I mentioned a controversial topic the other day…..Here we go.
I suppose that it might be appropriate to offer a disclaimer that the following is my opinion and we all know what they say about opinions…
I have my beliefs, but, because of my career, I get to experience other faiths and clergy on a regular basis. It has been interesting over the years as I get to speak with clergy and discuss these important topics. By doing so, I get to think about and appreciate different perspectives.
This topic is so massive and has several “sub-plots”that I am not sure exactly how I will deal with it, but I will tell the truth about myself, dealing with whatever comments find their way to me.
I came across a blog entitled Confessions of a Funeral Director about two weeks ago. The first article I read portrayed a very cogent and accurate description of what the life of a funeral director is like. The second article I read was entitled:
My initial and immediate reaction was:
I Do not believe it for one second!
Anytime I observe some quote a 99% statistic, I get skeptical.
I read the column and my opinion was still the same.
Early in my career, I learned from the late Bill Bates, that it was crucial for mourners to remember the dead person accurately for them to mourn effectively. I often get very cynical whenever I see a report on the news about a young person who was killed in a drug deal gone bad. There is an endless parade of folks stating that he (or she) never met a person who wasn’t a friend, always put others before themselves, was the most outgoing student in their class, was going to do great things with their lives, etc. Is that true sometimes? Sure, but should the fact that they dropped out of school, had a lengthy criminal history and belonged to a gang be overlooked? Not a value judgement of the deceased, but just of their memory.
I remember being at a funeral many years ago for a young father who died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was married and had two teenage children. I recall sitting in the back row of a packed, (800 seat) church and the pastor was laying it on heavy. There were friends of the deceased sitting in front of me and one asked the other, “Who is he talking about?” because what they were hearing just did not make sense to them.
Just about everyone in that church knew that…except the pastor.
Did it help those at the funeral to hear all the adoring complements or did it cheapen and invalidate the entire experience of his funeral?
Now, to my point…almost
I became familiar with Rob Bell back around 2004 when I started watching and then buying some of his short video lessons. The only things I knew about him then was that he had cool hair, drove a cool car, was married to a very pretty woman, pastored a mega-church and made interesting movies about being a husband, a father and a Christian. One of the stories, named “Lump”, is a favorite story of mine and taught me a phrase that I mention to my daughters from time to time…“There is nothing you can ever do to make me love you any less…nothing”
If you go to your search engine, you can read countless accounts of the Rob Bell book, in which he “suggests” there is no hell, (I will admit that I have not read the book, nor have any intentions of). It is not my intent to add to those accounts.
My point, (yes, finally) is this…
My thought is that many members of the clergy are afraid to talk about hell because they do not want to be accused of insulting or criticizing the deceased/living members of their congregation. They know, that if they do that, the living members will find a church where there are
“No Rules, just Right and Jesus loves everyone just the way we are and that’s cool”.
They further know that if they start to talk about right/wrong and individual responsibility, the pews and collection baskets may be a bit bare because no one likes being told that they are on the wrong path.
So they (clergy) capitulate, keep the message vanilla, keep the seats filled and hope for the best, maybe forgetting that their responsibility as clergy is to save the souls of their congregation.
For me, being a Roman Catholic, I believe in the Last Four Things, Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
When I die, there will be no eulogy at my Requiem Mass, as a Catholic funeral is not about the dead person and all the good they may have done…it is about God and praying for the soul of the deceased. If someone wanted to make a few comments at the reception afterwards, I would hope that they would remember to mention that I was occasionally selfish, grumpy, annoying and there were more than a few people that I met during my life that I had absolutely no use for…and they had no use for me. Then mention that I did the best I could at being a husband, father and Christian, but often came up short.
Do not be afraid to remember me the way I was, (When I become a “was”)…it’s is better for all of us.
Yes, I believe in Heaven, Hell and Purgatory…and hope in the mercy of God.
I believe most of the 99% of clergy mentioned do too…but they may have lost their faith and are afraid to admit it, because they want to be seen as “cool” and not “old fashioned”. A modern analogy would be “exit polling” whereby pollsters stand near polling places and ask voters for who and why they voted like they did. The last few election cycles demonstrated that exit polling is flawed because most people believe the reporters are looking for a particular answer and might get confrontational if the “incorrect” answer is given. Thus, they lie. They say what they think the other person wants to hear.
If Caleb is correct, we may be near the “End Times” as if 99% of clergy do not believe in hell, why bother believing in God?
It has been said that the devil’s greatest trick is to make us believe that he does not exist….think about that.