Month: September 2016

The Pulley System: On Eliminating the Hell Factor.

I am starting to wonder if the trouble with treating everyone as equal, is that we don’t believe that someone won’t have to pay.  We’ve been raised in a Heaven-or-Hell and sometimes Purgatory system.  Which means that anyone who knows anything about the afterlife knows that nothing you do here doesn’t come back to stoke your personal fires of Hell.  Or gains you exactly one ruby on your winning Heaven Crown.  So, of course, when the we find out that we’ve been doing it wrong all along, the sinking feeling starts to take over.  If Christ must increase, I must decrease.  Someone has to disappear.  The fearful mutterings are coming out all ugly.

What if women take over the election?

What if black people take over the same jobs?

What if everyone is free to enter our country and work and raise a family?


What if we do?

The pulley system tells us it will be our heads and hands in chains on boats shipped back to Europe.  The pulley system tells us that it will be our voice that won’t matter, anymore.  And here is the most dangerous part of it all: somehow, the people with all the power– the ones who are afraid of being oppressed by the ones they oppressed– they believe they will deserve it.

That’s what Hell teaches us.  We deserve what we get.

But what if it’s like this: the oppressed have no interest in becoming the oppressor.  And maybe it’s like this: if for a minute we could get our head from the Heavenly clouds or from the brimstone below, we could find a balance here in the middle.  Where someone getting what they need doesn’t mean another gets less.

Because if there is limited seating here, I can’t help but believe there’s a capacity in the Beyond.  And it was tapped out years ago.


I have a strong suspicion that this idea of God stepping in when it’s all over to correct all the wrongs isn’t any more plausible a scenario than it is here.  Which gives me the feeling that the next thing will be a matter of us continuing to work it all out.  So, maybe, if we get a head start, the feasting can begin a little sooner.  Or the singing.  Or whatever it is we do when we all go to the same place after this one.

Tell Me What to Do: On Asking Someone Else.

“I wonder if the way we can’t make decisions is like how other people pray,” my Someone said.

We had a long week of making one hard decision, and most of the time we weren’t sure if we were right.  We soothed ourselves by taking right and wrong off the table– I tried to tell him it’s not so much that we made the wrong decision.  We just made decision. He was not consoled.  Neither was I.

“I guess it would be easier if we had God telling us what to do, too,” I said.


I like the way it looked on other people, sometimes.  I imagine it to be a small room with the person fervently praying, beads of sweat and tears pooling around their temple and the corner of their mouths, maybe an indistinguishable mantra coming from the strain of their face.  Knees to the floor, hands curled around each other in that classic Puritan sort of way– and then God shows up.  Maybe he casually shuffles in the back door.  Maybe he just appears.  But without so much of a consideration for the scene, he taps the person on their right shoulder.  They open one eye and peer over at God.  And then they hear it– in a voice just above a whisper and just below a full mutter–

You should totally buy the house with the extra bedroom.  It’s super rad, and you can totally justify it by saying you’re going to use it to house visiting missionaries or something.  It doesn’t matter– just tell them I sent you.  That should cover it.

And then God’s gone.  And the person gets to leave the room and face the rest of the world with confidence: God is leading me to buy this house.

God is always leading people to go to Africa or homeschool their kids or take the bus or buy a frappaccino.  He seems ever interested in what color shirts we are wearing, who we are marrying, and our choice of candidate.  He is invested in buying raw organic and not stepping on cracks to break our mothers’ backs and whether or not we have a license to carry our guns.  This is why I suspect s/he doesn’t really have time to tell me what to do when I really need it.  He’s too busy telling everyone around me whether to go on a diet.


But then again, whether or not I should or shouldn’t get a puppy shouldn’t be up to God, anyway.  Because if s/he tells me to go for it, and then the dog pisses in the back seat, I’ll have to complain to God about the choice s/he made.  But maybe that’s the point, after all.  If God is always leading everyone to do or not do what they want or don’t want, we never have to be responsible– we never have to consult our conscience or make hard decisions or feel at all like we’ve failed or succeeded.  We just get to rest good naturedly in God’s will.

My Someone and I were still wrestling with our hard decision until this morning.  We may have come to an agreement at last.  But somewhere, between when it all started and when it was decided, we got to look each other square in the eye and say, “Is this going to be okay for you?  Are you going to be better or worse for this?”  Maybe that’s what we lose in having God tell us what to do.  We are so busy closing our eyes that we forget to look at each other.  We forget to look at ourselves.  We are straining our ears for the voice of God so that we miss the voices already penetrating our sonic space.  We lose the chance to ask each other how we can better love.

Glory and Hell: On Loving God.

When it says we have all fallen short of the Glory of God, does that include God?

I’m just thinking, here, that I have also fallen short of the Glory of me.  And fallen short of the Glory of my Someone.  On my most Glory days, sometimes my Someone falls short of me, too.

Maybe it goes that God wasn’t saying so much that he was perfect so much as saying, “Hey, we all have bad days.”  Maybe Glory is just another way of saying, “When I am at my best…”


And maybe Hell is just the empty threat of when God is falling short of his Glory.  Maybe Hell is the insecurity that leaks in when he is worried that he is not enough for us.  The burning fear that he can’t keep us around with what he has to offer.  Because even God falls short of Glory, sometimes.  Twisted threats of suicide won’t work on a people who mostly believe God is dead already.  So, here it goes: love me, love me, stay with me… or I’ll– I’ll… send you to Hell.

Silly, God.  No one is perfect.  Don’t worry.  Though you have fallen short of the Glory of us, you can still be redeemed.  We can still be together.  Put your Hell threats away.  We don’t need them to love.