I was so relieved this morning to read about the papal address. After a flimsy, washout of an election that solidified the Conservative mandate in all three major parties and elevated our most flippant and inexperienced policy-maker to official opposition, it was a breath of fresh air to finally hear something constructive being discussed on the world stage. It was simpler this time, more cerebral. Instead of the craziness of JP2 reaching out to Israel, admitting the Church's participation in Nazi Germany and the constant visiting and speaking to other cultures and people in this world affected by global actions, the new pope has spoken on the subject of hell. At long last, someone up there with a priority system.
According to Pope Palpatine, Hell really exists, it's an actual place and for at least some of us, that's where we will undoubtedly end up.
What outcome can be expected by publicly stating such a position? Well for one thing, we now have a benchmark for evil. The person who watched their family drown in the flooding of New Orleans after Katrina can compare the pain in their bodies and souls with rape victims, families of dead soldiers, young veterans suffering from severe physical and emotional trauma, and of course First Nations people who are continually dying of addiction and tuberculosis in the richest and most advanced civilization in history. No more will any physician or psychiatrist, teacher or friend need to delve into the complexity and individuality of one person’s suffering. No more are we to be plagued by the desperation of conscience and the torment of personal hells. It’s a real place with real people. Nuance is for suckers. Are evil people kidnapping children and turning them into nihilistic soldiers? Are there international slave traders selling fifteen year olds over and over again? They’re going to hell. Laws on earth are secondary and probably infringe on God’s ability to punish wrongdoers. Don't worry about doing anything about any of this stuff: you're conscience can now let you rest easy easing no-one's suffering because those who perpetrate evil will be marked by He Who Is Called I Am.
Speaking of benchmarking, isn’t it great to know that gays and pregnant teenagers are going physically to an actual place? Won’t it relieve some of your workload? I mean, after a long day at the office, you have to go home, change, get some rocks, drive to the nearest abortion clinic and drop off your wife on her way to protest outside of the courthouse. You spend a few hours shouting at teenage girls (men in strip clubs do the same thing, but if they’re in a bad mood, they throw quarters) and hurling stones. This is grueling physical labour! Then you have to come home and educate your own children against the godless, heathen modernism being taught in today’s schools. God help you if you plan to bomb an abortion clinic over the weekend, who's got time for that anymore? It must be calming and such a relief to know that the stress on the current family unit will be relieved by this revelation that hell is real and wrongdoers will simply go there for punishment. Go God! You rock this bitch!
Global Warming? Not really a climate crisis. You see, if it was and we were destroying God’s creation, he would punish us. We aren’t in hell, as demonstrated by the crisp lawns behind gate after gate, and the soothing music playing in all these solid reliable SUV’s on the road. We don’t have to worry about alarmist reactionaries who probably just want to devalue the dollar and socialize every nation on earth. It’s a relief too to know that our boys in Afghanistan and Iraq are helping those delusional non-believers get to the great I-told-you-so of the afterlife. Why overextend ourselves with Blue Helmet missions to save people from what will probably happen to them anyway in the end? What we need to do is focus on right now. You see, Revelations tells us that when a place is prepared for the Jews (chosen people my Aunt Fanny), Jesus will come back and Rock This Bitch in A-Minor! So supporting Israel is definitely on the list of non-hellbound activities that we should all be concerned about rather than negotiating between Israel and Palestine together. Whew! It’s almost a palpable feeling of a weight off your shoulders to know that there is no reason to fully respect the historical complexity of a centuries-old religious confrontation.
Hell is a place. Not a state of mind, according to the Pope who got drafted into the Nazi army when he was just fourteen. Can there be a personal reason for such a revelation? Was it unfair to pose such a choice to a young man? When your options are to be killed just like almost everyone else or to turn off your mind and join the oppressors, wouldn’t it be perfectly reasonable to imagine a hell that would sufficiently and physically punish your oppressors? Is it not in some way understandable to imagine a place similar to that which you were exposed to? We're not all Tolkien, so maybe this is his gig.
I have seen torture in my short little life. I have seen beautiful people shut into terrifying prisons within their own heads. One of them made his own exit and I do not believe he is being further punished now as the Catholic faith proscribes. I see those impoverished who cannot escape the cyclical prison of debt and despair, I see those flooded out of existence who must turn only to themselves to rise again as no hand has been extended to keep together families and faiths. I have seen hatred. I have faced those who would destroy me. I have watched great minds torture themselves out of existence.
Hell is not a place or a path. It is not demons who care about possessing you. It is not underneath the skin of our streets, it is not behind the doors of any bath houses. Hell is the razor you take to your own skin. Hell is the acidic swallow of the last pill. Hell is the fundamental understanding of indentured servitude, of your own tiny self inside the hugeness of this world. Compared with where I've been baby, I'll take simple brimstone any day.
It will never be that easy. It will never be enough for us to point on a map, Armageddon, Hell, Cloud City. We are responsible for how we treat each other. We are responsible for how we choose to live on this earth. There is nothing waiting for us at the end, which is why it is imperative that we live well now. We owe each other a floodwall that will hold. We owe each other vaccines and water. We owe each other deep breaths and blue oceans. There is no-one on earth who is owed life here in Hell's proximity.