I was reading the paper yesterday when an ad caught my eye. The headline of the ad read "Which of the Following Sins Would Most Likely Send a Person to Hell?" The four choices were 1) Murder, 2) Stealing, 3) Adultery, and 4) Homosexuality. You were then invited to engage in free Bible correspondence to discover the answer. The bottom lines of the ad read, "No time limit. Certificate upon completion."
The reason the ad caught my attention was that beside the words "Send a Person to Hell" there was a drawing of a bearded man in a robe that I'm guessing is meant to be God. God in medieval art is frequently portrayed with a stern, serious expression, but this God is drawn with a broad smile. The juxtaposition of words and image implies, to me at least, that God is gleeful at the thought of sending a person to Hell for one of the above sins. He looks like he's laughing at his own joke. "You want to get into Heaven? Well of course, come on... NOT! You're going to Hell! HAHAHAHA!"
It's not so much God as an authority figure as God as a supervillian. Which, I'm doubting was the intent of the ad.
I tore the ad out of the paper and brought it home. I intended to scan it and post it on my blog. I launched my scanner and got the preview image. I hit the scan button... and my scanner died. It's kaput. My computer doesn't even recognize that it's plugged in any more. It seems to have no power to it at all.
When I took the ad off the scanner, I kind of expected a FIFTH ANSWER:
5) Scanning God's image with the intent of mocking him on the internet.
Oh well, when it comes to Hell, in for a penny, in for a pound, I guess. Because, if I understand the Christian theology of my youth, the answer to the checklist in the ad is both "All of the above" and "None of the above." "None of the above" in the two ways. First, you can do all these sins, and worse, then repent and accept Jesus and get your get out of Hell free card. Second, if you don't do any of these sins, but still don't repent and accept Jesus, you're going to Hell anyway. You are born, after all, with original sin. You could slip and hit your head as a toddler and live 80 years in a coma and ZOOP, off to Hell with you when you die. Going to Hell is the default position... it requires an active decision to change that fate.
This all or nothing element of damnation is one reason I'm mystified by conservative Christian stands against certain sins in particular. Homosexuality, for instance. If you talk to conservative Christians who oppose homosexuality, they will tell you that they are just trying to save the fags from Hell. Homosexuality is listed as a sin, after all. But, of course, so is eating pork, and you don't see them running through McDonald's smacking bacon cheeseburgers out of people's hands. And don't get me started about coveting. Coveting is right there on the big ten list of no-no's. Unfortunately, it seems to me, especially during the holidays, that the entire American economy is built on coveting. People want the hottest toys and gadgets so much they get into fist fights in the parking lot. Why aren't conservative Christian's standing in front of Walmart warning people that excessive desire for a material thing is a sin?
I should probably write in and ask the free Bible correspondence people. I'm thinking that certificate would look nice on the wall.