These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

am i going to heaven?

that was a question posed to me by a mr. medina friday afternoon.

it's not a question i get asked often, maybe only a handful ot times so far in my life. either way, when i get asked the question it's always memorable and friday afternoon was no exception.

i was watching some cool bugs bunny cartoons -- the bunny of seville to be exact -- when i hear a pounding on our outer door. i pause the dvd player, put my glasses on, and make my way to the open inner door and see someone standing on the porch steps.

i open the door and this guy, dressed mighty spiffily in a white shirt and slacks, is there and introduces himself as someone from one of the local baptist churches.
the man didn't mince words.

--"do you belong to any church?"
--"no i don't," i replied looking down between my legs to my sure my cat didn't make her way out while i chatted with our friendly bible thumper.
-- "well, let me ask you this question. if you died right now, do you think you'd go to heaven?
-- without hesitation, i reply, "yes, i would."
-- he without hesitation, "why do you think so?"
-- "because i'm a good person."
-- "well, the bible says that..."

i didn't quite get the end of that sentence. but, in essence, he was telling me that i would not be allowed in heaven only because i was a "good person."

-- "would you mind if i come in for five minutes to talk about that this?"
-- "no i don't think so."
-- "then take this pamphlet, it says what would have talked about."

i take the little piece of paper and even shake this poor fellow's hand before closing the door and coming back inside.

i was not upset with mr. medina. he was doing his job as a good baptist to try and save everyone's souls to make sure they make their way to heaven.

the only problem is, baptists have a select idea of who goes to heaven. i, for one, a non-church-goer, would be damned to the fires of hell. i am catholic, though non-practicing, and that is another strike against me.

i have a problem with people telling me that i will not be allowed into an afterlife simply because i don't enter a building and worship god or jesus or whoever. if jesus is everywhere, as we are taught in catholicism, then he's simply not in the building where people each week to worship.

i have a further problem with this baptist god. i will profess to know nothing about the baptist faith and will not judge it but only a belief that i find narrow-minded.

when i was in college i took a religion course that i actually enjoyed, the letters of paul. the class was taught by a baptist. he was a very nice man. but one day, while discussing something, he made the comment, "those who live in deepest, darkest africa will not go to heaven because they didn't know jesus."

i have never forgotten that statement. i disagreed with it ocmpletely. why should someone who doesn't have the opportunity to become christian or "get to know jesus" fail to reach the pearly gates because of a thing like geography getting in the way or them being born in africa instead of an american city with plenty of churches to worship? i think it's hogwash.

if you are a good person, then i say your chances of reaching heaven are good. there are plenty of church-going folks who sit up front near the pulpit every sunday who sin outside of the church. do they deserve a front-row seat on the chariot that takes you up to heaven over me because they went to church and i didn't? i don't believe that. there are so many good people who don't go to church. i can't possibley imagine them spending eternity in hell over a simple thing as not going to church.

in addition, i don't believe that because a person is buddhist, hindu, taoist, jewish,muslim or practicing some religion in deepest, darkest africa they will not be able to move on to happiness elsewhere after they die. each will go on to wherever their religion says they go after death and it doesn't have to be hell if they're not christian.

if god is good, then he's not malevolent.

so mr. medina, please don't judge me on my lack of church attendance. the bible, after all, says not to judge lest ye be judged.