Controversy? Heaven?

Anyone who writes likes what they write to get some attention. Hopefully lots of attention. So I was happy when a reporter called to ask me for an interview on the new book. Who would not be happy about that? One of the questions she asked me was whether I thought my book would be controversial and why. While I wrote it to be inspirational, and as it took on a life of its own in the writing, I said that I thought it probably would be for two reasons:

1. Because I say that heaven is not a place in the sky or somewhere else where we go when we die. Rather, heaven is present with us now. It is among us as human beings here on earth. We enter heaven through our loving relationships in life, and these bonds of love last forever. I express it as, “a place in the heart is surely dearer to us than a place in the sky.” This is the “Spirituality of Meeting” that I define in the book. Heaven is not so much about finding love in the afterlife as it is to experience the eternal in the love that we live today. I wondered if people might object to this, thinking I was denying the time honored expectation that we simply continue living by moving on to another place after we die, like a perfected earth somewhere. I’m just not sold on that, but a person has a right to believe whatever comforts them, and far be it from me to disturb that. I do think it’s time to talk about heaven, the classic view and the meaning of it to our life together on earth. Historically, the emphasis on “some get in and others don’t” has defined the way we relate to each other and accept or  don’t accept each other as “equals.”  I do know that we have the opportunity now, in the present, to contribute to an ongoing and, for want of a better term, immortal love through our relationships. And that has a lot more appeal to me than the thought of entering an cushy, unchallenging, undemanding idle paradise forever. Of course, maybe I’m just seeing the traditional concept of heaven from the wrong perspective. If so, I would like to hear about it.

I do have difficulty with organized religion, the church in particular, when it acts like it has a monopoly on God and God’s work, then it fails to do God’s work; and when organized religion sees its mission primarily as doing things for people, like a charity, rather than being with people, coming to know them as persons apart from religion, as Jesus did, without preconditions or judgments. Religious institutions need to move outside their own religion, to put honest and loving relationships with people first, before anything else. Intimacy and affection are what make us human, not religious rules and institutional habits.  On this point, I’m certain, but always comments are welcome. As Oliver Cromwell famously said in a letter to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” We could all benefit from being shown wrong from time to time.

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