Lately, I Hope That There’s a Hell

I was brought up believing that hell was real, though later in life I’d grown skeptical. It seemed like an idea incompatible with a loving God and with the very idea of Grace.

I’m not sure that hell exists, but today I admit to being strangely hopeful.

Today, for the first time in my life, I cling to the idea that somewhere beyond this life, there is a place where horrible people pay for the atrocities; where the evil humankind unleashes upon this world is returned to them in kind, and they are finally made personally accountable—where they feel the pain they have inflicted while here.

Today it feels like this world has failed the good people, and maybe hell is the only chance there is for things to be made right.

Because if there indeed is a hell, it will be surely getting more crowded after today.

If there’s a hell, it should be probably filled with people who claimed faith in Jesus, while trying to strip the sick of care, the terrified of refuge, and the vulnerable of protection—and reveling as if this was a righteous victory.
If eternal damnation exists, it should be the wages of men and women who put children in cages and told us with a straight face that it was like summer camp. It should be for those who called terrified children crisis actors.
If there’s a forever place saved for people with hateful hearts, it will house those who treated sexual assault as irrelevant, defending the accused and demonizing the accusers.

And if there’s a hell, it should be packed to the rafters with Christians who chose to turn the other way or to be silent as they watched it all happen.

If there is a hell, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell, and all those who conspired to perpetrate this horror upon our most vulnerable and most at-risk, might actually come to the humility and repentance and decency that they seem incapable of here.

If there’s a hell, they might have to be accountable there, for their willful hatred here—and I want them to be accountable.

If hell exists, this would be precisely why.

Honestly I’m not at all proud of this admission. As a follower of Jesus, I suppose it’s a fairly terrible confession of faith, and that is something I’ll wrestle with and pray through. I’m not condemning anyone simply because of how they worship or who they love. I am wondering whether those who do disregard other lives so callously while claiming Christ, are aware of the irony that my mere suggestion of hell for them, will probably make them bristle with outrage, even though they are regularly in the damnation business. This is not that.

I simply know that right now, things aren’t panning out the way I’d be told they would, the way Jesus promised, and his followers are largely responsible:

The meek are not inheriting the earth, they’re getting the shit kicked out of them.
The mourning are not being comforted it, they’re being handed more grief.
The least are not being loved, they’re being further minimized and silenced.

And yes, I know I’m supposed to believe that love wins and that it conquers all and that it is all you need—but honestly that’s all a tough sell today. Today it all just feels like empty platitudes and pop songs.

And platitudes and pop songs won’t remove a tumor.
They won’t stop students from getting shot in their schools.

They won’t protect transgender teenagers from being driven to self-harm.
They won’t save a dying infant.
They won’t keep families of gay children from harassment in their neighborhoods and churches.
They won’t care for an elderly widow at the end of her life.

And so love alone feels tragically insufficient.

It is still my calling and my aspiration, and tomorrow I’ll be standing again in the bloody trenches alongside my like-hearted brothers and sisters who believe that good people can alter the planet—but today that doesn’t feel like enough. That doesn’t feel like the story.

Today the story, is that hateful people do hateful things to other people and they do all it believing God is good with it.

Today the story, is that not all people are decent or compassionate or merciful.

Today the story is that the sick and the poor and the different and the vulnerable are being trod upon.

And I hate this story, because too many innocent people are suffering in real-time because of it. Too many people are enduring a living hell in their daily lives.

And so yes, right now I look at this day and this life and this world, and it feels like the bad people are winning, and I want those people to understand how much hurt they are manufacturing. And since they don’t seem to care very much at all, I want to believe that they will one day face their Maker and the mirror and the blood upon their hands.

And so as much as it pains me to say it—today I’m kinda hoping there is a hell.


(Note: Obviously I don’t wish eternal torment on anyone. In fact, the idea that anyone can condemn anyone else is something I have been pushing back against for years here. This is about the deep anger and the profound disconnect that results from people who claim to believe in Jesus, putting other people through hell here by removing their access to healthcare. If you’re a Christian, and the framing of this piece is more offensive to you than that reality—that may be something you’ll want to consider. Maybe we’re all in this together, and we should stop be horrible to one another.)





705 thoughts on “Lately, I Hope That There’s a Hell

  1. Pure dribble of failed human wisdom. John ….try just a tad of scriptural truth. Hell is real according to Jesus and people go there. Anyone who rejects Christ is and will be there.
    It has zero to do with politics,votes in congress,Trump, or anything of which you speak.

    • If “scriptural truth” is what you are after you might want to read this “Scriptural truth” allowed the owning of human beings by other human beings. “Scriptural truth” allows unruly teenagers to be stoned to death. Trying not to get into a tit for tat here, but what do you do with the scriptural truth of caring for the least of these, Jesus’ most chilling description of hell? the widow, the orphan, the alien? With grace? How we live our lives, including who we vote for and how we/they choose to exercise power has EVERYTHING to do with accepting Christ. If we truly accept Christ, we try to live into his compassion, his heart.

  2. I think you nailed it. Hell was invented in the first place because people want to send each other there, not God. Same thing with Karma… seems that “you reap what you sow” doesn’t strike back quickly on the skillfully bad.

  3. Christians are so freaking brain dead… they don’t think they need health care anyway cause Jesus will care for them. Until…

  4. Dear Sir,
    I’m not sure where you get your information, but it isn’t from the Holy Spirit-breathed, inerrant Word of God. When you write, “I simply know that right now, things aren’t panning out the way I’d be told they would, the way Jesus promised,” you are revealing your lack of knowledge of the Word. In the Bible, Jesus plainly tells us this: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

    Perhaps instead of virtue signaling, pandering to the secular progressives, and dabbling in identity politics, you should seek first the kingdom of God and simply preach Jesus crucified. Otherwise, I fear you may end up in the place about which you write in this post.

    A sinner saved by grace

    • Amy – have you even read John’s bio? I think he would know the bible just a little better than you. I understand his deep frustration and the hypocrisy from other Christians, such as yourself. When you talk about Progressives that way, it’s evident your partisanship stands in the way of your faith. I don’t care where you stand in politics, but Progressives do what they do out of love for humanity, rally for the poor and the underserved, embrace inviting others in that have less than us, and if that isn’t Christ-like I don’t know what is. Politicizing those who have that dedication to humankind is a sin.

  5. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, so maybe it won’t. Maybe Republicans won’t be able to agree on a bill.

  6. I asked for prayers for the children of migrant families this morning in church. My pastor “sanitized” it and said, “Yes, let’s pray for people to love those children.” To my own personal shame I did not counter with “but they DO have people who love them.”

  7. John, my heart fears for your soul. In professing Christianity, you seem to lack the wisdom of who Christ was and is. He loves you so much that he took on all of the sins of this world, was brutally beaten and then hung on a cross. All without saying one word. Not all Christians are like what your notes say. Christ’s love should be in us as His spirit dwells within. I do not hate gays or transgenders. It is not my place to judge. We have one Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do pass from this world, we will face Him. Are you ready?

  8. That they don’t care about anyone but themselves is secondary to the accumulation of power and wealth. That is the foundation of their hatefulness and cruelty.

  9. John, I am glad you wrote this, if only to vent your own frustration. And yes, I do agree with the sheer, shallow neglect and evil that is perpetrated from Christians to other Christians, often with Christ’s name invoked to do so. At the core is our fatigued humanity only striving to stay alive along with those of us who strive to take it all in….and cry. Like you, I cringe when I hear the shallow judgement about “them” being dirty and poor and unworthy. Like you I see red when I hear of those who feel “untouched” or “cleansed” because they were “saved” only to withhold that same God’s grace (or citizenship or mercy) to those of us at the brink of survival.
    All I can say is this….be relieved that God is THE judge….no matter the anger and incredulousness and helplessness that we feel. Because we are being judged too. If anything, know that God knows what you are feeling, cries when you cry, and maybe even cringes when he hears another child of God like Laura Ingraham rant that these situations are nothing but liberal ploys.
    I get you. I know. But there is a new Reformation a foot within our Christian faiths, and this is our hell…..right now.
    Remember the gospel hymn “Farther Along” which in its entirety can make you angry at first with its passive understanding? Listen to it again….then you will come to understand it…..”all by and by”.
    Blessings and peace.

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