Over the past few weeks, my friends and I have had several discussions of Hell. It seems heavy, but they're mostly in jest. But then my friend Joe put up on his blog a story about Carlton Pearson and what is called the gospel of inclusion, stating essentially that there is no hell that is separate from this earth. That the ways of man have created a hell on earth. He tells the story of sitting with his healthy, well-fed family watching the news and seeing pictures of children starving to death in countries abroad. He and God have a conversation about this, Dr. Pearson stating that he cannot understand how a loving God could subject people to such lives as these, and then condemn them to Hell because they have not heard the message of Jesus. God's answer to him was that these people would not be sent to Hell because they were already there. And they too would be given a home in Heaven and an escape from the hell that man has created for itself.
I was so struck by this, because it was something I had never really thought of before. I've been known to say that my Hell is very small, because I cannot wrap my mind around people experiencing so much pain in life, only to be given no peace in death. And I know it is not for me to create my own rules, or to create my own version of God. But from what I know of God, God does not seek to punish and oppress, but to give people peace and freedom from pain and sorrow. And so it only makes sense that Heaven would be huge and would have room in it for everyone.
Yesterday I was reading the New York Times and came upon a story about the recent floods in Somalia. And I thought back to the gospel of inclusion. People who live in a land torn apart by war, who perpetually experience times of famine due to the alternating cycle of drought and flood. If this is not Hell, I cannot think what would be. I cannot comprehend a God that would not give these people peace and joy, full stomachs and safety.