The General Principle
I am pretty sure that the Sunni Muslim militants who are killing Shi’a Muslims in Iraq and Syria do not think that the Shi’a worship the same god that they do, even though they profess to follow the same prophet and read the same scriptures. And the Shi’a, who are arming to defend themselves, do not think that the Sunnis know Allah at all.
Don’t get smug, Christians. It was not too long ago, historically, that Protestants and Catholics were spilling one another’s blood, in the assumption that the Other was the enemy of God and worthy of destruction.
And for that matter, now Russians and Ukrainians, the children of Holy Rus, claiming to worship the same god, using the same rite, cousins if not siblings, are killing one another.
Humans. Wondrously made and capable of sacrificial love, wonder, works of great beauty, truth and goodness.
And pretty reliably prone to get it all wrong, or to get it right and then to totally fuck everything up.
This is not the Calvinist doctrine of Total Depravity.
It is the General (and Catholic) Principle of Human Fuckupedness (GPHF).
Which in polite company we call the General Principle of Human Fallenness.
Which Principle is Tolerable
Only because it must be accompanied by a universalism wherein the wondrous Mystery we call ‘God’ is a Being of such grace and compassion, whose essence is Love, a Love that is so beyond whatever came into your mind at the word ‘Love’, that it is incomprehensible.
The Mystery we call ‘God’ loves and understands us, poor babies, and wants us to be whole.
Like any father would, with children who are half-blind, retarded, and ornery.
I think of my three year old, Will, the former radiant sweet baby, born on his mommy’s birthday. A preternaturally good natured baby, and a delightful two year old, when he hit three he discovered a whole new way of being, one that included throwing fits, defying his parents, and generally acting up.
But he is three. Even his bad behavior is endearing.
I am a sinful human, but I would not in a million years stick him in a dark closet and torture him with fire.
Not for five minutes, let alone all eternity.
If God’s ways are not ours, it definitely does not mean that he is meaner than us, or less merciful than we are.
Any God worth the name cannot torment His beloved children. Whatever ‘hell’ is, it is not something God does.
On the Other Hand
I guess, though, that I am not a complete universalist, as I am pretty sure that Jean Calvin is not in Heaven.
Unless he changed what he believes a lot, he simply would not fit in, nor would he feel at home at all with the riff raff he would find there.
Though he may think he is, in fact, in Heaven, pacing, all alone in the dark, the lone Chosen Asshole.
Painting by James Young, of Granville, Ohio.