You shouldn’t have to know where you’re going when you die.
This is obvious to many.
And sacrilegious to others.
But when you grow up in a house where heaven and hell are just as true as the savior who only saves some, you have to know. To not know is to not have faith. And to not have faith means to be a part of the group for whom there is provision of salvation, but not attainment. To not have faith is to reject the gift.
All of this can be terrifying when you’re two years old, three years old, four years old, twenty-two years old. The existential burden of where and how the afterlife will go for you is too much for a young person. Especially when the responsibility is yours. Christ has already done his part.
The terror of death is sufficient. To add a binary choice to it is cruel. Unless it is true. Then a choice feels like fortune. A fortune that must be shared with others. If you don’t share, you’re the cruel one. How could you keep the key to staving of eternal catastrophe from others? How sinful and disgusting and selfish of you to withhold the gift.
I remember having a thought as a child. Why couldn’t Jesus dying on the cross have saved everybody automatically? I was bothered that this was not the case. The prospect of being an evangelist for the rest of my life weighed heavy on my pre-adolescent soul. I didn’t know I was considering Universalism. One act to save all of humanity seemed much more efficient than asking seven-year-olds to witness to their friends. To ask them to go to foreign lands someday to commit culturally insensitive acts of colonialist flavored proselytization against unsuspecting heathens.
But unbelievers should have the right to choose paradise over torture too. So you tell your friends. And you sell cookie dough so you can buy plane tickets so you can talk to the heathens.
It isn’t fun to ask people where they’re going when they die. It isn’t fun to be asked. It might be slightly entertaining if it’s an open-ended question. I wonder. What do you think? The conversation becomes preposterous once one of you claims to know. The friendly back and forth turns into a sales pitch, which preys on the most primal of fears a person can have.
I used to ask people this question at the county fair. I used to steal their joy. They should have been on the Ferris wheel. Eating cheese curds. Picking up small chocolates and free pens off of tableclothed tables. But they were in a booth. Sitting across from me. I passed on the anxiety I had inherited. I hope it was just another amusement ride for them. I hope I was the butt of the joke. As they prayed a prayer with me. And sealed their ticket to everlasting life.
I miss knowing. I don’t miss the threats for not knowing. Or the fear that I held for my fellow humans.