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Another Religion Question

by Dear Jon
February 19, 2008

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ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,
What's going to happen to people who don't know God?

Really wondering,
Confirmation Student


Dear Confirm,

My shortest, best answer is that since you are a Confirmation Student this is a question for your pastor/teacher. This is because there are many different denominations that teach Confirmation, and your pastor/teacher will have an answer that comes from within your tradition.

The next best answer is to redirect your question to writers at the Partial Observer that have tackled issues of religion and philosophy with the intention of treating them seriously. I recommend two: Everett Wilson, and Greg Asimakoupoulos, whose name I have dared to spell without looking up, because I never look anything up. When Dear Jon answers Religion/Philosophy questions with anything like a serious point-of-view, I get flamed. Big time. People should not be reading Dear Jon with the same intentions as when they read Everett Wilson.

Dear Jon has always had two goals: First, to adopt the persona of a macho jerk with unreconstructed feminine sympathies he is too phobic to honestly examine; second, to sell-out shamelessly by pandering to commercial interests. The opportunity has come along to publish a book of Dear Jon letters. I am planning two volumes; neither of them will include letters and answers on Religion or Philosophy. I have a LOT of material in the archives on Religion and Philosophy, and that material is dull as a new pencil. In my shameless commercialism I want to make readers laugh. Unfortunately Religion and Philosophy not only fails to make readers laugh, it can lead to readers getting very angry so that they strap bombs to themselves etc.

Ha ha. That was a joke about terrorism! Dear Jon is a real card!

You have now been thoroughly warned that any answer I make from this point on is going to aim at humor with the goal of selling books. Thus, your "really wondering" will not elicit from me anything like an answer you find edifying or educational. If you haven't by now, you will certainly regret having asked me the question by the end of my answer.

If you take the question to your Confirmation pastor/teacher, their answer will depend on the their denominational tradition. Here is a short list of the variety of answers which can be made, one of which will be approximately the answer your pastor/teacher makes:

Roman Catholic, Current Pope Fan: Since Benedict the Upteenth has been rolling back the progressive tide of the past 50 years, we are now happy to tell our pupils once again, preferably in Latin, that those who do not know God are going to burn in a hell of horrors vividly described by the scholars and artists of the Middle Ages, who were inspired by the demented imaginations of the designers of Medieval torture chambers. And by the way, "don't know God" equals "not being a Roman Catholic."

Roman Catholic, Progressive: Having done a bit of actual Bible reading, it would appear that God is less interested in torture than some of our more imaginative medieval communicants had once supposed.

Anglican Communion, Africa: The only way to know God is by the revelation of his Son, Jesus Christ, who will judge the Earth and all living and dead at his return.

Anglican Communican, American Episcopal New Hampshire Diocese: My my, this "judgement" business is a bit quaint, don't you think? After all, God is so BIG what does SHE care?

Baptist: Turn or Burn, but we don't teach Confirmation as we do not subscribe to such Popery.

Reformed/Presbyterian, Conservative: We all know that the only person in 2000 years who ever really understood the New Testament book of Romans is the Swiss reformer John Calvin, with possibly the Apostle Paul too. Not only does God know in advance those who will "know him" and "not know him," but God has already chosen them in advance, so not only have these vessels of wrath been destined for destruction from the beginning but they are also not even allowed to complain that this is patently unfair.

Reformed/Presbyterian, Liberal: The "God" concept, when embraced with positive energy, might be your word for the knowledge we are all growing towards. I'm okay, you're okay, and didn't Calvin have a stuffed imaginary tiger for his best friend? That shows us that what matters is not WHAT you believe, but THAT you believe, and that you believe in yourself, because you're uniquely you, another special miracle of humankind's evolution towards "God."

Lutheran, Missouri Synod: The worst heathen are those who, instead of being Missouri Synod, have made a deal with the devil to become either Evangelical Lutheran, Wisconsin Lutheran, miscellaneous Protestant or Roman Catholic. For their apostasy they shall forever be shut out of the great pot-luck dinner in the sky.

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: We're pretty sure the Bible mentions Hell, but we really don't feel comfortable talking about it. The GOOD news is that some of us HAVE read the Bible most of the way through and find that, except for the boring parts and the violent parts (scholars tells us there are LOTS of boring parts and lots MORE violent parts), the parts left over do talk a lot about love. Let's talk about love instead! Unless that makes you uncomfortable.

Methodists: Gee whiz, do we have to talk about this now?

Suburban Predominantly White Evangelical with a Youth Pastor: Who's in the House? I said who's in the House? Are you glad to be here? Hey there back row! Hands Check! Since our hands are free now, let's wave them in the air and give Jesus a hallelujah! I can't hear you! Hallelujah! Have you got the attitude of gratitude? Do you look to the Book? Yo, let's pop in this praise and teaching DVD and HIP HOP our hallelujahs to heaven!

Eastern Orthodox: If you are a communicant with the Orthodox you have nothing to worry about. All questions of faith and doctrine were settled by 457 AD, so please stop asking and accept in faith that our beliefs about God and judgment are no more unfathomable than our liturgies.

I would call that a fairly even-handed satire, with one of my own traditions pilloried here. If you are a Christian you should be more offended that I did not include your denomination in this short list, than those are who see themselves in caricature. If you read this far and are still fuming, remember what I had said right at the beginning, that I'm selling out to humor and the best thing this Confirmation Student can do is ask the pastor/teacher of the class. If you are otherwise irritated with Dear Jon's answer, you read this far so the joke is on you.

PS. Are you wondering why the African Anglicans get a fair shake in my send-up? Here is a clue: Mine are not the choices that are puzzling. That's the most you'll get from Dear Jon.

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