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guilty pleasure monday: you make your own heaven and hell right here on earth (the temptations)
May 23rd, 2011 by wrekehavoc

be forewarned: i am probably going to accidentally trounce on beliefs without meaning to and without any malice. apologies in advance. i’m thinking aloud here.

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all this talk about raptures is puzzling to me at best. and that’s at best.

i had to do a little reading about the concept of rapture, as it is a christian concept and thus obviously nothing i was taught as part of my time with mrs. hannah felder, the torah-ettes, and our stunning hebrew school curriculum. there’s a piece of the christian bible called thessalonians (which i had to practice saying, i would add — that word is a tongue twister and made me feel like i had a lisping challenge) where paul writes one of his epistles.  (i remember reading a bit about him in college through the confessions of st. augustine. that paul was pretty prolific.)

(speaking of prolific paul, i always love being at weddings with BS when they get to the part of paul writing to the corinthians. my husband always makes me laugh:  dear corinthians, he’ll whisper, STOP. how’s the leather business? STOP. etc.)

so that thinker named paul, he took on the thessalonians as well, only this time, he was talking about christians being taken up to G-d. and i’m no theologian (so i will defer to my friends who are), but it sounds like depending on which sort of christian you are delineates how the whole rapture scenario plays out. but ultimately, my understanding is that as long as you are christian and have declared Jesus as your savior, you are good to go toward that heavenly reward.

see, here’s where i get a bit perplexed and i’m hoping someone out there can help me out. in judaism, i think we earn our place in heaven by good works.  i don’t think the concept is limited to jews, either — i think anyone who does good on earth can enter heaven (if it’s a concept he or she believes in, obviously. not everyone does.)  you don’t have to belong to any particular religion; you just have to be a decent human being. now obviously, behaving as Jesus would want you to would put you in this category, methinks, as Jesus had some pretty critical ideas that i can appreciate. but in our non-christian worldview, i don’t think you have to be christian to earn your place with The Big Entity Upstairs.

so is it enough to surrender yourself to Jesus or G-d? i’m thinking about all those poor people who stopped their lives in their tracks last week because they believed that rapture was imminent. they handed out pamphlets; they paid for billboards; and they did everything they could to spread the word. i respect their right to share their ideas. however, is that all there is to it? just believe and you’re done?

you need to understand that i am somewhat skeptical about organized religion, including my own. but a worldview i do embrace is all about your behavior here on earth. how you treat people in the here and now is everything to me. and frankly, i am not doing this because i am hoping that i end up in G-d’s good books (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s, for that matter.) i do that simply because i want to be part of a world where people treat each other kindly and fairly. i’m far from perfect on this front, of course; but it’s something i strive for every day. it’s something i try to share with my kids every day. and all these people who are eager to die and be lifted up to heaven — have they completely given up on improving life on here in our world? i find people like that to be the scariest people of all.

i know that life for some people is very, very hard. i know that i count my blessings all the time — i have a healthy family, i have access to lifesaving medicine, i have people i love and who seem to like me, etc. — so it may seem pretty easy for me to talk about good works and good deeds. but when you look at history and see persecuted peoples, people under the greatest of stresses, there are countless stories of grace and courage and, as my tribe would put it, mitzvot. i think, for example, about the righteous among the nations, non-jews who risked their very lives saving jews during the holocaust.

isn’t that sort of deed enough to earn your place in heaven?

but is that really a good reason to do the right thing? no one really knows what happens to you after you die. maybe heaven. maybe worm food central. who really knows? and i don’t begrudge anyone their beliefs, but you can’t really control what happens to you after you die. you can, however,  control how you behave in the here and now. you can create heaven… or hell… right here on earth, as the temps sing.

and shouldn’t that be the focus?


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