Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 17

Do you know God? Probably not too well, but if you grew up in a Judeo-Christian society, you certainly know something about him. For people who grew up in such a society, why, then, are we still debating this? Or more specifically...

Why do so many people feel that they can define God?

Living in Korea presents a few challenges for an American such as myself and for the sake of this conversation, I'll save you the list and just say that television is one of them. Like many of my expats brothers and sisters, we do not and will not ever like Korean television. Language aside, Korean teevee is the stereotype of Asian programming. It's like western programming on steroids. Or cocaine. Or speed. Or something that will amplify the mood and make a seemingly mundane situation much more intense. The "dramas" have long abandoned the  quintessential love triangle for the heptagon; the "animal shows" prefer scaring animals rather than showing them being cute; the news reeks of government regulation and the game shows, well, they're beyond description. Just think midnight public access mixed with heavy drinking and a touch of ether meant for an audience of eight graders.

It's not that bad really, but I personally can't handle it most of the time. (Japan and SE Asia, on the other hand, love it, so it's obviously doing something right.) Therefore, I'm left with the scraps of American television that Korea has, for one reason or another, deemed worthy of being aired. And on this particular afternoon, I happened to sit down next to my wife while she was watching Tyra. Personally, I think Tyra is a joke. Never does she offer a shred of decent advice, nor does she know what she's talking about. She's pretty much just a low-rent Oprah. 

Either way, the show was about homosexuality, Heaven and Christianity. I personally don't want to waste my time on this topic, but what I did find interesting is this: At the end of the show, Tyra was giving a monologue of sorts. With the entire audience intently listening and the camera framing her face alone, she said this (and I'm paraphrasing):
"God does not care if you are gay or straight or bisexual. As long as you are a good and caring person, then you will be rewarded with Heaven."
The pastor on the show was visibly aggravated as the audience ate it up. Somehow, Tyra had become the authority on God and his admission policies into Heaven. No one complained about her possible misrepresentation of God because it makes most people feel good about their own lives, but imagine is she said something more extreme or even --dare I say-- Biblical? I'm not naive enough to assume that Tyra was going to allow the pastor to have the final word and am under no illusions as to why people invite men of the cloth to discuss such topics, but this was glaringly out of her league. 

The God of the Bible is pretty clearly defined by its words, yet you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has not offered themselves or others an alternative version of God that suits their own selfish needs. I know that I am certainly guilty of such a thing as my desire to offer solace to others often leads me to it. Tyra was doing the same thing. Putting aside the fact that the fallout she would experience from condemning a gay guest on air, it was her natural instinct to put a positive spin on a thorny issue between the Church and mainstream society.

Heaven also gets its fair share of individual interpretation. Take the Talking Heads for instance...

Everyone is trying to get to the bar.
The name of the bar, the bar is called Heaven.
The band in Heaven plays my favorite song.
They play it once again, they play it all night long.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

There is a party, everyone is there.
Everyone will leave at exactly the same time.
Its hard to imagine that nothing at all
could be so exciting, and so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

When this kiss is over it will start again.
It will not be any different, it will be exactly
the same.
It's hard to imagine that nothing at all
could be so exciting, could be so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing every happens.

Sounds like a great place and this song actually molded my interpretation of what Heaven might actually be like, but is that a good thing? How about this?

Is that harmful? And this one?

Classic. Or this?

And this one?

heaven.jpg heaven image by cubs210

Which one is right? Does that even matter? The heaven described in the Bible sounds joyous as well, but since there is no official picture of Heaven, my mind is forced to create an image and that image is also tainted by my own personal opinion and definition of it. Now, in the case of imagining Heaven, I don't think there's much danger there. However, we can extend this lesson beyond the Bible, God and Heaven. People constantly mis-define things for numerous reasons. I poorly define things and people all the time because it's usually easier for me to redefine them than it is for me to adjust my life according to the facts or reality. 

Some things that I intentionally ignore or redefine are harmless and others are more serious. Compiling a list is far too daunting for this post. So, how serious is redefining God and Heaven? I don't know, but 1 Peter 4:18 (and Proverbs 11:31) tells me this:
It is difficult for good people to be saved; what, then, will become of godless sinners?
I don't know if a minor redefining of God or Heaven will cast one into the world of godlessness and sin, but refusing to be honest with yourself and those you love is going to cause many, many problems in this world and the next.
Keep walking on straight paths, so that the lame foot may not be disabled, but instead be healed. -Hebrews 12:13


  1. I think we all know how Rodge's heaven would look (or at least sound like):

  2. I am not sure to what extent heaven and hell played much of a role in early Christianity. However, by the time of the Middle Ages in Europe, heaven was visually and architecturally portrayed along the lines of the pictures above. And of course hell was much more graphically depicted. To a certain, the creations (fabrications?) of the medieval church still hold sway today among fundamentalists, for better or worse.

  3. I prefer to think heaven is the one filled with dogs, in particular! More importantly, if it is difficult for "good people to be saved"..well, we all have a lot of work ahead of us, right?

  4. Revelation most clearly defines the "New Heaven and the New Earth"...the New Jerusalem. Even then, there is symbolism in there that we've lost through the years that Christians of the time that text was written understood.

  5. Interesting point, John. Hell is certainly more graphically depicted than heaven, yet it's clearly described as a spiritual (rather than physical) place.

    I guess descriptions of pain and agony are more memorable or, in some cases, better for social control. Burning and chaffing in a unquenchable fire does make me want to reconsider breaking the 2nd Amendment. Unsurprisingly, Matthew seemed to be the most creative with his descriptions of Hell.

    Heaven sounds nice though: a city full of resting souls surrounded gardens.

    The artist can't get too creative here though, can he?