As I increasingly find comfort using my literary license to approach Holy Writ, I find that I’m leaving behind almost daily the carcass of sacred cows. And it dawned on me recently, as “literal lew” whispered to me again, that my view of faith appears to invalidate that of the people I grew up with. In the childish mind of “literal lew,” those people are “going to hell” while “I am saved because I believe the ‘right’ way.” For in that mind set, there is only one way to believe, one way to think, one way to feel and if you don’t comply you will immediately find yourself banished to the prison of “them,” not allowed to bask in the comfort of being one of “us.” In other words, you won’t have the comfort of belonging to the tribe.
But I don’t think that Jesus had in mind rigidly carving the world up into categories like “good”, “bad”, “us”, “them”, “saved” and “unsaved.” Jesus came to tell us that we were free and always had been as He was “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” He was the embodiment, the “en-fleshment”, or incarnation, of a freedom that had been written into the depths of the human heart from the very beginning, a freedom that at that moment was finding an expression in terms of time and space. So, Jesus said, “You are free but freedom is very risky and takes a lot of courage. In fact, you will have to die. You will have die to your pre-conceptions about everything including your faith. But you don’t have to and I won’t make you. You are free to do as you choose. In fact, you are free to take my teachings and turn them into another version of the same bondage you are under now if you wish…possibly even under my name…but that is your choice.”
The conservative believers that gave rise to “literarylew” were and are just as saved as he is. The story of Jesus is that we are all forgiven, we are all free, but that freedom finds expression in our life only if we are willing to die, only if we are willing to allow His Spirit to loosen the grip of our ego a bit even in the area of our faith. But when the ego is threatened, it is very skilled at calling in reinforcements and fending off the assault as disillusionment is too painful. As W. H. Auden noted, “When Truth met him, and held out her hand, he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”
NOTE — See I have blasphemed again! “Universalism” is verboten in the faith I was presented with as a child.