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.