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March 15, 2006

Join the club

Just Plain Bother writes:

"What the heck is up with this? Jerry Falwell really thinks I’m going to hell?"

I don't understand why he's so shocked. Of course Jerry Falwell thinks that Jews and Muslims are going to hell. I'm sure that Jerry Falwell can think of at least five reasons why I'm going to hell, but I don't expect him to apologize.

I mean, RTFM, people. You know, the part where the Jewish carpenter says "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me."

I know it's considered tacky to lay public bets about who's spending the afterlife where, but Falwell's not exactly going out on a theological limb. Yes, it's silly to think that a vengeful god sends his own followers to hell because they don't also believe in the divinity of his son (who's actually him anyway). But that is the party line.

Via TalkLeft.

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Although Falwell is well within the theological mainstream, it doesn't take too much interpretive jujitsu to get unconverted non Christians into heaven.

The question is what exactly is meant by "through me." The fundamentalist assumes that this means "accepting me into your heart by name." It does not count as accepting Jesus unless you mentally categorize him as "Jesus, the guy who died in Jerusalem and is worshiped by the other Christians."

But face it, there is something weird and superficial about insisting on this sort of verbal recognition. A more charitable reading is that anyone who tries to live in a Christ like manner, or who accepts a Christ like notion of divinity is saved. Thus someone who worships Mohammed, but attributes to Mohammed the characteristics we normally attribute to Jesus, is also saved.

And if all else fails, just remember that the bible is an incoherent document, and from a contradiction anything follows.

I'm just surprised that people are getting all huffy that Falwell is publicly affirming what most Christian biblical literalists believe. What did they think he thought?

You will never get a hardcore Protestant to say "individual x" is going to hell. They have respectable reasons why they can't say it.

You kinda have to go thru a catechism with them to get to it, but millions of people, including such sweeties as Laura Bush, have what I consider despicable beliefs. But the system necessitates the very strong possibility, based on death-bed silent conversions, that Adolf Hitler sits in heaven watching Anne Frank burn forever in Hell. It is an uniquely evil religion.

Under interrogation of a believer, I once got to a final:"What if it is true?" Then I will burn with Anne Frank.

"A more charitable reading is that anyone who tries to live in a Christ like manner..."

Naw. "Faith not works" is absolutely critical, non-negotiable, not qualifiable. If Adolf Hitler cannot be saved, none of us can. If Adolf Hitler can be saved, then Anne Frank can burn in hell.

Otherwise, we don't need Jesus.

But Falwell isn't saying that any specific Jewish person is necessarily going to hell. He's just saying if someone lives and dies as a Jew w/o Jesus, then s/he's not going to heaven. That's why generous Jerry prays for us Jews. We might change our minds.

"But face it, there is something weird and superficial about insisting on this sort of verbal recognition."

As opposed to the rest of Christianity.

"You will never get a hardcore Protestant to say "individual x" is going to hell. They have respectable reasons why they can't say it."

Um, have you ever heard Ian Paisley ranting about the Pope? Or any Calvinist, ever? They don't have any qualms about condemning individuals to hell.

That it is so logically powerful in the original Hellenistic texts is one reason I respect the ancients to the degree that I doubt moral or intellectual progress.

God gave us freedom, freedom makes us human, for a human to have an unconditional infinite individual worth that freedom must be unconditionally infinitely valuable and important. Humans as ends not means requires a transcendental purpose to individual life. That purpose is a single choice or decision, it cannot be three or three thousand ranked choices. Only Jesus's sacrifice could makes the stakes of life so high as to make humanness and authenticity possible. Otherwise we are animals with delusions of grandeur...but then how are such delusions possible?

Shit. Too much Kierkeggaard. And I got started.

If Falwell thought I was going to heaven I'd be a little upset.

"Faith not works" is absolutely critical, non-negotiable, not qualifiable.

For Protestants, yes; but many (most?) of the world's Christians are Catholics, and their formula is the reverse.


I'd like to take a contrarian view on Falwell's comments. For him, and for millions of fundamentalist Christians like himself, salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, alone, is the only choice. This is an uncompromising article of faith for a sizable portion of Christianity. For them, all non-Christians will be denied salvation if they die without accepting Jesus. It makes no sense for anyone to argue against someone's tenet of faith on the basis that it seems unreasonable or wrong or, dare I say, un-Christian.

I question no person's faith. In any event, what is the counter to Falwell? Do we make the case that Jews really do go to heaven? For those of us who see God as a concept, a thought, an abstraction what 'proof' can we offer to show Falwell, and those who believe as he, that there are plenty of Jews and Muslims, or Christians, for that matter in heaven (another nonmaterial concept.) It is instructive to see how Israel, particularly the ministry of tourism, presents a fawning and obsequious persona to fundamentalist Christians with dollars to spend in Isreal. This in spite of a view that their beliefs are regarded by many in the tourist ministry as antisemitic.

Forget Falwell and trying to show how his faith is inconsistent with progressive, intellectual and theological thought. Instead, focus on the politicians, here and in Israel, who give him a free ride, offer no criticism, and encourage his pronoucements, not as a matter of faith but as a matter of political expediency, because he will deliver votes come November. We shouldn't dwell on an expression of faith in religious orthodoxy because it strikes us as insensitive and insulting. The exploiters, however, have no such presumption of immunity from criticism. Falwell and Robertson are easy foils. The likes of Bill Frist and the sanctimonious White House are the more suitable targets for their hypocrisy.

Lindsey: How about now?


Now?

Obviously, you're not in the club. People like Falwell think it's as important to follow all the specific rituals involved too. Many people in that camp also think other traditionally Christian denominations are also damned. Groups like Catholics and Episcopalians are in that group. Not all of them are like that but as someone who's lived in the south for most of his life, I see some these things. Heck... some people call the pope the anti-christ.

In many cases, I think the primary purpose of religion turns into dividing rather than bringing together because the first sign of a competing religion, then some initially subtle, somantic differences turn into philosophic wars.

I believe he said the same thing about Mother Theresa a while back. Not exactly "she's going to Hell" but more like, "if she's not born again, she's not getting into Heaven". And Mel Gibson said his non-Catholic wife wasn't going to make it either!

Posted by: Jerry Falwell | March 15, 2006 at 02:04 PM

Jerry behave! Or I'll delay that rapture yet again.

Naw. "Faith not works" is absolutely critical, non-negotiable, not qualifiable.

I think even Protestants could, if they wanted to, read John 14:6 in a way that allows nonchristians to go to heaven. You are saved by faith, yes, but does it have to be faith in someone referred to by the name "Jesus Christ." If you accept Jesus into your heard under another definite descriptor, couldn't you still be saved by faith?

I’m not saying most Protestants interpret John 14:6 this way. I’m merely saying that they could. It is consistent with reasonable methods for interpreting difficult, often contradictory texts.

This does mean that Christians who say that uncoverted Jews are damned are going out of their way to be assholes.

Rob:

"This does mean that Christians who say that uncoverted Jews are damned are going out of their way to be assholes."

Pretty much. Same with many if not all denouncements people base on the Bible. Its a guidebook, not a rulebook. Just like the law, people can interpret it in any way they like.

Unlike the law, we can not point back to the authors intent with any kind of consensus or agreement amongst ourselves. Having studied enough anthropology I look at religion and the bible as precursors to and alternate forms of government, as well as methods to answer what were (and sometimes still are) unanswerable questions. Others look at religion as a true way to commune with a higher power.

Either way, we can't go back and ask why God chose this word over that word in the bible. Every version changes to suit whomever publishes it - and we can't really point to the Dead Sea Scrolls and say "FROM GOD!"

So, if someone tells us the Bible says anything, it means they want it to say that. I think very few people, who are not severely troubled, are sitting around in conflict with the Bible and really struggling with life.

"Judge not lest ye be judged!"

It makes no sense for anyone to argue against someone's tenet of faith on the basis that it seems unreasonable

Wha??

"but does it have to be faith in someone referred to by the name "Jesus Christ"

Well, ya know, it was a specific dude with unique qualifications. Kindness toward the poor and forgiveness of trepassers were not the point of God putting Himself into history. You can believe what you want, and call it what you want. What the hey. I myself tend with LB, that the bathwater goes out when the Baby is thrown.

And I recognize that is insanely presumptuous, offensive, and arrogant for an atheist to say there is only one logical consistent Theism. Just view me as joining the club. I do question if I have chosen the starkest option in order to make it more easy to dismiss, but it is actually more attractive because of its purity. And I have my own problems with the many atheists in the blogosphere, for when I tossed the bathwater, any rigorous ethics went with it, and I am left with nihilism or hard nominalism.

I’m not saying most Protestants interpret John 14:6 this way. I’m merely saying that they could. It is consistent with reasonable methods for interpreting difficult, often contradictory texts.

OK, I'll say it. Most Protestants interpret John 14:6 in a way that permits people they love to go to heaven. Regardless of what religion they are, and pretty much regardless of how they acted in life and what they believed. There used to be churches that would refuse to give Christian burial to certain people, but I haven't heard of that happening in a long time.

After all, that's what religion is for - to make people feel better about the asshole things God does to them, day in, day out, and what kind of comfort is a religion that sends your loved ones to eternal damnation?

Most Protestants quit giving a damn about their Dark Ages theology a long time ago (and "Jews are going to hell" is pretty much orthodox, MOR Protestant theology). Most civilized Protestants are embarassed by their theology, to the extent they understand it, and care more about their tax-exempt country clubs than they do theology, or even the sincere worship of their three-headed god with the carpenter avatar.

But Jerry Falwell is not a civilized Protestant. He's a Real Christian™.

and just to nitpick, "(Catholics') formula is the reverse" is a typical Protestant misunderstanding of Catholic theology. The Catholic position is that only God knows whom he will condemn, and whom he will save.

Look at this way. Life is a pop quiz. You arrive in the classroom not even knowing that you're going to school- then you get maybe 70 years - or maybe only a few minutes (both just a blink of an eye compared to eternity)- to take the test. If you pass- eternal bliss!! If you fail- eternal suffering!! It's a heck of a system God set up, isn't it? Worse than the SATs, that's for sure.


DadaHead: Reasonableness or rationality of religious belied, a tenet of faith, isn't an argument against that belief because it is just that, faith. By definition it is beyond reason. So why get into a discussion about the logical tenability as to whether Jews or Muslims can get into heaven? Why get into the inconsistencies or contradictions of various tenets? They can never be resolved because they are based on faith, not syllogistic construction.

The real issue is that self-serving exploitation and expediency among political leaders keep the Falwells and Robertsons in business. They deliver votes, and they fully understand their influence with the White House and the Republicans. Whether a particular verse of scripture is or is not being interpreted 'correctly' is an exercise that gets nowhere.

Most Protestants interpret John 14:6 in a way that permits people they love to go to heaven.

Not to mention their dogs.

Whether a particular verse of scripture is or is not being interpreted 'correctly' is an exercise that gets nowhere.

Unless you happen to have a prior interest in the philosophy of interpretation.

(And the philosophy of interpretation is is a fascinating subject, which involves finding commonalities in law, religion and art.)


You arrive in the classroom not even knowing that you're going to school- then you get maybe 70 years - or maybe only a few minutes (both just a blink of an eye compared to eternity)- to take the test. If you pass- eternal bliss!! If you fail- eternal suffering!!

This is why reincarnation always made more sense to me. Instead of the above pop quiz with an instant up or down escalator, it's a methodical way of improving yourself, ensuring that almost everyone goes up.

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