Thursday, 31 March 2011

the world doesn't need another blog about Rob Bell's new book

and he sure as hell doesn't need any more publicity...

But I have been thinking about why some Christians feel so threatened when you suggest Hell might not be real.

You see if you remove Hell from the picture it takes away the central plank of their marketing strategy. Every product or service is the solution to a problem, and a good sales campaign will point up the problem to remind you of why you should buy into what I'm selling. So if you're peddling religion, scaring people with the prospect of eternal torment is a great way to line up your pitch of getting them to become more like you and do what you want.

I have no doubt this works because it is the same strategy they taught us on day one of sales training in the financial services industry. "Mrs Jones, have you thought about how you and the children would survive if your husband suddenly passed away?" And as a look of alarm flits across her face you slide over a form and a pen. Helpfully you've filled out all the blanks. All she has to do is sign, and peace of mind can be hers forever. (At least until she dies and goes to Hell because, friends, I'm really not sure about some of her lifestyle choices...)

This approach was very popular in the middle ages, when the Church's leverage on superstitious and poorly educated people was at its height.

The really good news about Hell as a marketing strategy is that it fits right into the modern Christian's hectic time-poor schedule. No need to waste time on all that tiresome self-examination, or bleeding heart acts of love, welcoming of outcasts or challenging injustice. Jesus, who has got time for all that these days when there are souls to save?

The doctrine of Hell too easily appeals to those Christians who think it is their job to convert people, not the Holy Spirit, and who rely on sales techniques to bring people to Christ. Instead let's focus on living lives of personal example that witness to the love of God, and let him worry about judging others.