Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What heaven was, what it could be

Heaven was always to me the afterlife alternative to hell. Now comes Justin Moore's "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" to speak of heaven as the afterlife itself. Indeed, what kind of being would God be if she consigned anyone to hell?

Let's be clear. I know full well that the mature Christian understanding of heaven is of unimaginably joyful wonder in the presence of the God for whom we have yearned in every yen, want and lust; and hell as the prison of one's own unfulfilled obsessive anxieties.

Until recently, I always despised the twangy, syrupy sound and simplistic lyrics of country music. I still dislike the sneaky conservative and low-church evangelical agenda of some singers. I cannot be proud of where I was born, since I had nothing to do with that; and heaven deliver us from "bahble"-based values, such as hypocrisy, self-righteousness and hateful looking down on others.

In recent times, however, rediscovering God as wonderful beyond imagination, creed or philosophical system, I find the old theological categories I discarded years ago useless. I'm not convinced by Christian moral theology, much less its teleology's heaven.

Moore provides a more palatable image when he sings of packing up the kids and driving to heaven for a day to introduce them to their grandpa. (I once woke up with precisely that thought.)

He touches markers familiar to Baby Boomers: Vietnam and those who died too young. He also evokes the intimacies of Everyman, imagining meeting with his deceased bird dog Bo (a bow to the President Obama's daughters?) to go "huntin' one more time."

It's a heaven so close you can go there for the day and drive back. A heaven I could believe in, with healing and recovery and laugh and love. Amen.

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