Friday, October 31, 2003

OK, brief note on the drama we went to: Click here if you want to read its own promotion.

Basically it provided a version of the gospel that was too thin, and therefore ultimately inadequate. “You might die at any time, so accept Jesus or you’ll go to hell.” It portrayed this particular message effectively in an emotional sense, and I suppose might be effective in getting conversions of a sort among people who enjoy being emotionally moved. Personally I resent it (even when I think the emotion justified), so in that sense perhaps I’m not a competent judge of its effect on such people, but even among them I doubt how long they would stay true to such a “conversion.”

But intellectually the drama left me almost ready to ask the classic anti-God question: “How can a loving God do this to people?” The impression was of ordinary Joes, doing their thing, suddenly discovering that because of an oversight they are condemned to eternal torment. There was little impression that these people deserved what they got. Which, if God is just, must be the case—and if we truly knew our own hearts, we’d know we deserved it ourselves. The real problem was that the law was left out. Punishment without judgment can only be capricious cruelty. There was some attribution of various “sins” that had kept people from accepting Christ (alcohol and partying, mainly), but none that truly reflected God’s law.

Hell was also depicted in a manner that is contrary to the Bible, but commonly presented in cartoons—a sort of concentration camp run by Satan.

What I would like to see now is a drama that really showed the ultimate issues, in a way that made heaven and hell the natural outgrowths of human choices, not the arbitrary imposition of a divine dictator. I can think of two forms. One would be an adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, in which souls must choose between clinging to whatever “good” or evil thing is to them more important than accepting the rule of God, or surrendering it and being able to enter into the ultimate reality of heaven. But the landscape of Lewis’ heaven might be too much to stage—it might work as a radio type drama. Although it is not explicit in the Bible, I tend to agree with Lewis’ interpretation that ultimately those souls who go to hell go there because they want to—because in hell they can continue in some sense running their own lives rather than reaching the ultimate joy through submission.

The other would be a courtroom drama in which the accuser of the brethren would be pleading as to why certain souls deserved eternal damnation. (I don’t think Satan runs hell, but he apparently keeps tabs on who deserves to go there.) People could serve as their own counsel, pledging their absence of various overt crimes, or various good deeds. Then the prosecutor could—perhaps via video footage (my siblings and I for some reason believed when small that our entire lives would be replayed verbatim at the gates of heaven—not true as far as I know, but useful for a play)—break apart their pretensions. Show the smoldering hatred that was kept back from murder only by an even more damning pride. Uncover the self-righteousness that poisoned their best deeds. Expose the lust, the covetousness, the bitterness, that poisons the souls of ordinary nice guys (and gals). Except for some defendants, who would have willingly accepted the court appointment of an Advocate, and who would find that all their tapes had been erased.

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