Jessa Duggar’s recent post admonishing Christians to be, like, Christians gathered some interesting reponses – the most common of which seemed to be “If this woman’s in Heaven, I’d rather be in Hell!”
… and no, you wouldn’t. You really don’t want to go to Hell.
The thought of wanting to choose Hell over Heaven is fairly popular in art; Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young,” for example, has a memorable line in which he says he’d “rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints,” for example. To be fair, Mr. Joel is referring to life here rather than existence after we pass away, but the sentiment is clear, and found often; my own father, for example, said that he’d prefer to spend time in Hell after his life ended, with Hell being populated with more interesting people.
My father was not a Christian.
The portrayal of Hell as an alternative to Heaven makes sense, but the nature of the portrayal does not.
It suggests that Heaven is a solemn cathedral, filled with enforced order and quiet, perhaps with the hymns of angels in the distance. People do little in the populist version of Heaven: they sit and worship, which to most people seems to mean they sit and listen, and perhaps drop a bit of change in an offering plate as it goes by.
Hell, on the other hand, is a party, filled with roughnecks interested in having a good time – that’s what landed them in Hell, after all, right? The “punishment” has been administered; the evil have to put up with a few fires here and there, and the rest of the time is spent drinking, carousing, laughing… defiance at its best, since there is nothing left. Why bother to behave, after all? Once you’re in Hell, there’s nowhere left to go; might as well enjoy yourself while you’re there.
The problem is that neither portrayal makes any sense.
Heaven is, by definition, beautiful – heavenly, you might say. Heaven is where everything we are and everything we want is magnified and purified in God’s Will. When we reach Heaven, those things that distract us from God – our desires to misbehave, you might say – are purified and refined such that they are made perfect in God’s Will. Our defiance, if such is what God desires in us, because “defiance” — note the air quotes — and becomes an expression of God’s Will rather than our railing against a Holy and Just God.
Our parties don’t stop being parties – they becomes parties, perfect and blessed in every way.
Hell, on the other hand, isn’t “a few fires” where our wayward decisions are encouraged and manifested. It’s eternal separation from everything desirable.
Think about that.
Eternal separation from everything desirable.
That means that if you desire drink – Hell, by definition, will have nothing for you. If you desire sex, you are left without – and without any release. If you desire solitude, you will be surrounded by the groans of millions who desired separation from God right along with you. If you desire a crowd, you will know nothing but the separation from the One who died for you such that you might be eternally with Him.
Hell, by definition, is unpleasant. Everything you want, Hell is not. On the other hand, Heaven is everything you want. That’s what the terms mean.
People who say they’d rather go to Hell are being stupid – they’re using a mechanism very common in today’s media, the catchphrase.
Catchphrases caught on during the run of Seinfeld, where every episode tried to create a new meme for people to use. Examples are “Yadda, yadda, yadda,” or “master of your domain,” or “No soup for you!”
Nowadays, it seems like headlines are built around memes, and they’re fun – it’s all about the snappy comeback, and they’re certainly memorable. (Memes being memorable – what an idea! It’s almost like being memorable is what makes a meme what it is.)
The problem with the snappy headlines is that they’re wrong. They often end up being composed of more lies than truths.
Consider the noise around Ms. Duggar’s recent post: one headline said “Duggar Daughter: Liberal Christians Are Going To Hell, Just Like Other Sinners.” The problem is, she didn’t; she actually never referred to political leanings at all, and she said that people who posed as Christians – in other words, Christians in name only – were no different than non-christians in terms of salvation.
But the headline was catchy, so people picked up on it, and never bothered to actually read what she said, or think about what she said, to determine if her words actually represented wisdom or not.
There’s a tragic amount of this, too: it’s easy to find on both sides of the political fence. The right says that Obama is a Muslim and a traitor! The left says that everyone who hates Obama eats children for dessert! (To be fair, it’s not limited to the right or left – Libertarians do it, too.)
It’s stupid, and none of it makes much sense if you actually look at the source material.
Obama is, at the very least, a professing Christian, and is not a Muslim; I don’t know if he was ever a Muslim, and I don’t know if he’s actually a Christian or not, but by golly, he claims it, and I am in no position to know otherwise. What’s more, he’s the American President – at the very least it’d be nice to accord him the respect due his office, if anyone remembers what that might mean.
Jessa Duggar didn’t even mention liberality in her post – it’s only the headlines that associated licentiousness and sin with liberality, which I find highly amusing and ironic (as well as very, very sad).
My Personal Plea
Look, if you’re writing something, you will want to use a headline. You need one. But it would be better to not have hits than it would do attract traffic with a headline that misrepresents what you’re actually trying to say. Lying to your audience trains them to expect you to lie, if they’re intellectually honest, and if they decide to accept your lies as truth, they’re either stupid, or participating in your lies. That walks very close to being evil.
Don’t be evil.
If you’re reading, please look at what’s being said, at what’s being described; go back to the source material, if you can. (If you can’t, then what you’re reading can probably be discarded out of hand.) Even disreputable sites will attribute their work to their source material, even if they’re contorting the content past recognition; follow the source! The articles on Jessa Duggar’s claim actually had links back to her original Facebook post, in which she actually didn’t say what they said she said – reading the original material provides a much better context in which one can discuss what’s actually being talked about, instead of yapping endlessly about something that’s not actually worth discussing.
Think for yourself.