May is not an easy month for me. It was in May 2003 that my mother passed away. Recalling memories of her has become a May ritual for me. One childhood memory that has surfaced this year was a time when my mother, in a fit of frustration, demanded that I stop asking such silly questions. The other day USA Today ran a story asking if Osama bin Laden was in Hell. The article goes on to speculate that this question has become a type of litmus test between traditional heaven-and-hell evangelicals and the emerging evangelical movement led by Rob Bell with its tendencies towards universalism. The traditional argument in its simplest form goes something like this: if God is just, then it is not possible for bin Laden to end up in heaven.
I cannot help but wonder if this debate is a silly one. After all, trying to figure out where someone else is going to spend eternity is a little like asking if Adam and Eve had belly buttons - a potentially entertaining discussion but also a little silly.
Why is it so important to condemn someone else to hell? There is a strange comfort in knowing there are people more sinful than I am. It is reasonably safe to state that I am not, nor ever will be as sinful as Osama bin Laden was.
Is it possible that condemning someone else to hell is a convenient way to avoid dealing with the stuff in my life? After all I have never master-minded a terrorist attack or sent someone on a suicide mission - so I can’t be all that bad of a person, right?
In light of what bin Laden has done my judgmentalism, anger and arrogance are just minor offenses that should be overlooked.