Heaven and hell

I do not usually form a reflection, devotion or piece of inspirational literature from something that is on my mind. In fact, I was triggered to write this on hearing a news item on television. So, it was something that was put on my mind…the news item and myself sort of converged and I was left with my thoughts.

My issue was to do with beliefs and how they are held. I understand why there is a move to moderate beliefs and teaching. It is because of violent extremism. I do not condone violence at all and it should be challenged.

What about any sort of wild belief of peaceful rational people that is not moderate or moderated? I am thinking of a belief in heaven and hell but held in a rational way that is non-violent and non-extreme. In fact, no one likes to think about going to hell. I don’t, but I have.

Such beliefs are roundly ridiculed but religions still teach it in rational, peaceful ways. Jesus even warned about hell and he was the most peaceful man who lived even sacrificing his own life for others.

So, what should happen to beliefs like heaven and hell and how heaven should be obtained if held in a rational, peaceful way? I guess this is the point of moving away from extremism to moderatism. Rational, peaceful individuals may still hold a strong belief rationally and peacefully without needing to change others, but just be able to present their beliefs out there and not hurt others. But where would one draw the line?

In terms of heaven and hell, there is the belief in such and telling others or warning others about hell and encourage on how to get to heaven. But there is the messenger’s own life in the spotlight as well. What is the messenger doing to keep on the road to heaven? This, indeed, is the question. For many can speak about it but also miss out.

In my experience, I have feared going to hell. But I also experienced the grace of Christ. Between these two extremes I have endeavored to follow and serve Christ in my life as it is. I am human, I am fragile, I am weak, but I am God’s, and stronger with Christ even though I am one of the chiefs of sinners…But I am getting better.

In terms of talking about heaven and hell — I would not like to give someone the impression they are going to hell, such a horrible, horrible place. I would not like to condemn someone with such a thought. Such a terrible thought. I would like to make sure I am living the life that gets me to heaven, with God as my helper. For such, there isn’t an opinion. Only one’s faith in Christ, which God accepts, and my life, which should not reflect violence.

Processing

Inspiration can come in the guise of people just sauntering past your bedroom window. And from the guy in the supermarket who bowls you over with something quite interesting. Something is said. Inspirational. Where did my mind go when I heard that? Into another realm. I did not even conjure it. The inspiration came to me from outside. What shall I do with it? Accept it or reject it?

Process it? Take it? Use it?

Now for the negative. Followed by the positive. It may not be any good. It may be the kind of ‘inspiration’ which is unhelpful. It may blind one to what’s real. Outsiders will be back tomorrow and then their inspiration will be dealt with according to that time. For now, I remember their inspiration. But I processed it into what’s helpful or what’s not. And remember that whatever I am inspired by is somehow also part of me–but as I say, processed into what is helpful or useful or good.

Now the positive. Maybe it is just artistic inspiring. One can also take the positive charge in it. Or maybe one just needs to eliminate the thought all together as it is unhelpful in the here and now yet with the view of one day taking it apart for further dissection into its various potentialities as art, as vision, as the human experience.

Tolkien and Catholicism (Interview)

J.R.R. Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) was a Catholic, so I understand. How is this Catholicism reflected in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit?

Archbishop David Moxon: Tolkien said a number of times that his Catholic faith was implicit in his stories and that as time went on he realised how much a part of his work it had become. For example, he agreed that lady Galadriel (“Galad” meaning light in Elvish speech) was an echo of Mary the mother of Jesus. It has been said that the Lembas bread of the hobbit journey in the Lord of the Rings, which fed the will as well as the body, was an echo of the bread of the mass, and so on, in many other ways.

How do you, as an Anglican, relate to this Catholicism in his stories?

David Moxon: I think he expressed what is called in Catholicism a “ natural theology”, meaning he believed that the God who made everything and is an invisible presence behind and within all life, was reflected however dimly,  in the things that God created. Nature can be read in tooth and claw and the world can be horribly marred, but nevertheless the sacred gift of life itself and its instinct to be interdependent, to cooperate and create , are signs of the divine image within us, even if we don’t know this, and even when we fall and sin. The gift of life goes on and redemption and salvation are always being offered and always abounding and growing, no matter what.  I think this approach is found in some seminal Anglican thinking as well, including people like Richard Hooker and Rowan Williams. So, I warm to Tolkien’s catholic faith in this sense, even though there would be some things we might not agree on.

The Transformative Hobbit (Interview)

I asked Archbishop David Moxon what he thought about the transformative potential of The Hobbit as a story after he mentioned something along those lines. I was open to the idea that stories transform readers inside out at the level of spirit, as I was exploring something like this at the time with my film reviewing. But on second thoughts I am not committed to embracing this spirituality.

There were years where I deliberately found common ground between film stories and Christian spirituality, however I became more analytical about my comments later on and had some doubts about what I was writing. I mean, could the film Chocolat (2000) actually be viewed from the perspective of Christian theology? Maybe not from a Christian conservative perspective, but from an open minded, exploring the possibilities of the film at the level of the spiritual, it could be. I inclined to a more literal interpretation later on, which is conservative in nature, but at first, I was eager to bring a positive Christian perspective. However, that may not be entirely palatable if thinking through the facts of the movie more carefully.

So, I come to the part of David Moxon’s interview with me about transformative stories, at the level of spirit. Here is what he said as a voice on the matter in the pop life world.

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