If there’s a heaven; Of unanswered questions, my grandfather, and Adolf Hitler

Earlier today as a personal exercise I examined myself from the inside as to what I’d like to do if Heaven exists. I realized as I was writing it that I slightly presented hell but not one of eternal conscious torment, but one where the fires lap at our human imperfections like dross from gold; a removal, an extraction of what isn’t good until we’re able to be reconnected with ourselves, with others, and also unto God.
With that being said, here goes something…

***

If Heaven does in fact exist, and if I am allowed to partake and enjoy it with God and all of humanity I want to do the following 3 things:

1) Find my maternal grandfather and catch up with him for an eon or so.
At this point in my life he is the number one person I miss the most of those who have passed away. He passed away when I was younger and I miss him a lot; I miss his stories, his humor, the weird twitching of his bicep when he’d flex, and so on. I do honor him now when it comes to All Saints Day and also when I meditate on the “cloud of witnesses” of saints who have gone before during my time of prayer. I hope that I am able to do this when I myself have passed away.

2) Present to God all the why questions I have.
I don’t know if I will have inner peace or satisfaction in asking all my why questions, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I realize that if given the opportunity it will take some time, but as the musician Chris Rice aptly put it; “it’s a good thing forever’s forever.” Yet maybe even still all I might receive is a hug and a resounding but comforting “I know…I know…I know” and that will be it. If it happens to be the latter, I am hoping that will be enough for my wearied mind.

3) If Adolf Hitler is already there, I want to forgive him.
If Hitler is already in Heaven, if he has already been removed of the dross that separates him from himself, humanity, and God, and provided I am dross-free as well I want to let him know that I forgive him. If, as Alexander Pope put it, “to err is human, to forgive divine” then I want to do that because I want to aid in reconnecting Hitler with his humanity and his Imago Dei-ness if at all possible. I realize the reason behind this is that I believe within every cell of my BEing that no one is able to fully resist the love of God forever because the very essence of God is love. It might take years or eons to “get it” and accept it, but love will win eventually. May the dross that separates us from ourselves, each other, and our creator be quickly stripped away!

Onward, Inward, and Upward!
~Nathanael~

Of working with kids and how it has affected my views on heaven and hell

Now not too long ago I put together a post on what I think about Heaven and Hell as a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist. Yet as I have written on this subject, I realize that there’s another facet to my views about the afterlife and it stems from working with kids.

I work with kids 7am to 3pm Monday through Friday. I work with the same kids pretty much everyday, and so there are certainly bonds of connection between them and I, we get along great for the most part, but sometimes not so much. Whether it’s physical aggression, verbal aggression, lying, manipulating, etc. it disrupts our engagement with one another for a season- sometimes that’s 5 minutes and sometimes it lasts all day… but it doesn’t last forever! We patch things up with each other, there isn’t malice or hard feelings, we own up to what we’ve done and move on.

***

I am led to believe within every cell of my being that God too operates on this level. Because if I possess the capacity to do this on a small scale, why wouldn’t God do this on a much larger scale? Some people will contend that God won’t and doesn’t. Statements of “God is a just God” gets thrown out by those who claim a higher spiritual/moral high ground, but the “just” that gets presented perpetuates paradigms of up vs down, heaven vs hell, right vs wrong, belief vs faith, us vs them, and so on.
This “just” strikes me as more of a human construct than a divine one because it marginalizes people from other people, and last time I checked, God doesn’t marginalize anyone for the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

So to you the reader who believes in the existence of an afterlife conscious torment-filled hell, I give you permission to question this- why? You don’t have to post anything if you want to, but still give yourself space to explore the ins and outs.

– Nathanael –

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

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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.

~Nathanael~

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

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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! 😀 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)

~Nathanael~

Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism 101: An Open-handed System of Faith

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My views aren’t solely my own, I am not the only Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist out there, but on this blog/platform I speak for myself and myself alone.

My beliefs that I hold are held in open hands. I operate from a nuanced stance of an open-handed system of faith. If you’re in community with me in real life you will probably hear before or during my time of unpacking Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism “I might be wrong” because what I have learned and gleaned from others, what I have found out on my own, has to be put up for examination; I am not above reproach nor do I turn it away, it’s why when it comes to my faith system I very well could be wrong and so that’s why my faith is open-handed.

Disclaimer: I don’t consider my years spent as an Evangelical to be years wasted, for they served as the building blocks of what I know and hold in an open hand these days. They were never a stepping stone, that is, I was never in one place looking to hop off to the next place and then on to the next and so on. They gave me the tools and the basis for what I believe in now, and I look back upon those years fondly and I send them my light and love.
I am not devoid of having self-identified Evangelicals friends and family members, and if anything I have much love for them. Do I cut them down for their views? Absolutely not! It works for them in this season of life, and something shifts in their lives and their belief system, I will be there with them all the while, in solidarity and fidelity.

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I grew up in a Christian home, was homeschooled, went to church on Sundays and youth group and/or AWANA on Wednesdays. And what I learned in the time in each of those settings was a “you have to know what you believe.” And with that in mind I learned all the songs, learned a lot of Bible verses, had answers to questions or sought out answers if none were given in a timely fashion. I learned a lot, I grew to know a lot, I had a lot of faith, and I also had a lot of beliefs, but so much of it was whittled down to either orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxis (right practices).
It’s why there was a slight discord amongst me (WASP-in-training) and my Catholic friends. Because I held the Truth with a capital T, they weren’t Christian they were Catholic, and subsequently they didn’t have it right and that’s what it’s all about…right?
I thought it was, and given my microcosm Evangelical-centric universe, I was led to believe that I was as well. But what shifted me, and subsequently shifted my views, was one big thing: relationships.

Relationships have the capacity to unravel or provide ground to reexamine what we think / what we believe and I for one think that’s a great thing. In my own life I think the unraveling / reexamining first occurred when I was attending community college. I was involved with a diversity group, Circles Of Understanding, and while there weren’t a lot of us in attendance we all did collectively come from different backgrounds.

I remember clearly the day we decided to discuss religion as a group, and instead of making it a “this is what I believe” discussion we brought up stereotypes other people think about our religions. I pointed out that people might assume that I am bigoted and prone to bash people over the head with the Bible. One of my peers brought up the issues she faced as a Muslim in a post-911 world, and how people assumed the worst, as if she had an explosive vest strapped to her chest with the intention to blow others up. Because we put out there what we experienced and what people thought they knew about us, putting out a bit of vulnerability to others, it led to a friendship that still exists to this day.

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I have many stories about encounters with others that have shifted and broadened my thoughts about life and faith and everything in between. I know some people operate under the premise that you have to lock down what you think and believe when it comes to matters of faith, and honestly I think that’s what leads to extremism in any faith system, because you do not allow room for anything to upset your way of thinking, and consequently your way of living. Faith should be open to critique, to questioning, and also to doubting.
I know my views aren’t solely my own, and I know others may have a difficult time stepping out in faith as to broadening their views on faith and God, but to those of you who find yourself at a crossroads with all this I find that it is ultimately worth it to do so. The bottom won’t fall out, the sky won’t crash, you might find yourself in new circles and new communities, but through it all God is there and present. There’s no need to build up stronger walls when your faith is challenged, just let go and enjoy the ride!

~Nathanael~