Main Index

 Chapters

 Editor's Note

 Preparations

 My Trip

 My Arrival

 The Stench & Flames

 The Cigarette Man

 The Unpersuaded

 The Valley

 The Rich Man

 The Ministry

 The Island

 The Angels

 Homeward

 Reflections

 The Bible & Hell
 

The Cleft


 
The Ministry

After some time of monotonous travels, I eventually encountered something that shocked me profoundly, for there, in a cluttered, dim street in a city of dreary ghosts I saw a church building. And not just a small storefront of a church, but by hellish standards, a remarkably large cathedral. True, it was built of the same ghostly materials as the rest of this drab world, but it was a cathedral all the same.

And I stood in silent shock, for this was the last thing I expected to see in Hell.

Finally, my feet began to move again, though I admit they moved very hesitantly. I approached the building and at the door I encountered a ghost, whom I took - from his clerical collar - to be a clergyman.

"Pardon me," I said, "I am a stranger here and - I must say - I am very surprised to see a church building standing in the midst of Hell."

"Really?" said the pastor. "Isn't that where the church should be? As a becon in the midst of Hell."

"But," I stammered, "Those days are over! There's a new Heaven and a new earth and each one is wonderful! The reward of the righteous has come!"

"I think not, friend," sniffed the pastor. "Have you perchance been wandering around with your eyes closed? Haven't you seen for yourself all the lost souls?

"Well... yes, I have seen many lost souls."

"So how can those days be over?"

"But, but... God called those days to an end! You know that. You went through the judgement just as I did. And if you believe in Jesus, what in the world are you doing here?"

"Ah. Must you bring up this painful subject? I have always believed in a Jesus who worked among the poor and who supported me in that task. At the judgement I saw only a Jesus of power and privilege. Where, I asked myself, were the poor? Surely you can imagine my disappointment, my sense of betrayal."

"But you knew that God would call an end to the world someday, didn't you? You knew that the believers among the poor would not be poor forever, but would someday be happy and rich in the presence of God."

"Riches! Ha! Yes, I remember. Some of my fellow pastors, and my own parishioners... those who were once poor and then were clothed so lavishly before God's throne, fairly dripping with wealth. Betrayers! They betrayed their own people! They should have been down here working with them, but what did they do? They abandoned me! They abandoned the cause! I must pray for their souls. And you! You wonder that I did not deign to stay in Heaven? What an awful place! How could I carry out my work there? There were no poor. Just the filthy rich. How willingly I was cast out of that hellish place. They couldn't tolerate my principled stand. Hypocrites! I wear the suffering I endure as a badge of honor.

"Well," I sighed, "What do you do for the poor?"

"We educate them and build their self-esteem. And I'm proud to say that we see some success, though in all honesty we started out with very promising material, even though, remember, these are people whose self-esteem was badly battered at the judgement. They were called "sinners!" Can you believe that? It is hard to imagine the psychological damage such insults can do.

"So, we strive to show them that the situation they are in is not their fault. Oppression has been the norm for eons of human history and they are only the latest in that long, sad story. But on a positive note; it is remarkable how quickly they understand and take to this message."

"And they are being oppressed, I take it, because they are in Hell."

"Precisely!"

"And being in Hell is in no way their fault."

"Yes! I think you understand. It is the fault of the oppressors. Perhaps you would care to work with us?"

"I see," I said, avoiding the question. "Tell me, are there other churches in Hell?"

"No," he replied. "There are frauds, but no other churches."

Copyright 2003, Brad Haugaard