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It won’t be their world anymore: Universalism with boudaries

I really don’t know what I believe about the afterlife.

Ever since I gave up the idea of an eternal hell, I’ve found myself able to embrace many different theories with some comfort.

As a Christian, though, I find particular comfort in the idea of a future Kingdom of God.

I am inspired and energized by the hope against hope that what’s next is some kind of Kingdom ruled by a Love and by a just God.

However, this idea has a lot of baggage surrounding it–mainly the idea that anyone who isn’t a Christian doesn’t get to take part.

I don’t buy that. That’s one reason why I’m a Universalist.

But when I talk about my faith like this, people often want to know, do I think everyone, even oppressive people will be a part of the Kingdom, since I don’t think it’s going to be just Christians?

If you know me or have read my writing, you know that I’m passionately against oppression, so I thought I should address this.

I’m going to start by saying that I believe in justice. I’m going to continue by stating the fact that rejecting the idea that only Christians can get into heaven does not mean that I am rejecting justice.

A world where a Muslim woman cannot take part in the Kingdom of the God that she also worships because she doesn’t believe that Jesus was God is hardly just. A world where an atheist that believes in love is rejected from a Kingdom of love is hardly just.

And a world filled those who have dedicated their lives to oppressing others, but happen to believe in Jesus could hardly be a just one.

The idea that Christians “go to heaven” and non-Christians do not is not even just in the first place. Not even close.

So we have a hypothetical afterlife. You don’t have to be a Christian to get in. This afterlife is one where people are free from oppression and sadness, where love is what reigns.

What about the oppressors?

Obviously, anything I say about the afterlife is speculation, but based on my knowledge of the Bible and my desire for justice, here are some thoughts as to how a Universalist view point can fit with a belief in justice.

When I think about the Kingdom of God, based on the glimpses of it that I see in the Old and New Testaments, I see a world free from oppression, from poverty, and from war.

Swords are turned into plowshares, tanks into tractors, assault weapons into wind turbines.

The mighty are brought down from their thrones and the powerless are exalted, and they meet somewhere in the middle on a plain called equality.

Can those who, in this life were oppressors enter this kingdom?

I’d say yes.

But…

It won’t be their world anymore.

ImageThis will be a world where Love has already won. This will be the world beyond the barricades.

This will not be the world that tells rape victims that they should have been dressed more modestly. This will not be the world that tells LGBT people that who they are is a sin. This will not be world of Gulags and gaschambers and lynching trees. This will not be the world of genocide and force sterilizations. This will not be the world where people protest the firing of football coaches that cover up the rapes of children. This will not be the world where pastors can say that women should stay with abusive spouses for a season. This will not be the world where people care more about the feelings of abusers than about the safety of survivors.

This will not be that world.

This new world will belong the peacemakers, the poor, the persecuted, the hungry.

This will be their world.

I don’t like the idea that the oppressed go to heaven and the oppressors go to hell (or are annihilated or whatever) because most people fall into both categories. We are hurt by the world and we help the world hurt others.

I believe that we will all get a second chance–both at freedom from oppression and at freedom from our sin of being an oppressor–in this new world.

But there will be boundaries.

There will be no rape culture. There will be no excuses for abusers. There will be no injustice. Those who wish to abuse won’t get the chance and they won’t find protection in this new world.

Those who are still in love with an unjust world might exist in the Kingdom of God, but they will not find heaven there.

I don’t know what will happen to these people, but I definitely don’t think they have to be eternally tortured or destroyed in order for justice to happen. I think we need to get beyond an idea of justice that requires “redemptive violence,” though I’m still not sure what this would look like.

Obviously no one can know what actually happens after death and this is all speculation, but this vision for the future gives me hope. This is how I reconcile Universalism and justice, and this is a world that I work toward even now.

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Never going back

Trigger Warning for Abuse

I used to be in an abusive relationship.

Once, I broke up with him, and he threatened to kill me for it.

I was in his car, and I told him I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He decided that if I wouldn’t be with him, I  couldn’t be with anyone. So he gave me the choice:

Change my mind and stay with him, or he would crash the car into a telephone pole.

I forced him to take me home that day by threatening him with a crowbar I found on the floor of his car. But there were more threats. And eventually I gave in.

I chose to stay with him, and the threats stopped.

Because he “loved me.”

And as long as I loved him back, he would never hurt me.

No one can stand here and tell me that my ex-boyfriend gave me free will that day. No one will ever convince me that I had a real choice in this situation. My options were stay with a cruel, vengeful man, or die.

No one can convince me that this was love.

In fact, I don’t think any of you would even try.

We recognize this kind of behavior in humans as cruel and hateful. We’d tell our sisters, our daughters, our friends to run from men (or women) like this.

But what if God acts like an abusive boyfriend?

What if God gives us only the choice of a life spent with a cruel, vengeful God or a life spent in hell?

We call that free will.

What if God uses violence to punish those God loves when those people do not love God back?

We say, “God’s ways are higher than our ways.”

Yet we still say God is love.

God is good.

But this God that the Evangelical church taught us to believe in, if this God came to earth as a human, he would have been my abusive ex-boyfriend.

But I don’t believe in that God anymore.

I believe in a different God.

My God did come to earth as a human. But that human didn’t look at all like my abusive ex-boyfriend.

That human was Jesus.

And Jesus loved. Real love–not this controlling, abusive, hate that we’re so used to assigning to God. Real love.

Believe in the vengeful Evangelical God if you want. Tell me I’m wrong in the comments section. I know some of you will.

But I know what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship. I know. And I can tell you what one looks like. A relationship with the Evangelical God? Yeah, that’s abusive, and I’ve escaped that abusive relationship.

I’m never going back.


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On the manic, dysfunctional, flaky God

Yesterday, I took a risk and finally started talking about the spiritual issues that I’ve been wrestling with for about a year now. Even though I stated that if the Baptist theology I grew up with is correct, then the Christmas story of Luke 2 is bullshit, I got mostly positive responses. In fact, I only got accused of heresy once!

So, that was encouraging. Thank you to all who responded (even you, heresy guy!).

Truth is, months before Rob Bell published his (in)famous book, Love Wins, I started questioning whether or not God could really send the majority of people to hell. And, if he could do that, how can we say that he is Love?

The trite answers no longer satisfied me. You know, things like, “God’s love is not like our love!” Well, geez, God’s love sounds a hell of a lot like hate if that’s true.

If we can know right from wrong–if the Spirit can convict us–then why does this version of God’s love seem so wrong to me?

If this is what God’s love is like, then why does the love that Jesus preached of seem like it’s antithesis? Why would he tell us to love our enemies, and then send his enemies to hell? Why would he tell us to do good to those that hate us, while punishing for all eternity those who didn’t even get a chance to know him?

Anyways, I don’t have answers for you right now. I’m still searching, praying, begging for God to show me the truth–to prove to me that he truly is good.

But it’s good to know I’m not alone. As I open up about these struggles, I find more and more people who are questioning the God that they grew up thinking they knew. I thank everyone in my life was willing to have these tough, confusing conversations with me.

I especially wanted to thank Abe Kobylanski. We’ll discuss this subject for hours on end. We’ll question and present one another with our feeble excuses for answers. We’ll cry and swear and flirt with atheism together. It’s hell, but we’re pushing through it together, and I’m thankful for his wisdom and insights.

This blog post (inspired by one of our long conversations) that he wrote last week has been especially weighing on my mind lately. I thought I’d close this blog post by sharing it:

It’s the manic, dysfunctional, flaky God view that I don’t get at all. So, God loved us all enough to send His son to die to save us from our sins (apparently, He didn’t love His son very much though). He tells us that we need to love people unconditionally. But God only loves us if we love Him. Otherwise, He becomes the Judgmental God and sends us to hell. But if we love Him, then we must follow His rules, or we’re not following Him and we’re slipping away from Him. Which means we never loved Him in the first place. Mmmkay…

Read the full post at Images and Words.