The CBC story out of Winnipeg today is that Anglicans vote No on blessing same-sex unions. The article also states, “Earlier in the day, delegates voted in favour of a motion decreeing that blessing the unions does not violate core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada.” Yes, it’s acknowledged that the two votes appear contradictory and confusing… and it may only be a matter of time before same-sex marriage is blessed by the Anglican Church of Canada and others.
Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking lately about what comprises “core doctrine” and the response of the church to those who breach both core and non-core doctrine. I’ve mentioned and discussed this before, when Brian McLaren’s The Last Word and the Word after That: A Tale of Faith, Doubt, and a New Kind of Christianity first came out, but it isn’t a topic that I’ve exhausted at all. I tend to mull stuff like this over sometimes for years before settling it in my mind. On this one I still have an open question.
Today’s insight is that by all appearances, it isn’t enough for some Christians (mainly *cough* evangelicals *cough*) that they get to go to heaven. Judging by their words and actions, heaven isn’t good enough unless other people go to hell… as if that somehow made heaven heaven. Objections are raised toward an annihilationist view that if there was “no consequence” or not an eternal one, then why bother with Christianity at all, why not just live your life and then cease to be? You see? The argument betrays the belief that heaven isn’t a good enough incentive of its own accord… apparently you have to be scared of hell before you can find heaven a worthy alternative. Basically, a carrot isn’t a carrot unless you’re also holding a stick. “Spare the rod, spoil the Christian.” Or something like that.
And it’s true, sin is used as a measuring stick for community involvement when it comes to the church, and there’s a hierarchy of acceptable/unacceptable sin. Financial or ecological sins are okay because shucks, what’re ya gonna do, North Americans will be North Americans. But cross the line and struggle with one of those deviant sins — like anything involving sex — and you’ll discover the line of acceptability pretty quickly. Be on the wrong side of it, and you’re headed to hell — which then becomes a non-negotiable doctrine apparently because it would be unacceptable to have you in heaven someplace, and annihilation is probably too good for you. Universalism? Fuggedaboutit.
So where I stand today, I haven’t exactly rejected the doctrine of hell, but I still just don’t get the attraction to it. Why is this one so precious that questioning it gets you labeled a heretic? Why is heaven not intrinsically enough? What does it say about the motivations of Christians who evidently aren’t happy unless they feel assured that someone else is going to get crispy? Have they just not read Jonah 4?