Tuesday, July 10, 2012

There's a Thin Line Between Heaven and Here

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianity
by Ben Howard

The title of this post is a taken from a show called The Wire. It's a really great show, and I expect I'll write about it at some point in the future, but today's post isn't about the show. This post won't be about pop culture at all, it's just something I need to write. It's about that line and it's about what that line means.

As a lot of you may know, I live in a not so great neighborhood. It isn't necessarily dangerous, but it does have it's seedier elements. In the time I've lived in my apartment I've been broken into three times. Needless to say, that can be a bit frustrating, but such is life and things are just things. However, the last break-in brought about a new experience. A few weeks after the house was broken into, we received word that the perpetrator had been arrested. We're still awaiting word on the outcome of the case, but the prosecutor is convinced he'll go to prison for at least a few years.

Ever since the arrest, I've felt strangely about the entire situation. Since I had the guy's name, I visited his Facebook page. I found out he has a girlfriend and a young daughter. At first, I thought I might be feeling guilt for my role in his probable incarceration, but that wasn't it. He chose his course of action, I never had any control over the situation. I don't feel guilt, but I do feel sadness.

I'm sad for people who feel like they have to steal in order to survive and I'm sad for children who have to grow up without fathers. I'm sad because of a system that treats people like nuisances and rap sheets and robs them of their humanity while simultaneously saying that it's all being done in the name of justice. I'm sad because of that little twinge I feel when I see a lonely black man walking down my street at night, and I'm sad because, while I know it's wrong, I know plenty of people will tell me it's right. I'm sad because it's so easy to see just how broken things are.

There's been a lot of talk about hell in the evangelical community in the last year. In my mind almost all of it misses the point. Why do we worry so much about where everybody will go after they die, yet we have no problem avoiding the very hell that ensnares so many among us? Yes, hell is real. Hell is addiction and pain. It is violence and abuse and depression and that glazed over look of defeat, the loss of hope. Hell is the place where we throw those we no longer know what to do with. Hell is all of the brokenness that batters us on every side. It is the destruction of our very humanity. Hell is here.

The church's task is not about defining where we go when we die. Our job, our mission, the reason we exist is to join with the work of God and the Spirit to bring heaven to the places where hell has infected our day to day. We are in the business of redemption and salvation, not prognosticating about the afterlife. We are being called to bring about the abolition of war and poverty; to stand with the isolated, the hated, and the miserable. We are called to bring reconciliation between the oppressed and the oppressor, between the victim and the criminal. There's a thin line between heaven and here.


You can contact me on Twitter @BenHoward87, leave a comment or email me. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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