I have long insisted that I don't want there to be any mystery about where I'm going when I die. I made a choice: If there is a place down under, that isn't Australia but much much warmer, that's where I expect to be spending eternity. I've earned it. I've made fun of people with beliefs other than my own. I have openly questioned the existence of a supreme being, even going so far as to get college credit for taking a course about it. I am certainly not the most sacrilegious person I know, but I suspect that if they need a doorman in hell, I'll be the guy who gets to spend the afterlife being stiffed by Hitler and some of the more outrageous offenders.
The reason I can take some mild comfort in this is the assertion made by many who favor the "heaven or hell" split is this: There are countless children who have not been properly bathed, stamped or otherwise indoctrinated into the "good" side who automatically get sent "down there." Sorry, kid. We'd love to help you out, but because you were born just a little early, late, or without the ability to speak, you weren't able to speak the magic spell that would allow your soul to be saved.
Well, thank heaven for Rob Bell, the pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, who wrote a book called "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived." He suggests that maybe we're all taking this hell thing a little too seriously, and it may be the reason why some have shied away from getting mixed up with Christianity in the first place. It tends to take the sting out of the notion that on his death bed, the worst scum in the world could make a deal that would send him up to the clouds for an eternity of bliss and harp lessons. At least it feels better to me.
These aren't new ideas, but the fact that a pastor who suggests that Gandhi doesn't have to burn forever in torment has my attention. It still doesn't relieve me from all those other questions and contradictions, but it's nice to know that there are others who are wondering about this thing too. At the very least, I can look forward to my own infinite end, looking for a place to sit down and have a chat with Rob Bell.