Pastor Rob Bell, a leading liberal Christian, dropped a bomb on the Evangelical right-wing faction of Christianity. Bell is calling the right-wing evalgelical ideas of Heaven, Hell, redemption and torture misguided and toxic. He is calling out the Evangelical right for their preposterous and indefensible concept of the afterlife.
Bell is saying that there are (*gasp*) other ways to Heaven than Evangelical Christianity! The blasphemy!
The Evangelical right's vision of Hell is one of the best tools in their toolbox, and it's no wonder they're upset about Bell's challenge. Of all the tricks that keep people going to church, the idea of eternal damnation and torture is one of the best. Sure, people like the idea of being good to start with, and of being rewarded for it later. But without Hell they could still have a beer or two, bet $100 on the Super Bowl, have sex before marriage and still feel like things were OK with God. "Maybe I'll get slapped around a little in purgatory, but hey, it was worth it!"
But Hell? There's no way you can spin that into an inconvenience. According to the conservative Christians, you have to follow their formula exactly: Go to church, accept Jesus as your personal savior, follow all the rules and so on. Miss any step of their formula and you're screwed. Royally screwed. You're screwed even if nobody ever told you the rules.
According to the Evangelicals' reckoning, Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest men of peace in history, is going to Hell. And it's stuff like this that's driving Christians away from Christianity. It's just ridiculous on the face of it to claim that a loving God would torture a man of peace like Mahatma Gandhi forever. Even the average Jane or Joe sitting in the pews can figure that out.
You can see why the Evangelical right of Christianity is objecting so strenuously. Bell is one of the most popular preachers in America and a well-known author. If his philosophy starts to take hold the Evangelical right will lose one of the best tools in their toolbox.
They're hitting back hard. Bell's theology has been described as "moving farther and farther away from anything resembling biblical Christianity" and "unspeakably sad." The Reverand Albert Mohler Jr. (whom I've written about before) called Pastor Bell's idea that Gandhi might go to Heaven a "theological striptease." I have no idea what Mohler means by that but it sounds nasty.
(Hey, do you suppose I could get into Heaven? I'm actually a pretty good guy, except for this atheism thing! Nah, forget it.)
I'll be watching this battle-of-Christian-memes reality show as it unfolds. I love watching memetic evolution in action. Which side will win? Like all evolution, only time will tell.