Hell not a figment of our imaginationNot everyone gets a trophy at the pearly gates

There is nothing worse than having someone bitterly tell you to go straight to hell. It’s also terrible when someone angrily shouts “damn you,” which is another way of suggesting you head to the fiery pit.

Ah, but some readers may protest: Really, does anyone still believe in hell? Isn’t that a rather quaint concept along the lines of devils in red suits carrying cute little pitch forks?

If you go to a funeral these days, it certainly would be tempting to conclude hell is a mere figment of our imagination, but this is wrong.

Problem is, so many eulogies assure us our loved ones are looking down from a heavenly cloud above. Even if Auntie Irma was known to kick puppies when no one was looking, ignore poor people and make life as miserable as possible for her family, you will still be told she is frolicking with the angels.

This is because many Christians ascribe to a rather flabby theology, which suggests everyone goes to heaven. This notion of getting a free pass to eternal bliss is akin to a common practice in many schools, where every child walks away with a shining prize following a sporting event, even the kids who never scored a point.

The underlying philosophy is that it is psychologically harmful to reward the real winners and acknowledge the losers. Little Johnny might feel terribly rejected if he doesn’t get a prize, you see.

In fact, though, this is a dangerous notion because Johnny needs to know there really are winners and losers in the game of life. And if he screws up big time during his life, he will not be handed a trophy at the pearly gates.

Christian theology teaches that Christ’s coming was an inevitable result of Adam and Eve sinning, and being thrown out of that lovely Garden of Eden. Out of love, Christ died on a bloody cross and took upon himself all the sins of the world.

But love didn’t stop him from preaching about the existence of hell, where, he said, there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth. He didn’t mince words when he talked about sinners being thrown into eternal darkness at the Last Judgment.

Now some readers may object that a merciful God would never send anyone to hell – and I agree. You see, we are the ones who choose our ultimate destination through our actions.

And surely in hell the worst realization would be that we messed up big time— and won’t get another chance to score any more points.

As for me, when it’s time for my funeral Mass, I pray the priest won’t assure the crowd that I’m frolicking with angels in heaven. I very much hope to get there, but certainly won’t presume that I made it.

And rather than a glowing eulogy, I’ll be grateful for some heartfelt prayers.

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