So Who Gets To Go To Heaven?
2018 has been the toughest one yet, and I’m old enough to know that the years ahead are only going to get tougher. Death is all around, and for most of us it’s impossible to escape the deep impact of helplessly watching loved ones disappear like a wickedly plotted magic trick.
My parents are die-hard Christians, and I’m currently harboring the traitorous truth about the complexity of my status, that has shifted from agnostic to cautiously Buddhist.
My childhood in Nigeria was seeped in the pentecostal handbook, and the recognition of the Church of England. Boarding school presented the harrowing experience of sitting through the cruelly manipulative Christian films of the seventies and eighties, that shocked us into the dire consequences of either denouncing the “mark of the beast” or failing to survive the impending rapture.
That period of my life definitely inspired the need for a deep cleanse in adulthood, with the emancipation from the grips of God Almighty, and the embrace of the influences of my own choosing.
There’s also the disgusting hypocrisy on display that proves beyond a doubt how evangelicals lazily rely on bible verses as the shield from the damnation of their ungodly approach to issues, and the vulnerable souls they mercilessly persecute.
From the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church that the pope endorses with his complicity — to the pompousness of leaders in their sleek suits and gel-shaped coif, who command the ultimate oxymoron known as “megachurches” — it’s not difficult to be resolute in my desire to steer away from the God they serve.
But what about the main reason why we invest in spirituality with gusto, and the reverence of what it represents when we reach that stage in life that depletes us of youthful optimism?
My dad never went to church with us unless there was an occasion that warranted his presence, and he never participated in the activities that were themed with the glory of praise worship. But in his later years, he is the exact opposite of that man who rarely expressed his belief system, when he was younger and invincible.
He steadily attends church on both Saturdays and Sundays, and he proudly proclaims his love for Christ with genuine passion.
It’s acceptable to be wary about where you will end up when the end comes, and religion is often the crutch to lean on for that reassurance of how “the unknown” doesn’t have to be the mystery that terrifies.
I suspect that my long-retired father has enough time on his hands to seriously ponder his mortality, and as he loses friends and relatives, which is an inevitable rite of passage when you live long enough to earn it — and so there’s the urgent need to make the firm commitment to the pearly gates.
Even though I’m considerably younger, my father’s disposition is relatable, especially since I’m almost half-way through my life, and suddenly being tasked with saying goodbye to the same folks that my parents knew and loved.
This year has been particularly jarring as the extra toll of adding up all the souls that vanished without a trace forces the disconcerting emotions, that swell up with nagging fear of how the days ahead could swipe you away with similar vengeance.
The notion of being permanently removed from this world doesn’t scare me. I’m more concerned about how it will happen and what transpires next.
I also don’t subscribe to the outlandish certainty that the good people go to heaven and the bad ones burn in hell fire. It’s hard to respectfully listen to my mom explain this senselessly fantastical concept, when you consider how brilliant she is outside of this blind adherence to a misleading fairy tale.
The subject of death isn’t pleasant when you’re nearing the phase that requires mental and logistical preparedness, for the journey that will commence with or without your approval. It’s only natural to be apprehensive about something so phenomenal, that it defies brain power.
The only way for us to process what can’t be proven is to delve into the safety of our imaginative pursuits — with the aid of biblical armor that provides the relief of the vibrant imagery of the one-way ticket to the palace in the sky — where our loved ones are on standby for that highly-anticipated reunion.
If it sounds too good to be true, that’s usually the sign that it is.
My ongoing exploration into the gems of Buddhism is gratifyingly validating, as I uncover the keys to the layers of confusion, doubt, and dread.
The prayers that used to be awkwardly conceived are now conducted with ease and purpose, and when it comes to where we go when we are no more — I can deal with the vision of reincarnation, that expands on the viability of the spirit that never dies.
I also love the freeing state of mind that allows Buddhists to be refreshingly flexible in thought processing, and how nothing is “fixed” or “permanent,” which invites the possibility of progressively evolving.
If you ever need a reality check about the stringency of Christianity — ponder the answer of who gets to go to heaven. Also where the hell is hell?
The hierarchical messaging that attaches itself to the falsehood of how we will be separated from the heathens when kingdom comes, is an off-putting reminder of why being a practicing Christian isn’t my preferred default.
Of course the only ones who are knowledgable about life after death, are the dearly departed, and they aren’t in any position to drop hints.
All we have is here and now, and the guarantee that we will discover what the “other side” looks like when we take that last breath.
I’m actually looking forward to it. Are you?