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.”

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

St. Paul convicts by way of confession. He’s like Scorpion in Mortal Kombat, throwing his arrow of truth right into my heart, pulling towards him, and then uppercutting me. But in the name of God, not revenge.

I understand why he’s upset; he’s celibate.

I know how upsetting it is. All of that extraneous sexual energy is redirected into my personality, which decides to form a color guard, with flags flailing with flamboyance, airblades slashing with wit, batons thrusting with independence, sabers stabbing with superiority.

But when the crowd goes home, I am alone. That pagan skeleton inside of me starts to dance. How sexy can it be without being sex? he asks, and his distal phalange screeches on the blackboard as he writes the equations:

(interesting person – only interested in their body) touching over underwear + kissing with tongue = delectable, forgivable

(seemingly nice person – never met them before) taking off shirts/pulling down underwear x groping organs until they orgasm = incredible, despicable

Expressions, identities, constants, variables…The math can’t explain my actions, or solve my regret. I am on the ground. I am bleeding from the heart.

Then St. Paul is at my side, offering a hand, saying, “And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.”

Blood Brothers

We are both named Ben.


We both respond. People say my name the same way they say his name.


It’s 3 letters (it’s almost like it should be a part of speech {the, an, a, ben – see? it’s right at home}), there’s no nickname for it (unless you get creative and call one of us “Beh” and the other “En”, but you’re adding a syllable, and it’s a nickname, for goodness’ sake; it’s supposed to be shorter), there’s no possibility of differentiating between us, two people with two eyes and two hands and two feet – God, we have a lot in common, don’t we?

No. We don’t. He’s a sex offender. I’m not.

I think about this, sometimes, when he’s sitting in my car, singing along with Chris Daughtry or talking about his Xbox. I think about him inserting things into his little sister’s little vagina. Was he rough? Did he say anything while he was doing it? Did she? What kind of men will she be attracted to? He did that, and now he can’t go to parties where there will be children and will always struggle to find housing and cannot have internet access in his apartment.

A co-worker once said to me, “imagine you had to write the most hideous thing you’ve ever done on an index card, and every job interview you went to, every apartment lease you signed, you had to hand it to the person and watch them read it. That’s what it feels like to be a sex offender.”

What would I write? I’m sure I’d use up the front side of the index card with excuses and explanations and emotional appeals. Then on the back, in the most modest and firm penmanship, I would write: “I thought my sin was better than someone else’s.”