I know you all probably think I’m a bit crazy with all this talk that trends along the lines of heaven or hell, in or out, included or excluded. If that is the case, so be it. This is a point that I am stuck on, and I know of no other way to get unstuck than to get it out of me. I think I slowly am feeling the wall crumble beneath me though so I’ll keep yaking away.
I’ve been reading Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer. It’s the story of Pat Tillman. Great book and just the kind of thing Krakauer is best at writing about in my opinion. I like Krakauer, and now I love Pat Tillman. I’ll be at Arizona State University in 3 weeks for my next race, and I’m going to walk around the campus and ponder what I know about Pat Tillman. Think about the man that he was. Think about the sacrifice that he made. And I’m going to buy a Tillman jersey at the bookstore. I find myself significantly impacted by the book and who he was as a person.
I’ve been thinking about two people. One is Pat Tillman. The other is “Joe Christian.” Over here on the right is Tillman. Tough yet sensitive. Strong yet emotional. Confident yet humble. He drank some alcohol on occasion. He used some less than choice words on occasion. He passionately defended the weak and downtrodden. He was passionate about honestly and truthfulness. He was passionate about loyalty. He was well read. He asked questions, lots of questions. He journaled. He was a devoted husband. He met his wife when they were children and stayed loyal to her the entire time. He was a devoted friend. He loved relationships. Pat Tillman was a loving, and largely moral man who defended the weak and less fortunate. He was willing to risk his life and eventually gave it up tragically because of the principles on which he based his life. And he was not religious, at all.
Then over here on the left is “Joe Christian.” Joe Christian is strong and sensitive. He is humble. He’s not afraid of emotion. Christian gives of himself to the weak, the downtrodden. He believes in loyalty and honesty and truthfulness. He reads a great deal too and is not afraid to ask honest questions. Christian is a devoted family man and a solid friend. But Joe doesn’t drink any alcohol, never touched a cigar, can’t remember a time when he used a “cuss word.” Joe also goes to church 3 times a week and teaches Sunday School (man I don’t like that term). Joe has said the “Sinner’s Prayer.”
So here we have two guys, and I mean to present their qualities as just about equal. They both love. They both are moral. They both live a life that is defined by love for humanity. Yet many Christians that I know, including myself a mere 3 years ago, would say that Pat Tillman lost out, that he is going to eternally suffer while “Joe” will be fine with an eternal loving God. And now, at this point, that just seems utterly ridiculous to me. Am I really supposed to believe that Pat Tillman who lived as fine a life as anyone else I can name is damned because he drank a bit, cussed a bit, and never said that he loves Jesus? Really? He lived a life that is the very definition of love, supposedly the most important commandment according to Christ, the very thing that God is about if I am to believe many who surround me these days, and he is going to suffer because he didn’t define himself by the things he didn’t do and failed to say a few critical words? Really? Is that what Christianity wants me to believe? I just don’t think I can buy it any longer. I may be at the cracking point where I throw that piece of me out to the goats. If that’s really what God is about, what I don’t do and a few choice words, do I even want any piece of that God? I’m not sure that I do.
Some of you seem amazed that this is an issue for me. And the reverse is that I’m amazed that it’s not an issue for you. I’m not sure where this came from for me other than to say that is was a part of the culture in which I existed for the first 35 years of my life. That culture defined itself, maybe not in words but certainly in its behavior, but what it didn’t do, and it was those things it didn’t do that supposedly made it pure. And of course you had to say a few little words. And I innocently believed it and did my best to live it. And now it feels in my core somewhere that there is a little voice telling me that I was deceived. Like that was the wrong message. And when I read about Pat Tillman, I think that little voice inside may be right.
Man is this a hard idea to get out of my heart and head.