Hell is Other People

and I wonder what else you believe,

that I don’t believe,

that I don’t know about yet,

that would scare me to know you believe.

And when will I find out about that.

And then I wonder if someday you’ll convince me of what you believe.

And then I sit here and I think about me,

a version of me, say, two years from now.

And she believes what you believe,

and she believes what I don’t believe, not right now.

I think about that future “me,”

and I think about that future “me” thinking about the “me” I am right now.

That version of me thinks I’m stupid for thinking what I think now,

but also,

I’m here thinking that she’s so wrong,

and I don’t want to think something so different from what I think now…

…because there’s a slipping that happens.

The Christians, Lucas Hnath

As a young adult I developed a slipping phobia. One of my friends called me a “moral hypochondriac.” I clutched one version of truth, afraid of catching anything else. Something had to be right or wrong, it could never just be something. Of course, there was no love for God in this, only tide after tide of fear, and eventually I was like, “screw it, I can surf on this.” And so I did. Not surf. Slip.

Yes, I spent years slipping into the glove of addiction until I thought the glove was my hand. I was trying to heal a wound by covering it, which works to a certain point, when it begins to fester, to infect. You have to expose it to air, so it can breathe. But then it gets too much air, too much wind, its gets windburn and it wants everyone to burn, burn in the light of its truth.

What is it again?

The wound, yes, the wound that wants everyone to hurt, but for a good cause.

Even when I was in the cycle of sin-sorry-not-sorry-sin, the thought was if I reserved the serious infractions for once or twice a year, I was still superior to others who were racking it up; I was still winning the numbers game. But there was no attempt to stop, to turn around, to start again; just making a paper chain of the days until the next deviation, and then rip, rip, rip.

Repenting has meant setting both sides of my freeway going the same direction, away from the natural disaster. I expect Christian friends to understand, but most seem to think the disaster isn’t nature, it’s nature gone awry. If it was contained within a certain area…

“A quiet resentment can creep in that comes from believing that they’re sacrificing so much for God, while others get off easy,” writes Rob Bell. “Hell can easily become a way to explain all of this: ‘those people out there may be going to parties and appearing to have fun while the rest of us do ‘God’s work,’ but someday we’ll go to heaven, where we won’t have to do anything, and they’ll go to hell, where they’ll get theirs.”

Like Bell, I am actually not a universalist, or a relativist, or any kind of ist. I am an ict. An addict. Someone who doesn’t know when the party ends. So they don’t want anyone to have parties. “Is it weird,” a friend asks, “that every time I see you, I want a beer and I want to go to church?”

I’ve been listening to Lucius’ latest album, Good Grief. The booklet unfolds to form a poster of the lead singer against a black background, embracing a black figure that blends in completely. “I am lost,” she sings, “in my own home.”

One thought on “Hell is Other People

  1. Once again, lots to think about here. I have also been thinking about the cycles of behavior that so many of us go through. Often those cycles seem to stem from little seeds of discomfort or ache, but if those seeds go unaddressed, they can fester into bulbous things that short circuit our potential for months, if not years. To complicate matters, sometimes those pernicious seeds can be buried under piles of detritus that come with modern life, making it a little harder for us to find and unearth them. Thanks for sharing your struggles so honestly, Ben. It helps the rest of us to see our hang-ups a little more clearly.

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