Haiti and Hell

by zunguzungu

In one of his great posts on the Left Behind series, Fred Clark links to a Psychology Today blog post which attempts to make sense of Pat Robertson’s theology of schadenfreude. As that blogger puts it:

“We know Robertson believes the Bible is 100-percent literally true. And we know that Robertson believes that anyone who doesn’t believe what he does is going to Hell. Once you hold those two positions, it sort of opens up a giant can of possibilities for what you can, in your own mind, endorse. Once a person can be justified to suffer in a pit of fire for eternity, then an earthquake is probably not viewed with near the same level of tragedy. For Robertson, God is saving Haitians from his worst punishment (Hell) by trying to send a warning sign to them via this earthquake…So while most of the world sees this earthquake for what it is — a tragedy of immense proportions — Robertson sees it as an act by God to save the Haitians from themselves and Hell.”

As Clark points out,

“If you accept the premise of eternal and infinite torment in Hell, then the basic calculus there makes sense. Eternity is longer than a lifetime, and Hell is worse than any imaginable earthly suffering, so there’s a certain logic to being more concerned with saving others from an eternity of Hell than with assisting them with any earthly suffering, need, injustice or oppression….eternity is infinitely longer than time and that Hell is, by definition, infinitely worse than any earthly suffering. By comparision then, we can say with mathematical certainty that there is no comparison.

“Any earthly suffering or injustice is utterly inconsequential compared to the obligation to save others from an eternity in Hell…Accept that Hell is real and that it is infinitely more important than any earthly concerns and suddenly the very things that might compel you to attend to this-worldly needs and injustices — compassion, empathy, faith, hope, love — become reasons not to do so. Accept that Hell is real and that it is the eternal destination of anyone who fails to pray the saving prayer and you become morally obliged — compelled — to stop wasting your time responding to any merely earthly, temporal matters, no matter how grievous or important they might at first seem. They are nothing compared to Hell.

“And because of Hell, you are a monster unless you drop everything else…If Hell exists then you must stop giving change to homeless people and you must, instead, start handing them evangelistic tracts. Keep your spare change. You’re going to need it to buy more tracts.”

But as he goes on to point out,

“The biblical case for Hell as a place of eternal, infinite torment turns out to come down to three passages in the New Testament. And each of those passages — the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, and the concluding chapter of Revelation — explicitly states that Hell is the destination reserved for people who failed to respond to earthly suffering, need, injustice and oppression.

“If you believe in a “literal” Hell based on what the Bible teaches, then you must also believe that the only way to avoid going there has nothing to do with proselytizing or praying the sinner’s prayer. If you want to avoid Hell, you must invite Lazarus into your home, clean his wounds and feed him at your table. If you want to save others from damnation in Hell, you must convince them to join you in feeding these beggars at the gates, these least of these.

“If you do that — if you make earthly, this-worldly suffering, need, injustice and oppression your primary focus, your paramount concern — then you may be saved from Hell and may one day join Lazarus and all the other poor beggars up in Heaven. The literal Hell of the Evangelists turns out to be the exact opposite of the literal Hell of the evangelizers.”

You should really read the whole post.