Chapters 7 & 8

Chapter 7:  Oh, Hell No!

Pavlovitz begins this chapter by sharing a story from a longtime pastor who says, “I miss hell.”  It was helpful, he said,  because he could use sin and eternal damnation to get people to do anything he needed them to do:  VOLUNTEER, GIVE, EVANGELIZE, VOTE.  But Pavlovitz goes on to remind us that the concept of hell uses fear-driven values, “conversion over conversation,” which seem to be driving people away from organized religion. If organized religion is to survive, our focus needs to shift from the fear of future punishment to an emphasis on an understanding of God’s love of the inherent goodness of creation. While acknowledging that many people are in a place on their journey that puts them comfortably in alignment with the gratitude expressed in “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” he is saddened by a faith that “places a voice in our head that condemns  us…[and] makes us far more likely to condemn and judge other people who really just need our loving presence in the middle of lives that already come with a good deal of collateral damage.” (84)  He posits a belief in a God who saw the original creation as GOOD, not despicable.  [Perhaps, as Matthew Fox says, Creation comes from Original Blessing, rather than Original Sin.]

Chapter 8: Let Them Eat Cake

A few years ago (2018), Masterpiece Cakeshop went to court professing that making a wedding cake for LGBTQ couples was incompatible with their Christian religious convictions.  In 2020, a 15-year-old girl was expelled from her Kentucky Christian school because she was photographed in front of a rainbow birthday cake, which was deemed to an “affinity with a subversive agenda…not in line with the school’s theological stance.”  Pavlovitz notes the tragic irony of using the OT rainbow symbol of God’s overwhelming love for all humanity to exclude.  The fear of diversity or difference leads to a faith rooted in exclusion (89).  People should know that “any entity worthy of the title of Supreme Being wouldn’t draw battle lines over birthday cakes and Starbucks cups and cuss words in movies—only perpetually insecure disciples of a minuscule God whom they really don’t trust to do God stuff” (90).  We are reminded that Jesus NEVER once condemns or reprimands anyone for their gender identity or sexual orientation, but he DID say that those who loved him would “care for the least, …be fierce lovers of humanity,…[and]escort justice and usher in equity” (91). 

The problem with “hate the sin, love the sinner” is that it is a clever invention of the Religious Right as an excuse to exclude and do harm to LGBTQ human beings allegedly as “an act of love in the name of a good God” (93).  “Passing the buck of bigotry to God leads to driving people away from God” (97).  This chapter ends with the reminder that “ultimately love and compassion—not hatred and exclusion—are what faith should liberate us to, and that if we trust in a big God [not a tiny God in a little box],…we will stop being a barrier to their proximity to that God” (98).

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