Afterthoughts on the afterlife

Well, you did it again!

I’m not sure how you and Haley have the balls to carry on a theological discussion in a small town weekly rag, but I surely applaud you for it. I think it is remarkable.

I just finished reading your column [That moment which comes too soon, Ken Trainor, Viewpoints, Aug. 14]. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all you say, I think you will agree with me that there is a wide chasm between faith and fact.

Call it belief, if you will. Yes, I believe in a God, but we mortals have humanized “It” (and I use that small word with focus) so we can comprehend such a thought as God. God, the Father. But what we call God is neither male nor female. It has no face. That’s a silly concept created by our ancestors.

Is God a fact? I assume so, simply because I cannot comprehend that this incredible universe, in which we Earthlings are barely a speck, simply happened. Was there a void billions of years ago that simply created itself? Or did it grow by direction, by some power so beyond comprehension as to defy definition? There is no “fact” there. There is only belief. There is only faith.

Having said all that, I must strip down to my own personal life.

Yes, I believe in a God. That belief is built largely on the teachings of an itinerant Jewish rabbi who lived 2,000 years ago. Jesus is fact, not belief. And his words, with great difficulty, have instructed me throughout my life. I consider the Beatitudes to be far more important than the 10 Commandments. Said differently, sins of omission are far more grievous than sins of commission which are drawn, for the most part, from our base human nature. That’s called passion. Sins of omission are neglect.

The only way that I can hang my hat on this whole issue is to reduce the discussion to three simple issues: God — “It” — gave me three gifts. God gave me life itself, and preciously, free will, and finally, I would like to believe, the chance for eternal salvation. After that, God said, “OK, Paul, now you’re on your own.”

The first two are facts. I live and I live by will.

The last is faith. I have read Aquinas and Pascal, even Chardin and Merton. None has come close to converting my faith to fact. I live in a sense of belief.

But it doesn’t matter. If my children plant me in some graveyard, so be it. I’m just gone. The concept that I will be buried next to my beautiful wife truly is essential while I live. Dead, they could throw me in the garbage dump.

What I have a trouble with is this new concept of Universal Salvation. If there is a life beyond this world, I really don’t want to be hanging around on a nice fluffy cloud with the likes of Genghis Khan or Adolph Hitler.

Somehow, there must be eternal retribution. I just hope it’s not aimed at me.