“If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is ‘God is crying’. And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is ‘Probably because of something you did.” ― Jack Handey
We have the dubious pleasure of reading The Inferno in World Lit. This was one book, while I may have wanted to read it a few years ago (05-06), I'd decided I didn't want to after all.
Back in the good ol' days when I was young and innocent and not so cynical, I read this collection of romances, Beyond Perfect.
In the first story, the title story, our heroine is asked whether or not she's saved. She answers:
"Well, of course I'm saved. I don't want to go to hell. I made sure I told God I was a sinner and begged for his forgiveness. I did that when I was six years old. My mother had me scared out of my little mind, that sometime in the middle of the night, the world would end, and if I wasn't right with the Lord, my little body was headed straight for the fiery lake."
Have you ever heard the term, "scared out of hell"?
She believed that in all of the major choices we had in life, we only had one shot to make The Right Decision. So, she waited for The Sparkles. That sense of rightness. No do-overs.
When you grow up in church like I did, this scared out of hell thing is really common. To be perfectly honest, take out the age, and that could be the story of my spiritual life.
I didn't get saved because I thought God loved me. I got saved because I was afraid of going to hell. Period.
Brimstone preachers tend to leave out the part that God loves you and that it does hurt when we fall, that it does grieve Him when we reject Him. Some make it sound like He wants us to go to hell so He doesn't have to deal with us anymore, that this wonderful thing called grace is something He begrudges us instead of giving it freely.
After I read The Ragamuffin Gospel, I lost a lot of respect for the brimstone sermons. I never liked them, but I had respected them. Not so much anymore. They only tell half the story. (And we wonder why I hold the Church in so little esteem?)
I'm not overly fond of the classics as it is, and I've even less enamored of a classic about hell. I'm sure you can see why. Maybe if we read all three parts to The Divine Comedy, maybe I'd feel differently about it, but considering my spiritual background and spiritual hang-ups, I really didn't want to read it.
I live vicariously through the books I read. I'm trying to avoid going to hell in real life, and I don't want to experience it vicariously either.
Although, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I kind of liked how the Pilgrim met Virgil, Ovid, Sophocles, and Homer in hell. I also know that some prominent figure in the Renaissance is in one of the deeper circles. That might make it worth the read. O__O
Something else I wrote about this: Do Not Laugh/It's Not a Joke