Sunday, June 06, 2010

All Get What They Want

One of the things that I noticed in my first years in Salt Lake City were the commonalities between my evangelical upbringing and the LDS (Mormon) faith.  Of particular note were the "faith-building" stories.  In my own Christian subculture, people loved to pass on stories of healings, raisings of the dead, ordained meetings, etc.  It always was a story repeated by someone's cousin who heard a pastor who had talked to a preacher who had heard it from a guy in Africa.... but it DID happen.  When I came to SLC, I discovered Mormons had similar stories in their sub-culture... sometimes the SAME story -  substitute ward for church, bishop for pastor, missionary for... um, missionary, and voila!; your faith gets a shot in the arm!  Where the stories originate, who knows.  There are probably Hindu versions of these stories running around.

I was reminded of this phenomenon when I opened the Faith section of the Salt Lake Tribune this morning.  It seems there is an author and speaker coming to town who died and went to heaven.  Now, since she is Mormon, when she went to heaven she had the opportunity to hear Joseph Smith teaching.  In the Charismatic circles I grew up in, the story involved a person who saw a building full of "healings" that had not been claimed in "Faith" by believers.  When evangelicals tell these stories, there is usually a side trip to hell where the visitor gets to watch atheists and liberals burn.

On my initial reading, I rolled my eyes. Every group seems to have these folks, and every group has people who will pay money to listen.

As I thought about the article later in the day, I found myself considering: What if her story is true? What if she did see visions of a Mormon heaven? What if the Charismatic saw streets of gold and money everywhere? What if the evangelical got to see all of the nay-sayers finally get theirs.

What if all get what they want?

In the series finale of Lost, Jack asks his father where they are (now realizing that he is dead).  His father tells him that this is a place that he and his friends created together so they could find one another.  It was their creation.

In a Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley carries the chains he forged in life. The chains were of his making.

In a deleted scene from the movie Dogma, the demon Azrael (played by Jason Lee) explains that the torments of Hell were created by man:

"Human, have you ever been to Hell? I think not. Did you know that Hell was once nothing more than the absence of God? and if you'd ever been in His presence, you'd realise that's punishment enough. But then... your kind came along. And made it. So. Much. Worse....

Evil is an abstract! It's a human construct. But true to his irresponsible nature, Man won't own up to being the engineer of evil, so he blames his dark deeds on my ilk. But his selfishness is limitless, and it's not enough for him to shadow his own existence. He turned Hell into a suffering Pit - fire, wailing, darkness - the kind of place anyone would do anything to get out of. And why? Because he lacks the ability to forgive himself. It is beyond your abilities to simply make recompense for and regret the sins you commit. No - you choose rather to create a psychodrama and dwell in a foundless belief that God could never forgive your 'grievous offenses'. So you bring your guilt and inner-decay with you to Hell - where the horrid imaginations of so many gluttons-for-punishment give birth to the sickness that has infected the abyss since the first one of your kind arrived there, begging to be 'punished'. And in doing so, they've transformed the cold and solitude to pain and misery."

In C.S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicle The Magician's Nephew, Aslan explains to the children that their evil Uncle Andrew has made himself unable to hear the voice of Aslan. Aslan further explains that all of Uncle Andrew's torments were those "he created for himself." Likewise the queen, in getting what she wanted, succeeded in creating her own misery.

I do not know what will become of us in the moments after we die. Perhaps there will be nothing. However, it would not surprise me to find we get the eternity we desired.

If that be the case, we should heed Aslan's final warning to the children:

"All get what they want; they do not always like it."


Don said...

"All get what they want; they do not always like it."

What a seriously thought-provoking statement!! I'm going to mull this one over for some time.

Andrew said...

Yeah, as much as I enjoyed the whole book, when I first read that line years ago, that was the one that really stuck with me. Very haunting.

It reminds me of the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka. The way he portrayed the character was that Wonka left the children to be corrected by their own desires. He did not stop them from having what they wanted.

A reminder to be careful what one wishes for.

Logan said...

Great article Andy! VERY thought-provoking. I love the use of the two images at top...90 minutes in Heaven vs. 10 in Hell...interesting time discrepancy!

The Mormon connection is interesting-both Betty Eadie (of Embraced By the Light fame) and Angie Fenimore (author of Beyond the Darkness) were/are Mormons.

There has been some interesting documentation about Near Death Experiences (NDEs) that suggests people tend to see what they expect to see in the afterlife...or, at least, what they are initially shown reflects what they believed.

The idea that this life/the afterlife is shaped on our own character and actions has always resonated with me. Whether it was the Buddha talking about karma or What Dreams May Come (book and film) I think the idea that we get what we want/have created/earned for ourselves to be spot on. Every man shall go to their place...

(Oh yeah, and Dogma rocks!!!)

Don said...

Several of my favorite authors have stated in one way or another: (I paraphrase) We create our own reality. This statement goes along with the oft repeated statement that we are co-creators with Source...A statement which I believe. It is not a stretch to get the statement you quoted:

"All get what they want; they do not always like it."

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