From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Kathryn Gin: Hell's big stick

(Photo by Edal Anton Lefferov)
American president Theodore Roosevelt has often been associated with this saying:  Speak softly, but carry a big stick.

But long before Roosevelt's era, colonists had wielded the biggest stick there ever was:  Hell.  In her Religion Dispatches essay titled
"Why the Hell Does Hell Still Matter?"  - Gin contends that "Hell has never stopped mattering in America" because without the
worldly constraints of monarchy and/or dictatorship, what else would have kept Americans in line all these years?
A 2008 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life article revealed that 59% of Americans still "profess belief in hell."  It seems that whenever a prominent mainline minister begins to challenge the Calvinist notion of Hell, he or she still catches you-know-what from the American public.

Gin reports that back around 1800, when Universalism (the belief in universal salvation) was really taking hold of the American public,
the Protestant orthodoxy feared "that if Universalism caught fire, the nation itself might not survive."  After all, if "people did not fear that their actions might have eternal consequences, there was no telling what anarchy
might ensue."

Because the United States has been allegedly based "on the premise of a virtuous citizenry," Hell still matters quite a bit in 21st-century America.

Copyright January 3, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment