The Game Of Going To Heaven

I saw a bumper sticker on a pickup today. It declared, “In case of rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned.” I suppose it was a warning to all the unfortunate souls who don’t qualify for heaven; his truck is going to become a dangerous moving object when the roll is called up yonder. The righteous will get to hover in the air and enjoy the carnage of all the driverless cars down below.

The driver apparently thinks he’ll be called and others won’t. Otherwise, there’s no purpose for the sticker. Believers like himself will be sipping non-alcoholic beer and eating Big Macs without transfats in paradise, while everyone else gets to dodge berserk semis, pilotless planes, and locomotives devoid of engineers on the wicked, stricken earth. Raptured Christians are the special ones who will literally be above the fray.

It’s a triumphalist rhetoric common in Christianity. However it is expressed, there are the saved and the lost, the elect and the damned, the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the winners and the losers, and we all know who gets to pass the pearly gates. Heaven is for winners, and God doesn’t like losers. After getting run over by that guy’s truck, the losers get to suffer forever in hell.

The way to win, of course, is to play on the team coached by Jesus. Nobody else will even make it to first base. You can play with Buddha or Muhammad if you want, but don’t expect to score. They aren’t even in the same league. There’s only one way to make it home, and that’s if Jesus brings you in.

The metaphor is appropriate because Christianity is a strikingly competitive religion. It unabashedly has a goal of converting the world and running every other religion off the field, pronouncing their beliefs false and prospects fruitless. For two thousand years, Christianity has literally campaigned against any version of truth but its own, on the way to becoming the largest religion in the world. At this point in time, we can say Christians are ahead on runs.

What makes the aggressiveness more remarkable is the fact that most other religions aren’t even playing the game. They don’t keep score and they don’t compete. Hinduism believes all people will eventually achieve liberation and rejoin the creator. Judaism teaches that the righteous of all nations will be in paradise. Buddhism doesn’t mind if its followers also practice other religions; whatever helps you achieve enlightenment is good. The Qur’an allows that righteous Christians and Jews will have a place in paradise.

Christians are the ones who try to restrict heaven to Christians, and then fight among themselves about which Christians really qualify. Catholics deny Protestants; Protestants deny Catholics. Some say you must be born again; some say you must speak in tongues. Mormons say you have to be a Mormon. Jehovah’s Witnesses not only say you must be a Witness, but only 144,000 of those will be allowed into the heavenly home. The other Witnesses will be relegated to a perfected Earth. When you take a broader look at the situation, it seems clear that Christians are merely playing games with themselves.

In such a ridiculous quandary, with competing interests arguing and striving about who gets a shot at scoring in eternity, while denying a shot to anyone else, the question has to be asked: is this the way heaven really works? Is it a matter of being on Team Jesus? Is it a matter of professing the right beliefs or showing the appropriate signs before your unpredictable and untimely demise?

I don’t think so. The games we play with winners and losers, with the good and bad, with the in and the out are merely a product of our short-sighted minds. In eternity, to which heaven belongs, there are no such things. Eternity is the great leveler. It is the place in which all that is possible also is real. Those who wish to limit the confines of heaven are placing a finite judgment upon an infinite space.

Scientists currently believe there are an infinite number of universes, or an infinite number of dimensions, however you want to imagine things, and in that infinite number of universes every possible choice and outcome occurs. We live in one, but they all are going on, simultaneously, as can only happen in an eternal creation. And the day will come when they all end at the place they began.

It is time for Christians to face the fact that Christ died for everyone, the godly and ungodly, the bad and the good and the in-between. Going to heaven isn’t what makes a Christian special; there are no losers. All are saved, because, in an infinite creation, those distinctions no longer apply. That is the wonder of eternity. It may take some longer than others, but, in the end, we all end up together. As Paul says, God will be all in all.

About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

2 Responses to “The Game Of Going To Heaven”

  1. Dear Sir,

    Please help me understand if we all end up in heaven then why does God say that unbelievers in Jesus will join Satan
    in Hell?

    Thank you for your interesting blog.

    • I don’t think the verses attributed to Jesus about hell mean there is a literal hell after we die where people burn forever in a fire. That type of literal interpretation is not congruent with the rest of Christ’s life or his teachings, and has been used as a tool for controlling people, instead. I believe Jesus died for everyone, especially the sinners and the godless. He didn’t die merely for people who acknowledge him.

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