Heaven on Earth


Mollycoddling Franco the Fiat just past sunrise on my quintweekly grind towards the monthly cashout, my pre-caffeinated gaze found purchase upon the most startlingly ridiculous question to consider so early — “If you die tonight? HEAVEN or HELL?

First of all, why tonight?  Why not if I die right now?  Because right now is the point.  But more on that in a moment.

First, well, damn.  What kind of perverted  mind conceives of such a billboard?  And right on my morning commute. Granted, most mornings I have made the far wiser decision to pedal my bicycle to my daily labors rather than use Franco…so, this particular billboard does not invade my usual daily existence.  Still, startled I truly was.

I mean, first of all, how the hell am I supposed to know the answer to this ultimately ridiculous question?  And who is the corrupted soul that believes he or she has the answer to this question — a question that completely misses the entire point of existence?  Also, how much money did they waste in making this inane billboard?

I am a Christian — a Catholic Christian to be exact (of course, many Protestant types out there would argue to their death that I am not even a “Christian.”  So much for their souls).  I am a Christian who does not prop myself up by this fantastical notion of “an afterlife.”  The concept of something coming after this incredible life — where every moment is literally a miracle — is so radically insulting to this moment that God gives us that I have never been able to understand why so many theologies rest themselves ultimately on this concept of “an ultimate reward.”

People.  The Ultimate Reward is right here.  Right now.  From the Christian theology, Jesus Christ even said it himself — Heaven is on Earth.  When he spoke about the “coming of the Kingdom of God” he meant it as it sounds — that the Kingdom of God is here on Earth when we as puny humans deign to actually act in the way of God…that is, to love each other IN THE MOMENT.  He was not pointing to some celestial reward, some pie in the sky nirvana, some cloudy angelic resting place among the cherubs, some lullaby land of virgins.  Some place we go to after we die.  No. We don’t.

If a person is going to “go to hell” rather than heaven “when they die” it is because they are already dead — at least symbolically they are dead.  They are already in Hell. Though they may breathe, their heart beat, according to the theology of my understanding of God through Jesus, they are dead to the reality of God here among us.  They refuse to live precisely because they focus on what may or may not come after.  How ridiculous and sad to have missed the grace filled gift of life right here.

It then, therefore, is a choice made by a person in the moment here on Earth; a choice to ruthlessly fixate on a reward that, by its nature, reveals the destructive selfishness of that person’s soul — a soul so wrapped up in protecting itself after the body dies that it fails entirely to heed the doxology of all religions — love one another. NOW.

There is nothing after this life here on Earth.  This impressive expansive gift that we have in our hands right now is the reward.  If anything happens after we are gone from this Earthly plane, it will not be anything that relates to what we call human consciousness.  Billboards like the one that startled me this morning are mere, but profound, distractions placed by depraved souls attempting to keep us hurtling on the highway to hell — the highway we ride when we fail to realize that the kingdom of god is here and now and that every moment is a miracle.

 

 

The Way of Love


San Francisco Catholic teachers have been girding their loins for battle against their Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, who wishes to “include morality clauses in their handbook and labor contract” in “which a teacher could face punishment or dismissal for ‘escorting a woman into an abortion clinic, handing out contraception to students,'” or supporting gay marriage.  The Archbishop hopes to control his employees lives both inside and outside of the classroom with this approach.  Certainly the Archbishop has this prerogative, though the legality of making the morality clause a part of the employees actual contract might be questionable.

Legalities aside, though, the central question for me is how can we evaluate this morality clause in light of radical Christianity?  That is, if we go back to the root (radical) of what Christians believe Jesus wants from us –  to love God and our neighbor — how does this morality clause hold up?

First, it should be acknowledged that each of the three issues listed above are different.  For instance, one could argue that regardless of Church teaching, handing out contraception and/or fomenting an abortion for a child could be prohibited on the grounds that it would interfere inappropriately in the agency of the parents.  If nothing else, such a prohibition might save the archdiocese from many lawsuits properly filed by parents incensed that a teacher would circumvent their parental authority.  But this prohibition could hold up despite church teachings, not because of it.

The issue of gay marriage, however, stands in contrast to those two issues and is where Cordileone and his Club stands on very weak ground, indeed.  Nicholas Senz, a conservative Catholic blogger and student of theology, represents the thinking involved in this Club of Cordileone that serves as the sodden Terra non firma upon which the Church’s decidedly Un-Christian view of gay marriage rests.  And there are two problems with this worldview.

First, Senz writes that “[there] are some actions that are not good for human beings to do and that do not lead to their flourishing and fulfillment; and when we see others doing such actions [being gay], it is precisely our love for them, our desire for their fulfillment, that causes us to disapprove of those actions.”

This thinking is the jumping off point for the first problem with the church hierarchy so transfixed and confused by all things sexual: The problem is this — there is no evidence that homosexual “acts” are “not good for human beings.” In fact, plenty of evidence exists that gay men and women, freed to unite in love, actually do flourish!  And the converse is true as well — that gay men and women oppressed by a prohibition from uniting in love suffer.  Therefore, there is no reason to disapprove of these “actions.”  In fact, one could argue that disapproving of these actions is immoral.

Sadly, however, church doctrine has obstinately held fast to ridiculous human made beliefs about sexuality that have led to great pain and suffering. Human made suffering of humans — precisely what God and Jesus teach us to fight against.

To defend these decidedly anti-Christian views towards human love and sexuality, the Club of Cordileone employs a false dichotomy to invalidate those of us who believe in love as Jesus taught.  Senz describes us thus:

“These are the sort who see Catholic identity as a tribal designation as opposed to being rooted in a relationship with God in Jesus Christ through his Church and holding to certain beliefs about him”

And so this is where the second problem begins.  Senz, and the old school Church hierarchy, represented by people like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, describes an immoral zero-sum world that does not actually exist.

What does exist is the fact that those of us who are Catholic and celebrate the love of two consenting humans — regardless of their gender — do both.  We belong to a community (tribe) of love and we are radically aligned with what Jesus wants for us all.

Senz concludes his essay by saying to us that “This is not the Catholic faith, and it is not heading that way.”  But the truth is that, albeit slowly and inexorably, this is actually where the Church is headed — finally.  We are headed on the path of love laid by Jesus.