NO ONE LEFT BEHIND
Back in 1972 a woman in my little Presbyterian Church brought me a slim paperback book she said her daughter was forced to read by a substitute teacher in her High School English class.
The teacher was pastor of a small rural Pentecostal church and the book included graphic scenes of the unsaved being boiled in huge vats of boiling oil at the end of history, with the understanding these people will continue to boil for all eternity -with the horrendous pain and no relief - and remain alive and sensate throughout.
What sort of people get off on this stuff? And on a less horrific scale, why do so many otherwise wonderful and kind people think they have to hold a belief that the vast majority of human beings will be ‘left behind” by the Creator of the universe?
65,000,000 readers of the Left Behind novels advocating a Great Divide with a few lucky souls going to God and the rest left behind! How can we possibly compete? I am reminded of a story inspired by something Loren Eisley wrote in his wonderful book, The Unexpected Universe. The little vignette by Eiseley was expanded by Joel Barker and since heard by many, telling of a young boy seen throwing stranded starfish back into the water.
The boy is asked, “There are miles and miles of stranded starfish on the shore. What possible difference does it do throwing them back one by one?” Heaving another one out into the waves, the boy replies, “It makes a difference to that one.”
So this is what I propose we do. Let’s make this our banner, our slogan, if only for this year 2008.
Tell at least one person, “No, they’ve got it all wrong. When all is said and done there will be no one left behind.”
You don’t have to share my faith in a new life after death. You don’t even have to believe that there is a God you can define as loving or kind.
All you have to do is to say a clear NO to any view of the future that splits us all up into the saved and unsaved. To borrow a modern motif, if you find someone who believes that, just say NO.
Gal Beckerman in the Columbia Journalism Review (May/June 2004) reported that Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins had one primary purpose in their “Left Behind” series: “to detail ‘the gruesome perdition ahead for unbelievers and the merciful salvation awaiting faithful Christians.”
Here is a picture of Jerry and Tim. See their bright smiles, their seeming kindliness. Can’t you picture each one bouncing a sweet granddaughter on his knee? And yet their “beam me up” theology would allow for the possibility that their own little child may one day stray from the path and end up being “left behind” herself.
A dear friend gave me the most precious gift for Christmas, a lovely letter opener engraved with the words: “All God’s Children - No one left behind.
My dear readers, all around you are persons whose minds have been infected with the virulent premise that the Creator of the Universe is going to shut out from a future paradise the vast majority of all the people born on this planet. Tell them it ain’t so. Tell them to really think it through, and truly to understand what a terrible belief that is. Tell them they are free to hold a different belief, one that resonates with the best and highest in their own souls. Tell them there will be no one left behind!
THE BATTLE WE FACE
There all kinds of folks under the Fundamentalist Tent. Some I have shared in community activities with delight and appreciation, and there are many who exhibit a level of kindness and compassion that is in contradiction to the creed they espouse.
From a Universalist perspective I find it more helpful to distinguish between inclusive and exclusivists, especially since some of the latter wear liberal or even leftist stripes.
But Michelle, I do wish to say that our opposition to some versions of fundamentalist Christian exclusivist is grounded on legitimate concern for their effect on other persons, on our society, and on the world human community.
When in terms of present or future destiny huge segments of a community hold views that infer or declare a separation of humanity into two or more groups, then that has an impact on the life of the world that transcends traditional liberal complaints about the attempted imposition of personal views.
Putting it more bluntly, when millions of Christians believe that many of the persons they see and associate with every day will go to some never-ending torment and suffering when they die, that has a profound impact, not just on their own behavior but on the cumulative effect of their synchronizing synergistic involvement in society.
Moving through life side by side like an army of darkness they bring us all down. Their consistently exclusivist convictions powerfully intrude on all the political and cultural arenas of our community.
Instead of emphasizing our common humanity they emphasize escape for the few. Instead of expressing hope for collaborative efforts to improve the life of the world they spend their time and energy trying to save themselves and others for the world to come.
Instead of reaching out to embrace people of different faiths, lifestyles, and world-views, they sit beneath the cross of Jesus and call their brothers and sisters to become like them, think like them, and believe like them, lest they are "left behind".
Against such arrogant and polarizing doctrines we must raise our voices in loud protests, fighting such dark religious views with all our mind, all our heart, and all our strength.
It is much, much more than simply reacting when personally challenged by a fundamentalist Christian, or feeling like our rights to religious freedom are being threatened. We are in a battle for human minds and lives.
Raven is the pen name used by previous editor of the printed Universalist Herald, Rich Koster.