I was watching an interview with Rick Warren the other day. He is the pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, which has about 22,000 members. He also is a successful Christian author and…well…from my standpoint a fat windbag that’s on an ego trip–you know–like most pastors. Anyway, that is just my personal opinion, and not germane to the subject of this post. What really caught my attention was an answer to one of the questions posed to Warren, one that is posed to many Christians, one they dread, one they hate to answer, and one they will dance around for as long as possible—especially in front of non-Christians.
Christians don’t like to say outright that anyone who doesn’t believe in their Jesus is going to Hell. Oh, they believe it, their Bible teaches it, and their God proclaims it, but damned if it isn’t like pulling teeth to get them to admit it. You would think that a pastor such as Rick Warren would be forthright especially when it involves something that is a life or death matter, but when he was asked the question, instead of just answering honestly, he answered it in Christianese, which he speaks fluently.
Here is how it went, with some of my own commentary thrown in:
Interviewer: “…You do a lot of interfaith stuff: Muslims, Jews, Catholics…”
Warren: “And I have a lot of friends of other faiths (looks all proud and smiles smugly).
Interviewer: “Why would a benevolent God tell those ‘friends of yours,’ who are not Evangelical Christians, I’m sorry, you don’t get to go to heaven?”
Warren: “I don’t think any of us deserve to go to heaven.”
Really Rick? That’s your answer? Then he strapped on his tap shoes and continued:
“I think the only way that any of us get into heaven is by God’s grace.”
Oh, “God’s grace,” well that sounds nice and loving. If you don’t know Christianese that is.”
Warren: “Most of us think that if my good works are more than my bad works then I’m gonna kind of make it in. Most of us want enough good works to get us into heaven, but enough bad works to still have fun.” He was laughing at this point because eternal hell-fire is so gosh darn funny.
Warren: “The bottom line is God doesn’t grade on a curve.”
What? Does he just throw out Christian clichés without thinking about their meaning?
Warren: “There are many non-believers that are better than me, perhaps on some moral issues, maybe they have more integrity than me, but I’m not getting to heaven based on my integrity. I’m not getting to heaven on my goodness. I’m getting to heaven on what I believe Jesus said–on grace. And the fact is, it’s available to everybody.”
Sounds good. Let me interpret. He said, that the only way any of his, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, etc., friends, will make it to heaven is to convert to Christianity, embrace Jesus and accept that “grace,” that is available to all. What he doesn’t ever come right out and say is that if they remain in their present belief system, they will…well…burn in Hell for all eternity.
As a non-Christian now, I’ve been amazed at how Christians shy away from publicly saying that unless you believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, you will burn in Hell. They avoid it because…well…it’s just plain awkward. Also, with the exception of the most fundamentalist Christians, most believers want to be seen as tolerant and loving people and the Christian message of Hell is neither of those things.
Getting back to the Rick Warren interview. I think he should run for president. He can respond to a question with a non-answer as well as anyone I’ve seen. He was tap dancing all over the place. You don’t even want to know how he answered the question about the existence of evil or the homosexual issue.
I just can’t help but wonder why so many continue to believe in something they avoid articulating honestly. If it’s so horrible and hateful that you have to do what you can to keep it under wraps, why not reconsider its validity? Why not reconsider believing in a god that endorses it? Come on; scrape it off. Everyone would be better for it.