers of Christ choose to do this, and I for one agree it must be done in this fashion.

I too can say one of the reasons that keeps me coming back to The Orchard every weekend is the memories I have associated with it and yet I realize that it’s not a bad reason to go but I realize it shouldn’t be the only reason I go. Yet we all go through seasons of life, and sometimes a church works for a while and there are times where your best bet is to leave on good terms and find something else (not necessarily better in all occasions).

Overall it was a good time communing with the people who attended the Church of the Brethren. I appreciate followers of Christ who exemplify the beatitude of “blessed are the peacemakers” because it is one of several things I want to align myself with and practice in my faith system of a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist. I want to have a hand in Tikkum Olam / Healing The World, and it starts with my individual efforts that ripple outward rather than inward.


Church Incognito; Communal, Interracial, Intergenerational, my experience at a 7th Day Adventist Church

On Father’s Day weekend I went to the local 7th Day Adventist Church, and based on their interpretation of the Bible they meet on Saturdays not Sundays.

Upon entering I quickly got a feeling akin to family reunion, that these individuals having not seen each other for a week (perhaps more) were so glad to be in each others presence. I introduced myself to the greeter and shortly thereafter I made my way into the sanctuary.

It was crowded in a way that wasn’t unnerving, so I found myself midway between the front and the back, and I took time to get acquainted with my surroundings. There were a diverse group; inter-generational as well as interracial, and when it comes down to it I like being in churches such as that. It was also encouraging to observe that there was diversity in those who read the Bible, made announcements, etc.

The service started off with some hymns that I personally didn’t know, but out of respect (and definitely a love for hymns) I stood and was present to it all. After a few songs I bore witness to and partook in a corporate church exercise I had never done before; kneeling in prayer together from where we all happened to be seated beside our portion of prayer. I’ve prayed on kneelers in Catholic and Episcopalian churches, but this was kneeling in the most basic of terms.

Shortly after this the pastor gave his message about living in the end times, and how they, the 7th Day Adventist Church were The Remnant. That in following God by way of following the different doctrines and beliefs, they were going to be the ones who remained when it all went down. He also spoke about things going on in the world at large and the world around us, how there was conflict between Secular culture and Christian culture, and more to the point, the culture of the 7th Day Adventists. He touched briefly on ways other denominations did things that weren’t in line with what God wanted, in particularly Pope Francis and consequently the Roman Catholic denomination, all the while pointing out that this further proved we were living in the end times.

After the service I was invited to attend their potluck lunch, but since I was fasting because of Ramadan I just sat across the table from the pastor and we talked as he ate. It was enjoyable to talk to him and pick his mind, he found out I was involved in youth ministry and that I was in the Behavioral Health field and so he picked my mind as well. It was good to have a sincere and intellectual discussion about life and faith and everything in between, he furthered the sense of  it feeling like a family reunion in my mind. After lunch I took some time to talk to the people around me about what being a 7th Day Adventist meant to them, a lot of them referenced the view of being The Remnant, which is a part of Adventist doctrine and theology. One man was very talkative about his faith and what it meant to him, and I was greatly encouraged by the length and breadth of our discussion, especially because it never came across as preachy, rote rhetoric, or mere head knowledge, he did what he could to take his views as a 7th Day Adventist and practice them out in daily living. That is a kind of belief I can completely relate to.

Overall it was a worthwhile time spent amongst 7th Day Adventists. It was good to engage God in a new-to-me environment and to pick the minds of the pastor as well as members of the congregation. The Adventists I encountered were very charitable with their time and hospitable with what they had, the nature of the “Acts of the Church” as found in the Bible seems to be very alive and well amongst them and I gather that it wasn’t for show, that this is truly how they connect faith with living on a daily basis and not solely on Saturdays. And for me that has always been what keeps faith alive, application not mere memorization.