I’m blogging at Off the Page today with my fourth column on the ever-pleasant subject of hell as eternal conscious torment. Enjoy!
One week before my father died of cancer, I received an email from a family friend— we’ll call her G—wanting to know if he had been “saved” yet; the implication being there wasn’t much time left before it would be too late. By that point, Dad had succumbed to a comatose-like state, with occasional hallucinations and unintelligible ramblings. In other words, though technically still alive, he had already left us—and if this “friend” knew him at all, she’d have known he was never comfortable talking about religion.
That email sent me down a rabbit hole of anxiety, which I’m still wandering through, nearly two years later. Having been involved in evangelical church groups for years, I knew G probably had good intentions. In her view, the most loving thing a Christian could do was warn nonbelievers about their eternal fate, but her timing could not have been worse. As far as I know, my father died as the agnostic I always knew him to be.
Considering my entire family is Jewish, you would think the doctrine of hell would have kept me from becoming a Christian altogether. Indeed, it is one of the most exclusive, horrifying, and offensive aspects of the Christian faith from an outsider’s perspective, yet I never allowed myself to think about it. I was instead drawn to the person of Jesus, the radical Jewish teacher who flipped tables and pissed off the righteous gatekeepers of religiosity. He was a feisty mensch, like me. By my sophomore year of college, I had made the decision to count myself among his followers.
Read the rest here.