Saturday, July 12, 2008
Purgatory (Quaker Style)
Haven Kimmel the world famous memoirist and novelist originally from Mooreland, Indiana (better known in Indiana as the home of the Mooreland Free Fair and local newspaperman and celeb Darrel Radford -- one of the Midwest's nicest fellows -- who hosts the Talent Show at the fair) and I have been e-talking a bunch lately. In one of our e-conversations, she revealed how she had consigned someone that we both knew to her own version of Purgatory for offenses in shoddy theology and the omission of recognition of women's contributions in the Society of Friends. And, since it was her Purgatory, she got to decide when said person got out and what they could and could not do there (talking was okay, napping wasn't). I said I thought napping should be allowed, but not talking -- especially for this person who would likely never get out if allowed to talk, but that's about all I can say without revealing who was put there.
As we e-talked about Purgatory, who should be there, and whether they actually had to be dead to be sent there or just brain or soul dead, I remembered another Quaker I knew who, if you said or did something that half-bothered her, would say, "I consign you to Hell." Whenever I hear her say that, I get chills. Whilst I've been known to utter some pretty bad words (all in the interest of Quaker plain speech), including the "F" bomb ("Fi-Fi-Fo-F.U.M.), I have never, that I can recall, told someone to "Go to Hell." I may have thought it, but putting it into words uttered aloud seemed to take it to a place I wasn't ready to go. And still aren't. That sort of holds true, too, for me and the idea of me directing God to consign someone to the hot place. Hell still scares the Hell out of me -- mostly because, no matter what it's like figuratively or literally, I've had enough of it in this life that I don't care for an eternity of it elsewhere. Nor do I really wish it on even my worst of enemies -- or the enemies of humankind. Sure, I'd like them to get their just desserts -- just so long as that means I don't have to get mine, too. Eternity seems kind of like a pretty long time. So consignment there, I leave up to God. And/or Mr. Deity.
But Purgatory, hmmm, now that's another matter. I'd be happy to run that place and thanks to Haven have now set up my own version. I get to say who goes there and why and what they have to do to get out. Her's and mine will probably share some population overlap (like the person she's already got in her's -- me, too!), but I think that'll work out because souls probably aren't limited to being one place at one time like bodies are. So they could be in her's and mine at the same time. And they'd meet different people in both places which might help shorten their stay in soul rehab.
I still argue for including the souls of some folks who are still physically alive. Bad drivers, for example. A whole slew of them would in my Purgatory. Many of them sport "In God We Trust" Indiana license plates and drive like the Devil. They need a time out -- to think about getting out of the speed lane while going 45 or even merely the speed limit (what are they thinking?!), visualize using a turn signal (or turning it off after 15 miles), etc.
I'd also stick people who are hateful to others who disagree with them there. Let's put Pat Robertson and John Shelby Spong there. And Martin Luther and John Calvin and George Fox. My Purgatory would be sort of like the movie "Ground Hog Day." Here we go again, they'd wake up thinking (see, I'd allow napping, too) and maybe, after a few thousand years, begin to listen to each (and learn to play the piano, too).
Well, that's how I'd start. What about you?