Friday, June 17, 2011

On the Enigma of Hell and Bakersfield

I am the Boogie Man. It's a fact. This used to bother me, I'd say and think stuff like, "I don't want kids to fear me, why couldn't their parents have chosen something else, you know, like a nice mythical beast. Something with wings and horns would have been classy, maybe a vengeful ancestral spirit?" But no, it's the white guy, he's the one who comes and gets you when you are disobedient and disrespectful to your parents. It's not that he wants to cannibalize the flesh of young children out in the villages, its just his job, kinda his community service. I've come to accept it, little kids running from me screaming because their parents told them stories about the pale-skinned people. Parents, politicians, and priests are the same all over the world; if logic, reason, and education are too much effort, use fear.

Of all the evangelistic techniques used, the trusted standby "You're going to Hell" has always struck me as a copout and made me wonder, "Really, that's your angle?" I don't fully disbelieve the truth of the statement, for all I know it could be true, I just don't understand the surety or the justification for the statement. Are Gandhi, Muhammad, and Judas in Hell? How should I know, I never saw the guest list. The question I'm more interested in is how, in light of all the restoration, rebirth, adoption, validation, new life, healing, deliverance, good news, etc. throughout scripture, does "not going to Hell" become the big sales pitch? It's like using pictures of Detroit to convince people Fiji is a worthwhile destination. I've never been to Detroit but I believe it exists; I've even herd people live there... of their own free will no less?! I don't understand this, but having spent time in Bakersfield, Ca. and Montgomery, Al. I believe it's possible. I don't mind Montgomery, I've just never been in a place with more people eager to leave, free to do so, and resigned to the fact they never will. Bakersfield, Detroit, and Hell represent their own enigmas.

I might get around to reading one of Rob Bell's books, but until then I'll stick with the belief Hell is a real place people will end up in. That said, I've never considered it relevant to any of my beliefs or actions. I might be in denial, but I'd rather live a life geared towards the positives, you know, like that whole God kinda likes us thing and has put a bit of effort into helping us become a bit more alive, a bit more free, and a whole lot more like him. I don't need a Boogie Man to make me like Jesus, I fail to see the point of getting freaked about noises in a closet when there is a party raging outside.


  1. So, in your Hell = Boogie Man analogy, the boogie man is revealed to actually be a harmless white person. Is hell like that, just misunderstood and ultimately anodyne myth that is mostly a phenomenon of our relative inexperience? Perhaps a myth based on the identity of real villains of the past, human "boogie men." Or just a myth based on a certain unfamiliarity.

    Or, have you been MISTAKEN for a boogie man, in which case a boogie man actually exists. In the event that a boogie man actually exists, it seems relevant, and potentially terrifying, depending on the actual boogie man's character, provenance, and proximity to me.
    If the boogie man actually exists, as terrifying as advertised, and if Jesus can save me from his horrors, that seems a rather overwhelming consideration. "Focusing on the positives" comes across as a marketing gimmick for a passive-agressive deity who can't cop to the threats he has made (and who, perhaps, could not enforce them).

  2. I may be too tired for this, but I'll give it a shot:
    The Boogie Man is real and freakish. We may not fully comprehend him, myths may be built up around him, take on a life of their own, and serve their own masters, but in the end he isn't the point and never was.
    To toss in another analogy, the B.M. is the ditch, the more you focus on it the more likely you are to end up in it. The more you focus on the road and the destination the less relevant the ditch becomes. It's there, but it doesn't matter all that much if you are driving towards your goal. If you are teaching someone how to drive, you don't make them afraid of the ditch, you get them to focus on the road and the intended direction.
    As for the deity, he's the one who gave the road. My guess is his threats go along the lines of "If you drive into the ditch you will be in the ditch, don't do that." Rather than "Toe the line or I'll beat you!"
    The real point of the B.M. analogy was to highlight the cop out of using fear to motivate instead of looking at value.