GodTube is the Christian community's answer to YouTube. It's all God all the time. It's an interesting place where you can check out the latest Christian music video or find a hilarious atheism joke for your next party. (Why is atheism like a wig? Because it's a false-hood!)
The site is not entirely about preaching to the choir, however. In the comments section there are a fair number of skeptics around to challenge the true believers, although I'm pretty sure they would not be allowed to post their own blasphemous videos.
You are not allowed to say bad words in the comments section at GodTube. Words like "ass" or "ho" get censored. The only problem is that their filtering software has a bit of a glitch; it censors those sequences of letters wherever they happen to appear. So you might find a slightly confusing sentence along the lines of: "I !ume you !pe to meet with the !istant in the cl!room." ("I assume you hope to meet with the assistant in the classroom.")
But I digress.
Hell is a popular topic on GodTube, and one particular video caught my eye. It's called "A Letter from Hell" and is the story of two high school friends, Josh and Zach. Josh, it seems, died in a tragic car accident and his friend Zach was devastated. When a letter from his dead friend arrived in Zach's mailbox, he was, of course, somewhat surprised. He didn't realize that Hell had such an efficient postal system. But as he read Josh's letter from Hell, his surprise turned to despair. In the letter, Josh blamed his friend Zach for the fact that he was burning in the fiery pits of Hell, because, you see, though Zach was a Christian, he had never gotten around to telling Josh about Jesus. It's all very dramatic and is designed to guilt-trip Christians into rounding up new recruits for Christ.
For me, it brought back memories of my childhood, sitting in Sunday School class while the teacher told me about Heaven and Hell. "If you believe in Jesus, you can go to a beautiful place called Heaven, where you'll be happy forever," she said. "But if you don't believe in Jesus, you'll go straight to Hell where you'll be tortured and burn forever as your skin slowly falls off your face!" I sat staring at her with my mouth agape. "So what's it gonna be?" she inquired cheerfully. "Well, if you put it like that," I said, "I'm gonna go ahead and believe in Jesus! Praise the Lord!"
This age-old scare tactic has been pretty successful for the Christian church. Believe in Jesus or burn forever. My way or the highway…to HELL!! It's not unlike Republican politicians who warn voters to vote for them or die in a terrorist attack.
But I digress again.
Jumping into the debate in the video's comments section, I asked what I thought was a logical question. "If your Dad said to you, 'Son, I love you very much, but if you don't believe in me and don't do everything I say, well, I'm afraid I'm gonna have to torture you and set you on fire!'…would you consider him to be a loving father? Probably not, right? So why do you give God a pass when he issues the exact same ultimatum?"
The usual answer to such a question from the true believer is, "Well, God doesn't want to send you to Hell. It's your choice. You can choose Jesus or reject Jesus. Don't blame God if you end up in Hell. You chose Hell yourself!"
Of course, not all Christians believe in Hell, but the story of the Rev. Carlton Pearson is the sad tale of what can happen if you go against this particular doctrine. Pearson was one of the most popular evangelists in the country, with thousands of members in his megachurch. For many years, he preached the traditional "be saved or go to Hell" message to his flock.
But one day, he had a revelation. He took another look at his Bible and discovered that he was wrong about Hell. He started preaching that there was no literal Hell. God loves all His children, and everyone will go to Heaven. Well, that pissed off a whole lot of Christians, who were apparently heavily invested in the idea that God was a sadistic torturer who stood ready to send billions of people to a fiery eternal damnation in the pits of Hell. Pearson was condemned as a heretic and became a pariah. His flock deserted him and he pretty much lost everything he had built up over 30 years.
But the Reverend is making a comeback. His "Gospel of Inclusion" message has reached out to gays and lesbians and others who have been made to feel less than welcome in the evangelical Christian community. He's gaining new converts, and feels that, even though he had to go through hell, he would do it all again.
Anyway, someone once wrote, "I'd like to go to Heaven for the climate, but Hell for the company. I mean, would you rather spend eternity with Jim Morrison or Jerry Falwell?"
That sounds about right.